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Centralise Contacts For IMAP

Posted on 2011-03-23
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hello Experts,

I recently configure Outlook 2010 for my client to use IMAP instead of POP3 (it was using POP3 before and now its using IMAP). The reason for configuring it as IMAP is that my client wanted access to his mail account from all the computers in his firm.

He also has an MS Access Database wherein contact details of many of his customers are stored. I have two questions:

1. Since Outlook has been configured to IMAP, the contacts, calender etc need to be centralised. That is to say, when the client adds any of his customer details into Outlook from any computer, those details should be reflected in the Outlook of all the remaining computers.

2. I need to program a module in Access VBA to allow the user to automatically add customer infromation into Outlook contacts. If the contact exists, then it should merely update that contact.

This would be a nice learning curve for me as I am not aware how Outlook structures itself as far as contacts and calenders are concerned. Any pointers and help is highly apprecited.

Best Regards,

ref-IT
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Question by:ref-IT
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Expert Comment

by:Pr1z
ID: 35197509
The features that you talk about are part of a Groupware solution such as Microsoft Exchange and not part of the POP3 or IMAP4 suite of protocols.  There are 3rd party plugins that trick Outlook into thinking that an IMAP server can store contact items but it is essentially just smoke and mirrors.  You would need to license and install the plugin on all devices that are likely to be used for the contacts/appointments to appear seamlessly.

If you want to sync just contact information then you could set up a central LDAP server, shared calendars  are more problematic.  Save yourself a lot of time and buy an Exchange license - it works very well, provides POP3, IMAP4, SMTP and Web Access amongst other features.

Importing contacts is easy, Outlook will import contact data from a CSV file.  It will also export to CSV if you wished to sync back the other way as well.  You can automate Outlook to create contact objects directly from Access.  More information for that can be found at http://msdn.microsoft.com

Hope this helps

Priz
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Author Comment

by:ref-IT
ID: 35197964
Hey Pr1z,

Thank you for the post.

So the features I am asking for are part of a Groupware solution such as MS Exchange. Being a small company and having only one email account (that operates on all computers in the firm), MS Exchange would be too huge a solution. I've even looked into the option of having exchange hosted by the client's webmail providers so that he can access his e-mails using Outlook Web Access (I think thats what its called). But this takes away the possibility of sending multiple e-mails from MS Access using VBA (because Outlook Web Access uses a browser and not Outlook Objects to access emails).

This leaves me with the option of LDAP Server to share the contacts. I suppose my client can get by contact sharing along. Calenders may not be a requirement for now. If you could please shed some more light on what an LDAP Server is, where can I get it from and how I could set it up for centralised (or synced) contact information.

Also, I wonder if MS Access has objects to manipulate Adding and Updating of Contacts.

With Regards,

ref-IT
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Expert Comment

by:Pr1z
ID: 35198752
LDAP = Lightwieght Directory Access Protocol ... it is used to gain contact (and possibly authentication) information from a directory service.  Exchange uses Active Directory for its LDAP services but there are others including OpenLDAP.

Most Exchange service providers will allow you to run OWA as well as fat clients using RPC over HTTP (or Outlook Anywhere).  If you can use RPC over HTTP then you will be able to sync contact and appointment objects to the remote Exchange server ==> solving your Access problem.

Another alternative would be to use GMail to do all the sync'ing.  Google can provide you with a tool that will sync appointments with Outlook.  You can also use the CSV import/export method for contacts should the sync software not work for you.  For a very small number of users subscribing to a premium Google service may be the best solution.  As well as share calenders and contacts they can also have shared document storage.

Priz
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by:ref-IT
ID: 35200277
Hey Priz,

Thanks for the reply.

A number of options, the RPC over HTTP looks attractive. Adding a contact from Access would be solved in this way, as RPC over HTTP allows Synchronisation of contact objects to the Exchange Server. However, sending automated multiple emails to selected clients from the Access Database would lose functionality.

Please educate me on something, where are the contacts in outlook stored. What I mean to ask is, just like how the emails are stored in the .pst file, where are contact information stored?

What I am trying to get at is, I could probably write a module where if anytime a contact is added or updated to an outlook client on any machine, MS Access should copy the Contacts file and paste it into the appropriate location of the other Outlook Clients on the other computers. A little impracticle, but its one way of getting the job done.

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LVL 7

Expert Comment

by:Pr1z
ID: 35206248
If Outlook is connected to an Exchange server then all objects are typically stored on the Exchange server and cached to a local OST file.  Where Outlook is using POP/IMAP objects other that mail items are stored in a PST file on the local PC.

Assuming that all of your users are well behaved and log off promptly at the end of the day you could automate your Access DB to Open a new instance of Outlook, create all of the new Contacts, close Outlook then copy the generated PST file (one for each user) to a file server somewhere that they can all pull from.  Next time they open Outlook they will see the new list of contacts.  The danger being that should an end user modify a contact in Outlook those changes would be lost the next time your export/copy runs.

I do think that you might find it better to switch to Google Apps - you should at least take a look at it.

Hope this helps

Priz
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Author Comment

by:ref-IT
ID: 35207138
Hello Priz,

Thank you for the reply.

The considerations you have touched on are worthy thinking about. I understand what you are talking about. I'll talke some time out to experiment on VBA and have a look at the Google Apps.

Please post me a link to where I can find the Google Application Services that you mentioned.

I'll also request you to hang on to this forum, I should be back by tomorrow if I have any further questions and if not then to allot the points.

Talk to you soon.

ref-IT
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Accepted Solution

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Pr1z earned 500 total points
ID: 35207203
Google Apps can be found here ==> http://www.google.com/apps/  I think your customer will need Google Apps for Business to get the Outlook integration which is $50/year (less than $1 per week).

Hope this helpds

Priz
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Author Closing Comment

by:ref-IT
ID: 35216663
Hey Priz,

I went through Google Apps for Business via the link you sent me. I must say its amazing. They have this tool called Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook that allows synchronisation of mail, calendar and contact. Its cool !!

I suppose this is the way forward.

Thanks alot for your input and solutions. I am really grateful.

With Regards,

ref-IT
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