Exchange Admin 101: Introducing public folders

They are the repository for all to see. Learn how to create public folders through Outlook and the various kinds of folder permissions you can set through Exchange System Manager.

On the various networks that I have been involved in over the years, it always seems as though public folders are always either very heavily used or else not used at all. I've always taken this to mean that some administrators think that public folders are the greatest thing since sliced bread, while others either don't see the value in them or don't understand them.

A public folder is basically a repository for information, and can be used to store messages, files (as message attachments), calendars or contacts. The idea behind a public folder is that if your organization has information that everyone needs to access, it is sometimes easier to place that information in a public folder so that it is available through Outlook than to put it in a normal file share.

As you're probably aware, most Exchange Server-related tasks are performed through the System Manager. This isn't the case with public folders, however, which are created and accessed directly through Outlook

Create the folder
To create a public folder, open Outlook and expand the Public Folders container. Right click on the All Public Folders container and then select the New Folder command from the resulting shortcut menu. When you do, you will see a dialog box appear that asks you for three pieces of information.

First, you must enter a name for the new folder. Second, you must select the folder's contents. The folder's contents can be mail and post items, calendar items, contacts or just about any other type of data that Outlook recognizes. Finally, you must navigate through the public folder tree and select the new folder's location within the public folder hierarchy. Once you have done this, click OK and the new folder will be created.

Now that I have shown you how to create public folders, let's take a look at how you can manage a folder's permissions. Although you must create public folders through Outlook, you must set the folder's permissions through Exchange System Manager.

Set the permissions
When you open System Manager, navigate to Administrative Groups | your administrative group | Servers | your server | First Storage Group | Public Folder Store. Now, right click on the Public Folder Store container and select the Properties command from the resulting shortcut menu. When you do you will see the Public Folder Store Properties sheet. This properties sheet allows you to control the general behavior of the public information store. The main thing that I wanted to show you on this properties sheet is the Security tab. The Security tab sets up the permissions across the entire public folder store. This is where you can specify who should and should not be allowed to create or delete public folders. This is important because you don't want one of your users creating their own unauthorized public folders or deleting yours.

Although the Public Folder Store properties sheet allows you to create a broad set of permissions that apply to all public folders, you can also modify permissions on individual folders. That way, you can grant users the right to post content to one folder, but not to another.

To set the permissions on an individual public folder, expand the System Manager's Public Folder Store container and select the Public Folders container beneath it. All of the server's public folders will appear in the details pane. Now, right click on an individual public folder and then select the Properties command from the resulting shortcut menu. Doing so will open the folder's properties sheet.

Permissions over the folder are set through the properties sheet's Permissions tab. This tab contains two buttons: Client Permissions and Administrative Rights. If you click the Client Permissions button, you will be able to set up the rights that various users or groups have over the folder. Simple check boxes allow you to grant or revoke public folder specific rights such as create items, read items, create sub folder, folder owner, folder contact and folder visible.

You can also control whether users are allowed to edit and delete any items in the folder, only items that they have posited or no items at all. If this sounds a little complicated, you will be happy to know that Microsoft has created several pre-defined roles that you can select rather than applying individual permissions. For example, you can assign users the Author role, which would allow them to create and read items and to edit or delete their own posts.

As the name implies, the Administrative Rights button takes you to a dialog box that lets you control who is an administrator over the folder. There are also quite a few different advanced permissions that you can set for administrators. These permissions control the administrator's rights to do things like controlling access to the folder or modifying the folder itself. Generally speaking, these are settings that you would usually leave alone.

For the most part, working with public folders is simple. By default, Exchange admins have the right to create public folders. Everyone then has the right to post to newly created folders or to read items within the folders unless those permissions are changed.

Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. Brien has served as the CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, CNET, ZDNet, TechTarget, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at http://www.brienposey.com.

 

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This was first published in October 2004

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