Microsoft has announced that support for public folders as a feature of the Microsoft® Exchange Server messaging system software will end soon. The Microsoft Exchange Team blog has an excellent post detailing this announcement. This wiki article will provide some information around how the Microsoft SharePoint® tools can be used to replace public folders, the basic architecture of a SharePoint solution, and how Exchange and SharePoint are integrated with the Microsoft Outlook® 2007 client.

This article focuses on the use of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS) because WSS provides the base functionality (plus a lot more) historically found in Exchange public folders. However, this article also applies to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS), as it uses WSS as its foundation.

Public Folder Functionality with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

Microsoft introduced the concept of Public Folders in Exchange as a means for many-to-many collaboration. Since their introduction, organizations of all sizes, and across all industries, have used Public Folders for a variety of purposes. Within Public Folders, a user can share contact information, documents, calendars, conduct threaded discussions, and archive e-mail messages through a familiar client (Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Web Access) interface.

Enhancing this basic functionality is relatively easy, and even more can be done with some coding expertise. Public Folders are built on the core messaging platform of Exchange Server, which bring forth additional capabilities such as e-mailing directly into (or out of) a particular folder, creating a mail-enabled form, applying "rules" to a folder (similar to user-defined in a mailbox), or creating a custom Microsoft VBScript to interact with an external system.

WSS 3.0 provides a Web-based functionality that is similar to what public folders are able to provide with Exchange and Outlook clients. Key functionality of shared calendars, distribution lists, and shared documents are easily done within SharePoint.

Example Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 with Exchange and Outlook 2007

WSS 3.0 can be set up with multiple servers at each layer. The following diagram shows an example architecture that could be set up to support a client using Microsoft Outlook 2007 accessing Microsoft Exchange for e-mail and Microsoft SharePoint for shared content.

Simple WSS and Exchange Architecture Diagram


Outlook 2007 Integration with SharePoint

One reason that public folders in Microsoft Exchange have been used is that they allowed for shared content to be accessed through the Microsoft Outlook client, which was already being used for e-mail access. Outlook 2007 allows for SharePoint content to be accessed side by side with a user's Exchange-based e-mail. To enable this feature, a user must log on to the SharePoint site and select to have a particular list or document library added to their Outlook client, as is shown in the following screenshot.

Screenshot of adding sharepoint calendar to outlook

After it's added to Outlook, SharePoint appears alongside e-mail data. The following screenshot shows an Exchange user mailbox and a shared SharePoint calendar being viewed from Outlook 2007.

Moving Exchange Public Folders to SharePoint - The Dell TechCenter


How to Migrate from Public Folders to SharePoint

The strategy for how to migrate from public folders to SharePoint varies based on the content and requirements for availability during migration. In the Dell TechCenter lab we tried out the Quest Public Folder Migrator and were able to migrate public folders successfully to SharePoint. This tool can be configured to keep public folder content refreshed to the SharePoint site, so that if a change or addition is made to the public folder it is replicated to the SharePoint site. It is also possible to set the home page for a public folder in Microsoft Outlook to point to the SharePoint Web site, which basically results in a redirection of a public folder to SharePoint. The Quest tool includes an option to have this redirection setup as part of the migration. It can also be set manually in the properties for the public folder in Outlook. The following screenshot shows what this redirection looks like in Outlook. It shows a public folder calendar that has had its home page changed to the SharePoint site, which is where the Quest Public Folder Migrator has replicated the data.

Moving Exchange Public Folders to SharePoint - The Dell TechCenter