For almost two years now, I've been trying to set up a seamless way to access my email, contact list and calendar wherever I go. When I built my desktop machine towards the end of last year, having such a system that would keep everything synchronized became all the more necessary. I tried a couple of approaches involving Gmail forwarding, Remote Desktop, and some other tools for a few months, but each "solution" was a kludge and simply wasn't cutting it.

Then about a month ago, I decided I was tired of all the hacks and makeshift solutions, so I took the plunge and set up an Exchange server. Now I can really see how Outlook and Exchange were made for each other. And Outlook Web Access, as I might have mentioned several times before, is a killer product. I can send emails and add/modify calendar events on any computer with a browser and internet connection, and the changes get propagated immediately to Outlook on both my laptop and desktop via Exchange.

As an added bonus, I also came to realize that the Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) in Exchange 2003 SP2 is a gem for server-side junk mail filtering. It was a breeze to set up, and it's amazingly effective. I used the performance counter to collect some stats recently, and out of 334 emails received (I believe this was over the last few days), about 26% of them (86 emails) were spam, and every single one of them was blocked.

Exchange IMF

Moreover, since junk mail gets archived on the server, it doesn't appear in my "Junk Mail" folder in Outlook, so I don't even have to see it until I remotely access the server and purge it all once a week, in one fell swoop. :D

I was impressed enough that I stopped using POP3/IMAP to access my UCLA mail account and configured it to forward all incoming emails to the Exchange server too. Now I get literally no spam, and all my email, contacts and calendar data is consolidated in one place for anywhere, anytime access. The search for the perfect solution has ended.

In my next post, I'll write about a recent "acquisition" of mine that's made all of this even more worthwhile. ;)