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What Is An Exchange Server & What Does It Do For Businesses?

Updated: September 9, 2017

When an IT expert refers to an exchange server, they are usually alluding to Microsoft’s mail and message managing technology, which has been added onto extensively over the years. Now, it is a highly robust, comprehensive communications system that can fit into any business environment, including those that have to link together hundreds of employees. Microsoft’s latest iteration of the technology, its 2010 version, combines three layers of architecture to ensure seamless performance and efficient message delivery. This multi-layered approach also promotes strong security and keeps everything organized.

What does an exchange server do, specifically?

At its most basic, the purpose of Microsoft’s technology is to allow individuals and company employees to access their e-mail, voice messages, faxes and calendars from nearly anywhere. As long as the user can access a web browser, they can access all of their mail and messages. It is a powerful failsafe in the event that an employee forgets their laptop or device, and ensures a professional can always stay organized, even when they are jumping from meeting to meeting.

When scaled up, the system can quickly sort through and deliver a constant stream of e-mails and messages to hundreds of employees at once. It can also unify calendars and send calendar reminders, as well as maintain contact information for important clients and partners.

Microsoft has also added call answering support in its newest exchange server version, providing automated greetings, dial-in access, and other personal options.

What are the components of a Microsoft exchange server?

In general, the system is broken down into five roles, each of which provide a layer of functionality, organization and stability to the system. These components include:

  • Mailbox technology – This layer provides backend support that hosts messaging information, such as public folders, mailboxes, address information, meeting focuses and scheduling information. The technology can be segmented into database groups to filter access to groups of individuals.
  • Client access technology – This is the primary middleware support that monitors and accepts connections to the system. It uses a variety of protocols to establish connections, including MAPI, Outlook Anywhere, Outlook Web App, ActiveSync, IMAP4 and POP3.
  • Unified messaging technology – This layer is essential for linking the company’s PBX communications with the system. It provides infrastructure for storing e-mails and voice messages, supports call answering functionality and dial in access.
  • Hub transport technology – A mail routing layer that ensures proper delivery and mail flow, the hub transport layer is responsible for the system’s responsiveness. It handles the grunt work of the system, processing mail, filtering it, and formatting it as needed. It can also record messages or add disclaimers.
  • Edge transport technology – This layer is responsible for providing perimeter security and oversees mail routing into and out of the system. It filters out spam and detects malware, and sends accepted mail to the hub transport layer.

Microsoft’s exchange server technology has come a long way over the years, and with its increased functionality and security, it is worthy of being a company’s communications hub.