On October 2018, Microsoft announced on their blog that the final build of Exchange Server 2019 is available at the Volume Licensing Service Center. The tech giant designed this mail and calendaring server to deliver better management and administration capabilities, performance, and security.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2019: What Makes It Unique from the Previous Releases?
Exchange 2019, at first glance, may appear like your typical server edition. Generally speaking, it sticks to the same pattern as the previous on-premises releases: It’s an Exchange Online, which you can install locally. This new mail and calendaring server, however, has a lot more going on under the hood.
Here are some changes that make the release of Exchange Server 2019 one of a kind:
Removal of Unified Messaging (UM)
Microsoft bids farewell to UM in the new version of its Exchange Server. This means that users will no longer be able to use all UM-enabled mailboxes. On top of that, there will be no auto-attendant processing, voicemail, or any UM-related setting available in Exchange Control Panel, Outlook, and Outlook on the Web.
Organizations that use UM may not be happy to hear this update. The good news is that solutions exist to work around this lack of functionality. These are:
- Using third-party voicemail solutions
- Switching to cloud voicemail, which requires using the cloud voicemail as a part of a hybrid environment or moving to Office 365
- Using Skype for Business 2019
Regardless of the preferred substitute for UM, Microsoft emphasizes that it is essential to deploy the alternative before moving to Exchange Server 2019. If you choose to use Skype for Business 2019, for instance, you need to implement that first before migrating to the latest Exchange Server.
Search Mechanism Changes
Adjustments to the search mechanism of Exchange Server have become a tradition for on-premises releases. This change, codenamed Big Funnel, uses technology implemented in Bing.
When Microsoft made changes to the search mechanism, the tech giant made sure that the index files are in each mailbox. It means that issues with unhealthy indexes should, in theory, become a thing of the past. On top of that, the adjustments should accelerate the item search process. These are good news for users, as reconstructing a failed search index in some environments has been a frequent maintenance task, which can take a toll on the server.
Changes to Rules on Client Access
Exchange 2019 allows you to selectively restrict or allow access to PowerShell and the Exchange admin center. You can base the criteria on user property values, authentication type, and IP Address. With these rules, you can make sure that you don’t have unauthorized connections to your Exchange environment. Additionally, you can permit specific users to use PowerShell only at particular times.
While this functionality seems beneficial, you need to be aware of the following:
- Client access rules only work in clean Microsoft Exchange Server 2019 environments, even though the latest edition can coexist with the most recent two predecessors: Exchange 2016 and Exchange 2013.
- The rules use a cache. This makes it impossible to block a user’s access to administrative tools immediately. The first rule made in an organization can take up to a day before it takes effect. Succeeding rule changes can take up to an hour before it begins working.
- Managing client access rules is only possible when you use PowerShell. Make sure that you create a highest-priority rule to enable PowerShell access for the domain admin constantly. On top of that, remember not to block PowerShell access for your account.
Changes to Calendar and Out-of-Office Message Features
There have been a few adjustments done to out-of-office messages and calendars, which have a direct impact on end users. Changes made to these messages include a few additional options. These are:
- Declining meeting requests
- Canceling meeting requests
- Blocking the calendar
As for calendars, users who organize meetings may notice the following additions:
- Improved Calendar Management – Remove-CalendarEvents, a new cmdlet, enables users to cancel future meetings using PowerShell. When someone resigns from the organization or takes a leave of absence, the cmdlet allows the user to remove meetings organized by this specific mailbox.
- Do Not Forward – This feature stops attendees from forwarding meeting requests to others. The flag works similar to server-side rules in Outlook: You make it in the email client, but Microsoft Exchange implements it in the transport.
- Default End Date – This gets rid of the issue of periodic events or meetings that recur until the end of time. It makes life easy for people in charge of managing the calendars of their organization.
More Focused on Security
Microsoft usually announces that every Exchange Server version it releases is more secure than the previous editions. This time, however, the tech giant’s development team went the extra mile to give users maximum security on the latest version.
Before Exchange Server 2019’s official release, Microsoft mentioned that it made the newest version with Windows Server Core in mind. Security happens to be the most important reason for this decision.
If you install the latest Exchange Server release on the Server Core edition, your organization will reap benefits, including significantly reduced attack surface, smaller footprint, and fewer features that are not essential for the mail server. These changes strengthen the security aspect of the server and allow performance to reach a higher level.
Preparing for Exchange 2019 Migration
If system security is your priority, it’s a good idea to move to the latest edition of Microsoft Exchange Server. Before running a migration, however, you need to plan every step carefully. A couple of things you should do to get ready for the move include:
- Upgrade Systems with Office 2010 – Exchange 2019 does not support users who have Outlook 2010 accounts. Outlook 2013 is the minimum requirement. Have these users upgrade their Microsoft Office to a newer version. Otherwise, they will lose connection to their accounts.
- Resolve Coexistence Conflict with Exchange 2010 – If you have an old server, such as Exchange 2010, make sure you don’t migrate directly to the latest version. The coexistence of these two editions isn’t possible. The solution here is to first upgrade to the 2013 or 2016 version, decommission the 2010 edition, then migrate to Exchange 2019.
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