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Unified Messaging features in Exchange Server 2007

Exchange Unified Messaging Features

Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging is more than a substitute for an existing voicemail system. Besides the basic voicemail functionality that can be expected of any voicemail system, the following unique features make Exchange's UM Server attractive:

  • Outlook Voice Access
  • Outlook Calendar Access
  • Directory and Personal Contacts Access
  • Outlook and OWA Voicemail Form
  • Auto Attendant

Outlook Voice Access

A phone system is recognizable to most people by the phones used to place calls. Today this includes analog phones, digital phones, cellular phones, satellite phones, and VoIP phones. The keypad interface we are familiar with using to place calls, accept calls, and check for messages is called the telephone user interface (TUI).

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This is part #2 from "Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging for administrators," excerpted from Chapter 9 of the book Microsoft Exchange Server 2007: The Complete Reference, published by McGraw-Hill Osborne Media.
Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging extends the phone user interface to include voice commands and voice menus. This additional interface is called the voice user interface (VUI). Microsoft refers to both interfaces from the Exchange 2007 UM server as simply Outlook Voice Access (OVA). It makes sense then that the primary Unified Messaging client will still be phones.

The only command that cannot be entered by voice is the subscriber's PIN. Currently OVA only supports the English language for voice commands. But it can be customized to support phonetic version of users' names that do not sound like they are spelled. A text-to-speech engine is built into the UM server to allow email message to be read from a users mailbox. The text-to-speech feature is available for languages other than English, including Portuguese (Brazilian), Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and Swedish. This feature is smart enough to know which one to use based on the content of an email.

Outlook Voice Access allows a phone to be a Unified Messaging client. A UM-enabled user can call into their company's UM server and access the following:

  • Voicemail
  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Meeting requests
  • Out-of-office messages settings
  • Security settings
  • Personalization settings

To secure access to voicemail, Exchange associates a personal identification number (PIN) with each subscriber. Although this is an attribute on the user object, it is not the same as the user's password. Users can change their PINs on their own without administrative assistance.

Outlook Calendar Access

UM phone users can connect to their calendars and listen to their upcoming schedule. Appointments can be added, modified, or cancelled by phone. Responses can be made to meeting requests. In fact, it is also possible for a subscriber to notify other participants of a meeting that they are running late by sending an "I'll be late" message from their phone. This has been one of the more popular demonstrations that Microsoft is using to bring awareness to Unified Messaging at technical conferences and sales events.

Directory and Personal Contacts Access

Because UM is integrated with Active Directory and Exchange, UM clients have additional contact lookup capabilities. The Global Address List, which contains all Exchange recipients in Active Directory, and Outlook contacts, which are stored in each user's mailbox, are fully accessible to the UM clients. Using a keypad on a phone or a voice command, users can search for a contact. Once a contact has been found, the user can use the contact's phone number to send a voicemail, place a call to one of their listed numbers, or just listen to their contact information, such as the business address.

Outlook and OWA Voicemail Form

Although Unified Messaging has transformed what a phone can be, it has also transformed what an email client can be. In fact, the line has been so blurred between the two that it no longer matters if you use a phone or a computer for any form of messaging. It is simply a matter of preference and convenience. Unified Messaging extends the functionality of the email client by adding a new form specifically for voicemail messages in a user's mailbox. The new form provides a number of options for reviewing voicemails from Outlook and Outlook Web Access (OWA). Because voicemails contain audio, the voicemail form contains controls similar to a media player, allowing users to perform the following tasks:

  • Play a voicemail on speakers/headphones
  • Stop a voicemail
  • Pause a voicemail
  • Play voicemail on a telephone
  • Add and edit notes

The voicemail form is only compatible with Outlook 2007 and Outlook Web Access 2007, as shown in Figure 2 from one of Microsoft's Virtual Hard Drives (VHD).

Figure 2 Outlook 2007 voicemail form

To obtain the Exchange Server 2007 SP1 VHD go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=43621a8f-12fb-4e7c-bb38-lcbb6ef272c5&DisplayLang=en. If an incompatible client receives a voicemail, it will appear as an attachment to an email. The attachment can be played back with Windows Media Player or another audio player.

Auto Attendant

Today's global economy opens opportunities for businesses to serve customers around the globe. Both small and large businesses alike are dependent on having a phone system that can respond to calls on a 24/7 basis in order to maintain good customer relationships and participate in the global marketplace. The Auto Attendant in the Exchange Unified Messaging Server allows an organization to do the following:

  • Create customized menus
  • Define custom greetings
  • Add holiday schedules
  • Provide help with searching the voice directory
  • Provide help with connecting to a user's extension
  • Provide help with searching the directory for a specific user
  • Define an operator extension

Each of these are voice prompts stored as WAV files that take the place of a dedicated person answering inbound phone calls. The Auto Attendant can respond to input from a caller. The input could be in the form of DTMF from a keypad or speech inputs from the caller. The best part is, the Auto Attendant never has to go home.


Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging for administrators

 Home: Introduction to Unified Messaging on Exchange 2007
 Part 1: An intro to voice systems for Exchange administrators
 Part 2: Unified Messaging features in Exchange Server 2007
 Part 3: Defining Exchange Unified Messaging architecture
 Part 4: Deploying Unified Messaging servers on Exchange Server 2007
 Part 5: Comparing VoIP PBX solutions for Unified Messaging
 Part 6: Integrating Unified Messaging servers with a VoIP solution
 Part 7: Creating a Unified Messaging Dial Plan
 Part 8: Configuring a Unified Messaging IP gateway
 Part 9: Mailbox policy configuration for Unified Messaging
 Part 10: Creating and assigning a Unified Messaging hunt group
 Part 11: Dialing rules and restrictions for Unified Messaging users
 Part 12: Assigning Unified Messaging dialing rules to a mailbox policy
 Part 13: Executing Unified Messaging grammar generation
 Part 14: Enabling Unified Messaging mailboxes and users

This chapter excerpt from Microsoft Exchange Server 2007: The Complete Reference, by Richard Luckett, William Lefkovics and Bharat Suneja, is printed with permission from McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, Copyright 2008.

Click here for the chapter download or purchase the book here.

This was first published in January 2009

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