Exchange management, spam protection boost

Microsoft Exchange 2003 users got the green light to download the new service pack and spam filter add-ons at the company’s Tech.Ed 2004 conference in Canberra last week.

Microsoft’s Exchange Server product marketing manager, Andrew Cunningham, said service pack 1 and Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) were released at Tech.Ed in the US in May but the company wanted to use Australia’s Tech.Ed for the local launch “so we can explain to customers what they are and what they do”.

“Something has to be done in the industry about spam and it’s tricky because there are a lot of moving parts with different vendors and systems,” Cunningham said. “IMF is our first step in the Exchange world to try to combat that.”

Cunningham said IMF is basically a spam-scanning tool that uses a lot of intelligence out of Hotmail, which delivers about two billion e-mails per day, 60 to 70 percent of which are spam.

“So we built SmartScreen technology and IMF is based on that,” he said. “You run IMF on the server and it looks at an e-mail and assigns a spam confidence level to it. Administrators can then decide what to do with [spam]; for example, do you throw it out or do you deliver it to the user’s inbox or spam folder for them to check it.”

Cunningham said IMF is not meant to replace existing antispam applications.

“Some customers already have antispam technologies in place and we are saying keep them as this isn’t meant to replace those tools but to supplement them,” he said. “This uses heuristics tools and can work alongside signature-based tools.”

IMF is available now and is a free download for Exchange 2003 servers along with the first feature update, service pack 1 (SP1).

“Service pack 1 has a big focus on management and manageability like moving a 5.5 mailbox to 2003 Exchange is straight across,” Cunningham said.

Lotus Notes co-existence and migration tools also feature as well as security enhancements and bugfixes.

“Also improved is recovery storage groups as in the past you had to have a separate Exchange infrastructure with its own active directory. To do a recovery you would have to bring up a separate infrastructure and restore to the production environment, he said. “Now you can have it on the live environment. Basically it’s a storage area within Exchange that users can’t see so the administrator can then decide to restore push live or to just a few mailboxes. We now have wizards around that which make it easier.”

Cunningham said SP1 also “extensively” simplifies setting up RPC over HTTP, which is used for connecting to Exchange servers over the Internet without a VPN.

“There are also a whole pile of management enhancement tools that can be downloaded to make a lot of things easier to manage,” he said. “Our advice is to test SP1 internally and don’t just throw it into a production environment, just like any operational process.

Rodney Gedda travelled to Tech.Ed as a guest of Microsoft

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