Webmail 2 brings major improvements to AKO e-mail

By Mr. Sheldon S Smith (USARC)June 8, 2010

Fort McCoy Computer center helps mobilized Soldiers stay in touch
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FORT BELVOIR, Va. (June 8, 2010) -- Members of the Defense community who use Army Knowledge Online/Defense Knowledge Online webmail now have better ways to communicate online.

A new interface, "Webmail 2," upgrades AKO secure e-mail messaging with improved calendar and task functions, enhanced address book access, and one gigabyte of mailbox storage for common access card users.

With nearly 2.3 million users, AKO/DKO is the nation's largest organizational intranet. Nearly 70 percent of AKO account holders use webmail on a regular basis, with many using AKO/DKO as their only business e-mail. In a typical month, more than 300 million e-mail messages are sent through AKO/DKO.

"This is a significant e-mail upgrade since we are providing users with a drag-and-drop web interface that will make using e-mail, calendar, tasks and contacts much easier," said Kenneth Fritzsche, product director for AKO/DKO.

"Webmail 2 gives our users the same types of capabilities that they would have if they were in an office using popular desktop clients such as Outlook or Thunderbird on an Exchange-type e-mail server," said Patrick O'Brien, chief engineer for AKO Enterprise Mail.

The main benefits of AKO/DKO webmail are secure portability and availability.

"Users can log on and manage their e-mail or their calendars anywhere there's an internet connection," said Fritzsche. "Strong authentication coupled with knowledge-based authentication makes their access secure, and users can digitally sign messages."

KBA strengthens security by requiring users to click on the correct responses to three "secret" questions. AKO/DKO randomly generates these questions based on a larger set of questions answered by users during the KBA set-up process.

AKO/DKO users will notice a tabbed interface and right-click functions similar to Windows-based products. Webmail 2 even offers a built-in instant messaging feature with presence awareness that allows users to see colleagues or buddies online and chat with them right away. This feature is connected to the AKO/DKO IM chat application.

"We've worked with our vendors to make improvements based on feedback from users, and are implementing this product upgrade in an attempt to satisfy their needs," said Fritzsche. "You will notice a huge improvement in our calendar, which streamlines processes that were more difficult in the previous version. Plus, Webmail 2 just looks better."

A significant upgrade is a feature that allows AKO/DKO users to share calendars with other users, anywhere in the world. Previously, calendars between AKO and non-AKO users could only be shared within the same network domain. Webmail 2 provides drag-and-drop convenience to allow users to organize and make changes to meetings and other events.

Users can find AKO/DKO colleagues more quickly with enhanced search capabilities and better access to the massive AKO/DKO global address list or GAL. Users can access the same address book at work, home and on their government-issued mobile devices.

Go Mobile is an initiative to further develop technology that puts the capabilities and security of AKO/DKO in the palm of the user's hand. Through Go Mobile, AKO/DKO will host a growing portfolio of applications similar to those available through commercial wireless providers.

Another e-mail option is Outlook Connector, a third-party e-mail client that allows users to access AKO/DKO e-mail and its resources through Microsoft Outlook on a laptop or PC without logging into the AKO/DKO portal, and without accessing a Microsoft Exchange server.

AKO/DKO account holders who wish to try Webmail 2 can log on to the following URL: https://webmail2.us.army.mil.

For deployed users, the AKO/DKO mail team is developing a slimmed-down version of Webmail 2 that's adapted for low-band-width environments.

The staff at AKO/DKO welcomes feedback from deployed users. Information requests and suggestions can be sent to ako.dko.liaison@us.army.mil.

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