BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express Enables SMBs to Go the Distance

By Eric Geier (Send Email)
Posted Dec 2, 2010


Mobile phones are invaluable in the business world today in part because they do much more than let us talk. They can serve as an email client, address book and appointment scheduler. Add apps to the mix, and they can do even more. Mobile phones become even more beneficial when connected to your business's existing network services. That's where the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express comes in.

For most business, mobile phones are as valuable to the business as computers and land lines. Connect them to your business' existing network services, and they're even more valuable. For SMBs wishing to do this, BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is the perfect trifecta of inexpensive, easy and reliable.

The BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is a free variant of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server from Research In Motion (RIM), targeted toward small and midsize organizations. It works with most personal BlackBerry data plans and BlackBerry enterprise data plans.

It can give your employees access to their Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus Domino services from their BlackBerry phones. They can wirelessly access and synchronize their email, calendar, contacts, and remotely download, view and edit files stored on your network. Plus, you can distribute BlackBerry Java Applications to the users.

BlackBerry Enterprise Server System Requirements

For 75 or fewer users, BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express can be installed on the same computer or server as Microsoft Exchange or Windows Small Business Server. For more users, you must install the BlackBerry server components on one or more separate computers.

If running Microsoft Exchange on a Windows Server, BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express requires Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP2, 2007 SP2 or 2010, on Windows Server 2003 SP2, Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2, Windows Server 2008 SP2 or Windows Server 2008 R2. Be sure to review the system requirements for both the Microsoft Exchange and Windows Server versions.

The BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express can also be installed on Windows Small Business Server 2003 or 2008, which already includes Microsoft Exchange.

If running IBM Lotus Domino, Windows Server 2003 SP2, Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2, Windows Server 2008 SP2 or Windows Server 2008 R2 is required with IBM Lotus Domino 8.0.2, 8.5.1 or 8.5.2.

For either route, add 1.5 GB memory for BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express services. Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or 2008 is also required, but it can be installed during the installation of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express.

Keep in mind, you can virtually run Microsoft Exchange, Windows Server or Windows Small Business Server on the VMware infrastructure 3.5/4.0 or Microsoft Hyper-V 2008.

Installing the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Software

The installation of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express takes a few hours and is pretty straightforward for experienced IT administrators. However, others might be slowed down by issues that can arise with requirements and integration with Active Directory and other system components.

BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express Administration

The BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express offers a web-based configuration interface, called the BlackBerry Administration Service, accessible from anywhere on the local network. To start, you'll probably want to set up the administrative access so the support staff can have access to the server and user settings. Fortunately, you'll find a couple of preconfigured administrative roles already set up for you. You'll just have to review the given permissions, create the administration accounts and assign them to the desired roles.

After you review and set the IT and security policies, you'll probably want to create the user accounts. The server supports a comprehensive user group structure where you can assign users to groups and groups to groups as well. But keep in mind, it isn't very easy to create individual user exceptions.

Security and Policy Features

The BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express doesn't skimp on security. Data is encrypted end to end between the server and end-user devices. Both AES and Triple DES encryption algorithms are supported, where the strongest is picked depending on the BlackBerry device software version used. The server even supports PGP encryption for email messages and implements a PIN-based PGP solution.

You can create and apply IT policy rules to better control the BlackBerry devices. For example, you can define encryption use and strength, impose password protection, or limit use of Bluetooth. You can also control the device resources, such as the camera or GPS, which are available to third-party applications. Multiple IT policies can apply to a single user account if it belongs to multiple user groups. You can set policy priorities and reconciliation rules.

Activating BlackBerry Devices

Once policies and accounts are in place, you or the end user can activate BlackBerry devices via a couple methods. They can be connected to a computer and activated using the BlackBerry Administration Service or BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager. Plus, users can activate over the wireless cell network, LAN or Wi-Fi network.

BlackBerry User administration

End users also have a web-based administration interface, called the BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager. You can define the tasks and functions they can perform, such as creating a wireless activation password, locking a lost or stolen BlackBerry device, deleting data from a device or deactivating a device. You can even customize the interface with your organization's branding.

Give It a Try

Based on our experience, we believe the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express can certainly help enhance communication, collaboration and productivity for your organization. It makes a BlackBerry a true business tool. Best of all, the server is totally free if you're already running Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus Domino.

When you're ready to give it a try, download it.

Keep in mind, RIM provides numerous support options, including comprehensive documentation, support forums, and a knowledge base. You even get to create one complimentary support incident with the official BlackBerry support staff.

Eric Geier is the founder and CEO of NoWiresSecurity, which helps businesses easily protect their Wi-Fi with enterprise-level encryption by offering an outsourced RADIUS/802.1X authentication service. He is also the author of many networking and computing books, for brands such as For Dummies and Cisco Press.

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