Leveraging ActiveSync to Emulate MS Exchange, Part II – Sync Devices

Ok…so you've spent the weekend dutifully configuring your primary database and cloud configuration a la Part I, eagerly (at least, that's what I tell myself…) anticipating Part II; my instructions on how to synchronize your email, calendar & contacts with virtually all of your secondary devices.

The cool thing is, virtually any default or add-on app that supports Microsoft ActiveSync will work with this process.  For example, if you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you can configure Corporate Sync to use the default modules that came stock with your device – at no cost.  Or, since this process sits on a Hotmail backbone, you can use Microsoft's own Hotmail App

But, for a lot of us, we want robust functionality on our mobile devices.  After all, many of us spend more time using those products than our traditional desktop devices (pretty soon, the term 'desktop' won't even be accurate, anymore).  If, like me, you're one of those people, you may want to invest in apps geared to the power-user, such as Touchdown.

However, keep in mind; this is a Microsoft backbone, but it's a free backbone.  Regardless of whether the apps support ActiveSync, their technical support will not be obligated to assist you with the configuration because their products are meant to support true Exchange ActiveSync.  If you experience difficulty, you'll have to throw yourself on the mercy of the particular provider, or hit the support forums.

Basic configuration is actually fairly easy.  Let's take a look at a portion of the default Android Corporate Sync configuration screen:

Droid Corp Sync_75

You have the option of selecting your three sync modules separately.  This is helpful because, for example, I didn't want to use the default settings except to maintain a default copy of my contacts (which is enabled, above).  Then, you simply input your display email address and point to the Hotmail server.  As mentioned in Part I, always make sure you have SSL enabled.  Last (not visible here), input your Hotmail Login ID and password.  That's it!

Now, if you've decided to go the power-route, here's an example of the more robust configuration options available to you in Touchdown:

TD Account AS_75

As you can see, here you must specify ActiveSync, rather than Exchange.  Also, it assumes a domain – which you don't have – but it'll still work with your Login ID.  Sometimes, you need to input the backslash in front of the ID in order to correct for the lack of domain, so if it doesn't work the first time, play around with it a little bit.  You also have a choice of more than one 'reply-to' address.

Server configuration is virtually the same as under the default app above, except Touchdown combines all of the modules under a single icon.  Also, see how it confirms Microsoft IIS/6.0.2.5.

TD Connection AS_75

Now, the power user is ready to access the Advanced tab and configure the numerous options available.  Yes, it really is that easy!

So, what have we accomplished?

  • First, we've established a virtual database that can be archived on the fly and/or exported from the cloud at any time; extremely important if there's a server outage,
  • We're using SSL for better security, and of course, encryption options are available to us as well,
  • Any email, calendar entry or contact that is created, added or modified at one source is automatically propagated to all other resources,
  • Calendar invitations are seamlessly integrated,
  • No need to bcc: ourselves on every sent message,
  • Ability to work seamlessly in standalone mode with auto-sync once re-connected.

Dare I say…everything but the kitchen sync!  Yeah, I had to say it…I feel shame…

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