Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Sync Public Folder Contacts to an iPhone

By Vern Weitzman

If your company has a few hundred employees, your company's Exchange Server likely has a few hundred iPhones attached via ActiveSync. Maybe there are also a few Android devices mashed in for good measure. I will take a wild guess and say that just a few years ago, your company may also have had a BlackBerry Server.

If you are an Office 365 user, check out the CiraSync solution to learn how to sync Public Folder Contacts in about a minute!

This is the profile of many itrezzo installations. In addition, they also have a Public Folder with employee contacts.  If this sounds familiar, your iPhone users could really benefit by having those exact contacts on their smartphone. Specifically, you need to be able to sync Public Folder Contacts to an iPhone. (Note that you might also consider skipping the public folder all together and just sync the Global Address List directly to Outlook and Smartphones)

A common solution is for each Outlook user to drag a copy of the Employee Contact Folder to their mailbox contacts as a subfolder.

The problem with a delete/recopy strategy is that you have to do this often. New employees are added. Others leave. Phone numbers change. Addresses change.  If each smartphone user doesn't do this at least weekly, it gets frustrating quickly because they almost never have contact information for new employees. It's a burdensome task for hundreds of employees to do this drag and drop. It also places stress on the enterprise contact synchronization conduits; I have seen many orphaned contacts as a result of this activity.

With our Unified Contact Management platform, synchronizing contacts from a Public Folder to a mailbox is one simple capability that can easily accomplished.  For example:

  1. Define the Public Contact folder as a data source.
  2. Make that data source a mandatory contact list
  3. Set an Active Directory Group as the target.

An example of the AD group is All SmartPhone Users.  This group could be maintained manually, or you could use the itrezzoActiveSync AutoDL feature.

Once this procedure is completed, incremental changes made to the Public Folder get pushed out  to all smartphone users.   If there are 500 smartphone users and five changes in the Public Folder, exactly 2500 contacts are updated. If a new user gets a smartphone, they automatically get the 500 contacts from the Public Folder. This is an automated solution to sync Public Folder Contacts to an iPhone or any other smartphone that is connected to Microsoft Exchange Server.

Once the sysadmin has this working, he figures he can also push the IT Vendors Public Contact Folder to the Infrastructure group in AD.  If you have ever had to call a service provider after hours, you know that this is a big deal, not just for you, but also for the entire infrastructure team.

Just as the IT Department benefited by syncing of Public Folder contacts to their iPhone's, so do other departments. Your Public Folder hierarchy probably has many Public Contact folders created by different departments.  Instead of users having access only when online at the office, now these contacts can be made available on smartphones as well.

Not mentioned here, but there are other ways to sync contacts from SQL, AD Groups,  spreadsheets, SharePoint, and SalesForce.COM.  Check out out the itrezzo Technical Support Wiki for more ideas.

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