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New Exchange 2013 features tighten integration with SharePoint

Two new Exchange 2013 features strengthen Microsoft's commitment to making SharePoint and Exchange integration airtight.

For years, Microsoft has urged customers to consider the various benefits of using Exchange Server and SharePoint together, rather than using the two separately. While there are several integration capabilities available between past iterations of the two products, Microsoft is keeping the tradition alive by offering two new Exchange 2013 features: site mailboxes and in-place e-discovery.

Exchange 2013 site mailboxes

Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010 integration is plagued by inefficiencies. For one, Outlook is the primary user interface for working with Exchange, while SharePoint is designed to be accessed through a Web interface. It's possible to make some Outlook Web App (OWA) components available through SharePoint, as well as certain SharePoint resources available through Outlook, but doing so often made for an awkward user experience. This is where the new Exchange 2013 site mailboxes ride to the rescue.

On the surface, site mailboxes seem to simply be mailboxes that are dedicated to a specific SharePoint site. That aspect is useful in and of itself, but Microsoft has included two things that will make site mailboxes an indispensable feature in Exchange 2013:

  1. Site mailboxes are centralized mailboxes that are accessible to every user that has access to the corresponding SharePoint site. Therefore, site mailboxes are not only useful for communications among team members, but also for logging that communication.

    For example, team members may be emailing back and forth, discussing a project using their regular mailboxes. In Exchange 2013, the team members can cc the site mailbox so that a copy of each project-related message is retained in a centralized, dedicated mailbox that each team member has access to.

  2. Exchange 2013 site mailboxes also include a Documents folder. The Documents folder corresponds to a document repository on the aforementioned SharePoint team site.

    In other words, messages and documents appear together even though the messages physically reside on the Exchange server and the documents reside on a SharePoint server. With this new Exchange 2013 feature, users can drag and drop documents into email messages. Users can also move documents and files to the document library by simply dragging the file to the Documents folder.

The Exchange 2013 In-place eDiscovery feature

When Microsoft created Exchange Server 2010, simplifying compliance was a primary goal. In an effort to do so, it introduced two features: multimailbox search and legal hold.

While these features were a welcome addition, they were only effective in an Exchange Server 2010 environment. In many cases, this was an issue because e-discovery rarely focuses solely on email messages. The discovery process often involves documents and other types of data, not just Exchange data. The Exchange Server 2010 multimailbox search feature was useful for locating specific messages, but more comprehensive discovery required third-party tools.

Just as Exchange 2010 offered e-discovery features, so too did SharePoint 2010. SharePoint's hold and discovery features suffered the same fatal flaw as Exchange 2010; the features were product-specific.

In SharePoint 2013, e-discovery has been completely revamped. SharePoint 2013 offers several features aimed at discovery, and some are specifically designed to work with Exchange Server.

One such feature is the eDiscovery Center. The eDiscovery Center is a dedicated SharePoint site that is used to search, export and preserve content. Discovery can take place across the entire SharePoint farm and can be configured to also include an Exchange Server organization.

Also new is the Exchange 2013 In-Place Hold feature. This feature is similar to the Exchange 2010 legal hold feature, except that it exists within SharePoint. This feature uses the same user interface as the one used to perform In-place Holds against SharePoint sites.

SharePoint 2013 includes another related feature called "query-based preservation." Query-based preservation is designed to use query filters to determine the mailbox content to which the In-Place Hold applies.

About the author: 
Brien Posey is an eight-time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. Before becoming a freelance technical writer, Posey worked as chief information officer at a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the nation's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

This was first published in December 2012

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