In this article, we'll look closely at some of the main features that catch the eye, including the e-mail archiving enhancements, updated look and feel to the Outlook Web App and easier management via the Exchange Management Console. We also touch on some of the minor features that silently improve the Exchange experience.
Note: All the information is based on the SP1 BETA released in June 2010 (version 14.01.0180.002). Please keep in mind that things may change by the time this reaches final release.
Outlook Web App
In SP1, the Outlook Web App has been vastly improved; both aesthetically and performance wise. You can expect a better usage experience, thanks to the work done on pre-fetching content. Things like deleting or categorizing an e-mail, as well as marking an e-mail as read are all faster as a result of these operations happening asynchronously.
Attaching a large file is also a much smoother process. It is done in a way to prevent the browser from "Not Responding". In my tests from a remote machine on the network, attaching a 9MB zip file took seconds and I didn't notice any "hang time" whatsoever. With that said, for you to really see the benefits of this, you have to try it out for yourself!
The user interface feels "fresher" and less cluttered. It also appears nicely whatever resolution I set my display to. The figure below shows the new Outlook Web App main page.
Microsoft brought back UI themes to OWA which allow you to choose a style for the interface that best suits you. By selecting Options from the top right hand corner (as shown in the image below) you can choose from over 20 different themes that will change the top banner and the colour scheme of the Outlook Web App UI.
Another welcome addition is the ability to change the position of the reading pane. From the View menu, you can now move the reading pane so that it is placed at the bottom or the right hand side of the screen.
Finally, SP1 brings cross browser and platform support to the Outlook Web App, allowing you to use it from browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, or Opera and from Operating Systems like Mac OSX that have Safari as a web browser.
Messaging Policies, Compliance and the Personal Archive
The new Multi-Mailbox Search preview allows the person conducting a discovery to view an estimate of the number of items to be returned before the items are copied to the Discovery Mailbox.
As we will see in a later section, SP1 will allow you to create Retention Policy Tags and Retention Polices from within the Exchange Management Console itself. Previously, Retention Policy Tag and Retention Policy creation was only possible via Exchange Management Shell cmdlets.
Using the Exchange WebReady feature, you can now view supported IRM-protected documents from within the browser without having to download them or without needing Microsoft Office to be installed.
The Mailbox Audit Logging feature allows you to keep a log of mailbox access and the actions taken on that mailbox. As shown in the figure below, from the Exchange Control Panel, you can generate a report of who accessed what and when, as well as what they did on the mailbox.
As I had touched on in a previous article, Exchange 2010 Personal Archive: End the PST Nightmare! , SP1 will bring a number of enhancements to the Personal Archive feature too. These include:
Support for Outlook 2007; users will now be able to view their Personal Archive from an Outlook 2007 client.
Ability to delegate access to a user's Personal Archive; this is useful for discovery purposes. When you assign FullAccess mailbox permissions (as shown in the image below) on a user's mailbox from the Exchange 2010 SP1 server, the delegate automatically has access to the user's Personal Archive as well. Whenever the delegate adds the user's mailbox from Outlook 2010, both the mailbox and the Personal Archive will appear.
Ability to store a user's Personal Archive on a different mailbox database other than that for the primary mailbox; this should give you flexibility with your storage requirements, make backups simpler and improve access performance. You are given the option to do this from the Exchange Management Console when enabling the Archive. Here is what you get on right clicking on a mailbox name and selecting "Enable Archive...".
Import historic e-mail into the Personal Archive; Administrators can now import e-mails from PSTs directly into a user's Personal Archive using the New-MailboxImportRequest cmdlet from the Exchange Management Shell. You can also do the reverse and use the New-MailboxExportRequest to export from a mailbox to a PST.
SP1 will allow a number of management tasks to be performed from the Exchange Management Console (EMC) or the Exchange Control Panel (ECP). Tasks that are already available via the Exchange Management Shell will become easier for those that prefer working from an interface rather than a command line.
Most notably - and something that goes hand in hand with what was discussed earlier in this article - you will now be able to create and manage Retention Policy Tags and Retention Polices from the EMC. Navigating to the Organization Configuration | Mailbox | Retention Policy Tags tab will show you a list of the currently available Retention Policy Tags and allow you to bring up the Retention Policy Tag wizard (shown below).
From the EMC you will also be able to manage public folder permissions, configure Database Availability Group settings and set a mailbox to be on Litigation Hold (as shown in the image below).
The Exchange Control Panel (ECP) available within the Outlook Web App will allow you to configure the Personal Archive, MailTips, Transport Rules, Journal Rules (as shown in the figure below), Unified Messaging settings, mobile device policies, as well as RBAC roles.
All these things are aimed at making the life of an Administrator easier, especially one who is away from the office and needs to set something up from a remote location.
What else is there?
In addition to the main topics discussed above, there are also other features and improvements worth mentioning that you should look out for. These include:
Online mailbox database repair. Using the new New-MailboxRepairRequest cmdlet you can instruct Exchange to detect and repair an online mailbox database (as opposed to using isinteg.exe in previous versions that required the database to be dismounted first).
Database log growth troubleshooter script. This script can proactively detect and take action if it finds that the log files are growing excessively (which could impact the health of the Exchange server).
New and enhanced management and monitoring scripts such as CheckDatabaseRedundancy.ps1 and CollectReplicationMetrics.ps1.
Ability to edit mailbox folder permissions using the Set-MailboxFolderPermissions cmdlet.
Improved control, monitoring and messaging for MailTips and Message Tracking functionality.
As we have seen in this article, there are a number of enhancements in SP1 that will be well worth waiting for. I encourage you to test drive SP1 in a test environment in your organization. This way, you can get a hands-on feel of what's coming and be better prepared for when SP1 is released later on this year.