I had an email exchange with one of my coworkers this morning about using Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA). The upshot of the conversation was that I opened her eyes to the difference between OWA Premium and OWA Light—for which I’m truly sorry, because the difference is vast and her preferred browser is Firefox, which only permits OWA Light access. She had no idea that she wasn’t getting the full OWA experience when accessing her work email from home. I’ve found that OWA Premium, backed up by Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, is just as good as using my Outlook client.

In my workplace—and quite possibly in yours as well—more and more people are working from home at least part of the time and accessing email through OWA. And think about this: Recession or no, the holiday season is a particularly busy time of year for most people—and that certainly includes IT professionals. In addition to gatherings with friends, family, and coworkers, you might have end-of-the-year projects or reports to complete, or last minute budget dollars to get spent and implemented. You and your staff and your end users might have time-off saved up that you hope to use before December rolls into January.

And through all this, hey, you’ve got to keep those systems up and running, don’t you? Through rain or sleet or holiday parties, the email must get through and the work must get done. What all this likely translates into is more users needing to access their work email from offsite locations, and in many cases this access is going to be through their favorite browser, which might only support OWA Light.

One of the big features missing from OWA Light is the ability to view your calendar by week or by month; OWA Light gives you only a single-day view. Messageware, a provider of enterprise productivity and security solutions for OWA, recently released results of a poll stating that more than 85 percent of OWA Light users want the ability to choose by week and by month views for their calendars. There are many other features missing from OWA Light, such as pop-up alerts and email flagging, all of which can have an impact on end-user productivity, but it’s the calendar that most people seem to get upset about.

Although OWA Light gives you the ability to schedule and respond to meetings, the process isn’t as quick and easy as you’re probably used to in your Outlook client or even in OWA Premium. That’s why Messageware intends to release this month an update to its CalendarShare product that will effectively give all the benefits of OWA Premium to OWA Light users. CalendarShare is part of the Messageware OWA Suite, which includes six products that increase security and improve the end-user experience on OWA.

You can find out more about the OWA Suite in "OWA Security Risks Often Overlooked."  Of course, you can check Messageware’s website to read full details of their products, view Flash demos, and download trial software. And now maybe you have one more thing to consider before taking that well-deserved time-off before year’s end.

On that note, visit the Exchange & Outlook Articles page to respond to the December Instant Poll question, "Will you get to take some time off this month to celebrate the holidays?" I know you’re busy, but it just takes a moment to submit your response!