Well, I’ve finally done it! I went and wrote a version of WHS Outlook for use with Windows Home Server 2011. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of requests I’ve had for doing this over the last year or so. However, I was reluctant to do it for a couple of reasons. First, seeing as Microsoft added no backwards compatibility for WHS V1/2003 add-ins to WHS 2011, I knew that it was going to take a substantial amount of work to write a new version of the add-in, from the ground up, to support the WHS 2011 platform. Second, I really wasn’t convinced that the WHS 2011 platform was something that I’d ever want to use on a personal level. Well, I can tell you that once I took a closer look at WHS 2011, I ended up really liking it, and WHS Outlook 2011 naturally followed from there. And yes indeed, it sure was a whole lot of work just as I expected it would be. Wow!
In the end, I think (and I’m sure you’ll agree) that it was time and effort well spent on my part. The new remote application features in the underlying Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system, as well as the built-in Remote Web Access website in WHS 2011, really allow WHS Outlook to shine like it never could in WHS V1/2003. WHS Outlook 2011 can run a server-installed copy of Microsoft Outlook from any computer just as if it were running directly on the local computer. Outlook runs in its own fully resizable window with its own entry in the taskbar. Its popup windows are redirected to the local desktop, its notification area icons appear in the local computer’s notification area, and the local computer’s drives and printers can be redirected to it; making a completely seamless “Outlook” experience for your end-users.
WHS Outlook 2011 is actually a Windows Server Solutions add-in, meaning that not only will it run on Windows Home Server 2011, but it will run on all of the Windows Server Solutions, including Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials. It allows a single server-side installation of Microsoft Outlook to be accessed by up to 10 users of your network (up to 25 when used with WSBS2011e or WSS2008R2e). Using the remote application capabilities of your server, WHS Outlook 2011 provides your users with full access to their very own instance of Microsoft Outlook just as if it were running on their local computer. They’ll enjoy access to their mail, calendars, contacts, and tasks from any Windows-based computer on your network, or from almost anywhere using your server’s built-in Remote Web Access website.
There’s a fully functional 21 day evaluation period available, so go and try it out for yourself. I’m more than sure that you will enjoy it as much as I do. And, as always, I welcome your comments and feedback.