Configuring Mobile Devices to connect to Exchange Server 2003

by [Published on 5 Oct. 2004 / Last Updated on 5 Oct. 2004]

With Exchange Server 2003 you have the possibility to use mobile devices to connect to your Exchange Server 2003 environment. Generally there are two ways to connect: through Outlook Mobile Access and, Exchange Active Server Sync. Within this article we will have a closer look at the configuration and the implementation of Exchange Active Server Sync and especially what has to be done to configure your device properly to make it work.

Preparing the Mobile Device

In order to prepare your mobile device for Active Server Synchronization you have to check if your mobile device operating system is able to use this feature. Generally all mobile devices running Windows Pocket PC Edition 2003 or Windows Pocket PC Mobile 2003 are prepared to work properly. In addition other devices may run without any problems if they run a version of Microsoft Active Sync 3.7.1 or higher. The download can be found at :

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/downloads/activesync37.mspx

The minimum desktop computer requirements for Active Sync 3.7.1 are:

  • Microsoft Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows NT Workstation 4.0 with SP6 or later, or Windows 98
  • Microsoft Outlook 98 or later required for synchronization to the desktop or portable computer of e-mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, and notes. (Outlook 2003 is recommended)
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 SP1 or later
  • Hard-disk drive with 12 to 65 MB of available hard-disk space (actual requirements will vary based on selection of features and user''s current system configuration)
  • Available 9- or 25-pin communications port (adaptor required for 25-pin communications port), infrared port, or USB port (available for Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000, and Windows XP only)
  • VGA graphics card or compatible video graphics adapter at 256 color or later
  • Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible input device

After having setup the software you have to configure it, which is described in the next figures.


Figure 1: Selecting the kind of partnership


Figure 2: Specify the type of synchronization


Figure 3: Configuring Logon information for Server Sync


Figure 4: Configure Synchronization Settings


Figure 5:
Configure Logon Settings


Figure 6:
Fine-tuning Synchronization (I)


Figure 7:
Fine-tuning Synchronization (II)

The First Synchronization

After this your mobile device is prepared for Active Server Sync. Now a first synchronization starts where your mobile device transfers its IMEI number, mobile phone number and the users information to Active Directory and saves it there as properties of the user itself. After this your directory service knows the connection data and is able to interact with your mobile provider.

Configuring Server Based Active Sync

On your Exchange Server 2003 box you now have to activate the feature to synchronize server based. This can be done in Exchange System Manager / General Settings / Mobile Access. If you go to the properties you can generally activate the features for Mobile Synchronization and up-to-date notifications.

In Active Directory Users and Computers you can then configure the per user setting under Exchange Features.

How does it work?

Now let’s have a close look at what your Exchange Server and your mobile device are doing behind the scenes.

If you get a new entry in your mailbox (e.g. email) your Exchange Server now creates an email and sends it to your provider's SMTP Gateway. Your mobile provider’s SMTP Gateway then transforms this mail into a hidden SMS and sends it to the mobile phone number provided in the message itself.

The mobile device now (hopefully) receives this SMS and interprets it as command to synchronize with your Exchange Server. To make this work without any user interaction you should have saved your password on the MDA or you will have to enter it every single time the synchronization happens. After a successful synchronization your mobile device is now up-to-date.

Troubleshooting Active Server Sync

If synchronization does not work property your first step of troubleshooting is to find out where there is the problem: at your provider, at your configuration or somewhere else.

With the Resource Kit Utility AUTDTroubleShooter.EXE you have a small tool to help you. It can be found at:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=7718A338-A9F5-43D6-9E20-141189283C82&displaylang=en

Generally well-known errors may be DNS or other connectivity problems.

Conclusion

With Microsoft Exchange Active Server Sync you have a smart tool for an always up-to-date MDA synchronization without any user interaction. But as good it sounds there are two problems that you should never forget.

At first, each notification is a SMS which might mean costs depending upon your mobile phone contract. Secondly, and in my opinion this is even more important, you move internal company information to external devices. These devices are so small that they can easily be stolen by someone. So you should only give those users who really need it the access to run Active Server Sync.

If you plan to implement this solution you should even make sure that SSL secured connections are the best security you could have. One choice is to use public certificates, another to use your own PKI to make it work. That means you have to save the root certificate of your PKI on each mobile device. The utility AddRootCert.EXE will help you to do so; it can be found at:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=ECFDE1C7-36C9-4C13-986E-8A46790F61E4&displaylang=en

If you still have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

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