7 Exchange ActiveSync Resources for the Email Administrator


The increasing number of smartphones and tablets that connect to Microsoft Exchange is placing pressure on the email administrator to also diagnose and troubleshoot issues related to the Exchange ActiveSync protocol.  On this front, I’ve listed a number of tips in Troubleshooting Exchange ActiveSync that I hope will help administrators resolve problems that originate from a range of trouble vectors related to it.

It was in the course of writing my previous article on Exchange ActiveSync that I realized just how scarce resources are on this topic.  Moreover, the different versions of Exchange ActiveSync in use can only contribute to the confusion for a new administrator.  As such, I’ve decided to compile a list of reading resources to help you get quickly up to speed on this important topic.

  1. Understanding Exchange ActiveSync: An excellent starting point from Microsoft that summarizes the key capabilities of Exchange ActiveSync.  This includes a section of the various security features and how they work, as well as new information pertaining to the synchronizing of Windows Phone 7 devices.  In addition, you can find another great introduction from the perspective of mobile phone devices here.
  2. Understanding the Different Implementations of Exchange ActiveSync: I wrote this primer on TheEmailAdmin just a couple of months back, where I discussed the various versions of Exchange ActiveSync in relation to Exchange Server.  I also highlighted some examples of how certain limited implementations of the protocol on client devices can result in “server problems” – but which are not related to Microsoft Exchange.
  3. Understanding Direct Push: This is an older (but recently updated) resource from Microsoft that highlights how the protocol works behind the scene to enable Exchange ActiveSync without the need for a NOC (Network Operating Center) – unlike the RIM BlackBerry platform.  While some networking knowledge pertaining to the HTTP protocol is required to fully understand it; I consider this understanding to be central to properly appreciating the strengths – as well as the quirks – of how Exchange ActiveSync works. And yes, Direct Push is the name of the enabling technology that Microsoft created to deliver push email to mobile devices over a cellular network connection.  Of course, Exchange ActiveSync is the favored term used by Microsoft these days.  If the version on TechNet proves too daunting a read however, you can also check out a more concise summary that I wrote some years back in How does Direct Push really work?
  4. How to troubleshoot server ActiveSync HTTP error codes: You can find a list of standard error codes that could be generated by Exchange ActiveSync clients and what they mean here.  Again, networking knowledge will help in understanding this topic, as would an overview of how Direct Push works in the first place.  Regardless of client devices, administrators should be able to better decipher the various errors; be the error due to configuration mistakes on the client end, network-centric, or an issue that can only be rectified on Microsoft Exchange itself.
  5. Understanding Exchange ActiveSync Mailbox Policies: This resource contains an exhaustive list of Exchange ActiveSync mailbox policy settings that can be enforced on a deployed Exchange ActiveSync client.  To be clear, not all client devices support all policies, though a quick read through the list will allow a seasoned administrator to quickly determine the limitations and capabilities of Exchange ActiveSync.
  6. Exchange ActiveSync: Frequently Asked Questions: I suppose this resource is pretty self-explanatory.  Do note that some parts of this page are a tad out-of-date, though many basic but important questions are also addressed, such as whether it is possible to configure Exchange ActiveSync to support multiple SMTP domains? How to selectively disable users from having access to Exchange ActiveSync? As well as how to schedule synchronization (as opposed to having “push” updates)?
  7. Which uses less traffic: BlackBerry Push or Microsoft Direct Push: I wrote this guide a few years ago to compare the difference between RIM’s NOC-centric push system to Microsoft’s Direct Push.  While the relative capabilities of both technologies have dramatically increased since then, the fundamental technical workings have remained consistent.  As it is, I consider the differences in both approaches to be important, as email administrators could well find themselves having to implement both (they are able to co-exist), or to explain the merits of both to senior executives.

While we’re on this topic, I shall be exploring the various other services and platforms that implement the Exchange ActiveSync protocol next week.  Stay tuned!

Written by Paul Mah

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