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Exchange Server 2013: Not quite ready for the data center

Jonathan Hassell | Feb. 8, 2013
Thinking about upgrading? Hang back at least a year before implementing this release, our expert advises.

Last fall, Microsoft released a wave of products, including Windows 8, a complete Office client refresh and a server-side update to both SharePoint and Exchange.

I have been playing with builds of Exchange Server 2013 since it was in preview, and I have been using a Release to Manufacturing (RTM) copy of Exchange Server 2013 in my lab for a couple of months. I've found some areas of concern, but also areas of welcome improvement.

Let's take a look at some of the new features and capabilities of Exchange Server 2013 as well as some of the gotchas and disadvantages of the new release, at least in its current state.

As with any new software, the IT department needs to consider the update, evaluate it, develop a plan to deploy it if it makes sense and, above all, understand both the product's capabilities as well as the context around the software itself.

Features and capabilities

What does the new version of Exchange buy you? There have been improvements made to several areas, including those for end users, administrators and security personnel. Here are a few of the major reasons why Exchange Server 2013 warrants a look.

Outlook Web App, or OWA, is completely revamped, with a new look and the ability to access it offline as a real mail client.Outlook is the rich desktop client; OWA is also a client but runs over the Web.

The Metro-style interface of Office 2013 has shown up in the Outlook Web App, or OWA, piece of Outlook 2013.

If you have seen Office 2013, you know the Metro-style look has crept into the client, and OWA is no different. But new to 2013 is the ability for OWA to continue to function offline, which it does via HTML5, making it the most capable mail client for the Windows RT platform at this time. (It works on Windows 8, too, but regular old Outlook would be the clear choice there instead of OWA.) The offline feature works in Internet Explorer version 9 and up, in Google's Chrome browser version 18 or later and in Safari version 5.0.6 or later.

The new OWA is also designed to be more suitable for touch interfaces, which makes it more appealing for smartphones and tablet devices.

In addition, OWA now supports "apps," which are basically tiny pieces of code that try to sense what you are doing within OWA and offer additional, context-sensitive functions. For example, if it sees you have received a message with driving directions, it offers to open up a map; or if it detects a task or an action from a message, it will add it to a Suggested Tasks list.


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