How I arrived at the perfect fix for my Exchange Server 2003 mobile environment
In my perfect world, servers wouldn’t crash, spam would be a thing of the past, and everyone in my company would agree on one mobile-phone carrier to synchronize email to their phones. I don’t see this utopia becoming a reality any time soon, but I wanted to at least find a workable solution to the last of those problems.
Historically, my company has used just one carrier for mobile service, and when employees began requesting real-time, over-the-air email synchronization, I simply implemented that carrier’s proprietary back-end solution. It was a great fit, and the software worked well—until one department decided to jump ship and move to another carrier. I didn't like the idea of installing yet another proprietary solution, necessitating multiple back-end solutions in the server room. I needed a solution that was carrier-agnostic.
That's how I landed at Motorola’s Good Technology Web site (http://www.good.com). It didn’t take long to see that I'd arrived at the perfect solution for my environment: The Good mobile-messaging solution required no desktop software to set up or sync email to the phone, supported more than 180 carriers in more than 80 countries, and provided support for Palm, Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile platforms.
Negotiating a Purchase
My first step was to acquire the software. When I contacted both the carriers I was using, one of them knew exactly what I needed to get rolling and the other didn’t have a clue. If your carrier can't help you, understand that you'll need the Good Mobile Messaging Server software, a software license, a CAL for each phone that will sync to the back-end mail server, and at least a 6-month support contract.
Be sure to negotiate with all your mobile phone carriers and even Good directly to find the best deal. Depending on the promotions that are running at the time, you might get the server software, CALs, and support package for free. Good can afford to offer such deals because they charge a small monthly fee for their services. Depending on your carrier and discount plan, you can expect to pay an extra $50 per month—per user—to receive email to the phone ($45 for data and $5 for the Good email service). Don’t be afraid to bypass your carriers and talk directly to Good if you have trouble setting everything up. Good works with all the major carriers and is happy to help you get the support you need from your mobile phone providers.
Exchange Connection Gotchas
Each generation of phone-sync software seems to get easier to connect to a back-end Exchange Server system, and Good Mobile Messaging is no exception. I started with the Quick Install for Exchange PDF guide. As you walk though this guide, there are a few things to watch out for—notably, the treatment of the protocolSettings attribute in Active Directory (AD), the importance of Exchange System Management Tools, the configuration of the Send as permission requirement, and your knowledge of your antivirus software.
The protocolSettings attribute in AD. Exchange Server 2003 SP2 added a new attribute in AD to give administrators greater control over Messaging API (MAPI) clients and how they connect. This little AD setting is a source of much confusion—so much confusion that even this portion of Good's Quick Install guide is incorrect. (At the time of this writing, Good is editing its guide.) Contrary to the Quick Install guide, it's OK to have a MAPI entry in the protocolSettings attribute. If you do, be sure that MAPI is enabled. To do so, in the Multi-valued String Editor that Figure 1 shows, enter
MAPI§1§0§§§§§§ = MAPI is Enabled
The funny-looking symbol is called a Section Sign, which you can create with ASCII characters. Simply type ALT+789 to generate this character.
Note that if the users who use the Good server are using Microsoft Outlook to access email, MAPI isn't disabled and you should be fine. In addition, according to the Exchange 2003 SP2 Release Notes, "If there is no MAPI string in protocolSettings, all MAPI clients are allowed" (http://download.microsoft.com/download/f/b/5/fb5c54af-fe5c-48e9-be97-f9e8207325ab/Ex_2003_SP2_RelNotes.htm)
Exchange Server Management Tools . To work correctly, the Good Mobile Messaging server needs a few Microsoft DLL files, and it gets these files from the Exchange System Management Tools program. If you don’t install the Exchange System Management Tools before attempting to install the Good server, you'll receive the error message that Figure 2 shows.
To install just the Exchange System Management Tools onto the Good server, insert an Exchange 2003 CD-ROM and choose Custom from the Action column. Doing so will let you install only the Exchange System Management Tools and nothing else, as Figure 3 shows. Do not install a full-blown Exchange setup on the Good management server. Be sure to apply the appropriate service pack after you install the Exchange System Management Tools.
Send as permission requirement. For the Good Mobile Messaging server to be able to send and receive email on your behalf, you need to create a GoodAdmin Service Account on the domain. This special account should be a member of the Domain Users security group. Unlike some other email-sync applications, this special user shouldn't be a member of the Domain Admins group.
The GoodAdmin Service Account should have the following permission set through the ESM: Read, Execute, Read permissions, List contents, Read properties, Read metabase properties, Administer information store, Create named properties in the information store, View information store status, Receive as, and Send as.
If your Exchange 2003 store.exe file is version 6.5.7233.54 or later, you're affected by a special hotfix and you need to ensure that the GoodAdmin Service Account has the proper Send as permissions set on each user account. (If you applied the Daylight Savings Time—DST—patch for Exchange 2003, this hotfix affects you.) This permission used to be set on the Exchange 2003 server through the Exchange System Management Tools (which I mentioned earlier). However, this hotfix changes this behavior, now requiring that the Send as permission be set through the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in. The Good article "Users Paused After Applying Microsoft Exchange 2003 Message Store Hot-fix" (http://www.good.com/faq/17540.html) details how to grant this permission.
If you receive the warning message that Figure 4 shows during the setup phase of the installation, you’ll know right away whether you have the permission set correctly. It’s important to know that this change in the store.exe file also affects other email-syncing applications, such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and Sprint’s Business Connect Server (BCS).
Know your antivirus software. To increase performance, Good Mobile Messaging uses a cache on the server’s hard disk to temporarily store information. If an antivirus scan touches these files, it can corrupt them and cause the server to stop running. Although Good fully supports the use of antivirus software on the Mobile Messaging server, the company highly recommends that you exclude the cache and log folders from any real-time or scheduled scans. I recommend excluding the following folders from antivirus scanning: C:\Program Files\Good Technology\GoodLink Server\Cache and C:\Program Files\Good Technology\GoodLink Server\Logs.
Setting It Up
As soon as you've addressed the prerequisites, you’re ready to install the Good Mobile Messaging software. First, download the software from Good's Web site (http://www.good.com/download). Be sure to download the version for Exchange and not for IBM Lotus Domino. After you download the 50MB file, double-click it to extract the files to a folder on your server’s hard disk. Find the setup.exe file, and double-click it to start the installation.
When you get to the Good Messaging Server Registration Information screen, you'll need to enter a license and serial number. You'll receive this information from an automated email account called firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven’t received this message by the time you're ready to start the installation, be sure to contact your Good representative, or go to http://www.good.com/licensehelp for assistance.
The rest of the installation is quite straightforward. Eventually, the setup wizard asks you to set up a MAPI profile. Doing so is similar to setting up an Outlook user to use Exchange for the first time. Figure 5 shows where you enter the name of your Exchange server and the account that you created during the prerequisite steps.
After you set up the server, install the Management Server and Console onto the server. For purposes of redundancy, Good recommends installing a Good Management Server on every Good Messaging Server machine. (The Good Console is installed with the Management Server.)
Before you can install the client onto a user’s phone, the user will need an account on the Good server—a simple process. Log on to the Good Messaging Server as the Good Admin service account (usually GoodAdmin). Open the Good Management Console, right-click Users in the tree view, and select New User. An address book will appear, showing each mailbox in your Exchange organization. You can narrow down the list by entering the user’s name, as you see in Figure 6.
The user should receive an email message from the GoodAdmin Service Account within a few seconds. This message has instructions for setting up the Good client onto the user's phone. Depending on the user's technical ability, you might decide to let them walk through the process or just configure each phone yourself.
Here’s an overview of the steps that must be performed on each phone for an Over the Air (OTA) setup:
- Ensure that each phone has enough free space to accept the Good Mobile Messaging client. Table 1 shows the space necessary for installing and running the client. I found that the Treo 700p phones had plenty of free space, but about half of the Treo 650s didn’t. Of the Treo 650s with problems, half of them were able to free up sufficient space by deleting the old client and unneeded programs. However, the remaining Treo 650s had to be completely hard-reset and wiped out before I could attempt to install the new Good client. Be sure that the phone's user understands that a hard reset will wipe out all data.
- Once the phone has enough free space, go to the Get Good site (https://get.good.com)—on the phone itself, not on the PC—and download the OTA client stub. This download takes only a few seconds. After the OTA client stub download, start the installation by selecting OTA Setup in the phone's Home section.
- Have the user locate the email message from the Good Admin account, listing his email address and PIN number. Use this information to answer the questions presented during the OTA setup. The user must enter his or her email address exactly as it appears in the Good Admin email message. Also, the PIN isn't case-sensitive, but some of the characters are in different cases to help you determine which letter or number is necessary. For example, a lowercase o is used for the letter O so that you can tell the difference between the letter and zero; zeroes will appear as a 0. Uppercase L is used for the letter L, and lowercase l is used for the number 1.
- After the user enters his or her email address and PIN into the phone, the system will download the complete Good Mobile Messaging application to the phone. The process will take about 20 minutes, then reboot a few times. When the Good client starts up, it will immediately sync the first 100 items from the user’s Exchange mailbox to the phone. If a user has more than 100 items, it will slowly sync in the background until all items are synced on the phone. Most of our users didn’t notice this slight lag unless they had more than 1,000 items in their Inbox or more than 1,000 Outlook contacts. Even then, it took only a few minutes to completely sync the phone.
In my environment, after I installed the server and users were happy with their new client, the DST fiasco hit with vengeance, and the Good server wasn't spared. Fortunately for me, the upgrade to correct the DST dates was very straightforward. Essentially, I performed the upgrade like a typical installation, except that the setup routine detected that I already had an instance of Good Mobile Messaging running and thus ran in upgrade mode, as Figure 7 shows.
To permit clients to download the new version, you need to enable the new client on the server. Figure 8 shows how to clear the old version and select the new version. If you forget this step, the server will run the new version and new phones will continue to download the old version. This scenario isn't usually a big concern because the newer versions of the server are backward compatible with the older version of the client. However, problems like the DST date change will force you to remember to upgrade the clients as well.
How Good Is Good?
Is the Good Mobile Messaging platform a perfect solution? From what I’ve seen so far, it comes awfully close. I'm now able to offer email synchronization to more than one carrier, on a stable and reliable platform. Client setup is extremely easy—even for non-technical users. And I know that if I run into a problem, Good technical support is prepared to step me through any situation. If your company is struggling to provide email synchronization to mobile phones on multiple carriers, be sure to take a good, long look at Good.