Exchange 2000 as a Corporate Blogging Platform

By Deane Barker on December 11, 2003

So you want to give blogging a go at your company, but you dread the thought of getting sign off on new software, setting everything up, handling permissions issues, etc. What a huge pain, especially when you have no idea if anyone is going to even like the concept.

Never fear — it turns out that Exchange 2000 can be used as a pretty competent multi-user blogging platform. All the editing and entry management can be handled by selected users via Outlook, and a Web interface can publish everything to the rest of the organization in a “traditional” blog format.

Just create a public folder in Exchange for post items and post some stuff to it — there’s a subject, there’s a body, you get the idea. Then, on your IIS Web server, you can use the Exchange OLE DB driver and some simple ASP to make a Web interface for the rest of the enterprise. It’s just about that simple.

(If you need to actual code to get data out of public folders, shoot me an email and I’ll send you a the SQL I used.)

Some reasons why this is handy:

  • The structure of a public folder overlays nicely to a blog. Public folders have post items, blogs have entries.
  • The editing interface is built-in. It’s even got HTML editing: bold, italics, bullets, etc.
  • Using custom forms in Exchange, you can customize your editing environment up, down, and sideways. You can add form elements, add event-based functionality, etc.
  • There are two ways to organize information: subfolders and categories. Between those two structures, there are dozens of ways to organize entries.
  • Permission can be very granular based on folder. Certain people can post to Folder A, but not Folder B, etc.
  • If people want/need to post remotely, there are two options: Outlook Web Access, which allows fully-functional access to the public folders; or you can use the Exchange OLE DB driver to create a very simple Web form.
  • For comments, you can allow replies to posts, but then what would be the point of the Web interface? Alternately, each item has an Entry ID you could just map to a simple database tables.
  • You can attach files to posts, and in Exchange 2000, all public folders are mapped to an M: drive. Shouldn’t be too hard to allow retrieval of attached files from the Web interface.

So, there you have it: an enterprise-wide blogging platform in a single afternoon. That should be enough to see if the concept can get some traction without spending a bunch of time and money on a standalone platform.