synchronizing mail, contacts, tasks, calendar between computers and users

  • Thread starter vistauser111
  • Start date Views 895
V

vistauser111



I am trying to come up with a solution for a problem that probably has been discussed here before. I am trying to set up a system where multiple users across a network can use their own mail accounts, but can share contacts, tasks and calendar. the users have typically several email accounts that they access with Outlook via IMAP. They need to keep a consistent set of contacts, and need to share tasks and calendars. Another twist is that some of the users have multiple computers (laptop and desktop), and they need to be synchronized also. How can I do that?

I thought of going to Exchange server, but I have not done so for two reasons: a) I don't want to get into Domain administration, active directory, etc. (I think that is required for Exchange server), and I heard that Exchange server cannot really work with other email accounts (such as google) via IMAP.

I do have a Small Business Server 2003 R2 running, and I suppose I could add Exchange Server (which version?) if that is the best solution, but perhaps someone has a better idea?

Thanks.
 

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange


SBS 2003 R2 includes Exchange server. It will work fine with other accounts, but if you can access the accounts using POP3, you could let SBS download the mail - it generally makes life easier. Set user accounts to use the external address as default and configure Exchange to use a smart host so it can send the mail.

You could set up a LDAP server for contacts, but that won't help you with calendaring. There are calendar servers, but at this point you might as well use Exchange which you have in SBS.

 
R

Roady [MVP]



SBS 2003 comes with Exchange 2003 which you can use. You will indeed have to set up an Active Directory domain for this. I'm not sure what you mean about Exchange and Google IMAP issues. The Exchange accounts will hold an email address of your own (public) domain. Outlook users can add both an Exchange account and additional mail accounts to their configuration such a Google account.

Since IMAP doesn't support Contacts, Calendar and Tasks, you'll have to use something else indeed to sync that. If Exchange is too much, you can have them sync that via their mobile device.

Depending on the size of your organization, there are also several 3rd party groupware or sharing solutions that you can use.
 
V

vistauser111



Thanks. Perhaps I need to bite the bullet and use Exchange and Active Directory. I just have the feeling that it is a bit of an overkill for 2 or 3 people ...

I checked the SBS 2003 server and it allows me to add a "mail server (POP3, SMTP)" as a role. I suppose that is the Exchange Server, then?

The problem with having the Exchange Server deal with the email (and having the MX record point to it) is that my internet connection is not too fast. For the company website I am using a hosting site (justhost.com), which also provides email for me and the other people. Access to the email is through POP3 or IMAP (or webmail), but I understand that Exchange Server cannot do that (synchronize with external email through IMAP). In addition to that, I and the other people also have other email accounts (hotmail, google, etc.) which they may want to integrate.

Is your suggestion then to:

a) set up a domain that everybody must join

b) set up active directory (not even sure what that entails)

c) Set up Exchange Server

d) NOT set up an Email account for Exchange server, use it only for contacts, tasks, calendar

e) Have the people individually connect ther Outlook accounts to the email providers?

How would they, in that scenario, be able to synchronize their email folders between their own computers (desktop and laptop)?

Thanks for all your help.
 

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange


Is your suggestion then to:

a) set up a domain that everybody must join

b) set up active directory (not even sure what that entails)

c) Set up Exchange Server

d) NOT set up an Email account for Exchange server, use it only for contacts, tasks, calendar

e) Have the people individually connect ther Outlook accounts to the email providers?

How would they, in that scenario, be able to synchronize their email folders between their own computers (desktop and laptop)?


I checked the SBS 2003 server and it allows me to add a "mail server (POP3, SMTP)" as a role. I suppose that is the Exchange Server, then?
No, i think that is the Windows POP/SMTP service. I don't have my SBS running (although i could bringi t up to check) but exchange is a separate service.

The problem with having the Exchange Server deal with the email (and having the MX record point to it) is that my internet connection is not too fast. For the company website I am using a hosting site (justhost.com), which also provides email for me and the other people. Access to the email is through POP3 or IMAP (or webmail), but I understand that Exchange Server cannot do that (synchronize with external email through IMAP). In addition to that, I and the other people also have other email accounts (hotmail, google, etc.) which they may want to integrate.
Exchange only needs to handle the local stuff and forward external mail to a smart host. It does not have to be nline all the time. Exchange can pop the mail and drop it in the mailboxes. It's an option offered by exchange and while its not recommended by Exchange admins, it works fine for small companies. There are pop connectors that can get mail from imap too. See http://slipstick.me/pop for more information. The 3rd party connectors can deliver to public folders and seem to work better than the one in SBS.

On d and e above, I would use the mailboxes for mail too and use a smart host. ie, if the internet address is user@justhost.com, set that as the default smtp in exchange. Set a smart host and it can transfer mail to smtp.justhost.com This allows them to easily email each other and external addresses at the same time. If the users also have gmail or hotmail accounts, they can set them up in Outlook. See http://slipstick.me/sbssmtp

I know it probably sounds complicated, but its actually quite easy and works well. A lot of people will tell you that you need to set up exchange with mx and such, but it works just fine as a giant email client. :)

 
V

vistauser111



Thanks. I will give that a thought. It was mentioned above that exchange server is part of SBS 2003. I don't see anything else that could be an exchange server, so do I have to install it separately? If so, which version should I install? SBS2003 is a 32-bit application, so I suppose that Exchange server would also have to be 32 bit, right?
 

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange


Thanks. I will give that a thought. It was mentioned above that exchange server is part of SBS 2003. I don't see anything else that could be an exchange server, so do I have to install it separately? If so, which version should I install? SBS2003 is a 32-bit application, so I suppose that Exchange server would also have to be 32 bit, right?


It's on one of the SBS disks and should have been one of the options available when you installed SBS. Rerun setup and install exchange.

This might help with config options: http://www.msexchange.org/tutorials/Installing-and-Configuring-SBS2003.html
Outlook Daily Tips: http://www.outlook-tips.net/
 
R

Roady [MVP]



Hosting your own Exchange server might be overkill for your office indeed then. Especially if you are not a computer company, you'll be wasting quite some time with learning and maintaining the system.

An alternative from setting up your own mail server is to get a Hosted Exchange mailbox. In this case the mail server is still maintained by your ISP but they will be using an Exchange server so you can enjoy all the Exchange features in Outlook.

There are quite some ISP offering Hosted Exchange solutions already. Microsoft is offering the service as well. You can find out more about that here;
http://www.microsoft.com/online/exchange-online.mspx
 

Top