Officially launched at Microsoft Tech Ed Europe 2009 conference at Berlin in November, Microsoft Exchange 2010 is the newest version of Microsoft's messaging platform. As one might expect, there are many new and improved features that can be found in this version of Exchange.
Are there features that SMBs will find sufficiently compelling to consider upgrading their Exchange infrastructure? Well, I've listed some possible reasons below.
Better support for alternative browsers
Earlier versions of OWA (Outlook Web Access) are Internet Explorer-centric, paying scant regard to the existence of other browsers on the market. While alternative browsers will generally work, it is not without some quirks or reduced functionality. Considering that accessing e-mails via a Web interface is generally considered a must-have, such a limitation looks bad on Microsoft. Exacerbating the problem are organizations starting to explore the use of alternative browsers in the wake of the long stream of security vulnerabilities in IE 6 and Internet Explorer in general.
Microsoft did substantial work on this end, with the result that OWA in Exchange Server 2010 can now be accessed from almost any Web browser, offering feature parity with Microsoft's own IE. In addition, new capabilities added to OWA now make it easier than ever for employees to navigate and sort through their e-mail, allowing them to work anywhere with increased productivity.
More efficienct storage capabilities
It's a general expectation that newer versions of software will require more processing capabilities or even necessitate a hardware upgrade. When compared with Exchange 2007, Exchange 2010 provides much more efficient disk I/O, with gains as high as 50 percent quoted in white papers. In addition, Exchange 2010 also adds support for SATA disks, which is just perfect for SMBs on a tight budget or where there is a need to run the software on existing hardware.
Administrators who have worked with the command-line tools to restore corrupted databases in Exchange will know that it is no fun. To combat the problem of corrupted storage, Exchange 2010 also comes with greater tolerance against storage-related problems with its ability to do automatic repairs.
Data Protection and Compliance
Exchange 2010 gives IT administrators much greater controls when it comes to managing historical e-mail records, an increasingly vital feature in a world where compliance can no longer be ignored. Controls can be imposed by administrators at an organization or domain level, but is sufficiently fine-grained for folder-level control.
The native archiving and retention features in this version of Exchange should prove adequate to meet current government regulations and other retention requirements out-of-the-box. This effectively eliminates the additional cost and hassle of having to put a third-party solution in place - which can only be a boon to SMBs.
While benefits of migrating to Exchange 2010 will vary with organizations, SMBs upgrading from older generations of Exchange, such as Exchange 2003 or even Exchange 2000 can expect to witness the greatest gains in terms of performance and productivity.
I just did a switch from my own server to a hosted Exchange 2010 service this week. In my next blog, I'll highlight how hosted Exchange 2010 worked for me.