Computer Performance, Exchange 2007

Microsoft Exchange OWA 2007

Microsoft Exchange OWA 2007 (Outlook Web Access)Microsoft Exchange OWA 2007

OWA's mission is to mimic what Outlook 2007 does on your desktop, in a browser.

Topics for Exchange OWA 2007

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Rationale, Who Benefits from OWA 2007?

Where could users in your organization benefit from choosing OWA to collect their email?  The answer is anywhere which has internet access, providing you, or your email administrator, take up the challenge of configuring Exchange Server 2007 for OWA.

You don't need a VPN, you don't even need Internet Explorer, Mozilla will connect to OWA Light.  The key point is that OWA 2007 is almost indistinguishable from the latest Outlook 2007 client.  All that clients need is internet access, without anyone blocking their browser's default browser port 80.

What can you do for remote users?  How can you help mobile, travelling users?  Once you decide to provide internet or even intranet access to your corporate Exchange 2007 server, then you may as well provide the best = OWA 2007.  Thus forget Webmail, forget POP3 (or IMAP4) and go for Outlook Web Access 2007.

Incidentally, using the Calendar feature is one of Guy's weaknesses, but thankfully, it's one of OWA 2007's strengths.

A Brief History of OWA

Sometimes it's worth having a quick look at the history just to see how far a product has come.  Whereas technologies such as POP3 haven't changed much in ten years, the OWA 2007 client has improved out of all recognition from the clunky featureless product in OWA 5.5.  The two main driving forces have been improvements in the Outlook client from Outlook 98 to Outlook 2007, coupled with a drive to make OWA a clone of Outlook 2007, whereas OWA 2000 and Outlook 2000 looked like distant relatives.

Another sign that OWA is still a fast improving technology is the number of enhancements SP1 brings to OWA.  It's also a chance to praise Microsoft's development team for re-designing some pretty average products such as OWA 2000, until they have a smart, and slick technology such as OWA 2007.

To Access your mailbox via owa, this is what to type in your internet explorer :
https://ExchServer/owa.  

Note 1:  You get an error if you don't use httpS.

Note 2:  owa is a special virtual directory. 

Outlook Web Access - Features of OWA 2007

A review of these features will tell you all you need to know about Outlook Web Access (OWA).  If you are familiar with the full Outlook 2007 client, you will be hard pressed to spot any omissions.

  • The basic email jobs such as read and create messages.  But so much more...
  • Check address lists.
  • right-click context menu is top-notch, also tool-tip info on mailbox size. 
  • Drag and drop has improved, and OWA 2007 updates automatically when new email arrives.
  • Book meetings and view the calendar.
  • Create contacts and also 'Tasks'.
  • Change your passwords.
  • Create your own email signatures.
  • Spell check your email, also check-on-send.
  • Set Out-of-Office messages.  (Guy says use sparingly)
  • Configure mobile device settings.
  • Read documents in Windows SharePoint Services sites and Windows file shares.
  • Bad for users, but good for administrators - quota limits.
  • Create junk mail filters.  In fact, everything in OWA is 'Just like Microsoft Office Outlook 2007'

Exchange Server 2007 SP1 provides additional features for Outlook Web Access. These include features include:

  • Recover deleted items by using Outlook Web Access.  (Much requested)
  • Create and edit personal distribution lists.
  • Create and edit server-side rules.
  • Copy folders and individual items.
  • Access public folders through the /Public virtual directory.

Use Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) to sign and encrypt email
and to read signed and encrypted e-mail.

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This is the real deal - there is no catch.  SolarWinds provides this fully-functioning freebie, as part of their commitment to supporting the network management community.

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(Few) Limitations of Outlook Web Access

Remember that Outlook Web Access is browser based, therefore it cannot provide offline access to mailboxes and there are no .PST files.  If the Exchange server hosting OWA becomes unavailable, users are not able to read or send messages. If offline access to files is required, you must select a different remote-access method to Exchange Server.  Outlook 2007 using Outlook Anywhere, POP3, and IMAP clients can cache messages to provide offline access.

Other limitations of OWA that you may anticipate are, no Personal Address Book - you could not store it locally.  There is also no integration with Microsoft Office, and forget about using Outlook forms.

Exchange Server 2007 Side

  • Client Access Server  (RPC to Exchange 2007 Mailbox, HTTP Exchange 2003)
  • Exchange Management Console
  • Mailbox Server
  • Active Directory Server
  • Authentication Methods:
  • Active Directory
    Basic Authentication
    Forms-based authentication
    Role of cookies
  • Optional ISA 2006 with Pre-authentication and Web Publishing Load Balancing (WPLB)
  •  Unified Messaging

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What Happens When You Install the CAS role.  (Client Access Server)

To recap, Exchange Server 2007, as with its predecessors, needs IIS, when you add the CAS role.  The purpose of IIS is to that Exchange 2007 can create and access these four special virtual directories, and thus support OWA clients.  The best server for the Mailbox Role would be Exchange 2007, for instance, they can utilize Windows SharePoint Services.  However CAS will happily connect to the older Exchange 2003 and 2000 back-end servers, but alas, these OWA clients cannot even view SharePoint folders or libraries.

/owa. This is the virtual directory accessed by users whose mailboxes are located on Exchange Server 2007 Mailbox servers.

/Exchange. This virtual directory is only used if you have mailboxes located on Exchange Server 2003 or 2000 back-end servers.

/Exchweb. This virtual directory is required to access mailboxes that are located on Exchange Server 2003 or 2000 back-end servers.  However, by default, requests to the Exchweb virtual directory are redirected to the user's Mailbox server.

/Public. This virtual directory is particularly used by Exchange 2003 or 2000 OWA clients to access public folders on Exchange Server 2003. 

In a new twist with SP1, Exchange Server 2007 SP1 provides access to public folders on an Exchange Server 2007 mailbox server through this /Public virtual directory.

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Troubleshooting OWA

Start with the Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer

OWA usage reports from IIS logs through the LogParser tool

The Light Version of Microsoft Exchange OWA 2007

All the glossy reviews, including the above information, feature Outlook Premium, however, there is a cut-down version called: Outlook Web Access Light - formerly OWA Basic in Exchange 2003.

OWA light is designed for non-Microsoft clients such as UNIX or Apple Mac operating systems.  Specifically, users with the following alternative browsers and operating systems can use OWA Light to read their email: Mozilla Firefox 1.8, Opera 7.54, Mac 10.3 + Safari 1.2. 

Microsoft's problem of getting the Premium version of OWA to work with other browsers would be insurmountable.  For example, all the AJAX behaviors associated with Internet Explorer would have to be redesigned if the Premium version was to work in Mozilla or Opera browsers.  Incidentally, it was because off all the AJAX reprogramming that Premium OWA does not work with IE 5.5 or earlier Microsoft browsers.

OWA Light has none of these features:

No:- Html messages (plain text only), Spell checker, Search mail (Yes, you can search contacts), Tasks, Categories.  What hit me hardest was the lack of tree control which I am used to in Outlook 2007 and OWA Premium.

Basic Authentication

Basic authentication is a relatively simple authentication mechanism that encodes each user's logon name and password, then forwards these credentials to the server.  Unfortunately, basic authentication does not support single sign-on.

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 authentication enables single sign-on to all network resources. With single sign-on, a user can log on to the domain one time by using a single password or smart card and authenticate to any computer in the domain.  Basic authentication is supported by all Web browsers, but is not secure unless you require Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption.

How to Configure OWA for Forms-based Authentication

By default, forms-based authentication is enabled in Exchange 2007.  This is how to check the configuration:

  • Launch the Exchange Management Console.
  • Open the properties of owa (Default Web Site) on the Outlook Web Access tab.
  • Set the type of logon prompt.  The emphasis on 'Prompt', users can ignore your suggestion if they know any of the other methods.  Here are the choices of prompts for forms-based authentication: FullDomain (cp\guy) , PrincipalName (guy@cp.com), or plain UserName (guy).
  • Reset IIS as recommended in the warning message.
  • If necessary, you can adjust the format by configuring the Active Directory directory service and Internet Information Services (IIS).  If you do use Active Directory and IIS to set which user name formats users can enter, this is independent of the above OWA forms-based authentication prompt.

Outlook Anywhere

When you first try and understand the Outlook Anywhere feature of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, focus on Microsoft Office Outlook 2007.  This means that while Outlook Anywhere is designed to work over the internet, we are not discussing OWA.  What Outlook Anywhere does is manage the technology which enables a client with the full Outlook 2007 (or 2003) to connect to their Exchange servers over the Internet.  The underlying networking component is RPC over HTTP.

Summary of Exchange Server 2007 OWA

Think about what these three words mean - Outlook Web Access.  It is the role of OWA 2007 to deliver virtually all the features of Microsoft Office Outlook 2007.  For those with UNIX or Apple Mac operating systems, Microsoft has developed OWA 2007 Light to enable users to access their corporate email stored on  Exchange Server 2007.

Microsoft has pulled off the amazing feat of reproducing the experience of the desktop version of Outlook 2007 in a browser.  Moreover, the Microsoft OWA team have enabled administrators to create this service easily and securely.

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See more Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 topics:

Exchange 2007 Home   • Compatibility  • Recipients   • Eseutil  • Edge  • Free Syslog Analyser

Install   • Server Roles   • CAS Role   • Hub Transport  • SMTP Connector   • NDRs  • Exchange CCR

Solarwinds Exchange Monitor   • Mailbox Role   • Create MailboxOWA   • GAL  • Mailbox Stores

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