Outlook Mobile Access (OMA) in SBS 2003

Hello-hello! I am Harry Brelsford, author of the Windows Small Business Server 2003 Best Practices book and each day I am posting up several pages from this purple book. I am delighted to report that we start the subject of Outlook Mobile Access (OMA) from Chapter 8 with today’s post. Good stuff!


Harry Brelsford | ceo at smb nation | www.smbnation.com

Microsoft Small Business Specialist (SBSC), MBA, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNE, yadda yadda yadda

PS – did u know we are hosting a SBS conference in early october in Seattle?


Outlook Mobile Access

Back in Chapter 6, I wrote about forwarding e-mails to your cell phone. The forwarding works, but an even better solution is to use the newly included feature of Exchange 2003 and SBS 2003 called Outlook Mobile Access (OMA). OMA is simply OWA for web-enabled phones and PocketPC browsers. The basic features of OMA were formerly offered in Mobile Information Server 2002 and also in third party devices – now they are free!

During the SBS 2003 launch events, I met Kim Walker in Columbus, Ohio. Everyone has a gadget that they can’t live without and Kim’s addiction is e-mail on her cell phone. She has been using and managing third-party add-ins for several years and is promoting the feature to her clients. Kim has offered up some OMA info and best practices. She’s the OMA Momma and what follows in this section are her words! Go Kim!

Defining OMA

OMA offers a live text interface to your e-mail messages, calendars, tasks, and contacts. It replaces third-party add-ins at client computers or on additional servers. Therefore, it helps lower the total cost of ownership by reducing the need to deploy additional mobile server products in the corporate environment and by utilizing one mobile user device instead of multiple devices.

OMA supports Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 2.x as well as XHTML browser-based devices, full HTML browsers and i-Mode devices such as mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

OMA Server-Side

From the server-side, OMA setup is very simple. OMA is easier to manage than third party or desktop applications – everything is configured through Exchange System Manager. One important note is that in Standard Exchange Server 2003, OMA is disabled by default, but within SBS 2003 the default is OMA enabled (Figure 8-21).

Figure 8-21

The default Mobile Services Properties for Exchange has everything enabled.

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Notice the section titled Enable unsupported devices. Many devices have not been fully tested by Microsoft and are not on the supported device list. By default this box is checked, allowing a user to access Exchange on theses untested devices. The user gets an error that says: The device type you are using is not supported. Press OK to continue. This is shown in Figure 8-22. Once you press OK on the device, the service is generally available.

Figure 8-22

This is a screenshot from a mobile phone showing a failed connection.

BEST PRACTICE: Keep the Enabled unsupported devices checkbox


You can grant OMA access on an individual case-by-case basis. Say Norm Hasborn, owner of SPRINGERS, gets a new cell phone and doesn’t tell you. If Outlook Mobile Access is disabled for him (see Figure 8-23), he might test out OMA and get an error. He won’t have OMA access until he calls you, the SBSer, for support.

Figure 8-23

You can disable Mobile Services for individual user.

BEST PRACTICE: If you decide to manually add a user e-mail alias rather than run a custom recipient policy, your user will get an error accessing OMA: Item no longer exists. The item you are attempting to access may have been deleted or moved.

OMA Client-Side

From the client-side OMA is also fairly simple. It does not have all of the bells and whistles some third-party software has had, but it is definitely functional. OMA is customized for low-bandwidth high-latency type environments, but it still has the same feature set. Reply still means reply. Decline a meeting still means decline a meeting.

Time to use the SPRINGERS methodology where you will send an e-mail, enter contact records, and perform other such tasks from OMA. OMA can be

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accessed from a desktop computer as well – you don’t have to have a mobile device. In fact, if you are using your laptop in a location with a very slow connection, OMA will get you to your e-mail without any OWA overhead.

Sending an E-mail

Time for some step-by-step to have NormH check his e-mail.

1                    From the mobile device, point your browser to the following address: http://springers1.springersltd.com/oma.

2                    At the Authentication required screen, type NormH in the User field and click OK.

3                    On the Password screen, enter Purple3300 and click OK.

4                    If you get the device type not supported error (wording may vary), click OK.

5                    You are taken to the Exchange Mailbox for the user (Figure 8-24). You can scroll (down arrow on cell phone) to see all of the Mailbox options (such as Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, etc.).


Figure 8-24

The OMA-based Mailbox on the mobile phone.

6.         To read Norm’s inbox, press the 1 or the Go menu button.. This will bring you to his Inbox listing (Figure 8-25).

Figure 8-25

This is an Inbox on a mobile phone.

The asterisk on the first message in Figure 8-24 means that this is unread. Also notice the second message is the Standard SBS 2003 Server Performance report

-it might take a little while to read through on the small screen, but in a pinch it’s great. To read any message just select Go while highlighted or hit the corresponding number (there will not be numbers in standard Internet Explorer form a desktop). OMA provides full-featured e-mail functionality, including compose new, read, reply, reply all, forward, delete, flag, and mark as unread. From the details view of messages, you can browse to previous message or next message, close, or go home.

In the OMA calendar view, you can view today, next/previous day, or go to the day of your choice. For any OMA calendar item, you can accept, tentative, decline, reply, reply all, forward, delete, and view details.

Comparing OMA to Other Approaches

So how does OMA compare to cellular-provided desktop assistant programs? Functionality is similar, but the major advantage is that the phone now connects directly to the server. In order for one of the Desktop Assistant programs to

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function, the desktop must remain turned on with the forwarding program running. This places the failure point at the desktop and also uses both LAN and Internet bandwidth.

How does OMA on a standard cell phone compare to a SmartPhone or blackberry device? Generally cell telephones have smaller screens, but as you can see from the screen shots, if the phone is set to a small text, it is still readable. It is not as easy to type a reply, but it is possible and you can still check messages anywhere.

One important difference between OMA browser access and synchronization devices is that the information is only accessible when the user is in cellular coverage. The data does not get stored on the phone, but can be viewed only in the browser while the user is authenticated to the server.

As of this writing, I dearly miss some of the tricks that third party software offered. One of these tricks is a text message/page notification of mail – a rule that tells the user to check the mailbox rather than forward the message. For now, you can use the forward message from Chapter 6 for specific messages. In the past I have used notifications to page me when I received a message of high importance or a server message (based on words in the subject) or by sender. I check my e-mail frequently, but if I was in a meeting it would alert me to an issue that might be critical.

Daily OMA Use

I use OMA all of the time. Personally, I have a separate folding keyboard that attaches to my cell phone – I can send and receive e-mails without pulling up my laptop, but when I don’t need it I still have a small form factor phone. Without a keyboard, you don’t want to type long e-mails or replies, but you could send a short message saying “YES” (literal telephone pad keystroke sequence is: yes – Y – 999, E – 33, S – 7777 – it’s the new Morse code). OMA is also great for checking calendar updates. While running from one meeting to another, you can quickly check to see if the upcoming meeting time or location has been moved.

Thanks, Kim, for the OMA expertise. Won’t you consider speaking on this at the SMB Nation conference in Fall 2004? I can’t resist sharing a photo from the Fall 2003 SBS hands-on lab tour where a student in San Francisco implemented OMA right in the class room (Figure 8-26).

Figure 8-26

Live from San Francisco! It’s OMA and SBS 2003.


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