Outlook: Enable Users to Remotely Access Corporate Mail From Anywhere. Part I Introduction. Setting Up and Configuring Server Side
April 13, 2007
We have several divisions where people mostly roam from one location to another be it a business trip or just a remote work. But as that’s all about doing their jobs they need the information they basically can access only right from the office. One of such types of information is surely their personal corporate mail. That’s how we work today. If we have no access to any collaboration services our work gets stuck. And the mail is the main thing there. So the core task for every system administrator today is how to provide the user with access to their corporate mail remotely from any place no matter where the user will decide to access it from.
How to do that?
One way is to create a Virtual Private Network (VPN). But what if by some reasons you can’t or simply don’t want to setup VPN to avoid making the things for users even more complex? What can you do here? What should you start with? The core term here is “RPC over HTTP“, where RPC is the Remote Procedure Call, a protocol that allows interprocess communications between client and server sides so that a component to be accessed remotely in such a way that we don’t even need to know any low-level information. This is the technology that allows Outlook users to connect to their Exchange mailbox from a remote place. And there’s no need to have a VPN connection. It allows accessing Exchange servers right through your default corporate LAN’s firewall using the basic ports used by browsers to access unsecure and secure contents on the internet. The ports that should be opened to allow access are the TCP port 80 used for basic unsecure connections and the SSL port 443 used for secure connections that are established using the Secure Sockets Layer protocol which is used as basis protocol for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol which version 1.1. is defined in the RFC4346 document.
What should we do to enable all that for our users?
The process contains least two parts we should do to implement the functionality. As we are talking about client-server communications we need to prepare the configurations on both the server as the client. We will consider the Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 installed on the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and above to be the server side and Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 installed on the Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 to be the client side.
Configuring Server Side
Let’s start configuring the setup from the server side. First of all we need to configure Exchange Server 2003 back-end server as an RPC proxy server. The process here starts with installing the additional component RPC over HTTP Proxy from the Windows Server Setup Disk. To do that:
1. Click Start and select Control Panel|Add or Remove Programs to start the Add or Remove Programs applet
2. In the Add or Remove Programs windows click Add/Remove Windows Components button
3. The Windows Components screen of the Windows Components Wizard will appear
4. Select Networking Sevices and click the Details button to open the Networking Sevices dialog
4. In the dialog box, check the RPC over HTTP Proxy checkbox and click OK
The RPC component will be installed on the system and the RPC virtual directory will be created on the IIS. Now we need to configure authentication and the encryption.
Configuring client authentication
Basic authentication will be used to authenticate users. This type of authentication has one very annoying property: it sends creadentials in the pure form as the plain text. That’s why we will need to configure SSL and implement the encryption to be used for passing the credentials.
To configure that
1. Click Start and select Programs|Administrative Tools|Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager to start the IIS manager
2. In the manager window navigate to Web Sites and select Default Web Site
3. Expand Default Web Site, right-click the RPC virtual directory, and select Properties command from the shortcut menu
4. In the RPC Virtual Directory Properties page switch to the Directory Security tab
5. Under Anonymous Access and Authentication Control pane click Edit button.
6. The Authentication Methods dialog box will appear
7. Uncheck the Enable Anonymous Access checkbox
That’s needed because by default RPC over HTTP doesn’t allow anonymous access
8. Under Authenticated access section, select the check box Basic authentication (password is sent in clear text)
9. You can also allow the NTLM Windows authentication and leave the Integrated Windows authentication checkbox checked
Microsoft has a note on this type of authentication:
“It is recommended that you use Basic authentication over NTLM because of two reasons. First, RPC over HTTP currently supports only NTLM – it doesn’t support Kerberos. Second, if there is an HTTP Proxy or a firewall between the RPC over HTTP client and the RPC Proxy, which inserts via the pragma in the HTTP header, NTLM authentication will not work”
10. End with the warning message and ensure that you have correct SSL certificate installed on your server
Now we need to enabled SSL to be used for the RPC Virtual Directory. To do that
1. On the same Directory Security tab mentioned above click Edit button under Secure communications
2. Check both the Require secure channel (SSL) and the Require 128-bit encryption check boxes
3. Click OK to save settings and close the window
See How to Configure the RPC Virtual Directory in IIS article for the detailed info
The next step is to configure the RPC proxy server on Exchange Server 2003 to use specified port range for RPC over HTTP. To do that:
1. Open registry editor by typing regedit in the Run dialog box
2. In the Regsitry Editor navigate to the path
Create the ValidPorts string REG_SZ parameter and set it to the value the is built in the following manner
to open the port range 6001-6002 and one single port 6004
Now we need to configure our Exchange 2003 back-end servers (the GC, Global Catalog servers) and set the NT Directory Services (NTDS) port on them. So we again should to specify registry parameter to do that. This time we need to open the
create a REG_MULTI_SZ ‘NSPI interface protocol sequences’ parameter and set it to value NCACN_HTTP:6004
We ended with the specific preliminary tasks on the server and can start with configuring client application (that is the Outlook 2003) profile to work with RPC over HTTPS. But that’s the story to be covered in the next part when we will talk about client side configuration.
Technorati tag: remote work remote mail client-server exchange properties corporate mail private network RPC over HTTP open port back-end server NTLM authentication basic authentication secure mail exchange mailbox mail configuration collaboration registry IIS VPN proxy Microsoft Office mobile users outlook profiles exchange profiles OWA virtual directory remote access firewall
April 2, 2007
Now that we’ll go further with this. How to push these settings enterprise-wide.
As we added line break to the document, we can continue to fill the signature and put (a last!) the name of the company we work in. The procedure is absolutely the same except that for now we are typing company name and hence we are passing the that out mysterious company ACME Corporation name to the input of the method:
objSelection.TypeText “ACME Corporation”
After that we are running Range() to end with the typed text selection block.
Now when we created the content of the signature we are stepping in to create the signature in Outlook. First off we need to create the object that will represent the parent of the object representing the signature. That means we should create objEmailOptions object:
Set objEmailOptions = objWord.EmailOptions
Alright, the parent is created, lets create the child, the objSignatureObject object:
Set objSignatureObject = objEmailOptions.EmailSignature
Now when we created the objSignatureObject signature object that’s the time to include our signature to the list of signatures. What’s the list? It’s the collection. Want to know how it looks like?
1. Open Outlook
2. Open Tools|Options and switch to the Mail Format tab on the Options dialog box
3. In the Signatures section click Signatures button to open the Create Signature dialog box
4. Here we are. The collection is just the list of items listed in the Signature list in this dialog
To create the collection we need to create object
Set objSignatureEntries = objSignatureObject.EmailSignatureEntries
We are ready to fill in the list now. To do that we need to add new item to the collection by using the Add method. To name it somehow we’ll just pass Standard Signature as the parameter:
objSignatureEntries.Add “Standard Signature”, objSelection
Let’s check what we created. Open the Create Signature dialog box as stated in the list above (see step 3) and check the Standard Signature is in the list of available signatures (or the only existing one if you haven’t created the single one yet).
“Wait, wait, wait, wait!” I hear you are saying that. “You told us about the name of the signature, but how did we create it?” You are right. We used reference to the created objSelection object to fill in the signature with the text. That’s what we used Word for.
OK. Signature is created, we can go. Unfortunately, not yet. You are asking, why? Look at the Signature section on the Mail Format tab in the Options dialog box. Observe two drop-down lists there. We haven’t assigned the signature yet. We need to make sure that when the user will either create or reply to the message the created signature will be used there. To do that we need to use two corresponding properties.
1. NewMessageSignature property is used to attach new signature to all newly created messages
2. ReplyMessageSignature property will be used in case user will reply to the incoming message
Lets go. As always, we are creating two objects:
objSignatureObject.NewMessageSignature = “Standard Signature”
objSignatureObject.ReplyMessageSignature = “Standard Signature”
Now look at the mentioned drop-down lists. The “Standard Signature” item is there and successfully selected. Try to create new mail or reply to the message. You will get the created signature attached at the bottom of your message.
By the way, if we would have another signature in the list of signatures we could set another one as the default either for new message or for the replied one depending on what you want it to be by typing its name within the quotes.
Voila! We ended with signature creation. That wasn’t too complicated tasks but still… Look at what we did? Can we leave this alone? Can we consider it to be the right solution? Of course, not. First of all we are talking about corporate environment with computers joined to domain. If we will stop with this solution it would require us either create a set of unique signature scripts, or create a huge IF branching that would put different names for signatures to make them unique for all user computers.
I’ll continue describing what we can do. For now you can find the ways right in the list of the articles I put at the bottom of this my note. See you later.
MSDN Magazine Scripting Outlook Signature article
How about automation? Automatic E-mail Signatures Creation
How to find and use Office object model documentation
Programming the Outlook object model
Microsoft Word Object Model
The TypeText Method
Microsoft Word Selection Object Members
What’s new in Outlook 2007 Object Model
Technorati tags: object model ADSI script outlook object model word object model exchange properties signature generate personal signature mail signature active directory scripting Microsoft Office outlook profiles corporate mail VBScript
Sending messages without a signature is not what one would call etiquette correct. Surely when we are mailing to each other in a limited set of participants where everyone knows another person quite well, having a signature can be an excess. But once we are talking about business communications having a proper signature becomes a must.
That’s when we get why we need Word to be a default editor for composing Outlook messages.
How do we setup a signature
For personal needs we do the following
In this example Office Outlook 2003 and Office Word 2003 are covered
1. Launch Outlook and choose Tools|Options to open the Options dialog box
2. In the Options dialog box switch to the Mail Format tab
3. In the Message format select HTML from the Compose in this message format drop-down list
4. Check the Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to edit e-mail messages
5. Under Signature select account to be which you want the signature be assigned to
6. Click Signatures button and click New button to create the signature.
7. Enter a name to set how you wish signature to be listed in the list of signatures. This is needed to differentiate between signature is you have several signature. I recommend naming convention to be FirstName LastName [Type][Lang] where the stands for the signature type and is used to differentiate between corporate and personal signature. Lang designates the language of the signature what is useful if you work with multilingual customers. So name it to be named as John Doe [Corp][EN], John Doe [Corp][DE], etc
8. If it’s your brand new signature and you have no previously created signatures there, select Start with a blank signature and click Next
9. While in the Signature text box click Advanced Edit to launch Microsoft Office Word
10. When Word will start, type your signature, format it accordingly to confirm personal preferences or corporate rules
11. Save changes to the edited document
There is a nice demo on how to create, apply formatting to bring some elegance to it, and manage profiles by switching between signatures if you have say your corporate and personal signatures.
Inserting signature in a message
Signature Management with Outlook Profiles in Domain environment
Sign off simply in Microsoft Office Word
March 19, 2007
I work in a company that provides various kinds of services. We have a pretty distributed corporate network throughout the country. Many people use our mailing server to collaborate with each other. Some work in local offices, some go out for a business trip. Add here the never-ending flow of incoming clientèle and you’ll probably see yourself as it’s you are talking from this blog. Nothing that unusual. We know it’s our normal quite serene working day in IT department. No matter where we are actually working in. Routine. Returning back to what I have in my corp. As we also have external offices this adds the additional complexion. We definitely needed some way to separate client accounts at least to differentiate between customers and workers. The standard way to answer the task is to use outlook profiles. That’s what we did.
We started with quite a brute way of making this. We wrote down the guide on the corporate intranet site describing the steps the new user should take himself to setup outlook profiles. Again nothing that comes extremely unusual, just the standard multi-step follow-up to guide user through the manual configuration. Except that the diversity of users forced us to enhance the guide to handle several basic configurations of used version of Outlook and the operating system it runs on.
Here I will go a little bit aside to talk about intentions and decisions. (Sometimes they differ, huh?) First I wasn’t thinking about showing you that ‘guide’ we created. I just didn’t want to attack you with additional strings of ASCII bytes to narrow the excess and cancel the empty non-informative noise. But then I come thinking of why not to show you our errors and describe the underlying story a bit more detailed to get it more descriptive and explanatory. This would bring some humor and joy and allow some of you to not repeat my errors. Sometimes it gets the positive result if someone learns from the errors of your own. So I decided to include that our user manual and put some extra info to show how we found the the way to resolve the problem settled down the internal and external collaboration to run in a fully automated way. Here it is in all its glance though in a slightly abridged form (I cut down the specific info).
How to set up Outlook profiles to work with your mail in the XYZ corporation network
Operating System: Windows 98
Outlook client: Microsoft Outlook 2000
1. Click Start
2. Select Settings\Control Panel to open the Control Panel window
3. Locate the Mail or Mail and Fax icon and double-click on it to launch the applet
4. In the Mail dialog box opened Add button to start the Inbox Setup Wizard
5. In the wizard page opened select the Use the following information services radio button and check the Microsoft Exchange Server check box in the scrolling field below
6. Click next to move to next wizard dialog box
7. Click into Microsoft Exchange server field and type the following in it
8. Switch to second field on the wizard dialog box and type your last name
9. Click next to move to next wizard dialog box
10. Click No when prompted to ask “Do you travel with this computer?” question
11. Click Finish to close the wizard
12. Select the created profile and click Properties button
13. On the XYZ Corporation Properties mailbox dialog box select the Microsoft Exchange Server and click Properties button
14. In the Microsoft Exchange Server dialog box opened check you’ve entered correct settings for the mail server address and the name of your mailbox we put previously in steps 7 and 8. Revise if the mail server address was typed correctly and listed as
as you wouldn’t be able to work with mail if the address was incorrectly set
15. Click OK to close the window
16. Now double click the Outlook icon on your desktop to start mailing program.
17. In the Enter password dialog box type
18. Your login name into the User Name field
19. XYZ in the in the Domain Name field
20. Your password into the Password field
Note: if you don’t know your your login and password check with your supplementary Account setup form list or contact system administrator by phone to get them BEFORE proceeding with next step
21. When entered click OK to proceed with settings and log in to mailbox
Note: if you need to create multiprofile setup, refer to How to create multiprofile mail setup document on the http://intranet/techinfo/mail/outlook/ompmbseetup.doc
Operating System: Windows 2000, Windows XP
Outlook client: Microsoft Outlook 2002, Microsoft Office Outlook 2003
1. Click Start
2. Control Panel to open the Control Panel window
3. Locate the Mail icon and click on it to launch the applet
4. In the Mail dialog box opened Add button and enter the profile name in the New Profile dialog box
5. In the Mail Setup – Outlook dialog box click on the E-mail Accounts… button to launch the E-mail Accounts wizard
6. Select Add a new e-mail account radio button to be able to add your new Outlook account
7. Click Next to go to next wizard dialog box
8. On the Server type dialog select Microsoft Exchange Server radio button and click next
9. On the Exchange Server Settings dialog box fill in the field with the data contained in the supplementary Account setup form list or contact system administrator by phone to get the info
10. In the Microsoft Exchange Server field enter mail.xyz.com as the address to be used by Outlook to connect and retrieve your personal mail
11.1 If you are using Office Outlook 2003 check the Use Cached Exchange Mode checkbox below
11.2 If that is not true and you are using the previous version of Microsoft Outlook go to next step
12. In the User Name field enter the name to be used for your mail box. If you don’t know your username, click Start and use the name written in the caption of the Start menu
13. Click Check name to verify the entered name and avoid conflict with existing names (if any)
14.1 If you are using Windows XP, enter firstname.lastname@example.org in the User name field and fill in the password in the field below
14.2 If you are using Windows 2000, enter your username in the User name field, fill in the password in the next field and enter xyz in the Domain name field
15. If Microsoft Outlook notification message box appears notifying you about existing personal folders appears, go to step 17
16. Setup is now finished. Click Finish button the save settings and exit the Outlook configuration wizard
17. Click Yes button to confirm and continue
18. Start the Mail Setup – Outlook dialog box (see step 5 above) click on the E-mail Accounts… button to launch the E-mail Accounts wizard
19. Select View or change existing e-mail accounts radio button and click Next button
20. In the E-mail Accounts dialog select Microsoft Exchange Server entry within the Outlook processes e-mail for these accounts in the following order
21. Server will ask you to authenticate. Enter the data as discribed in steps 14.x above
22. Change delivery target in the Deliver new mail to the following location drop-down list and choose Mailbox – Username, where Username will be the name you used to authenticate and click Finish
Pretty complicated, isn’t it? I bet you agree. Imagine how complex this comes for the person who doesn’t need to know deep in IT and just wants to concentrate on his personal work responsibilities. Twenty steps to complete to just configure mail profile. That last not too long until we realized that this mess cant last any longer and we should implement something to smooth the process for users and, if possible, make it completely automatic and transparent for the user.
How to create a new e-mail profile in Outlook 2007 and in Outlook 2003
Overview of Outlook e-mail profiles
Create a new e-mail profile in Outlook
Manage Outlook profiles
Get the version number for your Office program and information about your computer
Use Outlook Anywhere to connect to your Exchange server without VPN
What is a Microsoft Exchange account?
Change the password for your .pst file
Scan and repair corrupted Outlook data files
Turn on or off Cached Exchange Mode
More blogs about outlook profiles.