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ActiveSync via Windows? Welcome to Windows 8

by on December 17, 2012

I’ve been running Windows 8 for a few months now. Most of my time I use it as I did Windows 7, in the “Desktop.” But, recently I’ve been delving into some of the Windows 8 apps hoping I would figure out the value of this new version of Windows. I’ve found a few nice apps, and I like the ability to dock an app on the side of my Desktop (such as Lync, news, etc).

I decided to check out the Mail app. I configured it with the info to contact our Exchange environment and it dawned on me that it is using ActiveSync to access it. If I were running Windows 8 RT then this would make a whole lot of sense. How else would I get access to Exchange? But with full blown Windows running on my laptop, I traditionally leverage an SSL VPN to connect Outlook to Exchange. This setup requires dual-factor authentication (a plus!) and gives me full native Outlook access to Exchange. Gotham does not support Outlook Anywhere in an effort to force dual-factor authentication for laptop access.

But, Windows 8 Mail seems to just bypass that by bringing ActiveSync access to Windows. Outlook Anywhere is not required to provide single factor mail, calendar, contacts access to Exchange. ActiveSync allows my Windows 8 laptop to gain access to Exchange without VPN. But, is this really what we want? Will Windows 8 Mail work with MDM products to lock it down? It seems to integrate with normal ActiveSync policies (force password, and other lockdowns I needed to allow when setting up syncing). But as laptops transform into tablets and tablets transform into phones and who knows what’s next, these lines will continue to blur.

Anyway, heads up. Your users with Windows 8 can configure their laptop/desktop to pretend it is a mobile device and avoid layers of protection you may have in place.

Welcome to Windows 8!

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