More in Email

  • Jan 24, 2013

    Mark Crispin, father of IMAP, RIP

    Mark Crispin, father of the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) died on December 28, 2012. Due to the contribution Crispin made to email interoperability and access, his passing deserves the acknowledgement of the global email community. Although it’s now regarded to be an outdated protocol because it does not support the advanced features of modern email systems, IMAP still has a dedicated band of followers and is used by tens of millions of people daily to fetch email from Gmail, Exchange, Zimbra, and just about every other email server on the face of the planet. The major value of IMAP is its sheer ubiquity, with the golden rule being that if a client can’t access a server using another method, it probably can using IMAP. The world of email was very different when the first versions of IMAP were written at Stanford University in the mid-1980s. The vast majority of mailboxes were served by proprietary systems such as Digital’s ALL-IN-1 or IBM PROFS and the Internet was a loose collection of servers connected with dial-up telephone links. The Post Office Protocol (POP) existed then as it still lingers on today, but only allowed users to download messages from a server. This sufficed in many situations then – servers and clients alike were resource poor and it was deemed to be a good thing to remove items from server mailboxes to bring them down to clients for processing. Crispin conceived IMAP as a mail access protocol that advanced the state of the art by allowing access to more than an Inbox folder on the server, supported concurrent access to mailboxes, and offered much more functionality to manipulate messages than the POP protocol allowed. Originally developed in Lisp, a language much favoured by people working on Artificial Intelligence at the time, on a Digital TOPS-20 computer, the value of IMAP was realized in its fast evolution and adoption to the point where IMAP4 appeared in 1994. IMAP4 has been extended many times with additions by vendors (...More
  • Jan 18, 2013

    IceWarp Provides All-In-One Communications Infrastructure

    For many companies, 2013 is likely to be a year of system upgrades, or at least investigating the new versions of software as they become available. In a Microsoft-centric world, businesses have big decisions around nearly every major IT component, from OSs with the releases of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, to office productivity with Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013, to administration with System Center 2012. Unless your Microsoft Exchange Server implementation is seriously ailing, moving to Exchange Server 2013 might be a low priority this year. Even if your business does need a messaging system upgrade, either to get off older, no-longer-supported software or to take advantage of new features, installing the new Exchange still might not be in the budget....More
  • Nov 22, 2012

    Exchange 2013 and TMG explained

    Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! While you’re all tucking into turkey, the rest of us are sweating over hot keyboards (memo to self, time to look into laptop’s cooling capabilities) and interpreting the latest missive emitting from the EHLO blog. In this case, the ever-erudite Greg Taylor goes into print to explain how to publish Exchange 2013 to the Internet using TMG. The subject matter might strike you as strange, given that Microsoft announced their intention of discontinuing TMG alongside their other on-premises security products in September. Why therefore bother to go to the trouble of documenting how to use a soon-to-cease product (licenses still available until December 2012) alongside the brand-new-and-sparkling Exchange 2013 (which can’t be really deployed yet)? In fact, the Exchange team, in particular Greg Taylor, is simply repeating the advice given at MEC when he pointed out that: a) TMG is very popular in the Exchange community where it is extensively used as a reverse proxy b) Microsoft won’t stop mainline support for TMG until April 2015 c) Why worry, be happy, and something will come along that’s much better than TMG by then QED. Or for those who weren’t forced to ingest Latin at school, something that needed to be demonstrated, in this case the wisdom of continuing to use TMG. And that’s exactly what Greg shows as he explains the publishing rules that are necessary to make the wonders of Exchange 2013 available to the Internet. But there’s more. Buried in the text are two interesting discussions about new aspects of Exchange 2013. The first is the cloud app model, something that I know you’re all waiting to use as the prospect of being able to consult Bing Maps to find out where the sender of a message is located will bring joy to many. Or so the folks who demo the feature tell us. Greg says that the apps are cool and that’s good enough for me, but I do have a nagging doubt that Bing Maps will be able to cope with the more r...More
  • Oct 1, 2012

    Email in the Cloud: Avoid the Pitfalls

    Email services have long been one of the first places companies have looked for outsourcing to the cloud. It makes a lot of sense: Few companies are in the business of providing email (with the exception of service providers), although email is essential to almost every business. Therefore, why not let someone else manage this function and free up your IT resources to focus on projects more central to your company's mission?...More
  • Sep 11, 2012

    Exchange 2013 Site Mailboxes; a new beginning for collaboration?

    What are we to make of the latest attempt by Microsoft to achieve collaborative nirvana in the shape of Exchange 2013 site mailboxes as described in a recent EHLO post? Those of us experienced enough to have gone through many false dawns in the past might be forgiven to being a tad cynical about the promises of collaboration bliss, the easy interaction between SharePoint and Exchange, the completeness of discovery searches across multiple repositories, and the excellence of the Outlook 2013 user interface, but that’s not a reason to consign site mailboxes to the wastebasket, at least not at this point. Everyone will have their own definition of what collaboration means and how this can be best achieved within Exchange. Some believe that email (still the collaborative application par excellence) is good enough, provided it is used well. Others consider public folders to be capable of satisfying the needs of their organization and look forward to the advent of “modern” public folders in Exchange 2013. And there are many who have invested heavily in SharePoint and are annoyed that Microsoft has not been able to connect Exchange to SharePoint in any coherent manner since SharePoint was first released some eleven years ago. I doubt that site mailboxes will do much for anyone who is focused on email or public folders. There is sufficient in Exchange 2013 to keep these folk happy and anyway, the thoughts of having to deploy SharePoint 2013 into production....More
  • Aug 23, 2012

    The Basic Impossibility of Renaming an Exchange Server 2

    Because we’re all skilled computer professionals who have carefully considered a suitable computer naming convention before deploying any server into production, I can’t think of good reasons why anyone would ever want to rename an Exchange server. On the other hand, I can think of some pretty bad reasons for wanting to rename a server such as wishing to update all names following a corporate merger or as part of a rebranding exercise launched by the marketing department....More
  • Jul 19, 2012

    Microsoft finally sees sense about multi-mailbox searches 1

    A certain amount of joy erupted across the Exchange community after last Friday’s announcement on the EHLO blog that Microsoft had decided to remove multi-mailbox searches from the set of Exchange 2010 features that are licensed through an Enterprise Client Access License (ECAL). The announcement says: “Multi-Mailbox Search required an Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) for each mailbox searched. We’ve heard your feedback on how you use this feature and the licensing requirements. Today we’re making a change to Exchange 2010 licensing so you’ll no longer require an Enterprise CAL for Multi-Mailbox Search.” I always thought that it was a bit silly to require an ECAL for mailboxes that were liable to be searched. After all, the whole purpose of having multi-mailbox searches is to be able to find information that’s needed to satisfy a legal discovery action or to satisfy some other appropriate reason for administrators to delve deep into the innards of user mailboxes. It does make sense to require an ECAL for those who perform multi-mailbox searches as these folk are by definition using the feature. Penalizing “normal” mailboxes simply because their contents are being searched doesn’t seem quite so sensible. Put another way, it’s pretty insane. The problem with any multi-mailbox search is that you don’t necessarily know what mailboxes need to be searched before you start, nor do you know what mailboxes will actually contain anything of interest to the search,...More
  • Jan 24, 2012

    Brazil requires overtime for out-of-hours email

    Reading the Financial Times report saying that Brazil has introduced a new law requiring companies to pay overtime to employees who make or receive work phone calls or email outside office hours got me thinking about how much I would have had to be paid to compensate for email and conference calls in this category that I’ve had over the years. It’s kind of in the class “if I had a cent for every email, I’d be a millionaire by now”. I therefore conclude that I could never now work in Brazil. Oh well, end of plans for carnival in Rio! I wonder whether this attempt at government regulation will be any more successful than France’s attempt to limit the number of hours that people worked after the introduction of the famous 35-hour working week in 2000. This law was greeted with joy by many workers and seemed pretty socially progressive at the time. However, it posed all manner of practical challenges in terms of operation, especially for international companies. How, for instance, should one deal with foreign workers who visited France and wanted to work longer than the seven hours allocated to each day, perhaps because of jet-lag? And how could one deal with the foreign influence of conference calls scheduled in places like Palo Alto that didn’t take account of the shortened working day? Things got so bad that labor inspectors monitored the arrival and departure of people in car parks to measure the hours spent at work and then attempted to fine companies when too many hours were clocked up. Of course, today’s working life meshes seamlessly with social interaction at so many levels in such a way that it is impossible to separate communications into clearly defined buckets, especially when those communications are directed to devices such as a BlackBerry. Is an incoming call from a fellow worker something to do with a work project or just an invitation to some after-work drinks? And could that social gathering be construed as work if someone chats about some aspect of...More
  • Jan 17, 2012

    Migrating PST data to Office 365 2

    I know people who have tens of gigabytes of information squirrelled away in Personal Storage Files (PSTs). They have accumulated this information over the years and the data has often ended up in PSTs because they’ve been forced to move items out of online mailboxes to comply with mailbox quotas. Remember, it’s not so long ago since disk was expensive and the average mailbox quota assigned to new users in corporate Exchange deployments ranged from 100MB to 200MB. Small mailbox quotas and the resulting small (and easily maintained) databases delight administrators but are a real pain to users as they then have to play the drag-and-drop game to shuffle items out to PSTs in order that Exchange can deliver new messages into the mailbox. Of course, some users positively delight in filing items into PSTs to build up a set of files over the years. These folk tend to be very organized and end up with a PST per project or a PST per year or some other such accumulation of PSTs that clutter up their PC and become yet another set of data that has to be migrated once the time arrives for the user to move to a new PC. In any case, whether you are a filer who boasts a proud collection of beautifully organized PSTs or an average person who has been forced to move items in a higgledy-piggledy fashion into a PST dumping ground, the time might come when you need to make a decision about where that data should be stored in the long term. Let’s face it, PSTs have a chequered history when it comes to corruption (less so now with the latest UUENCODE format than with the older ANSI files) and some of us are not very good at backing up PC files, so there’s always the potential that some disaster will come along that results in data loss. There’s a certain attraction in being able to put the data somewhere safe – or at least somewhere a lot safer than a PST can ever be. And so the thought came to me that I should do something about my PSTs. I hate having any PSTs around because I regard...More
  • Oct 7, 2011

    Coping with the Exchange Online update cadence

    Rajesh Jha, Microsoft Corporate Vice-President for Exchange, recently published a blog that casts some light on how Microsoft plans to release updates to the Exchange Online application within the Office 365 suite. In a nutshell, updates are divided into three groups: 1. On-going bug fixes and updates that improve the service. In an on-premises deployment, you’d probably refer to these as hot fixes and other updates that Microsoft release as a response to problems reported by customers. According to Jha, these fixes are put into production every two weeks and are largely invisible to Exchange Online users. 2. Additive features and capability releases every 90 days. The best comparison we have from the on-premises world is an Exchange roll-up update. 3. Major feature and capability release every twelve to twenty-four months. This type of update might be compared to a service pack or indeed to a new version of Exchange and is broadly in line with the cadence that Microsoft has used to update Exchange since 1996. Jha’s blog gives examples of the revamp of the Outlook Web App (OWA) UI or the introduction of archive mailboxes. In the on-premises world the OWA revamp occurred in Exchange 2010 SP1 while archive mailboxes were introduced in Exchange 2010 and then considerably improved in SP1. By definition, companies who move from an on-premises deployment to Exchange Online lose some control over when new features are introduced to users. Microsoft allows customers a twelve month window within which they can decide to accept major upgrades but eventually the upgrades must be accepted whether users are ready or not. For most companies this won’t be a problem as twelve months is more than sufficient to prepare users for the introduction of something like a new UI for OWA or to roll-out Outlook 2010 on the desktop so that users can take maximum advantage of archive mailboxes. Companies that are highly distributed, have large user populations, or don’t run desktop...More
  • Sep 8, 2011

    That blasted BCC 1

    As someone who has been using email for over 30 years, you’d expect that I might learn the pitfalls that expose themselves to email users all the time. Things like the dreaded “Reply All” syndrome, when you attempt to send a cute reply to someone and end up by sharing the cuteness with everyone who was copied on the original message. Invariably this results in the message being delivered to hundreds of people, many of whom are totally underwhelmed by the content of the message and some who might wonder whether I ever spend any time doing anything productive. Such is life. Last week I committed a cardinal sin by BCC’ing someone on a message that I sent to a confidential distribution list. BCC isn’t a bad thing as such. Like CC, its name evokes memories of carbon paper being slipped between sheets of paper so that a typewriter can create multiple copies of important letters. And used properly, BCC is an excellent way of making sure that the recipient hears about information that they need to know without exposing them as a recipient. But when you make some a BCC recipient, they can reply all themselves and that’s when a world of pain can sometimes be exposed. Of course, my stupidity in addressing this particular person through BCC was swiftly rewarded when that person send a note to the other recipients. The fact that the distribution list was discussing confidential information and that they were not a member of the list was ignored....More
  • Aug 30, 2011

    "All in the cloud" turned into "all fall down support"

    Although CIOs might appreciate Microsoft’s rapid offer of a 25% rebate on monthly fees in compensation for the 190 minute Office 365 outage on August 17, they will have been less impressed at the performance of the support ecosystem that surrounds Exchange Online. The rebate is the minimum credit called for by the Office 365 Service Level Agreement (SLA) and can be requested by customers once the service level delivered by Microsoft dips below 99.9%. In this case, Microsoft did well by immediately accepting that the problem was theirs and extending the 25% credit without forcing customers to go through the bureaucracy of submitting a claim detailing details of the incident, number of affected users, and so on. Getting back to support, the first thing to realize is that support is a difficult, difficult job. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise as whoever thinks that support is easy has clearly never worked in the role. The delivery of good support depends on good people backed up by tools that help the support team detect, analyze, and rectify the problem as quickly as possible. Automation and knowledge bases play a huge part too as many support issues have been seen before and can be dealt with by automated processes. Aside from the heavy lifting that goes on as support teams determine the root cause of a problem and how best to fix it, how communication occurs with users marks out really good support from the merely efficient....More
  • Aug 22, 2011

    Microsoft counts the cost of a failed network link

    Apparently the root cause of the outage that stopped Exchange Online for North American Office 365 users last week has been traced to a failed Cisco router or other component. Sources say “networking gear” but aren’t more precise and Microsoft isn’t saying. A failure of such a basic infrastructure link that doesn’t seem to have been backed up with some redundancy is embarrassing all round and not what customers expect from high-quality datacenters designed to deliver essential services such as email....More
  • Aug 17, 2011

    Why can't Microsoft get IE9 to work with the Exchange Management Console? 3

    The thread complaining about problems administrators have on their Exchange servers once they’ve installed IE9 must be one of the longest-running and least productive (in terms of Microsoft response) of any on the TechNet forums. Certainly I can’t think of another discussion that has lasted four months (the original post was made on 7 April 2011) about what seems to be a pretty fundamental issue without a patch or some other positive response from the Exchange engineering group. Given the quality problems due to test issues that have occurred in two recent roll-up update releases for Exchange 2010 SP1, this kind of issue makes you think that the recent actions taken to improve testing before the Exchange development group releases anything might need to take IE into account. The problem is simple: when you have IE9 and Exchange 2010 installed on a Windows 2008 server (any version, any patch level), you cannot close the Exchange Management Console (EMC). Any attempt to close EMC results in the error: “You must close all dialog boxes before you can close Exchange Management Console” This occurs even when all dialogs (such as those that you’d use to view mailbox properties) are closed. Some reports indicate that the same issue occurs with Exchange 2007 servers, again once IE9 finds its way onto the box. The same problem can also occur on workstations that have the Exchange management tools installed, again once IE9 shows up and makes its presence felt. The only workarounds are to either use Task Manager to kill mmc.exe every time you need to close EMC or to remove IE9. The second option seems to be much the better option as the problem simply doesn’t occur with IE7 or IE8 on the server. EMC is an important tool for most Exchange administrators. Sure, you can fire up the Exchange Management Shell (EMS) and manage servers by typing individual commands in the shell but my experience is that quite a few administrators don’t like EMS very much and try to do as much as...More
  • Aug 11, 2011

    Last Exchange 2010 Maestro event swings into view

    Paul Robichaux and Tony Redmond prepare to teach the last Exchange 2010 Maestro event in Greenwich, CT, in October. The event has been getting better and better over time, but time runs out for everything....More
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