The VARS Challenge & Opportunity in Mastering MS Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging
Most enterprises today use separate voice, fax and email systems. Emails are received by a server such as Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and are accessed through email clients like Microsoft Outlook. Voice systems are independent systems accessed via a telephone connected to a PBX. Faxes are often received by stand alone machines and typically have to be manually sorted in order to be delivered to the correct end user. Both, users and administrators have to use multiple sets of tools - one or more for each of these systems in order to manage their communication.
The Unified Messaging features integrated into Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 highlight the industry trend of moving to IP-PBXs. A company can integrate their IP-PBX as well as their traditional/digital PBX with Microsoft Exchange, and truly unify their business communications in a single place, which is accessible through all the well-known interface of Microsoft Outlook.
I am going to focus on integrating the traditional/digital PBX with Exchange 2007 with the Audiocodes line of gateways. AudioCodes has been working closely with Microsoft supporting the Microsoft Unified Communications vision, by enabling the connection of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 into legacy PBXs and the PSTN.
In working closely with many Microsoft TAP (Technology Adoption Program) customers, Audiocodes has announced the general availability of Basic Hybrid gateway configurations for the Mediant 1000 and Mediant 2000 gateways. Click here for the press release.
Audiocodes allows easy connectivity between the Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 unified messaging system, the Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and the existing enterprise PBX & PSTN. By using AudioCodes' Mediantâ„¢ digital media gateways and/or AudioCodes' MediaPackâ„¢ analog media gateways, the existing enterprise PBX can be connected to the Microsoft system, and allow transparent services over the IP, SIP-based network.
Here is a basic overview of the solution:
Now that you see the solution the question becomes what things do I need to know?
To start with you need to know how you are going to connect the existing PBX (ex. FXO ports, Digital Trunk)
Then you will need to know the dialing plan on the PBX (ex. 9 for outside line, 9 1 for long distance, etcâ€¦)
Does the current system already have voicemail? If so what type of system is currently installed and how does it connect to the PBX?
To find an in-depth list of things to know Click HERE.
There are many variables and details that need to be covered, but I will skip those to try and keep you from total boredom :o)
Once you have the questions answered you will decide which Audiocodes product best meets your needs.
For this posting we will assume we are using the Audiocodes MediaPack 11x which allows for up to 8 FXO connections to the existing PBX. The MP11x will allow us up to 8 Voicemail ports at one time from the digital PBX.
The MediaPack gateway ensures interoperability with leading PBXs, supporting the following interworking features:
Forward Calls: delivery of voice mail messages to Exchange Server 2007 (PBX ïƒ gateway ïƒ voice mail server)
Direct Call: retrieval of voice mail messages from the Exchange Server 2007 (PBX ïƒ gateway ïƒ voice mail server)
Message Waiting Indication: notifying the PBX on remaining voice mail messages (voice mail server ïƒ gateway ïƒ PBX)
Call Transfer: transferring calls to an operator or to a different PBX extension (voice mail server ïƒ gateway ïƒ PBX)
PBX Disconnect Code: after receiving the DTMF code from the PBX, the gateway terminates its session with the PBX and Exchange Server 2007.
Well what are the features that Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging offers?
Voice Messaging System
Voice mail can now be stored in the mailbox and accessed from a unified inbox in Outlook, Outlook Web Access, on a mobile device, or from a standard telephone. This unification improves employee productivity by simplifying access to the most common types of communications. It also dramatically reduces cost by removing the need for a standalone voice mail system and by taking advantage of any existing investments in Active Directory. Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging can be connected with a legacy private branch exchange (PBX) infrastructure through an IP gateway, or can be directly connected with certain IP PBX installations.
Fax Messaging System
Faxes can now be stored in the mailbox and accessed from the user's unified inbox in Outlook, Outlook Web Access, or their mobile device. Unified Messaging centralizes the management of inbound fax services within the Exchange infrastructure.
Speech-Enabled Automated Attendant
The Attendant answers calls using an automated operator, with customizable menus (e.g. press 1 for sales), and global address list directory lookups (e.g. who would you like to contact?). Callers can interact with the Automated Attendant through touch tone menus or their voice using speech recognition.
Self-Service Voice Mail Support
Using Outlook Web Access, users can request a reset of their voice mail PIN, set their voice mail greeting, record their out-of-office voice message, and specify mailbox folders to access when calling in by phone to hear e-mail messages through text-to-speech translation.
Outlook Voice Access
Users can access their Exchange mailbox using a standard telephone, available anywhere. Through touch tone or speech-enabled menus, they can hear and act on their calendar, listen to e-mail messages (translated from text to speech), listen to voice mail messages, call their contacts, or call users listed in the directory.
Play on Phone
Exchange Unified Messaging allows users to playback voice messages received in their Exchange inbox on a designated phone. This feature is useful when a user is in a public place and does not want to play the voice mail over their computer speakers. Play on Phone routes the voice mail to a cell phone, desk phone, or other number specified by the user.
Perhaps the most important feature from the user's perspective is Outlook Voice Access, a wonderful addition to Exchange Server 2007 that essentially connects the data in a user's Exchange mailbox with speech capabilities embedded within the server product (the speech capabilities rely on an included, "lite" version of Microsoft Speech Server). A user can dial the Exchange gateway number, enter credentials and then be connected with his or her calendar and messages in the Inbox. Outlook Voice Access will read e-mail and fax messages, calendar details, contact information and the like over the phone.
But it's not a one-way solution -- Outlook Voice Access responds to verbal commands, like an automated attendant with secretary-type powers. So if your flight is delayed, for example, and the person you're meeting on the other end needs to know you will be two hours late, you can tell Outlook Voice Access over the phone to reschedule your meeting for two hours later.
You can also call in and clear your schedule for a specific block of time, or an entire day, and Exchange will let your meeting participants know of your absence, including with a voice recording explaining things, if you wish. You can also perform common mailbox management functions, like replying to and deleting messages, over the phone from anywhere.
Where can I learn more? A couple links below:
***Microsoft is currently offering a free Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging course (not sure how long it will be free)
Well that is all for now. At some point we will have a webinar session available to you that will explain in greater detail the configuration steps needed on the Audiocodes gateways and in the Exchange Server.
One last question: Do you have any case studies to share?
These case studies are provided from Audiocodes click on the links below to check them out.
Colorado State University Enhances Collaboration, Productivity with Unified Communications - A Microsoft Case Study
Glentel - Telecommunications Company Improves Collaboration with Unified Communications - A Microsoft Case Study
FedEx Kinko's Turns to Unified Messaging to Streamline User and Administrative Tasks - A Microsoft Case Study