Team Collaboration with Hosted Exchange

Collaborate Infographic

Although Microsoft Exchange offers one of the most secure and feature rich email hosting services around, it can also do so much more. For mailbox users that are accessing Exchange using either Microsoft Outlook or the web based Outlook Web Access email client, Exchange becomes a fully collaborative application for handling team based workflow. This includes shared items (folders and calendars), automated event scheduling and resource management.

One of the most useful collaboration features of Exchange, is the concept of public folders. A public folder acts exactly the same as any exchange inbox, and is capable of containing the full range of Outlook items, including emails, tasks, contacts, calendar events and notes. The entire folder can be shared with email users, and permissions set at individual or group level. This allows all of the people subscribing to the public folder to make changes, add new items and update existing ones.

Hosted exchange offers advanced calendar functions. These can be split into two main parts. Firstly, calendars can be shared with other users (again, with permissions being set at individual or group level). For example, a manager can share his calendar with their secretary or assistant. This will allow the assistant to schedule events and meetings on behalf of the manager. The second collaborative calendar function are meeting requests. This is a powerful feature that makes event planning much simpler. When an exchange user creates a new calendar event, they have the ability to invite other exchange users. At this stage, each person invited will receive a meeting request, and they may choose to accept the appointment, decline it, or tentatively accept. All event members can see the status of other attendees, and access the attachments and details of the calendar event.

Yet another unique feature that hosted Exchange can offer businesses is the automatic management of usable resources. This is done by setting up a resource mailbox for each business resource. A resource mailbox can be used to manage all sorts of resources such as meeting rooms, overhead projectors, and vehicles. Really, any resource that is shared can be set up as a resource mailbox. For example, an Exchange user can create a calendar event, invite the attendees, and then also invite resource mailboxes for the meeting room and an overhead projector. Resource mailboxes have their own calendar where the resource's usage can be tracked and planned.

The final way that a hosted Exchange provider can help business users collaborate, is via the Global Address List (GAL). This, as the name suggests, is a company wide contact database. This can include both individual email addresses and email groups. These can be either internal company email addresses or external email addresses. All users of the hosted Exchange domain are able to access the Global Address List.

As we can see, Exchange Server and Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Web Access can provide a sophisticated range of tools to make team collaboration an invaluable tool for any business.