Exchange 2013: Cool enhancements and hidden gems

Microsoft's latest version of Exchange offers cool new features you'll unearth once you roll up your sleeves and dig in

The deeper I get into Microsoft Exchange 2013, the more I find to like. That doesn't mean the transition has been free of frustrations. Some of my issues are merely aesthetic. For example, the new Exchange Admin Center is growing on me, but I'd like to be able to choose an alternate skin -- the white space in the new 2013 design is blinding.

Other have to do with the experience of using Exchange 2013. The fact that I have to enable antispam agents on my Mailbox server through PowerShell, rather than a GUI, comes to mind. Some are more serious: I cannot migrate from Exchange 2007 or 2010 just yet because updates haven't been released, and somehow Exchange 2003 has been cut out of the transition paths, meaning a double-hop from 2003 to 2010 to 2013 will be necessary.

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But Exchange 2013 has several gems of note. Unified messaging, high availability, and, when combined with SharePoint, enhanced collaboration features like the new Site Mailboxes add up to an even more robust messaging system -- so I can live with the frustrations.

Here are five cool features that are worth playing with when you get your Exchange 2013 environment up and running.

Cool Exchange 2013 feature No. 1: Apps

It's easy to miss this little feature. The Organization feature in Exchange Admin Center includes a tab called Apps. Through this often overlooked feature, you can provide special apps for end-users. Granted, users can search for apps themselves when working with Outlook, but by setting this up via Exchange Admin Center, you can control the process. Apps include Bing Maps, LinkedIn, Action Items, and a host of others.

Cool Exchange 2013 feature No. 2: Antimalware

I'll be the first to say Exchange 2013's built-in antimalware settings aren't the most robust I've seen. But the fact that they're included is worth celebrating, especially if, like me, you hate buying a big software package only to find you have to add all the other essentials à la carte. With Exchange, this means antivirus, a better backup solution, and a solid monitoring tool, among others -- frustrating. Nonetheless, antimalware is a welcome addition. You can configure it to react to messages and notify both internal and external senders that an email was not delivered (and notify administrators).

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