Webmail goes offline

Webmail goes offline

For business users who want to send and receive email with the simplicity that comes with Windows Live (formerly Hotmail) and GMail, but without the dreary advertising, Office 365’s Outlook Web Access (OWA) comes with simplicity, no ads, and the same tools available to the corporate world that makes OWA a serious alternative to Outlook for Desktop.

Mentioning Outlook stirs memories of an awkward email client that is too complicated to use and impossible to back up. Nor is there a shortage of clients who have worn out two buttons in Outlook – check mail, and send: Many users are only interested in email; calendars, tasks, contacts, etc. are just bloat. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you are not in the alone, and something that many people have hoped for which provides an advertising-free webmail service for commercial use is available to Office 365 users – Outlook Web Access, or OWA.

OWA is the portal for Microsoft’s Office 365. OWA is a web version of Outlook for Desktop which provides to Exchange Email, a service providing 50 GB of email per user account which can be synced across 5 devices – including sent items, which you will never see with POP accounts. Calendars, contacts, and more are all there too, albeit ring-fenced from email. although they are bound to be there. OWA is Microsoft Exchange. Importantly, whereas Google users expose their email to data mining, Exchange email is a secure content system that restricts access to “your eyes only”. Among other reasons, this privacy feature is why Exchange email is used almost overwhelmingly in commerce.

Perhaps the niftiest trick in Microsoft’s web based email client is the facility to run their email in “offline” mode.

outlook web access has a clean interface

Wait a minute. Read that one more time. Offline? Managing email with your web browser – offline? Did Hotmail ever do that? No. Nobody else did, either. That is why everybody needed Outlook for Desktop, or Outlook Express, or Eudora or Thunderbird. In case you still do not believe the proposition, the illustration above shows how offline mode is not more than two clicks away.

Offline email management is a trump card. Do not expect to see an entire mailbox in offline mode, more like a few day’s worth of traffic, but enough to keep you with something to do on the road. It is one feature of many “gimme’s” Microsoft deploys from time to time to keep the corporate world so attached to Exchange.

The great thing about OWA is that if you only want to run email, the browser interface does just that, and beautifully so on iPads. OWA connects directly to Exchange 2013, though, so all the tools that high end users need like shared address books, distribution groups, rules, instant messaging, administrator tools like mail policies and even in-line archiving, are there if you want them too.

You might be disappointed that this does not mean the end of Outlook for desktops. Outlook still has a place, and if anything has upped the ante  as a portal not only for email, but for user access to Office 365 to document folders and Sharepoint mind boggling services ..but that is for another few articles.

For a thirty trial of Microsoft Exchange and OWA, contact Steve Galloway on 07834 461 266 or Fred Dreiling on 07919 340 570. No credit card required for trial services.