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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Easy Steps to Deploy Outlook 2k3.

Happy New Year Everyone!
Being an Admin in a growing company, at least here in Canada, I find myself deploying more and more new machines for new hires all of the time. Using
Symantec Ghost is an easy way to deploy many machines, but one thing we cannot automate is the hiring process, can we?

Often-times, I'm giving an estimate of the possible new-hires coming on board over a two month period so that I can order hardware ahead of time. This way, I can have the machines setup appropriately by department and job-title, etc, so that when the new-hire lands, we are ready to have them 'hit the ground running', so to speak. And we all know how these things go down. We're told Friday afternoon at 4:30pm that Mr. Smith, the VP of Sales is starting Monday morning at 8:30am, "...and can you please have his laptop ready for him to start working right away?!"

One of the most annoying things to do is set up an Outlook profile (especially if you have 3 or 4 new hires in a day). It's not that it's difficult. It's that there are so many windows to go through (Log in as user, launch outlook, choose a profile name, click next, provide exchange server info, say no to pop server etc etc.). You get the picture.

So a while back, I started using a *.PRF file to somewhat automate this whole process. It's fast, and not difficult to do.

There are some pretty good whitepapers out there to tell you how actually create a *.PRF file using an Outlook 2003 Wizard.
Outlook-Tips.net has a good one that shows you how to create a PRF profile for use with POP and HTTP, and they even provide you with a sample file that you can use. You can tailor it to your company's needs by editing the file, using a simple text editor (Notepad).

And that is the direction I took.

There are only a couple of sections within the sample that you'd need to edit to make this work.

If you download the sample file, and you have a look at "Section 1", you can change the name of your ProfileName. By default, it's set to "My Oulook Profile". You can change this to whatever company standard you may have.

The only other spot you need to change is in "Section 4". Assuming you are using an Exchange environment, you have to actually add information for the [ServiceX] and [Service 1] values, and remove the ";" to uncomment ServiceX

It would look something like this:

; Section 4 - Default values for each service.



AccountName=Microsoft Exchange Server



With those changes made, save the file.
Now, when your new hire comes in and you are going through all of his/her account information with him or her, all you need to do is have the new hire log into the domain, then double-click the PRF file using a network share, Click "Yes" to a Diaglog box and that's it. The script will take care of the rest.

Now according to a recent article at ITWorld about all the hot and not-so-hot features of Exchange 2007, all of this will be automated with Exchange and Outlook 2007.

Read the article here.


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