Review: BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 Makes Friends With Administrators

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This upgrade comes with server high availability, and a new web-based console makes administrators jobs easier

I also wanted to be able to apply policy according to a user’s hardware, for example, applying a certain rule or software configuration that would apply to the Bold handset, but BES 5.0 does not allow this kind of assignment.  However, it does free a few categories of settings from standard policies, giving administrators the ability to create and assign wireless LAN, VPN and voice over IP settings via configuration templates alongside standard profiles (although these options can also be set within a standard policy).

Improved Management Experience

BES 5.0 vastly improves the management experience after deployment, providing much more insight into deployment job status once jobs have been sent to devices.

From BES, I could run reports against inventory to find devices still awaiting update, devices with update failures or devices with successfully completed updates to ensure that policy was being enforced across the deployment.

To enable better workflow when creating user accounts tied to particularly large Active Directory implementations, BES 5.0 performs a daily query and pull of users from AD. This somewhat speeds the discovery process when creating new user accounts within BES.

Another significant improvement with BES 5.0 is the new role-based administration implementation. With this feature, BES customers can more effectively organise the administration force according to task. Front-line administrators can be assigned only to the BES servers or user groups for which they are responsible, with read-only permissions if needed. By default, BES 5.0 comes with eight pre-defined roles, but senior administrators can create new roles or modify existing ones to tune permissions as appropriate within the company’s management infrastructure.

High Availability

Also new with BES 5.0 is high availability, creating a pool between each active server and a paired backup.

For no additional costs from RIM, administrators can add resiliency to their BlackBerry management infrastructure; one server license activates one active server and the redundant one.  Failover from the active primary to the secondary server can occur automatically in case of a service that’s down or loss of connectivity, and administrators can set other health thresholds, as well. If failure of the standby server happens automatically, administrators will need to manually trigger the system to revert to the original server.

Administrators can also use the cluster to maintain uptime during upgrade cycles, moving users to the backup server before performing patches or upgrades. RIM’s documentation claims that administrators can share the load of certain BES components between the pair, although I did not test this. 

Looking Forward

BES 5.0 also lays the groundwork for additional new features that can be delivered to handsets once RIM has updated the client software to Version 5.0, a move that is expected to occur later this year. Among the list of new features there will be remote access to shared Windows network files, direct manipulation of e-mail folders on the device, better handling of calendar items with attachments and e-mail flagging capabilities more compatible with Outlook.

Andrew Garcia is senior analyst at eWeek

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