Updated Exchange Public Folder Guidance

Published Mar 31 2008 02:31 PM 30.1K Views

The last time we talked about the future of Exchange Public Folders, was in Terry Myerson's blog post titled, "Exchange 12 and Public Folders".  The main theme of this blog focused on the statement that Public Folders are being "de-emphasized".  While Exchange 2007 is supported for 10 years from release, those new to public folders were encouraged to look at SharePoint.  Since this blog was written, there has been a broad range of questions and speculation about this topic, and we felt it was time to update our guidance regarding Exchange Public Folders. General Guidance Since Terry's blog post, there seems to be much confusion over the use of the word "de-emphasized".  Many people have interpreted this guidance as "Public Folders are dead, and we need to migrate to SharePoint now!"  This is not true.  Our updated guidance is centered around the major scenarios in which Exchange Public Folders are used today.  Depending on each scenario, the strengths of each server and known issues, you should find our guidance more specific to your environment. For this reason, Microsoft will continue to support Public Folders in the next major release of Exchange Server, after Exchange 2007.  This means Public Folders will have full support for 10 years from release of the next major release of Exchange Server.  Moreover, Microsoft will continue to invest heavily in SharePoint, which has focused platforms to support discussions, team calendaring and collaboration in Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and more mature enterprise content management with enterprise search in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS). Guidance by Scenario By looking at the primary scenarios where Public Folders are used, we hope to provide more clarity for your organization, allowing you to invest properly in your IT infrastructure.  For each scenario, we are providing specific guidance to help you decide whether Exchange Public Folders or SharePoint is the right option.

Scenario

 

Use PF's Currently?

 

New to PF's?

 

Document Sharing

 

SharePoint may be better option

 

SharePoint is better option

 

Calendar Sharing

 

No need to move

 

Use either*

 

Contact Sharing

 

No need to move

 

Use either*

 

Discussion Forums

 

No need to move

 

Use either*

 

Distribution Group Archive

 

No need to move

 

Use either*

 

Custom Applications

 

SharePoint may be better option

 

SharePoint may be better option**

 

Organizational Forms

 

No need to move

 

Use InfoPath

 
*  Depending on scope of scenario, use Exchange PF's or SharePoint ** Depending on the scope of the application use Exchange Web Services and/or SharePoint While this table is focused on Exchange PF's and SharePoint, another alternative direction may be to build a custom SQL Server application to replace Exchange Public Folder use case scenarios. Strengths of Servers It is helpful to understand why we are providing the scenario guidance, in the previous section.  Feedback from customers has indicated they feel a strong push to migrate from Public Folders to SharePoint, today.  This general feeling does not take into account, the complexities of the migration.  You should first understand the strengths of Exchange Public Folders and SharePoint. SharePoint
  • Team Workspaces - SharePoint helps teams communicate and collaborate by providing easy access to people, documents and information.
  • Documentation Management - PF's were not designed for document sharing and collaboration.  SharePoint provides versioning and other document management features, such as check-in and check-out functionality, and automatic notifications of content changes.
  • Workflow Applications - SharePoint provides many application templates that provide customer scenarios for building workflow on the SharePoint platform, to address specific business processes or sets of tasks.
Exchange Server Public Folders
  • Outlook integration - Public Folders are fully integrated into Outlook and Outlook Web Access.
  • Replication - Exchange Public Folders have a true multi-master replication architecture, allowing the PF hierarchy and content to be replicated to other servers in the organization for efficiency and fault tolerance.
Important Factors to Consider Exchange Public Folders will be supported for 10 years from the release of the next major release of Exchange Server.  There is no emphasis here to push you off of Public Folders.  If you do decide you are going to migrate your Exchange Public Folders to SharePoint, please consider the following during this process:
  • Public Folder Hierarchy - The volume and organization of your current PF hierarchy, will have an impact on the amount of time it will take to plan the migration properly.  A small number of PF's, or nicely organized into business/project groups, will be relatively easy to plan.  Having an extremely large number of PF's, or very disorganized, will require a significant manual identification effort.  In either case, owners of PF's will likely look at a different organizational structure of content in SharePoint.
  • Public Folder Content - The volume and type of content in your Public Folders will impact how you approach the migration. 
    • 1. There are certain considerations in SharePoint content storage which may become an issue if migrating Public Folders with a very large amount of content.  Therefore, it is important to plan your SharePoint content storage accordingly.
    • 2. The type of content in a Public Folder will impact what type of list is created in SharePoint.  Public Folder used for team calendaring or contact sharing can be moved into similar lists, within SharePoint.
    • 3. Compound documents (i.e. messages with attachments) should be considered.  In SharePoint, a document library is a list of individual items. This is not a problem if you export the Exchange items as .msg files, but if you want to split the item into multiple pieces you need to devise a strategy to "keep" these items together.
  • Public Folder Permissions - Most likely, owners of Exchange Public Folders will want the permissions on that PF to follow over to the newly created SharePoint list.  If leveraging a 3rd Party migration tool, ensure the permissions are factored into the migration process.  If manually migrating Public Folders over to SharePoint, PFDavAdmin (free Microsoft download) can help export the permissions on each PF (but, doesn't help import those permissions into SharePoint).
  • Public Folder Names - SharePoint has some restrictions on filenames, lengths, and size, as well as character restrictions.  These restrictions will affect Public Folders being migrated, as well as documents within those Public Folders.  If leveraging a 3rd Party migration tool, ensure this is factored into the migration process.
  • Mail-enabled SharePoint Document Library's - While these libraries can store any document type, e-mail sent to mail-enabled document libraries usually show up in .eml format (Outlook Express format).  If you try to open the .eml file from the document library, it will open using the web browser and will only contain the message body (no header or attachment).  You can create your own application to convert to .msg format, or you can search on the web and find any number of .eml to .msg converter utilities.
  • Public Folder Replication - Exchange Server allows for replication of content of Public Folders to additional Exchange Servers.  SharePoint does not have this multi-master replication architecture.  If replication of content is important, post migration, then you should investigate 3rd Party replication technologies.
There are many advantages with moving to SharePoint for your collaboration, content management and business process needs.  In contrast, not all Public Folder usage scenarios are best served by SharePoint.  Consider the strengths of each server, and the factors listed above, when making this decision.  A very realistic option for moving to SharePoint, is to deploy SharePoint in your organization today.  Begin integrating it into your organizations workflow, and slowly reduce your reliance on Exchange Public Folders.  As we've already said, Exchange Public Folders will be fully supported for 10 years from the release of the next version of Exchange Server. Migration Tools The only "free" migration tool to help customers migrate content to SharePoint, is a community-based tool, created by Kimmo Forss.  Customers interested in migrating their Exchange Public Folders to SharePoint should also investigate 3rd Party migration tools, which work to address the considerations listed above.  PF migration tools are available from: - Jim Lucey

21 Comments
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