Accessing email with Outlook on multiple computers

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I was wondering what the best solution is for the following situation. We are increasing the size of our network and intalling a Windows 2003 server with Active Directory. My users will have to work from multiple workstation. Is there a way I can configure the system that will allow the users to check their email using Outlook from multiple computers? Is there a way to put their .PST file on the server and make it accessable from any computer? Maybe using roaming profiles? We do not have an Exchage Server - would that be a solution? or would it be better for my users to check their email via a web-based email client? Thank you for your help!

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According to what I’ve read from Microsoft…you should <i>not</i> set up access to PST files on a network drive! I’ve seen this work at times, but at other times cause some corruption…so…beware!

http://blogs.technet.com/b/askperf/archive/2007/01/21/network-stored-pst-files-don-t-do-it.aspx

As was mentioned, you could look into Exchange ($$$), or even Zimbra, or open-Xchange for your needs.

———
I would firstly recommend Exchange as this will handle it for you..

But there are other ways. Set up a standard netword drive that everyone can see with a persistant drive letter.

Say M: and store peoples PST files on the M: drive. In peoples computer profiles you can configure Outlook to use the M:person.pst or somesuch as the path to their outlook folder. I’ve set this up a few times and it works well.

Ursulus

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  • HenryH
    First things first. IMHO Exchange is a mistake for anyone who is in the position to ask this question. There is a LOT of administrative overhead!! You could try this: Set up a directory/folder for each user on your server (you probably already have this). Find the individual's Outlook files, close Outlook and copy them to this directory Rename the directory where the Outlook files were Re-start Outlook Outlook will complain that it can not find it's files, so, tell it to look in the network directory Close Outlook Re-start Outlook to check that it is now happy working with it's data across the network Do the above for each user on each computer (log-on as the user when you are doing this for them so that you are able to see their individual network directory/folder. You may also find these links of value: http://www.sitedeveloper.ws/tutorials/outlook.htm http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/share.htm Consider dumping Outlook and look at some of the opensource alternatives (mozilla) etc... Have fun! HenryH
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  • Ttully
    Since you have upgraded your network to include Windows Server 2003 with AD I assume the number of users must be growing at your organization. Someone will have to maintain your new server so you must have an arrangement with someone to do that. Whether you employ 20 people or 100 people, Exchange server will easily scale to meet your requirements. Since users mail is stored on the Exchange server, accessing email from anywhere in the office is a snap. As each user logs onto a new workstation you simply have to create their Outlook profile...less than a minute and it's done. You could also enable and use Outlook Web Access which is web based email but you have the option of just using it internally. This makes it as easy as opening Internet Explorer to access your mail. Yes, the big question is who will maintain your Exchange server...as well as your Domain Controller and File Server's etc. If you're paying an outside consultant already, adding Exchange to the service agreement would be easy. Lastly, moving all of the .pst files to a central share will also work...mind you Microsoft suggests against it..but yes, I've set it up that way and it works. (Just don't set Outlook to autostart before the network share connects.) Users cannot have Outlook running on two computers simultaneously or data corruption is certain to occur. Terrence
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  • Emtiez
    Why not set up roaming profiles? Users will only need to log in and they will have all of their files and settings.
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  • Skepticals
    Thank you for all your input! What do you think about roaming profiles? Would the roaming profile "roam" the Outlook settings as well? And have the data/emil stored on the server. Any reason not to use roaming profiles if staff will be using multiple computers throughout the day? We may plan on getting an Exchange Server for more reasons than this problem. If getting an Exchange Server will resolve this issue as well, then we can wait until then. Thanks again.
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  • TheVyrys
    all the previous answers are right on....you have some factors to consider. If you are a smaller company, exchange overhead shouldn't be that bad. Once you get past the learning curve, I think it's relatively easy. There is the cost of Server licensing and Client licensing...and you need to check your hardware capabilities before diving right in to Exchange. Coming up soon, Exchange 2007 requires 64-bit architecture. Exchange 2003 will work for you at least 2 or 3 years though. Just be sure to plan ahead when designing your IT solutions. Exchange (either version) will definitely provide you with enough communication power and features to do about anything you want, now and if you grow. Users can check email from any workstation, home or on the road with internet access. One other note: I don't know if you have a consultant or not. My guess is that you do not, for the following reasons. 1. you are here asking this question 2. you mentioned "a windows 2003 server" which indicates only one box. Generally a good practice is to have at least two domain controllers for active directory protection...among other benefits. This other box could serve as your exchange machine as well....especially in a small environment. hope this helps, and good luck.
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  • Skepticals
    TheVyrys: Too bad for me, I am the network administrator. I m new to this buiding and most of the network is in place. At some point we plan to have at least 3 servers. One domain controller, one web server, and an exchange server. Are you suggesting to create two domain controllers with AD? The company is around 50-75 users.
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  • Platypus
    You might consider Microsoft's Small Business (SBS) Server, that is the recommended solution for small business, and will handle up to 75 concurrent users. SBS will help you solve many more issues than just e-mail. Note, about some of your other responses, PST files on a network drive is not supported by Microsoft - it may/may not work well, but if you ever hit a glitch, you won't get much help. Exchange as part of SBS does not, in my experience, require excessive support, although you may want to bring in a consultant to ease the pain of setup. Good luck.
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  • TheVyrys
    That is just my opinion. It is not absolutely necessary though. You can even for the time being put a second domain controller on a PC type box with Server installed, without purchasing a server hardware configuration. Just check your specs. Again, the licensing issue comes into play, but if you are planning on getting an Exchange server later anyway, you will need the extra Server license then. During the planning process don't forget that disaster recovery is important. Ask yourself what would happen if the motherboard goes bad on your only domain controller....or your hard drive(s). If you are not thinking about this sort of thing already, it may be in your best interest to speak with a consultant. Doing so can pay off later by saving a bundle of time, money, frustration, and emabarrassment. Also, you mentioned "too bad for me, I am the network administrator"..... I say "good for you". By learning and getting the experience of Exchange, Active directory and the like, you will not only become more valuable to your company, but in the event that you need to find another job, you will be more marketable and likely make more money.
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  • HenryH
    Another thing that you may wish to consider is to go for a groupware solution. Wander over to sourceforge (http://sourceforge.net/index.php) and search for groupware. There are several demo sites where you can play with a live system and see if you think that this may suit what you (and your Co. need/want). Incidently, how many users are you talking about? (I have recently installed SME-server (http://contribs.org/modules/news/) with eGroupWare on an old (up-graded) PC into an office with two to four users, though this solution will scale to hundreds! The REAL up-side is that there is NO effective administration! Let us all know what you decide to do and how it goes for you.
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  • Skepticals
    TheVyrys: I said "too bad for me" in jest. I love being the network admin. and I agree with everything you said. I was excited to hear about us getting an exchange server. I am always wanting to learn more. HenryH: I think I will wait until we get the exchange server for the email issue. There are between 60-70 users and only a select few will need to access their email from multiple computers. I suggested checking their email using the web interface when they are not using their main computer. Thanks for all your help.
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  • Jmweber
    1. Look long and hard at roaming profiles. Lots of folks nowadays like to save things to the desktop. After a bit, they will start complaining that the login process takes too long, as will logoff. All that desktop has to go somewhere....read the network. 2. Exchange does NOT have excessive administrative overhead. An Exchange server that is improperly setup does. 3. Outlook will connect to the users mailbox just fine from any location that has a mail profile attached to the login profile. Just have the person login to the second (or third, or fourth) computer, create them a mail profile, and there you have it. Make sure that only one of them is cached mode, or you will create a duplication issue. 4. PST files on a network location are totally unsupported by PSS (MSoft). PST = BAD. You really want to discourage the use of PST files, a solution that originated in an era of small email stores and POP3. You have an Exchange server. Leverage it. Back it up, save yer b*tt. If you have a PST file out there, sooner or later it is going south for a vacation and not coming back. These events never happen to the janitor, but they do happen to those who can cause you pain. Kill the PST's. >> soapbox mode off
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  • TheVyrys
    If you choose not to do roaming profiles, there are tools available that can reduce the administration of multi-computer email users. I use one called OUTLOOK Profiler, from GOFF Concepts. I place a shortcut on all computer desktops. Users can go to any computer in our company, log on, double click, and email is set up in 3-5 seconds. It's fairly basic, but works like a charm, and has saved me coutless hours. You can control some of the options settings that users will get in their profile, but not all. If you decide to purchase it, let me know, I can provide you more detailed information you should know before ordering. www.GoffConcepts.com There are others out there, but this was the cheapest solution for me. Good luck
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  • Wsbtech
    The hardware and licensing of an Exchange server are costly and the maintenance is excessive unless you automate as much as possible. You did not mention if mail is hosted locally or outsourced. From the sounds of your e-mail and responses, your current e-mail solution is outsourced. If so, try to modify your agreement with the ISP providing e-mail to allow your roaming users to use IMAP rather than POP3. Then their e-mail could reside on the server, be available via web-mail and from multiple locations. You can even set up an IMAP-based e-mail server using Linux and an MTA server like Postfix. For groupware, you can then upgrade to Zimbra. These cost less to purchase, less to administer, and the hardware is much less expensive as well. I have a Linux box running Postfix with squirrelmail, and a Jabber server instant messaging system running on the same box using open source software for Spam filtering and antivirus. Total cost was less than $1600 including the annual licensing fee to keep the Linux distro up to date. It is much more reliable and requires less downtime for patching and maintenance. In 7 years, we have only been down once for a bad motherboard.
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  • Raphael7
    I would firstly recommend Exchange as this will handle it better also take on consideration how fast is the company growing
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  • Skepticals
    [...] Accessing email with Outlook on multiple computers [...]
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  • Stevesz
    Say Yeah! for getting yourself a real live server. I would suggest you go with 2008 R2 rather than 2003 server. You'll get a lot more life out of the 2008 R2 than the 2003 server. Second, yes, Exchange can get rather complex at times, however, for most small organizations, once it has been properly installed, it is pretty much trouble-free to run and maintain. There are a few ways you can go with it. Depending on the size of your user base (I'd say small if you do not have a server yet) and the anticipated growth of staff over the next few years, SBS 2008 may be a good choice for you. It comes with Exchange 2007 built in, along with Sharepoint. Also, if you need SQL server, you can get the premium edition which also gives you SQL server baked in. There are some limitation with SBS, like a maximum of 75 users, the fact that it can be the only domain controller on the network, though it does allow other servers, and a few other things you probably do not really need to worry about. You can get yourself a copy of Exchange and install it on a server yourself. You can put it on the one and only server you have, though that is not recommended, however a lot of installs are just that, Exchange on a domain controller, so it is no biggie, just limits you somewhat in what you can do with the machine and its DC role. Finally, you can choose among those out there that host Exchange, and let someone else worry about the updates, care and feeding of the server. If you go one of the first two routes, you will probably want to hire someone to help you get the server setup and running. Make sure it is someone you are comfortable working with, and who will share their expertise with you, getting you off on the right foot. Now, onto those pesky PST files. Yes, you can place them on the network, and use them from there. There is one teensy problem with going that route, however. If something breaks, yo are on your own. MS will not support PST files run from a network location. I've known people who have run PST files from a network location for years without a problem. Naturally, if there is a problem, you know who will have it--the guy that owns the company, and it will be you fix it or you look for a new job. Well, maybe not that bad if you really impressed on him that this would be a bad way to do things. One solution that I know has been used with some success is to keep the PST on a flash drive that moves along with the user. The downside is that the flash drives can be very easy to, shall we say, misplace? Also, the flash drive has a relatively short live when compared to a hard drive, so you would need to keep a good back-up available, Take a look at the file size of some of the PST files that would be in the roaming profile. Those 1GB+ file sizes are going to take some time to transfer back and forth. Your users are not going to like the lag, and your network is not likely to like the traffic created by this. Overall, I think your best bet would be an Exchange server to take on the e-mail duties for your organization.
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