Product Reviews

Bridging the Gap

Turn Outlook for Web Access into an offline mail reader.

For administrators who need a solution for remote sites, road warriors, executives, partners and anyone else needing access a full Exchange 2000 mailbox over slow or disconnected links, Seaside Software has come up with HiPerExchange—a solution designed to give you full offline synchronization to your Outlook Web Access (OWA) server.

HiPerExchange provides a locally cached version of your OWA that performs synchronization in the background anytime a connection is available. Unlike OWA, it does require a locally installed client to do this and it's missing some of the features of a full Outlook client. The installation is simple and straight-forward.

Once you install the client piece you need to configure the accounts that you will be accessing through HiPerExchange. Everything from this point on is done through your browser. HiPerExchange can accommodate multiple accounts on the same machine and does a very good job of handling the background synchronization.

Using HiPerExchange is very easy as well. Users simply go to the offline version of their OWA through a shortcut you create or by right-clicking the system tray icon and selecting HiPerExchange offline and they are accessing their e-mail the same way hat they would through OWA. If a connection is available, HiPerExchange will synchronize in the background even when you are on offline mode. Speed is borderline incredible and the claim of “sub-second response” is met very well. Obviously this speed is not available until a large portion of the initial synchronization has completed but, once that happens, it only transfers new information. There are a few limitations since you are not in online mode—such as accessing your Global Address List within your organization or utilizing the find functionality—but if a connection is available, then you can easily switch to online mode.

HiPerExchange uses the interface from OWA in Exchange 2000; if you are running Exchange 2003 you will not get some features, such as spelling checker or the new interface, at all. But it still worked flawlessly even with an Exchange 2003 backend. In either case, the speed of accessing your offline information is unbelievable.

I still have a few concerns about the product. I was not able to get an answer about how (or whether) the local data store is encrypted. Nor was I able to find anything on doing a mass deployment of HiPerExchange via silent installation methods, or ways of automating the creation of user accounts and server settings with no user interaction.

Overall, HiPerExchange has a place for remote users with poor connections. Some of the marketing claims seem a bit exaggerated especially with regard to consolidation of your servers, since most corporations are not pushing the performance limits of their front end, or back end server environments anyway. Also a large portion of the benefits of HiPerExchange are fulfilled with Outlook 2003’s offline caching engine even without the requirement for a Exchange 2003 Server. But for remote sites with no direct connectivity to the Exchange servers other than OWA or the extreme road warrior who cannot wait for the next Office Suite HiPerExchange will give them great offline caching and background synchronization of their OWA Mailbox.

About the Author

Brian Marranzini, MCSE, ITIL, A+ is an independent writer who works for a major software company.

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