Yesterday I finally made the plunge and installed both Windows Vista RC1 and Microsoft Office Beta on my primary work laptop. I've been dabbling with Windows Vista for over a year now, and have even played with the Microsoft Office Beta on my home system, but this is the first time I have used both on my primary corporate network machine.

I suppose the reason it took me so long to begin using Office 2007 is because when it comes to critical business applications, I have little tolerance for failures. I know enough about systems and don't mind tinkering around with a system like Windows Vista (I've been using Vista since the Alpha stages). However, if I'm in the middle of editing an email message or writing a word doc, it annoys me to no avail to have the application crash and loose all my work.

I can't say that I've been using the Office 2007 beta long enough to report if it is stable or how much I like its new features and layout, but I have noticed one HUGE feature that made my life much easier, and that is in the realm of setting up your email account and configuring RPC over HTTP.

If you don't know what RPC over HTTP is, it is a way for one to connect to their exchange server without having to be directly connected or VPN connected to your corporate exchange system. This makes getting your exchange-based information/email much more convenient, which is especially important for hosting companies or providers who offer services such as hosted exchange. A hosted exchange provider would incur much greater cost and inconvenience if exhange clients had to VPN to connect to the exchange servers. Thus, RPC over HTTP is a critical enabler for hosted exchange.

With Exchange 2007 in conjunction with Outlook 2007, you can configure email "auto-discovery" so that account and profile settings can be auto-discovered from the exchange server. There is an article here which details how this is done. In practice, when I ran Outlook 2007 for the first time, it automatically determined my email address from my domain login, and automatically configured my outlook client to connect to the exchange 2007 server via RPC over HTTPS with the proper certificate.

With Office 2003 and Exchange 2003, one had to manually configure RPC over HTTP settings. For a hosted exchange provider or corporate exchange environment, one could programmatically script this configuration, but that would take extra development, and wasn't something provided out of the box. With the new exchange 2007 and Outlook 2007 autodiscovery features however, I can see support costs related to new customer setup with Hosted Exchange dropping.