Microsoft (Quote) has introduced its revamped e-mail server, Exchange Server 2007.
While this launch is getting far less attention than the more vaunted launches of its Vista operating system and Office 2007 productivity suite, the deployment of this application may have more far-reaching consequences than the other two products combined.
Microsoft considers the new Exchange Server the cornerstone of its unified communications strategy and has loaded it with integrated voice and calendaring features to match those ambitions.
The unified messaging feature, which was demonstrated during last week's launch of Vista, answers calls using a speech-enabled automated operator and delivers voicemail and fax messages to the Exchange inbox, where they can be accessed by Outlook, Outlook Web Access, mobile devices, and from a standard phone.
Exchange also allows users to issue instructions to the e-mail application over the telephone, allowing them to cancel meetings and send notifications to other meeting participants.
Exchange 2007 interoperates natively with both traditional and IP-PBX systems.
In addition to the convenience of being able to answer voicemail through an e-mail client, the application is particularly friendly to road warriors.
"We've put a lot of emphasis on enhanced access to e-mail and calendar from wherever you are and making sure that experience is seamless and consistent," Exchange Server Group senior product manager Megan Kidd told internetnews.com.
In the arena of security, customers can sign up for a hosted version of e-mail filtering and Forefront security for protection against viruses and malware.
The product also comes with built-in anti-spam protection to block unwanted messages and provide protection against phishing attacks.
Paul Bryan, director of product management for Forefront Security products, noted that the applications are designed to protect each layer of the messaging structure while avoiding redundant scanning.
"If something has been scanned at the edge [of the corporate network] it won't get scanned again, so it doesn't bog down the messaging system," he told internetnews.com.
Ultimately, he said, the product has been engineered so that administrators can establish a balance between security and speed as they see fit.
Transport rules also allow administrators and compliance officers to establish and enforce regulatory or corporate policies on internal or outbound e-mail, voicemail and fax messages.
Thus, the hub server can interrogate messages prior to delivery based on business rules.
Gartner analyst Matt Cain noted that these security and compliance features have traditionally been the province of third-party vendors such as Double-Take and Neverfail.
Now that Microsoft has baked these features into Exchange, he said, "there really is no need for additional on-premises spam and virus filters."