Add2Exchange configuration and Exchange Public Folder Support in Exchange 2013

There have been significant changes in configuration for Add2Exchange Enterprise for a new install or to make your current version of Add2Exchange Standard or Enterprise communicate to the new communication protocol and store structure, you will need to do the following:

Exchange 2013 changes to Add2Exchange Enterprise Edition setup

  • Enable and or verify you have enabled Mapi over HTTP on your Exchange 2013 server with this link
  • There are a few changes to make Add2Exchange work with Exchange 2013.  Add2Exchange Standard is not supported and will never be so if this is a Standard installation migration, a crossgrade from Standard to Enterprise is required and if done correctly, A2E will "pick up where it left off"
  • To upgrade, you must stop the Add2Exchange Service, uninstall the older one and install the current release from downloads off the website. http://support.diditbetter.com/downloads.aspx
  • When prompted during the installation, you must say yes to if it is an Exchange 2013.  Also, Mapi over HTTPS must be enabled and the service account must have a mailbox and can not be hidden from the GAL.  Preinstaller must be run prior to installation. Use caution because this screen can go behind the installation windows and can look like the installation hung.
  • Before opening the Add2Exchange Console you must uninstall the older version of Exchange Mapi CDO and install the new version from the \Preinstaller directory of the extracted download.  Do not upgrade an existing version, uninstall prior.
  • You must run the new Preinstaller included with the new download on the Exchange server as the Domain Admin or Exchange Organizational Administrator and use the checkbox that the account already exists. The Preinstaller files must be local on the Exchange machine you are running this on.
  • The Zadd2Exchange service account must be part of local administrators of the Exchange servers, CAS servers and any Exchange servers you are replicating to or from to avoid Exchange rollbacks.
  • You must use the email address of the service account instead of just the name when prompted during the installation or when you open the Console.
  • Autodiscover must be set up correctly for the domain so the service account can log in.
  • If the relationships go into alert for licensing, you must submit a license request from the Console
  • If the relationships go into alert because the Exchange Stores have moved, you must download and license and use the Recovery and Migration Manger Tool to fix the relationships after the migration.  Be very careful in choosing the folders and if you make a mistake, cancel and do not save changes.  Reload RMM and when prompted, choose the option to completely start over.
  • Do not delete alerted relationships to avoid duplication and use of the A2E Toolbox Inspector/Surgeon General.

 

An Overview of Exchange 2013 Public Folders 

Public folders have been a mainstay of Microsoft Exchange since being introduced in Exchange 4.0. Perfect for simple sharing of documents, calendars, contacts and so forth, they are at this point a venerable part of Microsofts flagship email infrastructure product line.

They may be a venerable part of the product's history, but not an essential one according to Microsoft, at least until recently. Microsoft has been trying to move customers away from public folders since before Exchange 2007, opting instead to push for Sharepoint as a replacement.

This position met with displeasure from a lot of their customers, many of whom didn't need all of the power of Sharepoint, let alone the cost or complexity of integrating a new server product into their infrastructure.

With Exchange 2013, customers can rest easy. Not only has Microsoft done a 180-degree turnaround from their prior stance on public folders, but have also decided to bring their public folder implementation up-to-date by improving them in almost every way. Public folder support in Exchange 2013 not only exists but is better than public folders have ever been before.

In this article, we'll take a brief look at what's changed with public folders, what's the same and the good and bad of each (it's mostly good). We'll give a little bit of attention to what you can expect to be the same as good old public folders, but will primarily focus on the changes. So if you don't see mentioned the particular feature you're looking for, it's probably still there in Exchange 2013 public folders.

We'll also look briefly at managing public folders and migrating from your old infrastructure. So without further ado, meet the new Exchange 2013 public folders!

The Basics

Before we get into the big changes, here are the answers to some basic questions everyone will probably want to know.

As far as clients go, Outlook 2003 and beyond are supported. That means no Outlook XP, so no big surprises here.

There are no big changes with the most of the features that we've come to expect from public folders. That means that we still get things like:

  • Full-text search in folders
  • Mail-enabled folders
  • Folder-based permissions (see more about mailbox role-based access below)
  • Reporting tools
  • Powershell cmdlets for public folders
  • Retention limits
  • Quotas (see more about mailbox limits below)
  • Splitting public folders across databases

Unfortunately, there is at least one downside to Exchange 2013's compatibility. If you have third-party applications which rely on Microsoft's CDO (Collaboration Data Objects) library, they will need to be updated with the latest version in order to work with 2013, if they support it at all. Contact your vendor to find out if they support Exchange 2013.

The Big Change

Most of the changes to public folders in 2013 come from the fact that they've been promoted from their own public folder database in Exchange to become a specialized kind of mailbox database. But before you get any ideas, "specialized" means that they aren't completely like mailboxes. So you can't, for example, mount them as mailboxes in Outlook or Outlook Web Access.

The change brings to public folders a few much-needed capabilities that mailboxes have had for some time, including the ability to be part of a Database Availability Group. That means that public folders now get the redundancy and availability benefits that DAGs provide. This is the heart of the major improvement in public folders, as they will be both faster and more reliable than their Exchange 2010-and-prior counterparts.

It also means that some of the other minor weaknesses of public folders are fixed as well. Public folder replication (copying of the tree from one server to another) had been slow, using an old protocol to move information. Now it's got a faster communication method based on mailbox replication.

This also means that item conflicts are a thing of the past. In the old public folders, an item could become conflicted (have two different copies with conflicting changes), where the same item had been modified by users in different locations at the same time.

Conflicts can no longer happen because public folders are now based on a mailbox hierarchy, where there is only one master, writable copy of the public folder. There can still be multiple copies of the public folder tree on different servers for performance reasons (remote offices, for example), but the copies are all read-only. So updates to items in public folders only happen in one place and cannot end up conflicted.

In addition to being faster and more robust, the move to the mailbox database format also means there are some more prosaic changes.

The permissions model on public folders will look familiar to any Exchange administrator, allowing Owners, Administrators and other groupings to have different capabilities. In the background, these permissions are enforced by Exchange 2013's role based access control rather than the ACLs of yore. For the most part, this won't affect anyone. They're so transparent, for example, that all of your permissions will be seemlessly transitioned while migrating to Exchange 2013 public folders.

Quotas are also handled by the system, the only new limitation being the 100GB limit inherent in the mailbox system. Fortunately, if you need more than 100GB, you can still split public folders across multiple databases.

Recent versions of Exchange (I'm looking at you, 2010) have also been moving responsibilities out of the public folder database system, paving the way for the now-defunct public folder retirement. That means Free/Busy data, the Offline Address Book and other functions have been distributed to other Exchange services such as the System Attendant.

One odd thing which you may notice when looking at Active Directory is that there are new users associated with each public folder database. Don't worry though, these users are disabled and only exist because mailbox databases need a user associated with them.

So public folders are faster and more robust. What about managing them?

Managing Public Folders

Public Folders are fully supported in Exchange 2013. That means you have the full complement of Exchange Management Shell (PowerShell) cmdlets to manage them. Cmdlets have become the fundamental method for Exchange management upon which all of Microsoft's management tools are built. Gone are the days in which you could only accomplish an important task through a GUI, meaning the task could not be automated. If it doesn't exist somewhere in PowerShell, then it can't be done, and that's a wonderful thing.

Along with EMS, there's a new companion management tool which replaces the Exchange Management Console. Exchange Management Console seemed like a good idea, but was slow and unwieldy in practice. Exchange Administration Console is the new web-based management tool, and for the most part it is an improvement. While we won't go into details, it is reasonably performant, more sensibly laid out and generally easier to use than the retired EMC. We approve of the changes.

The public folder management interface in EAC is simple and straightforward, although you'll find yourself looking to PowerShell for any in-depth information. Creating your first public folder tree is quick and easy in EAC though.

So far, so good. You're ready to make the jump. But you've already got an infrastructure. What now?

Migrating Public Folders

If you're on Exchange 2007 or 2010, Microsoft has you covered. The migration path is highly configurable and scripted. You have to be on the very latest updates of your Exchange version though, which is SP3 RU10 for 2007 and SP3 for 2010. So for most Exchange administrators, there may be some significant groundwork to lay before you're ready for 2013.

If you're unlucky enough to still be on Exchange 2003 or earlier, you'll need to upgrade to one of the supported versions before you can upgrade to 2013. Good luck.

You can find many guides on how to perform an Exchange 2013 public folder migration, so here's an overview. It's basically a four-step process:

  1. Download the scripts from Microsoft
  2. Take snapshots of the existing Exchange public folder databases
  3. Run the scripts
  4. Lock the public folder databases on the legacy Exchange server(s)

All of your permissions and other settings should come over seamlessly with your data.

The biggest limitation of the migration process is that there is no support for hybrid deployments for legacy versions of Exchange. This means that once you move to 2013, you have to make all Exchange servers which aren't running 2013 lock their public folder databases to be read-only.

There is no synchronization method for public folders between 2013 and prior versions, so if you have to roll back your migration for any reason, you will lose public folder changes that occurred after the migration.

Conclusion

That's Exchange 2013 public folders in a nutshell.

It is great news that Microsoft changed its mind and roadmap to not only include but to really embrace and update public folders. They appear to be a part of Exchange for now and years to come. Which is terrific if you rely on their simple model for sharing important business data among your users, as most of us do.

As you can see, the update is almost entirely upside, with reliability and speed improvements, all of the features we know and love as well as little impact on compatibility (excepting CDO) and usability. Good job Microsoft!

For more information on Exchange 2013 public folders see:

About the Author

Trace Tervo is the CEO of DidItBetter.com Software, purveyor of Exchange and Outlook-based synchronization products. Whether you need to sync Outlook calendar with iPhone and Android, sync contacts by aggregating multiple users' folders, or a million other uses, our Add2Exchange and Add2Outlook product lines have you covered! DidItBetter.com has provided award-winning calendar sync and GAL sync products for over ten years.

This article is reprintable free of charge subject to the terms available at http://support.diditbetter.com/articles.aspx.

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