With Exchange Server 2007 Microsoft added Unified Messaging functionality to its Messaging and Collaboration System. With Exchange Server 2010, Unified Messaging has grown to version 2 and some great new features have been added to improve functionality and provide a solution that now can be implemented in big deployments and even in small ones.
One thing that did not change at all is the fact that Exchange Servers running the Unified Messaging Role have to be physical and not virtual in order to provide support from Microsoft. The reason for this is quite easy; voice needs high performance with the server machine working at 100% availability and this is one thing that Virtualization can not always guarantee.
The technical architecture of Exchange Server 2010 did not change at all in comparison to Exchange Server 2007 as you can see in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Technical Architecture of Exchange 2010 Unified Messaging
The only design thing that changed is that a new audio codec MP3 has been added to provide smarter support for Blackberry and iPhones, because their default audio codec is MP3 by default.
New Administrative Features
One thing that we did not have at all with Exchange Server 2010 was the feature of security delegation. The new Role Based Access Control provides the following Unified Messaging:
UM Administrator: Can administer any UM functionality without any exceptions
UM Recipient Administrator: Can provision UM mailboxes, can reset PINs and clear lockouts
UM Prompt Administrator: Can update dial plans and our Auto attendant prompts
If these roles are not detailed enough for your environment, you can also create any type of custom UM admin role that might be needed.
Voice Mail Preview
Another great new function is the ability to preview voice mails. This means that it is easier to navigate through a high number of voice messages in your mailbox. With Exchange Server 2010 speech-to-text translation, users can read through the contents of a voice message. If you are opening these voice messages with Outlook 2010, the message will behave like a text message; this means it will recognize names, contacts and phone numbers, too.
Figure 2: Voice Mail Preview with Outlook 2010
Voice Message Security
Another problem with Exchange Server 2007 has been solved too; now you can secure the message content using Active Directory Rights Management Services. This provides a way to define the permissions of a message itself by the sender of a message itself or by administrative policy defined on by the server administrator, thus preventing the possibility of forwarding voice mails directly to unauthorized persons. This feature does not rely on the mail client you are using, this is great too.
Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging Auto Attendant enables users to easily reach a person in an organization. This can be done either using the telephone key pad or voice commands. It provides you the ability to:
define greetings for your customers based on daytime schedules
enable customers to call an operator
create an individual set of menu for your customers
Figure 3: Personal Auto Attendant
Call Answering Rules
As a unified messaging user having its mailbox on Exchange Server 2010 you will have more control over your calls and the calls flow. You can define your own call answering rules. This means you are able to route specific callers to your voice box, your customers to your secretary and your personal callers (e.g. your family) directly to your mobile phone. This can be done by using specific conditions like caller-IDs, time schedules of the day, your free/busy information of your calendar or anything else that is being provided by your messaging environment.
Message Waiting Indicator (MWI)
With the new Message Waiting Indicator each unified messaging user is notified of new or unread voice mails by a lighting lamp. In addition it provides a counter on their individual supported desk phone that is integrated into your Unified Messaging Infrastructure, too. In addition it can configure your mailbox to receive a SMS notification with the number of new voice mails and – if you want to – the mail preview in this SMS, too.
More Language Support
With Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging users can now listen and interact with their messages within their own native language or dialect. Exchange Server 2010 UM supports 16 languages including three dialects of English plus Mandarin, European and North American Spanish and French and even Cantonese and Mandarin, too.
Support for hosted Exchange Unified Messaging
If you are currently technically unable to run Unified Messaging in your network environment, you can use the new Exchange Server Organization Federation feature to run this role in “the cloud” at a dedicated provider like Microsoft is doing with its “Hosted Exchange Service”.
No Fax Support Anymore
With Exchange Server 2007 the Unified Messaging role provided support for incoming faxes. This feature has been decommissioned by Microsoft with Exchange Server 2010. The reason for this is that the biggest problem for deployments has been that there was no way for outgoing faxes. This means that you would have to buy a 3rd party solution for fax functionality and the implementation of the fax feature was not able to handle this quite easily. So, Microsoft decided to remove this feature completely and only provide a good API to enable other companies to provide add on software for fax support.
Lots of companies who have finished moving to the new 64-Bit release of Exchange Server are now prepared to combine their telephone and computer network with V2 of Unified Messaging that comes with Exchange Server 2010. This role is now ready for big deployments with high security business requirements and at the same moment for small or medium sized companies, too. Phone and messaging collaboration have become brother and sister now. Adding cross functionality provides every employee an easier way to do his job more quickly since this is what todays’ job of information technology really is. As soon as your PSTN can provide a SIP gateway, you are able to start with the Unified Messaging role now.
For further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.