I'm sometimes surprised by how big the messaging world is, both as a marketplace and as a community. For example, when I was presenting to a group of field-support engineers a few weeks ago, one person told me that some of his customers were still using Exchange Server 5.0—a version that shipped almost 10 years ago! The use of outdated products also occurs in the IBM Lotus Notes world and in pretty much every other category of software or hardware.
I'm often surprised to find out about tools or solutions that I hadn't heard of before. I try hard to keep up with the Exchange market, and as a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro I get a steady stream of press releases from companies hoping to sell Exchange-related solutions. However, sometimes I miss things, and maybe you do too, so I want to point out a few interesting products that might have escaped your notice. Please note that I haven't tested these products, and I'm not endorsing them (although I'll probably write about some of them in future columns).
Exchange Permission Manager from the MRH Technology Group (http://www.mrhtech.com/Software/EPM) is a product I'd never heard of before seeing it mentioned on the MS Exchange Blog (http://hellomate.typepad.com/exchange), but I'm glad I saw it there. Permission Manager lets you set Exchange permissions, which doesn't sound like a big deal until you consider all the permissions that you might need to set on multiple objects and all the things that can go wrong if you set those permissions incorrectly. Consider this situation: You need to grant every user read access to every other user's calendar (not an uncommon request). You can do it yourself, which is time-consuming. You can ask users to do it themselves, which is time-consuming and error-prone (plus, some users won't do it when you ask, so you'll have to spend time troubleshooting). You can write a script to do it yourself (using the script at http://www.exchangecookbook.com/archives/2005/09/setting_default.html as a starting point). Or you can buy Exchange Permission Manager.
The next product is Directory Update (http://www.directory-update.com), a tool from Jim McBee and Matt Suriya. If you're familiar with the old Windows NT 4–era Global Address List Modify (Galmod) tool, you'll immediately appreciate what Directory Update does. It lets you allow users to modify selected fields of their Active Directory (AD) account information without giving them access to their whole AD account. For example, you can let users change their phone numbers or street addresses without letting them change their user account name or manager information. For organizations that currently require a centralized Help desk to make these kinds of changes, tools such as Directory Update can significantly reduce the amount of Help desk time needed for routine maintenance tasks, saving time and effort for real problems.
Finally, I want to close with one product I have used and tested: PrimalScript from SAPIEN Technologies (http://www.primalscript.com). PrimalScript is a powerful script editor that has built-in support for Windows PowerShell as well as VBScript, ASP.NET, and a ton of other scripting technologies. It also includes a wonderful VBScript debugger, a diff utility, and a number of other useful tools for developing scripts. PrimalScript is an extremely valuable companion as you learn PowerShell.
One of the things we'll offer at the spring 2007 Exchange Connections show is a track for vendors to make technical presentations on their products. I'm looking for suggestions of which vendors to invite: If you have a product you've been interested in but want more technical information, send me a note with the details so we can add that vendor to the list of potential presenters. (Vendors: You can nominate yourselves, but we're only accepting technical sessions; no fluff, please!)