First look: Exchange 2010 beta shines

Flexibility, reliability, client-side improvements, and ease of administration mark this major upgrade

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Exchange 2010 now allows mail federation between trusted companies. This is especially powerful when it comes to scheduling meetings using shared free/busy calendars; suddenly, you can schedule meetings with your business partners as easily as you can schedule meetings within the company. You have the same fine-grained control over the detail that business partners can see in your calendar as you do over what colleagues can see. Another improvement in scheduling is that conference rooms and other meeting resources can be scheduled along with the attendees.

[ See Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 highlights. ]

Finally, Exchange 2010 can tell you what has happened to your e-mail, at least within the limits of your company's Exchange servers and all federated servers. In addition, the reply and forward status of each message is maintained by the server so that you will not be tempted to reply to a message several times from different devices.

We know that support for Windows Server 2003 has been dropped from Exchange 2010 in favor of a Windows Server 2008 minimum platform. This might complicate the upgrade calculation for people running older server software. The forced upgrade to Windows Server 2008 shouldn't be as big a shock as the forced upgrade to 64-bit hardware was when Exchange Server 2007 was introduced.

Although pricing for Exchange Server 2010 has not yet been announced, from the initial beta it looks like a very promising upgrade. Because of the major improvements in usability, reliability, and compliance, most Exchange 2007 shops will probably want to upgrade to Exchange 2010 sooner rather than later.

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