Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 3

by Shijaz Abdulla on 20.08.2007 at 08:37

See also: Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 1, Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 2

So you’ve figured out how Voicemail works on Exchange Unified Messaging. Let’s now see how users can call office and read and respond to their email & meeting requests, check out their calendar agenda and contacts – all using a phone handset. (Look ma, no PC!)

Its pretty useful when user’s are on the road, and are not within easy access to an Internet kiosk. Or, it can be that a user is getting late for a meeting, stuck in a traffic jam and he just wants to let all the attendees know that he will be late for the meeting. If the only thing he has access to in his car is his mobile phone, it’s easier to update the meeting response rather than calling each individual separately.

How Outlook Voice Access (OVA) works

Outlook Voice Access (OVA) is the feature that lets users call their Exchange Server and check their email, calendar and contacts. The user dials the OVA phone number and the Central Office directs his call to your organization’s PBX. Based on the coverage plan configured on the PBX for the OVA number, the PBX forwards the call to your Exchange UM server. If the PBX is not IP-enabled, you will need a VOIP gateway behind the PBX which converts circuit switched network to a packet switched IP network, which Exchange UM server can understand. The VOIP Gateway sets up a session with the UM server using SIP.

When the user dials in to OVA, this sweet young lady sitting inside the Exchange Server goes: “Welcome. You are now connected to Microsoft Exchange. To access your mailbox, enter your extension number”. User enters his extension number on the DTMF enabled keypad of his telephone. The UM server queries the Active directory to obtain the user’s account and mailbox information from the AD based on the extension number entered by the user.

OVA then asks the user to enter his PIN number. User enters his PIN number on the DTMF enabled keypad of his telephone. The UM server queries the Active directory to obtain the user’s information and uses it to connect to the appropriate mailbox server. The PIN is sent to the mailbox server to check if it matches with the PIN value that is stored for the user. PIN security, complexity & lockout policies can also be configured.

Once the PIN is found to be correct, user is given access to his voice messages, email messages, calendar & meeting actions, and contacts. See the call flow process diagram. The UM server acts as the user’s voice-based interface and talks to the mailbox server using MAPI to fetch data from the user’s mailbox. Email/calendar messages are converted to speech using Text-to-Speech (TTS) engine built-in to the UM server and are ‘read out’ to the user. The user can use voice commands or his DTMF-enabled phone keypad to navigate through the voice active system.

Next in this series: Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 4

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