Some of you may know that I picked up a Blackberry 8100 (also known as the Pearl) in early December. As a cell phone the device has been great. Voice quality is clear and signal strength has been really good wherever I used it. For email I was just using the Rogers Blackberry Internet Service which gave me the ability to create a default blackberry address and then add up to 10 POP email accounts to the device. The problem with this was that I could not control when the mail was picked up. Another issue I had was that while I could connect and get mail from my own exchange server (SBS 2003 server at home) via Outlook Web Access, I could not use the calendaring feature of exchange.
If you are not aware there are actually two ways that a Blackberry can work. The personal option is the BIS service offered above, while most corporations use Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) to send and receive emails, synchronize calendars and address books with their corporate email systems. I always thought that BES was a very expensive service (starting at 1500.00) and never thought I would take advantage of it, but there are some Hosted Exchange services that offer BES for a monthly fee (typically 9.99 USD per month). If you run a Microsoft Small Business Server and use email that way and have just a couple of users then the BES solution may have been an expensive option for you.
Then about a month ago, I got a post in one of my SBS tech lists about a free version of Blackberry Enterprise Server, called Blackberry Enterprise Server Express. This version comes with a single user CAL meaning one user can be connected and additional users (up to 15 can be added for about 100.00 USD). I did a Google search, found the page input my data (you have to supply a Blackberry Pin) and downloaded the software.
Today I finally got around to setting it up. Installation on my SBS 2003 Standard Server was fairly straight forward. The documentation guides you through the set up of a User account (requires SBS Cal) and applying the permissions that are required. Then you install the software. My first go really didn’t work right as I skipped the installation of SQL thinking it was on my server. While this server is an SBS 2003 R2 Premium server, I currently have it running as a Standard Server (No SQL and No ISA servers running). My first set up failed because I didn’t have SQL set up , so I installed SQL2005 Express (Another free download) and re installed the BB software (paying a little more attention to what I was doing). The install went fine and the databases set up fine. I went into BES Manager set up my user and then activated my Pearl using the Enterprise Activation on it. It synced everything up and I was in business. Now I can use my SBS server and Blackberry together for contacts, wireless sync and calendaring!
I did run into a few problems thought receiving emails afterwards, in fact my Exchange server had a problem receiving emails period. Turns out that an email archiving program that I was testing and uninstalled was still trying to archive my messages. I got that fixed and the mail started flowing properly again, when I ran into another problem. An MS patch removed the send as permissions on the BESADMIN account. Using an MS and Blackberry support article got that problem fixed and it looks like I am in business again.
One of the best things is that I can use both BIS and BES on my Pearl. So I still get email from the POP3 accounts that I set up but now I get email from my SBS 2003 server as well!
If you are interested in looking at this option please feel free to contact us and we will help set up your SBS server so that you can teach your BB new tricks.