For those who take their Macs into a Windows dominated work environment, here's the good news: Snow Leopard has built-in support for Exchange Server 2007.
Exchange Server (formerly Microsoft Mail) is a widely used corporate email, calendar and messaging server, and is a separate piece of software installed in addition to Windows Server.
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There are other packages offering similar functions (Zimbra, for instance, is a solution that uses open source technologies [prices start at £380 for 25 users] while Kerio Mailserver [£389 for 10 users] is a proprietary product similar to Exchange), so your IT department might not necessarily be using Exchange.
Chances are, however, that they are: check with them for details. Using Exchange Server's client services, you can retrieve your work emails and check your work calendar and contacts, with everything administered centrally from the Exchange server.
That way the contact details of any new colleagues, changes to meeting plans and urgent internal messages can be instantaneously sent to any Mac or PC client, as well as being pushed to your iPhone (using iPhone OS' built-in support for Exchange Server) or Windows Mobile smartphone using Exchange ActiveSync.
For more on using your iPhone for business, see here. For compatibility with Snow Leopard, your work server will need to be running Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 Update Rollup 4.
The auto-setup of this will require the enabling of the Auto-discovery feature of Microsoft Exchange Server.
1. Setting up Mail
For easy configuration of Exchange 2007 accounts, your exchange server will need to have Auto-discovery enabled (check this with your IT department). If not, you'll need to get the server details and enter them manually. First open Mail, then go to Mail > Preferences.
2. Add an Exchange account
Click the Accounts toolbar icon, then + to add an account, as you would any other account.
3. Enter your details
Next, enter your name as it should appear in the From column in the recipient's email. Include the company name and your job title and/or department if necessary.
4. Enter your Exchange Server details
If Auto-discovery is enabled the server details will populate the appropriate fields in the account setup wizard; if not, the Incoming Mail Server sheet will appear. Choose Exchange 2007 from the Account Type popup menu.
In the steps that follow you'll be setting up a client access server: start by entering a server description (optional) and your Exchange user name and password.
To set up iCal and Address Book to access Exchange calendar and contacts automatically, select one or both of those options. Click Continue, and choose whether or not you want to use SSL for incoming mail (your IT department will have told you this).
5. Confirm your Exchange Server setup
The Account Summary sheet will appear: this is your final chance to check the details you've entered before you create your Exchange account. If you want to check the server for messages, contacts and appointments as soon as the account is created, select Take account online by ticking the checkbox. Click Create.
6. Exploring the alternatives
For those of you who aren't planning to upgrade to Snow Leopard just yet (perhaps you still have PowerPC Macs in your office), there is another way of accessing Exchange Server from your Mac: install the standard edition of Microsoft Office 2008 (the Home and Student Edition doesn't have Exchange support).
Admittedly, at around £340 it isn't the cheapest solution, but if you're on Mac OS 10.4.9 or later, and your Macs have a minimum of 500MHz or faster G4 processors, then this might be the solution for you.
Another reason for going down this route might be that your server still has an earlier version of Exchange Server installed: Microsoft specifies Exchange Server 2000 or better for Office 2008. See here for more details.
Whichever solution you choose, there's no longer any justification for the accusation that Macs have no place in the corporate world. With the incorporation of Exchange support, Snow Leopard has managed the difficult feat of putting Macs in the heart of the workplace.