Sync GAL to Outlook

The Global Address List (GAL) is a shared, electronic address book which contains contact data on every person in an organization. The GAL affects almost every aspect of Microsoft Exchange Server. If you are involved with the management or upkeep of a Microsoft Exchange Server, you know that Exchange’s operations revolve almost entirely around the GAL. 

Syncing the Global Address List to Outlook didn’t use to be fast or easy. 

The GAL and Outlook

While useful, this database has a fundamental flaw. Currently, individual users can view the GAL in Outlook and add contacts from the GAL to their individual Outlook address book. However, when developing the Exchange servers, Microsoft left a “Missing Sync.” They have not provided a native method to automatically sync the GAL to Outlook-enabled devicesAnd, there seems to be no plans now or in the future to fill this gap 

Making sure the Global Address List is accessible and usable by every individual in an organization is a universal need. This is especially true in a society where work can be done in and out of the office. Organizations of every size require consistent and accurate contact information. They also need to ensure that their employees have access to this information at their desk and on the go.  

Syncing the Global Address List isn’t a one-time exercise either. Contacts change frequently. People often leave or join a company. Other times contact details change for personal reasons. All these changes need to be synced accurately and without undue delay. 

This Missing Sync can cause major revenue and productivity loss. Many organizations have resulted to their own in-house solutions. However, these solutions aren’t full proof either.   

Manually Push ContactsAn organization’s central administrator can push the GAL to individual mailboxes. While this may be feasible for companies that have less than 100 mailboxes, as a company grows, the amount of labor required for this becomes impractical. 

Can’t Access Contacts Offline. A common work-around is to perform a simple reverse lookup on individuals via Outlook. This is sometimes reliable (albeit tedious), but it completely falls apart when offline. Should information be needed in a general dead-zone like on an airplane or in a tunnel, there will be no way to access the GAL. 

Updates Aren’t Automatic. What happens to existing contacts when they change? Under a manual setup, numbers or contact photos won’t update without a central administrator pushing that information to a user’s phone. Imagine doing that for hundreds or even thousands of employees.  

Solutions for Office 365 and On-Premise Exchange

Many hoped that Microsoft would address the myriad of issues present with data repositories and Outlook-enabled devices when they created Office 365Unfortunately, the new cloud service did not fix any of these issues. However, Microsoft created opportunities for third-party solutions to fill the gap left by the Missing Sync.  

For Office 365 users, solutions such as CiraSync provide a very simple, singlesign-on process which allows a central administrator to update, edit, and sync the GAL to any number of company Outlook-enabled devices.  

Exchange On-Premise has a similar solution in itrezzo. While On-Premise solutions inherently require more time and effort to configure, once set up, the process is not much different than with CiraSync. 

Benefits and Features of GAL Sync to Outlook

By utilizing an all-in-one GAL Sync platform, administrators will be able to consolidate GAL contacts with other sources. Both itrezzo and CiraSync allow administrators to combine contacts from the GAL, Public Folders, CRM systems, SQL databases, and spreadsheets and centrally manage and automatically sync these contacts to employee Outlook-enabled devices.  

The benefits do not end there. itrezzo and CiraSync allow administrators to automatically sort and filter legacy data. This cleans the company data base of redundant and obsolete data. Furthermore, this ensures the most up-to-date information is available on employee Outlook-enabled devices.  

On-Premise Exchange users can also ensure their employees receive the most accurate company data by updating the GAL. itrezzo can leverage data inputted by the central administrator to update the GAL and any associated Active Directory fields 

SaaS like itrezzo and CiraSync can minimize data costs with incremental updates. Incremental updates reduce IT labor and errors of manual solutions by only looking for and syncing modified data to Outlook-enabled devices.   

 Distribution Groups in the GAL

Distribution Groups are collections or subgroups created with the contact data of individuals in the organization. IT will have set up several of these subgroups or distribution set up, especially for a large organization. 

When looking for a GAL sync solution, users should find a solution that can leverage distribution groups. Distribution groups are great tools to sync GAL contacts to employee smartphones. By setting up automatic GAL Sync to only push contacts to certain groups or update only when a change is made, users can ensure the most accurate information are on their Outlook-enabled devices, while users who don’t need the contacts never need to worry about receiving redundant contacts.