WebAD recently switched from one hosted Exchange mail provider to Office 365 after Office 365 went live last week. This allows us to cut Exchange mail hosting costs by almost 70% while increasing our storage by 12.5 times. We also get the benefit of hosted SharePoint (not sure if there’s much value there, though) and Lync, Microsoft’s unified messaging service that includes corporate instant messaging as well as meeting and desktop sharing software.
The Problem with BlackBerry Calendars and Office 365 Exchange
The switch overall has been quite painless and we are pleased with the outcome so far. However, I have a BlackBerry (yes, I know…i have used BlackBerry for a while and my wireless provider didn’t have the iPhone so I’m stuck for another year or so) and the BlackBerry will not support Microsoft ActiveSync for email and calendar. Instead, I have to use IMAP or POP3 for email only.
I set up IMAP for my BlackBerry Storm 2 and it has worked pretty well with no real loss of functionality. The big loss is the lack of calendar synchronization previously provided by BlackBerry Enterprise Server from our Exchange mail host (at $10/mailbox/month of course).
A Solution is Coming from RIM, But When?
Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry, has promised to provide a free hosted version of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server called BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express. You can also download a version of this software yourself if you want to host it but that kind of defeats the purpose of hosting your mail in the cloud, right? So what can you do in the meantime until RIM gets off its rump and provides a hosted BES service?
A Simple and Free Solution in the Meantime: Text Messaging
I’ve found a good solution to keep me up to date about my daily calendar and, even though I don’t get calendar reminders directly the way I used to get them and I can’t see my calendar events, it’s a workable model at a good price: text messaging. Yeppers, Outlook Web App (OWA) for Office 365 allows you to set up text message alerts for your Calendar. Follow the steps below to set up text messaging and you should be pleased with the outcome.
- Go to Office 365 and sign in.
- Access OWA.
- Select See All Options from the Options menu on the upper-right corner of OWA as shown in the screen shot below.
- Choose Calendar from the Settings menu.
- Set up your notification settings and follow the wizard to associate your BlackBerry with the text messaging service.
- Once your phone is associated by entering a passcode, select which notifications you want to receive. I chose to receive the Daily Calendar agendas and it’s working great. I get a notification each morning at 7 am with a list of all the day’s meetings and appointments and it doesn’t cost anything except text messaging costs.