Practical steps to Sync the GAL to a SmartPhone
This is the second part of a blog post on synchronizing the Global Address List (GAL) to an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry.
One of the points in that blog post was that it’s sometimes a bad idea to sync the entire GAL to Smartphones. There are often unwanted mailboxes in the GAL. It is better to use a Distribution Group or select specific OUs (Organizational Units) that optimize the Smartphone experience.
First identify the exact contacts in the GAL that you would like to sync. Using examples from the itrezzo Unified Contact Manager, the first step is to configure the source contacts that get synchronized to the iPhone. (If you would like a trial license for this software, please fill out this form.) The example will use an itrezzo contact collection. The targets (the people who have Smartphones) can also be defined using a collection.
The “GAL” that you want to sync to the iPhone
Because the GAL will need to be customized to meet your needs, this example configuration will create a collection in the ECO Web Administrator. The collection will enable us to select Distribution Groups, Organizational Units (OUs), or individual recipients from Active Directory. Start by expanding the Data Dictionary menu in the Navigation bar and select the Collections container.
On the right side of the windows, hit the ‘+’ symbol to add a new collection.
After the Collections dialog appears, in the first field enter a collection name (1) such as HQ Staff. Next, define the members of the collection. In the search box (2), choose the type of object you wish to use. In this cast, we are using Active Directory Distribution Groups.
By default, nothing will show in the listbox on the left side. You must enter a search filter (3) in the third field. In this case, I have entered “DL” because most of our groups begin with that prefix. Select the users, groups or OU’s you want (4) and drag the items to the inclusion list. Note that if you select a group that is almost perfect, but has a few unwanted members, you can exclude those contacts.
You can also select Organizational Units just as you would a distribution group. Note that when you select an OU, all of the members of the nested OU’s are also included. You can also use an OU as exclusions.
Who gets the “GAL”
As stated in part 1, we need to define two things. The first is the source contacts which are your customized set of GAL contacts. The second part is the targets, the users who have iPhone and other Smartphones. However, we want the target list to be data driven; it is best if there isn’t a manual set of actions required to enable the Global Address List synchronization to new iPhone users. We don’t want sys admins or help desk techs having to add one more item to their checklist when a new employee starts, or when someone leaves the company.
If you are doing a pilot, make a collection to define the target users who will participate. If there is an existing AD Group that matches the pilot users, my suggestion to use the group imbedded in the collection. However, if you want to add or remove members from the pilot, editing a collection may be the easiest strategy. Changing the membership of an AD Group is another way, but be sure that it won’t affect any other capabilities of the group.
For the longer term, you will want the automatic approach. That leaves a few choices. One possible way to establish the target list is to use the same collection that was defined as the source list. For example, “All Employees” get the contacts for “All Employees.” If every employee has a Smartphone, this might be a perfect solution. Some staff members don’t have Smartphones and have direct access to the GAL at their desktop. Since these users don’t need or want these extra Outlook contacts, it would be advisable to exclude them from the list of targets. Another possibility for the targets is to use an Active Directory Group that is maintained by the help desk. This is more practical when the help desk already maintains such a list.
A popular solution is to use the itrezzo Activesync feature to automatically build a list of every Activesync user on Exchange and add that group to a target collection.
Other Important Options
The average user has a few hundred contacts. Some of these are personal contacts. Others are for co-workers. One important question is: Which contact folder do we want to sync the Global Address List contacts to? For example, GAL contacts could be synchronized to the users default contacts folder, or into a new sub-folder beneath the default contacts folder. A suggested rule of thumb could be based in the GAL size. If your collection of GAL source contacts is 1000 or less, sync to the default contacts folder. With more than 1000 contacts, you might consider a sub-folder. To set this configuration globally for all users, here are the configuration options:
- sync contacts to the default contacts folder in each Exchange Mailbox. Merge GAL contacts into existing contacts that match someone in the GAL. No duplicates are created.
- Automatically create a sub-folder named GAL (or any name you choose), which gets the synchronized contacts as they appear in the GAL. There are two options when using a sub-folder:
- If a user has a GAL contact in the default contacts folder, automatically move it to the sub-folder and maintain it in that folder. This has the benefit of avoiding the appearance of duplicate contacts on the Smartphone address book where all contacts can appear in a single view.
- If a user has a GAL contact in the default contacts folder, ignore that contact and create a new contact in the sub-folder.
These settings must be configured from the legacy Win32 Administrator since they are not yet options in the ECO Administrator. If you opt to sync to the sub-folder, you can also choose to Only manage contacts in sub-folder which is shown above.
Once this setting is made, you have the option to override the global setting for specific users. For example, if a sub-folder is used globally and you have an Android user that does not support sub-folder sync, you can configure an override for that person in the User Statistics container. This can be done from the Win32 Admin, or the ECO Web Admin. Here is an example from the latter:
Which Fields do you sync to an iPhone Contact?
Business Phone is usually a consistent and simple mapping, until it isn’t. Certain PBX vendors recommend that you populate the company internal five digit extension in the AD Business phone field. The iPhone won’t be able to route those calls when someone attempts to dial a Business phone for internal employees.
If stored in the GAL, the Mobile Phone and Home phone could be safely sync’d to the Smartphone address book. However, I’d strongly recommend that all phone numbers are fully qualified with a +1 or an appropriate country code. If you get senior staff members traveling internationally, we don’t want them to jump through hurdles just to call back to the home office.
Is the fax in AD a specific direct dial for that employee, or is it a generic number? Did you need home address? (This field isn’t even available in the GAL.)
If you wish to sync employee photo’s to Smartphone contacts, it is best to use the ADThumbnail attribute. Does your organization use PKI? If X.509 certificates stored in the GAL, they can also be synchronized to the respective Outlook Contacts.
Use the itrezzoAgent Win32 Administrator to customize the specific fields you wish to sync to Smartphone contacts. If a field in AD is in doubt, leave it out. You can always add that field after you are sure that it won’t overwrite important data in a user’s Smartphone address book.
In some cases, you will need to use Alternate Contact Sources to override the default values in the GAL. Please contact itrezzo for more information about how you can use both the Global Address List and other contact repositories to create one Unified Contact for each employee.
Misused Data Fields
On more than one occasion, we had customers that wanted to track employees home address. They had 100 users in AD and they didn’t really need the business address because everyone worked at the same location. Because there was no specific fields in AD to store Home Street, Home City, and Home State, someone decided to use the business postal address. This greatly complicated the Smartphone address book. Make certain each of the fields in AD are reasonably maintained with proper data in each field. If you have specific data that might cause issues, you can use the EPS Fields dialog to have very granular control over global contact updates.
Very Large GAL
At large customers with a GAL size exceeding 20,000 users, Active Directory Domain Controllers can become a bottleneck in performance. If you are synchronizing thousands of contacts to thousands of users, AD Lookups can hit tens of thousands. When an LDAP query takes five seconds instead of 50ms, application performance is affected. If do you have a large GAL, contact an itrezzo support member to discuss strategies for using an AD Replica database that will cache all GAL contacts.
Steps to Get started:
- Install the itrezzo Agent server and the ECO Platform Administrator. A free five user enterprise license and expert support is available at no charge. Contact sales to arrange for this opportunity.
- Use your mailbox, or a test mailbox as a target to setup your initial Global Address List sync scenario.
- If successful, expand the pilot to a few more users.
- Get feedback from each employee about the quality of their contacts. Refine contacts and data sources until it is optimal for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone users.