Unified Messaging 101: Stop letting it stump you


For many IT pros, Unified Messaging is a total mystery. They don’t understand what’s it used for, how it works or what features it offers that aren’t already available in their Exchange environments.

I will answer these questions and more at a TechEd session on June 5 called “The Deep Dark Secrets of Unified Messaging.” For people who can’t attend, I recently hosted a TrainSignal webinar on the topic. Here are the highlights, followed by the complete recorded webinar.

Unified Messaging (UM) was released as a separate server role with Exchange 2007. It’s really a set of services, and they have been enhanced with each service pack and major release. Some people are skeptical that it won’t live up to its hype, but I’ve seen it deployed in enterprise-scale companies with thousands of employees, and it works like  a charm. Basically what it does is it provides for a universal inbox for email, viocemail and incoming fax.  Really, the notable part of it is on the voicemail side. Exchange has built in a universal inbox where voicemail is included, so you don’t have to purchase a separate solution.

So, within your organization, you probably have a PBX that handles incoming calls and you probably have a voicemail piece to your set up as well.  So with the UM services, Microsoft isn’t looking for you to throw away your phone system (if you wanted to do that you could go with a Lync server) but rather to just break one little piece of it: the voicemail piece. With UM, if configured properly, you can have voicemails left for end-users that can be MP3s (or some other audio format) and can even be transcribed into the email.  You can also have incoming fax configured if you have a partner fax server solution with a URI provided by the fax solution provider.

  • Outlook Voice Access (OVA): Users can call their inbox to access voicemail, email, calendar and contacts (all read to the user with text-to-speech).
  • Voice Mail Preview: Uses speech-to-text to take a voicemail and put a preview in your inbox (uses best guess for words it does not understand).
  • Incoming Fax: Requires a specialized fax vendor that will allow faxes to be sent to your inbox in .tif format.
  • Play on Phone: Allows users to play their voicemails on a phone, rather than through their computer speakers.
  • Auto Attendant: Has a set of default prompts but can also have company-specific prompts (can be voice or DTMF)

Watch the recording below for details on initial configuration, hardware requirements and deployment:

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