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Synchronize Outlook Contacts Automatically For The Entire Office

Kris VanHemert

If there is one thing that frustrates small business owners, it is ineffective contact management. There is a way to handle the process of updating existing contacts, the addition of new contacts, and the deletion of inactive contacts. We are all mobile these days with our laptop and PDA serving as extensions of our office. So how do we add a new contact to our PDA in the morning and distribute that new contact to other office members by the next morning? Better still, how can we correct a contact and have the correction distributed in a timely manner? Here’s how.

We must establish from this point onward that Outlook or Outlook Express with it’s notorious MAPI (messaging application programming interface) is here to stay. For the foreseeable future the desktop mail application will be some form of Outlook. Outlook is certainly the connection of choice for CRM applications such as ACT and Goldmine because they know all to well that Outlook is established as a foundation in small business software.

Contacts are just one folder and record type in the Outlook database. The Outlook database file also contains calendar records which are tough to keep up with as well. Everyone who has owned a PDA in the last 10 years has become familiar with the synchronization process. So it should be no surprise that the task of keeping all the contact lists and calendars the same involves synchronization of one sort or another.

The unavoidable problem is that the database file (.pst) for Outlook allows one user at a time. Two different Outlook programs cannot connect to outlook.pst where all the data is at the same time. This is by design and will never change, at least as far as I can tell. So what to do? The first step is to select a third party synchronizing program that will open two databases (.pst files) at the same time and copy data between them. We use SynchPST from Wisco products www.SynchPST.com. We can follow the authors step by step instructions to set up automated synchronization between two .pst files.

Step one is to master the automated synchronization from one PC to another. Keep in mind that PDA’a have a sync to Outlook function already, we are simply going to fit that into the scheme.

Step two, we select a location for our master .pst file. This location can be anywhere on your LAN that is easy to get to. If you’re a little unsure about navigating your LAN and file sharing, here is a great link to clear up the lingering doubts http://support.microsoft.com/kb/304040/. After we have selected a location for the master .pst file and we have shared the file correctly so that anyone and everyone who needs access can get to it, we must create a empty .pst or database file from with Outlook.

Note here: Outlook Express does not use .pst files. We must use Outlook. Outlook can create a .pst file in a couple of different ways depending on the version of Outlook you have. If you have not created a .pst file before, look at this link and go from there http://support.microsoft.com/kb/829971/. The idea here is to create a blank .pst file with two different folder types inside it. One folder type is a contact folder. Another folder type is a calendar folder. The folder names have to match in the case of SynchPST however your selected sync software may operate differently.

The last step is to schedule some synchronizations to occur. The time you select here is important because the synchronizations cannot occur at the same time. If the master .pst file is in use the synchronization will fail. Here is my layout diagramed below. I called my master file common.pst. The default Outlook .pst file is outlook.pst

The synchronization has to go in both directions. That is if there is a new record in common.pst it has to migrate to the desktops. If there is a new record in one of the desktops it has to migrate to common.pst on the server. A server is not required here. Any PC will do, even if it is the same as on of the desktops. The PDA’s have their own sync software which is quite capable of synchronizing in two directions.

Back to more Microsoft Outlook Help

About the Author:

Kris VanHemert, Technologist and Engineer for over 20 years. Former I.T. Director and Systems Integrator. Currently a business owner providing I.T. consulting and services in the greater Atlanta metro area. email: kris@harmonycomputing.com web: http://www.harmonycomputing.com


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