There always seems to be a gulf between marketing promises and the reality of implementation of software promises, and that seems to be true most of all for Microsoft's (News - Alert) Exchange 2013 email hosting site mailboxes.
The new site mailbox feature is an attempt to combine both the software giant's email hosting server with SharePoint's ability for employees to much easier collaborate on documents and projects. The site mailboxes give access to people working on a project to e-mails and SharePoint documents to them alone. It's intended as an improvement over public folders.
Tony Redmond, writing for Windows IT Pro (News - Alert), is one of those people who's skeptical, but cautiously optimistic about the capabilities of the new site mailboxes.
“Those of us experienced enough to have gone through many false dawns in the past might be forgiven to being a tad cynical about the promises of collaboration bliss, the easy interaction between SharePoint and Exchange, the completeness of discovery searches across multiple repositories, and the excellence of the Outlook 2013 user interface, but that’s not a reason to consign site mailboxes to the wastebasket, at least not at this point,” he wrote.
The problem, as Redmond sees it, is that different people have different ideas of collaboration. Some people find email hosting is all they need, while other people want more sophisticated tools.
Only Exchange 2013 itself, not the Web-based email hosting version, supports site mailboxes. Microsoft is planning an upgrade to the Outlook Web App that will support the site mailboxes soon.
Redmond did praise the new site mailbox feature's division of labor between SharePoint and Exchange. “Exchange looks after e-mail and SharePoint takes care of documents,” he commented. “This is an appropriate and intelligent division because SharePoint can’t do e-mail for nuts and Exchange isn’t much better at dealing with documents.”
He also liked the ease of use, where users can simply drag a document into a folder to share it as part of the site mailbox.
In addition, the Exchange email hosting server can create shared mailboxes automatically when SharePoint sites are created. They are also searchable through the new FAST (News - Alert) architecture, making searches much quicker.Documents stored in site mailboxes will stay in place when sent as attachments.
Exchange 2013 however, lacks some SharePoint integration features in its interface but the user can launch a browser session to use SharePoint over the email hosting system.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein