Tag Archives: ActiveSync

‘Outlook’ for Hotmail: Cooler with a Chance of Replacement

MP900385981Normally, the announcement that Microsoft is transitioning away from Hotmail to their new cloud-based Outlook interface wouldn’t register much space on this blog.  However, due to my posts about using Hotmail to emulate ActiveSync on your devices, there is a tie-in.

First, there’s the perception that having a Hotmail account is somewhat embarrassing.  Why?  Who knows.  I don’t care about how things look; I care about making use of the most efficient process to achieve the goal.  You can even replace an existing hotmail.com address with a new outlook.com address (although you were never required to use a hotmail.com address).  But, if these issues held you back from trying it, well, your problems are solved.

But here’s the better news.  Based on my assessment, Outlook is just a superior interface.  Also, if you implemented Hotmail, transitioning to Outlook takes about two mouse-clicks and doesn’t interrupt or affect ActiveSync.

So, maybe you want to revisit the process…

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/

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…

Leveraging ActiveSync to Emulate MS Exchange & Sync Multiple Devices – Part I

MP900448358In order to make great (information) soup, start with the right (data)base.

As promised, this is the first in a short series on how to leverage available software technology to sync Calendar, Contacts, Email and more on virtually all (or most) of your devices.  Now, we all know there are many different ways to accomplish this, however, this is aimed at the individual – or small business or law firm – who can't afford expensive hardware or software, is nervous about the cloud (for good reason) but would like a robust, alternative method to manage their data dependably, automatically and securely.  In other words, they don't want to be up at night worrying about it nor spending the day trying to figure out why it doesn't work!

What do most individuals and businesses in this 24-hour-a-day world want from their technology, anyway?

  • Access to my data 24-hours-a-day! (That was a gimme)
  • Rapid auto-sync (I enter/modify a contact on my smartphone and within five minutes, it propagates to all of my other devices)
  • I reply to an eMail message and it syncs everywhere without having to cc: myself at other locations/accounts (I hear complaints about this all of the time)
  • I receive a calendar appointment and can seamlessly add it to my device's calendar, then it propagates…
  • I generate calendar appointments that others may seamlessly process as well
  • If my server/cloud connectivity is severed, I have access to – and can process – all of my data up to that moment, modify it or generate more, then sync it when connectivity is restored (this is also important while traveling, isn't it?)
  • Ability to mirror/archive/backup the database (if this isn't on your list, it should be)
  • Ability to access the data securely

…and more, of course.  Many products provide some, or all of these features – the problem is, many of them do it in completely different ways, including for each separate function (e.g. calendar or contacts) and don't 'talk' to other devices very well.  The goal is to make the process as seamless as possible.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm hitting for averages here, folks.  There are a lot of Operating Systems and hardware out there.  On PC, we have Windows, MAC, Linux, etc.  With tablets we have MAC, Blackberry, Android, etc.  Smartphones?  Well, there are four primaries; iPhone, Android, Blackberry & Windows.

We know that most PCs are Windows-based (no knock against Macs, it's just the way it is) and the majority of businesses use them.  iPhones and Androids are duking it out, with Blackberries still in the hunt and the new version of Windows phone making a splash.  We also know that a majority use Microsoft Office-based products (even many Mac users).  So, there's no way I'll make everyone happy.

The example I'll use for our purposes is a Windows-based PC, hosting Outlook 2003, 2007 or 2010.  You'll also need a Hotmail/Live Mail cloud component; however, this doesn't mean you'll be changing your existing email setup; you'll be supplementing it.  Last, you'll install the Outlook Hotmail Connector, which allows you to create a virtual database within Outlook.  This will serve as our primary device.  For security, I recommend that it be static, if possible.  Any mobile device, from laptop on down, runs the additional risk of being lost or stolen with your entire database living on it.  Not a pleasant thought.

Is there a method to my madness?  Yes.  The more one can accomplish under a single vendor, the better the results.  In this case, all database components are Microsoft, which makes the process seamless (remember, we're going to be communicating with a lot of devices).  Also, SSL capability was implemented in 2011, meaning your connection to the cloud will be much more secure, whether via Outlook, the Web or your secondary devices.

Once you have your components up & running, you have a choice:

  1. Use Hotmail to "fetch" your emails from your existing database, or,
  2. Forward your emails from your existing database to Hotmail.

Both methods are fine, but I recommend forwarding your emails.  With fetch, Hotmail must make an inquiry and "pull" your messages over.  There will usually be a time delay, which won't be sufficient for those of us who need our messages in real-time.  Forwarding doesn't normally cause a delay; emails are forwarded as they arrive, so this is preferable.  The good news is, you'll have another backup of your messages with your service provider.

As for contacts and calendar, you'll want to import them into your Outlook database as well.  Once completed, you can customize your settings in the cloud.  I recommend disabling as many 'bloatware' features as possible.  After all, you're looking to create a slick, business-like database.  What you do want to enable is your SSL functionality.  One way to verify this is to make sure you may only access it online via https://.  If it works via http://, your security isn't properly configured.

I know this is a lot of detail, but if you're willing to take some time and make the effort, you'll have an excellent base.  In Part II, I'll examine how you'll exploit various flavors of ActiveSync (Corporate Sync on some devices) to sync your data over mutiple platforms.

That's when the fun begins…