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What is the best way to implement Outlook in cached mode operation with roaming profiles?

Posted on 2007-10-11
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I have a set of end users who want to migrate from a thin client solution to implementing Outlook 2003 on the desk tops. They are spread over various sites with varying bandwidths to an Exchange 2003 server. I have suggested utilizing cached mode operation to isolate them from WAN deficiencies. However, many of the users float from one location to another, using different desktops. They currently use roaming profiles which are replicated to local servers at each location using Availl. What is the best way to utilise the roaming profile to replicate the *.ost file and what would I need to be aware of?

Some of the users also use Blackberrys using BES and OWA.
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Question by:Froomshanker
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by:tigermatt
ID: 20059144
The whole point behind cached Exchange mode is so that it is cached on local desktops. Copying the OST file across the network is not a supported operation, it is designed to reside only in the "Local Settings" directory of the local profile on each workstation.

So, when your users visit a desktop they've not logged in to before, they will have to wait initially for their Exchange mailbox to be cached locally, but, assuming local profiles aren't deleted at log off, the next time they come to that workstation only new mail will have to be cached, speeding up the time it takes to access Outlook.

-tigermatt
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by:tigermatt
ID: 20059171
Also, the blackberrys integrate directly with the Exchange mailbox I believe, so this has nothing to do with cached Exchange mode. The only time you might have an issue is if the user goes elsewhere with say a laptop and makes changes to their mailbox in offline mode, where there is no connection between Outlook and Exchange. Since the Blackberrys and OWA pull their data direct rom the Exchange mailbox, the updates the user has made won't be shown through these tools until they connect up to the Exchange server and Outlook has time to synchronize. A VPN would be useful for this, or you could implement RPC over HTTPS if you don't need all the features of a VPN: http://www.amset.info/exchange/rpc-http.asp

-tigermatt
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by:Sembee
ID: 20060820
Personally I feel that cached mode and roaming profiles don't really match. You lose most of the benefits of cached mode because the OST file has to sync, which can often be the largest file on the system.
I also don't tend to implement roaming profiles at all, I use folder redirection and some registry changes. I can achieve the same results.

How do you deal with the roaming profiles? Are those stored local to the user?

What I tend to suggest where there is this type of issue and limited WAN bandwidth is to look at either Terminal Services or Citrix. Citrix is ideal as you can public Outlook and have it on the user's desktop. Keep everything local to Exchange.

Simon.

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by:tigermatt
ID: 20061161
Simon,

As far as I was aware, by default the OST file is stored by default in the "Local Settings" folder of the local cached profile. This folder isn't synchornized with the roaming profile, which is why with roaming profiles you often see when a user logs on to a new workstation with a roaming profile, it must create the OST on that system.

<offtopic> Have you got a look for these registry changes you mentioned? I'd be very interested as I currently use roaming profiles which can also have other downsides as you say...!!! </offtopic>

-tigermatt
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by:Froomshanker
ID: 20061641
They actually use Citrix at the moment. Trouble is they're not happy with the response time. They're looking at moving to installing Outlook 2003 in cached mode to improve performance. The roaming profiles are synchronised to local servers at each site using Availl over the WAN. The trouble is some of the users float across site. But when they log in, the profile is picked up from the local server rather than the central AD server. Having looked at cached mode operation and that they use roaming profiles already, it looked as though it would be possible to include the ost file in the profile. Is this not the case?
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tigermatt earned 375 total points
ID: 20063390
You could, but you'd have to figure out a way of getting the Local Settings folder copied back and forth with the roaming profile. The problem with this is the GPO which allows you to exclude additional folders from a roaming profile doesn't actually allow you to include the Local Settings directory.

Also, due to the nature of files stored in the Local Settings directory, it can grow quite large. Just on this workstation alone my Local Settings directory is over 350MB, which, as you can imagine, would slow the logon times down.

Of course, your other alternative is to put the OST somewhere else, perhaps in a hidden "Email" folder within My Documents. This would work, but you would have to account for users logging in to one workstation, opening Outlook, then logging in to another, opening Outlook, close Outlook on the first, log off the second then log off the first - as you can see it could quite easily become corrupted.

Personally, cached Exchange mode would be brilliant for you, but I would just instruct the users they have to wait a little while when they've never logged in to a particular machine before. If you've got WAN issues then I'd be looking to address that issue before implementing Outlook on local machines.

-tigermatt
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Author Comment

by:Froomshanker
ID: 20063650
Thanks Tigermatt, that sounds in line with what I had in mind, and you have given me a couple of points to consider. Because of the way the users operate, I doubt that they would log onto a second machine without logging off the first, but that will have to be reiterated as a training issue. the other million dollar question is the initial log in time. Bearing in mind that the local profile would be picked up from a local server on a LAN and they have quota'd mailboxes, how long would the log in to a new pc be? Would it be unusuably slow, or just take a few moments longer than normal?
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Author Comment

by:Froomshanker
ID: 20064300
Another question I meant to ask: Why the preference for folder redirection over roaming profiles?
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by:Sembee
ID: 20064547
Roaming profiles are awful things. They get corrupted easily. In my opinion they only work effectively when every machine is 100% identical with the same applications on both and the users are on fast networks. Last time I deployed roaming profiles, which was about five years ago, I used folder redirection and Citrix. I haven't deployed roaming profiles since AD was released. I can achieve most of the "benefits" of roaming profiles using folder redirection.

Simon.

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