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I've been trying to find some information on how email works with Microsoft Exchange servers but couldn't find any? Yes, I tried Microsoft :)
Specifically, where servers need to be located i.e. is it 1 central exchange server or are multiple ones located around the country for big companies with multiple offices, etc.?
If you have a setup where you have an exchange server in 10 offices around the country, what's the benefit then? I presume all these exchange servers must be on contact with each other or is there a master server somewhere?
Okay, so you could have 1 exchange server where people connect to from anywhere in the world?
Yes, certainly you could. Of course, there are limitations as to the number of mailboxes and so on that can be served by a single server. For example, you can't have 20 million people sharing a single Exchange server, but you could have 200 people from around the world.
If you have a setup where you have an exchange server in 10 offices around the country, what's the benefit then?
The closer the server is to the end-user, the better the performance. The more Exch Servers you have, the more highly available your solution is; if you have one Exch server and it goes doen, no one gets mail. If you have 10 Exchange servers and one goes down, lots of people still get mail.
I presume all these exchange servers must be on contact with each other or is there a master server somewhere?
Exchange Servers are organized into exchange organizations and routing groups that do, in fact, communicate with each other as well as with non-MS brand email servers.
This is a really big and very complicated subject... depending on what you hope to do, you may need to read a book. Here's a technical article that will get you pointed in the right direction.
Keep in mind this product is designed to scale to companies the size of GE (160,000 employees), or to handle Mom-n-Pop shops (5 employees).
If you're at the Mon-n-Pop end of the spectrum, yoiu should consider purchasing Exchange Server bundled with Small Business Server, which will guide you thru the process of creating a domain controller.
Exchange Server itself is expensive (plus client access licenses are $60 each), and getting everything set up is quite challenging, but in spite of all that, it's without a doubt the best mail server in the world.
Best of luck!