Exchange 2013 Tech Preview – Public Folders

In the past two version of Exchange, public folders were thought to be excluded from release bits but this time around it not only seems as though they are
here to stay but changes have been made to not only the structure but also enhancements to high availability. In both Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010, public folders were available for use, but were administered via a separate management tool in the toolbox and not a participant of new clustering technologies including both high availability solutions in 2007 and 2010. At first glance, it looks like public folders are now stored inside of the same mailbox database that stores user data in what Microsoft is calling a “specially designed mailboxes to store both the hierarchy and the public folder content”. This limited information can be found here in the sharing and collaboration section.

Onto setup and configuration of this specially designed mailbox for public folders in Exchange 2013. In the EAC, you’ll notice on the left hand side that public folder administration is now integrated into the admin console (EAC).

It’s also worth noting that by default when logged into OWA as an end-user there is no public folder section. No public folder mailbox has been created at this point so we’ll check back after creation of the public folder mailbox and we add some content.

Selecting public folders in the EAC for the first time produces the below error.

After clicking ok to the error and selecting public folder mailboxes in the admin center, Exchange tells us that every public folder must reside in a public folder mailbox and before we can create a new public folder, we’ll need to provision a new public folder mailbox.

Clicking the plus in the admin center presents us with a dialog box asking for a name, organizational unit and mailbox database.

I have chosen to name the public folder mailbox pf_mbx and have placed it in the public folder mailboxes organizational unit that was created in Active Directory Domain Services and in the DB1 database that has been created in Exchange 2013.

After clicking, “save”, which is a change from “ok” or “apply”, the public folder mailbox is created and shown in the list.

Now selecting “Public Folders” in the EAC and clicking the plus we can create a new public folder. For the sake of testing I will name this public folder Test1 and leave the default path top level path of . After selecting save the new public folder is created in Exchange 2013 with the details provided below.

But now can we see this public folder in OWA? A refresh in OWA does not show any public folder access nor and the default OWA policy enables public folder access so what gives? Sign out and in to OWA also shows nothing new so lets mail enable the new public folder and try to email a message to it. To do this, we will head back to public folders in the EAC and select the Test1 folder. On the right hand side of the EAC in the details section we can select “enable”, under the mail settings section which defaults to disabled.

A warning appears confirming that we are certain we want to mail enable this public folder. Select “yes” to proceed.

After the public folder has been mail enabled, a test message was drafted in OWA and the Test1 address was pulled from the GAL and validated in OWA as show below.

Successfully deliver to the public folder takes place so we know that the public folder mailbox and public folder creation process worked as designed but how to view the public folder and content via OWA? OWA options shows no enable or disable check box for public folder viewing.

For now it looks as though there is no public folder access via the OWA client. I’ll revisit this when I stand up a Windows 8 client OS with the 2013 Outlook Tech Preview. Until then…

Any thoughts?