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Connecting Windows Phone 7 to Exchange Server

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  1. Setting Up Exchange Server Connectivity
  2. What Went Wrong?
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Windows Phone 7's primary mechanism for connecting to Exchange Server is ActiveSync. However, some changes in the underlying operating system can make it difficult to connect Windows Mobile 7 to Exchange. This article discusses the difficulties that you are likely to encounter and how you can work around them.

In spite of all of the bells and whistles found on the new Windows Phone 7 operating system, e-mail access is probably the one single feature that corporate customers will consider to be mission critical.

That being the case, I want to take the opportunity to show you what is involved in connecting Windows Phone 7 to an Exchange Server, and what you can expect from the device once it has been e-mail–enabled.

Setting Up Exchange Server Connectivity

If your organization is running Exchange Server 2003, 2007, or 2010, ActiveSync is the mechanism of choice for connecting a mobile device to Exchange Server.

Organizations running older versions of Exchange Server (or mail systems other than Exchange) will still be able to use Windows Phone 7 for e-mail, but will have to configure the device to act as a POP3 client rather than as an ActiveSync client.

Configuring ActiveSync

It is relatively easy to set up Exchange Server connectivity from the Windows Phone 7 operating system. From the Start screen, flick the screen to the left to access the App List. Pan through the App List until you locate the Settings option, and then tap it. Next, tap the Email & Accounts option, followed by the Add an Account option.

At this point, Windows will ask you what kind of account you want to create. Tap the Outlook option, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A Tap the Outlook option.

At this point, you will be prompted to enter your e-mail address and password, as shown in Figure B. After doing so, click the Sign In button.

Figure B Windows asks for your e-mail address and password.

Let me just say up front that in many cases, entering an e-mail address and a password will not be sufficient for establishing ActiveSync connectivity.

So why does Microsoft do things in this way? Well, Windows Phone 7 attempts to use the domain name that is attached to your e-mail address to locate a Client Access Server within your Exchange organization.

If such a server can be located, Windows Phone 7 will use the server's Auto Discover service to automatically provision the phone to access your Exchange mailbox.

My experience has been that in most cases you will have to perform a manual configuration. To do so, I recommend choosing the Advanced Setup option that is shown in Figure A. When you do, the Windows Phone 7 operating system will take you to the Advanced Setup screen, shown in Figure C.

Figure C The Advanced Setup screen allows you to choose between setting up ActiveSync and a POP3 mailbox.

As you can see in Figure C, the Advanced Setup screen allows you to either configure ActiveSync or provision your phone to connect to a mail server using POP3.

Since this article is intended to focus on Exchange Server, go ahead and choose the Exchange ActiveSync option.

At this point, you will see the screen shown in Figure B, in which Windows Phone 7 asks for your e-mail address and password.

Once again, the phone will attempt to connect to the Auto Discover service running on your Client Access Server in an effort to automatically provision your phone.

Assuming that Windows Phone 7 is unable to locate a suitable server running Auto Discover, it will display the screen that is shown in Figure D.

Figure D You must provide Windows Phone 7 with your Client Access Server's URL and your authentication credentials.

As you can see, this screen asks you for some basic information such as your account name, your user name, your password, the name of the domain that you are signing into, and (most importantly) the URL for your Client Access Server.

Once you provide Windows Phone 7 with this information, it should have no trouble locating your Exchange Server.

After you provide the required information on the screen, ActiveSync will ask for a bit more information so that it can begin the synchronization process.

Specifically, you must tell ActiveSync that you want to download new content as it arrives. You will also have to specify how long you want to store messages on your phone and the types of information that you want to synchronize, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E You must tell Setup what types of items to synchronize.

Before I move on, I want to quickly point out an area in which the Windows Phone 7 implementation of ActiveSync differs from the version of ActiveSync found in Windows Mobile 6.x.

In Windows Mobile 6.x, you had the option of synchronizing four different types of data—e-mail messages, Contacts, Calendar Items, and Tasks. In Windows Phone 7, the option to synchronize tasks has been removed and replaced by an option to synchronize text messages.

Although I haven't heard any official explanation from Microsoft, I tend to think that Microsoft probably made the change because few people seem to synchronize their task lists, and Microsoft wanted to show off Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2010's capability to handle SMS text messages.

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