Today’s topic is Microsoft Exchange Online. I’ve been using the Exchange Online Beta for a good while now, and it is great! I love everything from the super simple web based interface to managing accounts and settings to the fact that it includes full spam filtering and virus scanning.
Exchange Online comes in two flavors (for now): Exchange Online Standard and Exchange Online Deskless. While the Exchange Online Deskless may be perfect for some folks, I am addicted to using Outlook 2007 so Exchange Online Standard is the absolute minimum for me.
So, what is so special about Exchange Online? First, I don’t have to manage Exchange Server. Most of the clients that I work with have IT departments. However, the folks that work in the IT department have much better things to do than to manage Exchange as a full time job. This is where Exchange Online fits a real sweet spot – allowing small to medium sized businesses focus on their business and not focus on running a data center and running an Exchange farm. From the easy to use web interface, an administrator can manage and provision mailboxes and distribution lists, manage domains, manage migration, and even manage mailbox sizes.
Migration? Yes, you can migrate mailbox content from either POP/IMAP mailboxes or from a premise based Exchange Server to Exchange Online.
So what else do you get with Exchange Online? You get excellent spam filtering and virus scanning provided by Microsoft Exchange Hosted Filtering and Microsoft Forefront. You get full integration with Outlook 2007, Windows Mobile Device access and ActiveSync (which will work on your cutesy little iPhones), and Outlook Web Access as well.
Exchange Online also allows you to use your own domain name. Furthermore, Exchange Online supports coexistence with your premise based Exchange Server.
Finally, Exchange Online has support for Exchange Web Services. These Exchange Web Services provide the Autodiscover Services (another win for the IT person), but also full web services for programmatic manipulation of Calendars, Availability, Contact Management, Messaging, Folder Management, Notifications, and Events. See the Exchange 2007 SP1 SDK for Exchange Web Services sample code.