Office Document Strategies Blog

Burlington Office IT Co. Finds Blackberry Z10 Active Sync Solution

Posted by Ian Leppert on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 @ 08:08 AM

Blackberry Z10 For Active Sync  New Blackberry Z10 Deployment:

Recently our company decided to refresh our mobile phones. We needed a smart phone that would work well with both our field based Technical and Sales teams. We were an existing Blackberry account so after careful review we decided familiarity for users and a patriotic sense of 'Oh Canada' would lead us to adopt the new Blackberry Z10 series phones.

To BES or not to BES, that is the question?

We now had a choice of which email platform to deploy to push our emails to and from our phones. We could continue to use BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) or since the new models now supported Active Sync using Microsoft Exchange we could go that route.

Because the new Blackberry 10 Operating System required a refresh to a new version of BES, and our current BES server was over deployed it was appealing to use the already present Active Sync built into our Microsoft Exchange. So far so good, all we had to do now was configure it...hopefully this would be an easy task - however we found a great lack of information on exactly how to do it.

Technical Challenges:

After much fiddling for a couple of days we were able to Send email from our phones, but could not receive any! Now our initial giddiness of having cool new phones with new features to play with was quickly fading. We had no easy way to receive email while being mobile, except to use the phones web browser connected to our Outlook Web Access. New bigger screens or not this was just awkward! The whole point in having a smart phone in the first place was of course to make and receive calls but next priority was to send and receive emails efficiently.

The punch line and solution: 

I won't keep you waiting...the answer to make everything work was as it usually is in IT something simple: TURN OFF ANTIVIRUS product on server! At some point Microsoft Security Essentials had been installed on our Server, once we uninstalled this everything began to magically work! While you might think that two Microsoft products would play well together, reality is Microsoft didn't envision Security Essentials running in a Server environment - something about it interfered with Exchange's Active Sync's access to needed files. This solution came after we reviewed dozens of articles on the web, each one gave us a little hint here and there or talked about X500 or other error codes we were not getting, our logs were clean. To add insult to injury using another employee's iPhone the Sync worked first time both ways. However, we determined it wasn't purely a Blackberry issue as we could not achieve 2 way sync with a Samsung Galaxy smart phone either until the Anti-virus was uninstalled from our server.

ActiveSync resized 600

Battery Life experiences with Active Sync:

Having overcome this technical hurdle we now found our phones were syncing email but kept constantly re-synching, this chewed through the phones battery rapidly, we were lucky to get 4-5 hrs use thru the day without having to stop and recharge.

The solution here turned out to be to reduce the frequency of of Active Sync updates, having the phone set to Push email immediately drained the battery down too quickly.

Settings that worked best for us:

  • Set Active Sync update frequency to 5 mins or 15 mins
  • Reduce the number of days to Sync: choose 3 or 7 days vs 30 days of email to be kept on phone, this reduces the amount of data to sync or resync. 
  • Optimize battery life by using Wireless connections whenever possible: ie if you have wireless at work and home set your phone to automatically use these wireless zones vs. using the built in cellular radio in your smart phone.
  • Make sure you check for software and firmware updates for your phone regularily.

We also found following this guide from Blackberry helped:

After reading this we turned Near Field Communications (NFC) off as we weren't using it and reduced the default time the phones back light stayed illuminated down to 20 seconds also helped.

We have now gone from getting 4-5 hrs between charges, to 1-2 full days possible.

Firmware update gives 100% improvement in battery life!

Overall Conclusion:

Hopefully this knowledge can assist others that may be trying get their Z10 smart phones running well with Exchange Active Sync. Our conclusion is that it runs quite efficiently, when we did have push enabled email sent from our phones arrived literally instantaneously in our Outlook. Waiting 5 - 15 minutes in the field to get our email resynced turned out to not be a big issue. Overall we would recommend Active Sync if you are careful to optimize your battery usage. 

What has been your experience with Active Sync and your Smartphone?

How do you rate Active Sync vs. BES?

Ian L


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Topics: Software, IT network, technology tools, e-mail, server software, IT support