Feeling Good

I finally got round to trying out Good Mobile Messaging last month, although, as if its name weren’t already enough of a mouthful, from 5 January it became Motorola Good Mobile Messaging to reflect new ownership. It really needs something shorter to compete with snappy names like BlackBerry, so I’m just going to call it Good in this column. So how did the month’s trial go, what were its positives and negatives compared to other push-email systems?

Feeling Good

Let’s start with installation. The fact there’s software to install at all differentiates Good from the Microsoft push system I wrote about last month; in Microsoft’s system, Exchange Server communicates directly with the handheld, but Good employs a separate server application to suck messages out of Exchange Server via MAPI. A benefit of this is that Good can support versions of Exchange Server back to 5.5 (as well as IBM Lotus Domino 6.03 and above), whereas Microsoft forces you onto the latest Exchange Server with the latest patches. Good’s mail server support is beaten only by BlackBerry, which can also run alongside Novell’s GroupWise mail server. In fact, the way Good works is quite similar to BlackBerry, in that the handheld doesn’t talk directly to the server but to a Network Operations Centre (NOC) in the middle.

I’ve covered the pros and cons of NOC-based push-email systems in a previous column, so all I’ll say here is that one really important advantage for enterprise deployments is that you won’t need to punch inbound holes in your firewall to allow in traffic from the phones – the Good server application only makes an outbound connection to the NOC, as does the handheld.

To be frank, I found installing the server software a bit fiddly, with lots of manual preparation to set up accounts and permissions before you can even think about clicking on setup.exe – sure you only have do it once, but scripting all this stuff would have saved me lots of messing around in Active Directory Users and Computers, Exchange System Manager (and even the Registry Editor). That said, the procedure is laid out in a fairly clear Quick Install document, so it’s just a matter of carefully following the steps.

The installer warns you if you try to load the software onto the same physical server as Exchange, but I did so without any adverse effects. You’re also forbidden to install the Good server application onto a machine that has Outlook installed: I accept that it would be madness to run Outlook on a production server, but you might want to in a test environment. Anyway, once I had the software installed, it all ran reasonably well (almost).

With the Good software loaded, you’ll see a new item in your programs list called Good Management Console and this really is rather, er, good – unlike some other systems, it presents all the management facilities in one place. These admin facilities are roles-based, which is a boon for enterprise deployments, where you might have a group of day-to-day operators allowed to add new users and erase remote data, but only senior managers can view users’ PINs or change server policies. The other nice thing about Good’s management tool is that everything is in an obvious place, unlike BlackBerry’s Enterprise Server management application where I often find myself hunting for where to configure a particular parameter. I think pretty much anyone in an IT department could manage a Good installation, whereas a BlackBerry- or Microsoft-based system probably needs more specialist skills.

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