MSExchange.org, April 14, 2003
Seaside HiPer Exchange and the future of Web Messaging
| Review of SeaSide's HiPerExchange, a new product enabling offline access to Outlook Web Access.
|Date: Apr 14, 2003
Section: Tutorials :: Exchange 2000
Author: Amit Zinman
Company: Integrity Systems
I've been working on projects for almost six years now. I am not a resident employee of any of the companies I worked for. Instead, as is now pretty common, I've either been outsourced or working as an outside consultant on projects. So I got used to using both the customer's mail system on the corporate LAN for internal correspondence and my company's Outlook Web Access (starting with Exchange 5.5) for official and company mail. This not only made me into a very connected and easy to reach person but also to a very, very, very, extremely patient person when it comes to accessing my mail. Being an IT person, I managed to use even the old clunky interface as a work tool, even though the experience was sometimes frustrating. But hey, some of my University buddies still use text-based Telnet and Pine.
Seaside (www.seasidesw.com) is currently offering a product that aims to solve the "The remote Exchange problem" by providing an offline store for Outlook Web Access, much like the OST files used for Outlook. This product should be great for people who can access their Exchange mail through the web and have their own computer that they can install the product on. Like offline use with the regular Outlook client, it takes a while for the offline store to do the initial synchronization so the product doesn't really work people who access their mail through airport terminals and other occasional Internet access points. After synchronization is complete and the mail is on the local machine, online performance increases. This is especially noticeable when opening attachments.
Sure, using full-featured Outlook seems better, but not everyone have this choice. Corporate Firewalls today block RPC ports and most do not allow VPN clients as well. HTTP and HTTPs are the only ports that probably will never be blocked by Firewalls of most companies. I've tried synchronizing using slow WAN links using regular Outlook client, and believe me, it's very slow when it works at all. Also, the gap between Outlook Web Access and Outlook is slowly closing. On the corporate side, Microsoft's Outlook Web Access is becoming the standard remote e-mail access solution. (See my article on Exchange 2003
So, how does HiPerExchange work? It lets you enter your account information and then synchronizes you mail in the background.
Configuration Web Page
Currently only main mail folders and the folders underneath them are supported. You can do some tweaking to also synchronize other folders, and the Seaside people promised me this will be made easier in the next versions. This means that if you want your filed mail to be available offline you need to move your folders below your inbox. Two modes are available, offline, for when there's no network connectivity, and online, where non-synchronized mail is read from the remote Exchange server while synchronized mail is read from the cache.
The product (currently in version 1.5) supports both SSL and non SSL connections to Exchange 2000 Outlook Web Access (in the future Exchange 2003 will also be supported).
Future versions would provide easy access to all folders and improve the offline interface. A product like HiPerExchange could probably take better advantage of the smarts built into OS and browser to display e-mail more quickly and allow you to manage it more intuitively .However, in my opinion, for web messaging to real be a hit it's up to Microsoft to provide a better interface for Outlook Web Access and for companies to upgrade to new Exchange versions. For people already using Outlook Web Access 2000 today I say, why wait?