We are in the process of moving away from POP3 email to an exchange server solution. One of the main reason is to make it easier to manage a company wide contact list.

I've done some reading around and found that contact lists can either be managed in AD and then appear in the GAL or we could set up a Public Folder for a 'shared contact list'

What I haven't found a clear guide to is the benefits/pitfalls of each approach.

Can anybody here provide some advice so that I can make a more informed decision.



Using the GAL requires creating contact objects in Active Directory for each contact; this can't normally be done by standard users without custom delegations, and it requires special tools (ADUC, EMC). The main benefit is full integration with Outlook address book(s): if something is in the GAL, you automatically can see it in Outlook.

With a public folder, you can easily allow users to create/edit/delete contacts; this is definitely better if this address list is not centrally managed. But you need to explicitly open the folder in Outlook, it doesn't behave as a "standard" address list.

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+1 for Massimo's answer and I'll add this:

GAL = easy access from Mobile devices with ActiveSync for those contacts

Public Folders = difficult to access on a Mobile device

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Public Folders have been repeatedly described as "depreciated" in newer versions of Exchange. I've read some debate and backpedaling where they reassure users that "depreciated" doesn't mean "discontinued" - but it's now an optional component. In Exchange 2007 it's not installed by default, whereas with 2003 it was required for the OAB.

Public Folders seem to be replaced with Managed Folders in 2008. I haven't played with it yet, but everything I read seems to point to Managed having everything that Public has, but with crazy new possibilities.

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  • I can't find details on how to implement a central contact list with managed folders. Exchange also tells me that custom managed folders are only available with "Exchange Enterprise CALS! – Martin Sep 15 '09 at 14:01

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