4smartphone.net - Hosted Exchange mail server
Posted 20 December 2005 - 08:07 PM
Product: Professional Service Plan
Cost: $6.99 a month
Supplier Web Site: www.4SmartPhone.net
Communications and PDAs; an ever growing world with ever increasing possibilities. Server based sync'ing solutions are now available.
'Windows' checks out what is available and tests out hosted Exchange server systems with 4SmartPhone.net.
One aspect within the world of the Pocket PC which has annoyed me is that of communications. Yes we have the Inbox client on the Pocket PC which either using a suitable mobile phone, or the inherent communications system of a phone edition we can use to access our POP3 or IMAP email servers. Then on the PC at home we have outlook to bring in our email.
Like many folks I have Outlook set to bring in mail on the PC every X minutes so if one has to leave the PC switched on for any reason during the day and forgets to disable Outlook auto-receive it will 'steal' the mail from the Pocket PC and you will be out of touch and may miss that critical email.
The other problem I get (being an avid application tester) is that on occasion while at work I may have to carry out a hard reset. At best this will mean a restore of data which I will have to overwrite from Outlook when I get home, or at worst a complete data loss situation - again which can only be corrected when one gets home.
Both situations not ones I relish.
So as AKU2.0 (enhanced communications including 'push' email) is around the corner for the O2 Exec (HTC Universal) and other newer devices (O2 MiniS / HTC Wizard) I decided to look into a 'hosted Exchange account' to see what benefits it would offer. I spent a good 3-4 nights looking round to see what packages were available and then entered into various email dialogues with those companies to see what was involved and what as on offer.
The company I finally decided to sign up with was 4SmartPhone.net as it seemed to me that they were fully aware of the SmartPhone and Pocket PC communications systems and offered a goodly range of Service Plans. These plans vary from Xpress (entry level $3.99/mailbox per month), Professional (best value $6.99/mailbox per month) and Enterprise (From
$9.99/mailbox per month).
I decided to sign up for the Professional Service Plan as that nicely balanced features against cost. The only concern was that I'd never had any experience with hosted Exchange accounts, or even Exchange (we use Lotus Notes at the office) so did not know how complex it would be to set up or configure.
The first good news on going through the sign-up process was that there is an optional 15 day trial period which you can use to see if the system is the one for you and I guess to allow you to iron out any problems you may have.
The second bit of good news is the ease of set up. Once you have confirmed you want to set up the system you are walked through the registration process whereby you set up your account, username and password. After this you are taken through the stages of how you get your incoming emails into the system, through three methods:
FORWARD your email from your existing account
Change your DOMAIN email destination (MX Record) (not for the faint hearted)
We PULL your email from your existing account (POP3) - this is just like Outlook retrieving your mail from your existing accounts prior to you moving to this service.
I elected to us the POP3 collection method and being somewhat nervous of the process set it to leave the mail on the POP3 server once it had been processed. Once you have proved to yourself that the system works it's wise to change this so that the mail is not retained on the server as it can cause issues - your POP3 account may hit its limit and no new mail will be received!
Outlook on the PC
Next came the process of reconfiguring the desktop Outlook, again this is simplicity itself. The 4SmartPhone.net set up wizard creates a download link for an Outlook '.prf' which you download to the desktop [Outlook 2003 / XP SP2 only). Once downloaded you exit Outlook completely, backup your current PST file**, and then click on and run the '.prf' file. This then configures Outlook 2003 to access the 4SmartPhone.net Exchange server and you are prompted to logon using your 4SmartPhone.net account details. Once you are logged into the server you just use the Import option within Outlook to import all data from your backup up local PST file. Once the data has been imported you need to allow Outlook time to sync the date with the Exchange server - for me it took some 38 minutes for the initial sync. From then on sync'ing is almost instantaneous on a broadband connection.
** - As I know where my Outlook PST file is located. If you do not know the location you may wish to export your current data to a new PST file based in a location which you can easily navigate to, i.e. the desktop
The only niggle here which can not be avoided is that any secondary email addresses you have set up within Outlook will have to be recreated.
ActiveSync on the Pocket PC
This was an area that concerned me, how easy would this be to configure! Again the 4SmartPhone.net system came through beautifully offering you three methods of configuration:
Automatic set up using via their server (assuming PDA is docked)
Download a file to copy on to the PDA for running and configuring
Manual set-up using ActiveSync
I erred on the side of caution again and elected to set up the system manually within ActiveSync 4.1.
One simply chooses the option to add a server source and then fills in the logon details for your 4SmartPhone.net account.
Once this has been done one simply has to unselect the option to sync Contacts, Calendar, E-Mail and Tasks with the PC, and then perform your first combined sync.
At this point all the Contacts, Calendar, E-Mail, Tasks data will be removed from the PDA as the PC sync has been disabled and replaced with new data sync'ed from the Exchange server.
From that point on you are up and running!
Your data is now no longer tied to your PC but can now be accessed when mobile from any location. Plus your non-server based data (Notes, Files, Favourites, etc) is still synced with the local PC. Awesome!
Pro's & Cons
Free 15 day trial period
Easy configuration from the users point of view
Your data is safe on a backed up server not only on your home / work PC
You can recover your PIM data after a crash by logging into the remote server from any location
You can sync and update your data at any time from any location using WiFi or GPRS connection
Makes it easy to keep your data in sync if you use multiple devices, e.g. Smartphones and Pocket PCs
Once AKU2 becomes available for WM5 devices then push email becomes a real possibility
You can still sync Notes, Files, favourites, PhatNotes and other non-server based systems with the PC from the same AS partnership
The service plan includes Outlook Web Access to your email so you can access it even without a WM device just an Internet ready PC
Only works for one primary email address at this level of service plan
You can forward other email accounts to the hosted account but can only reply from the email address used to create the hosted account
So far the system offered by 4SmartPhone.net has proved incredibly useful. The data which I consider primary to my way of life - Contacts, Tasks and Email is now safe and sound on a secure server which is backed up on a daily basis. Plus is is accessible from any location - home, office, or when mobile, through any connection media I deign to use; ActiveSync, WiFi or GPRS. I also gain the added reassurance that is I have to hard reset then I can just re-sync with the server to get accurate and up to date data back on my PDA or Smartphone - without the worry of having to replace the server sync'ed portion of the data when I create a new AS partnership with the Home PC.
I've even received new tasks assigned to me by my good lady while I was 'out and about', so no more worries with phone calls during meetings, the hosted Exchange server account takes care of it all.
So far I'm highly impressed and it looks like the trial account will be turning into a permanent subscription, for the price you can not beat the facilities on offer!
I'm looking forward to AKU2 coming out on the O2 Exec and seeing if the Push Email System really does work!
Watch this space!
4WinMobile rating: 99%
(Microsoft MVP Windows Phone Oct 2002 - Oct 2011)
Posted 20 December 2005 - 09:35 PM
Moderator&Reviewer - smartphonegurus.com
Posted 20 December 2005 - 09:54 PM
It seems different from Exch2K, I haven't figured it out yet!!
Moderator&Reviewer - smartphonegurus.com
Posted 20 December 2005 - 10:26 PM
Post generated using Mail2Forum (http://www.mail2forum.com)
Best regards - Dave [Phone: Nokia Lumia 920 + iPhone 5 - Tablet: Dell Latitude 10 + iPad 2]
Posted 21 December 2005 - 01:42 PM
Currently I use A/S from my office PC to my PPC. I also use an online Backup service (excellent service BTW from SafeDataStorage at £5 per month for 1GB) which includes my Outlook pst file.
I then restore this pst file to my Home PC at intervals to keep it up to date.
If I used the 4Smartphone.net service, would I be able to sync both my Outlook copies from the hosted server as well as the PPC?