2003 features create new support issues
Outlook 2003 will require more
enterprise technical support planning
|The release of Office 2003 is scheduled
for late October, and as the day approaches, it's time for tech support
personnel to gear up for the questions and problems that will come
with it. The more features a program has to offer, the more that can
go wrong. Let's take a look at some of the new features that are most
likely to result in support calls from users, including RPC over HTTP
connections, the cached Exchange mode, and issues arising from the
new Information Rights Management (IRM).
RPC over HTTP Connections
Outlook uses Remote Procedure Call (RPC) over TCP/IP to send and
receive information to and from an Exchange server on the local
network. When accessing the Exchange server from a remote
location outside the LAN, you can now use RPC over HTTP. This is
an easy alternative to connecting to the LAN through a VPN to
access the Exchange server, and limits the remote user to
accessing only Exchange data. (VPN users can access other
network resources, and have to configure the VPN client
Note that both the server and the user accounts must be
configured to use RPC over HTTP. The Exchange Server must be
running Exchange 2003 on Windows Server 2003. The client must be
Outlook 2003 running on Windows XP with Service Pack 1 or later.
Outlook does not use RPC over HTTP by default; you must
configure the Exchange account (go to Tools | E-mail accounts |
Change Or View Existing E-mail Accounts) in the More Settings
dialog box on the Connection tab, by checking the Connect To My
Exchange Mailbox Using HTTP option and entering the URL of the
Exchange server in the Exchange proxy settings.
Because this is a complex feature, there are a number of reasons
clients might experience difficulty in connecting, including the
- If you try to set up Outlook for RPC over HTTP and find
that the option doesn't appear on the Connection tab, and
you know that the Exchange server is configured to allow RPC
over HTTP connections, you need to install the hotfix that
can be downloaded from
Microsoft Knowledge Base article 331320. In addition,
you cannot create a profile that uses RPC over HTTP or
modify an existing profile to use RPC over HTTP unless the
Outlook client computer has access to the Exchange server
(that is, the client must be connected to the LAN or able to
connect to Exchange via TCP port 135 over the Internet).
- If you are able to select the option, but nothing
happens when you try to connect, you might have incorrect
settings for the Exchange proxy server. Ensure that the URL
and the principal name for the proxy server are correct, and
that you are using the authentication type that is
configured on the proxy server.
- Because RPC over HTTP uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
for security, issues might arise because the client computer
doesn't trust the server's SSL certificate. In this case,
you can use Internet Explorer to browse to the server's URL
and add /rpc to the end of the address. If a message appears
asking if you want to trust the certificate, click Yes.
- If the client computer is behind a firewall, the SSL
port must be open on the firewall to allow the client to
Cached Exchange mode
If you provide support in an Exchange environment, user
questions might arise regarding Outlook's new cached Exchange
mode, which allows each user to store a copy of his or her
mailbox on the local machine. This copy is stored in a .OST
file, and there will also be an offline address book (stored as
an .OAB file) on the user's hard disk.
Cached Exchange mode is designed to let users continue to work
with their mail and contacts data even when disconnected from
the network. Outlook checks for network connectivity and
automatically reconnects and synchronizes the information when
the network connection is available. Cached Exchange Mode is
turned on and off through the configuration for the Exchange
account (go to Tools | E-mail Accounts | Change Or View Existing
E-mail Accounts), as shown in Figure A. Cached Exchange
mode is not enabled by default.
|Cached Exchange mode must be
turned on in the Exchange Server Settings.
Some problems that users might report when using cached Exchange
mode include the following:
- Only the mail headers are downloaded to the local
computer—This can occur if Outlook is configured with
the option On Slow Connections Download Headers Only, and
the network adapter speed is detected as being 128 Kbps or
- Delays in responsiveness when working in cached mode—This
can occur if you are disconnected from the network and
attempt to use features that require the Exchange server,
such as delegating access, opening someone else's calendar,
or accessing a public folder that isn't cached.
- Full hard disk on the local computer—Because
Outlook uses a format that is less efficient than that used
by the Exchange server, the .OST file on the local disk can
be up to 80 percent larger than the mailbox size on the
server. Be sure to locate users' .OST files on a partition
that has plenty of free space.
- Error messages due to lack of .OST file space—You
need to make sure users' .OST files are Unicode-formatted,
because ANSI files are limited to 2 GB while Unicode files
can be up to 20 GB.
- Degraded performance in cached Exchange mode—This
can be due to a .OST file that is very large. Archiving old
files will reduce the size and improve performance. Turning
off the synchronization of Public Folders Favorites can also
help if this option is enabled.
Some Outlook features don't work well with cached Exchange mode
and Microsoft recommends that you not use them together. These
include instant messaging integration, the toast alert feature
with digital signatures, and multiple address book containers.
Tip on Exchange
For information about how to
configure accounts to use cached Exchange mode, check out
this Microsoft Web page.
Information Rights Management
Like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2003, Outlook 2003 supports
Information Rights Management (IRM), which works in conjunction
with the Windows Server 2003 Rights Management Service (RMS) to
allow users to limit what recipients can do with documents (in
this case, e-mail). Using IRM, you can specify that messages can
be read but not copied, printed, or forwarded, or you can set a
time limit after which the message will expire and no longer to
If a user is unable to copy, print, or forward a message, IRM
should be the first suspect. When restricted permissions are set
on a message, a notice will appear at the top of the e-mail, as
shown in Figure B.
|Messages restricted via IRM
cannot be forwarded, printed, or copied.
A user might not be able to open an IRM-protected message at all
if he or she doesn't have Office 2003 Professional or the Rights
Management add-on for Internet Explorer (which allows you to
open protected messages in the browser) installed. The Rights
Management client software is also needed, and the user must
have obtained a certificate from an RMS server.
Learn more about
IRM and RMS
For more information about how IRM
and RMS work, TechProGuild members can read my article,
"Control your documents with Office 2003's Information Rights
New features bring new functionality for end users, but can also
bring new troubleshooting issues for support techs. Outlook 2003
includes a number of new features that you need to be aware of
if you provide support to Microsoft Office users. The new
features I've discussed here may result in support calls, but I
hope I've provided a little insight into how you can go about
resolving such problems.