SMS text message integration with Exchange Server 2010

by Shijaz Abdulla on 06.01.2010 at 07:13

As soon as I got my hands on Windows Mobile 6.5, I decided to test the text message (SMS) integration feature in Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging. This feature basically allow SMS text messages on your phone to be synchronized back to the Exchange Server where they can be easily searched and archived.

Windows Phone home screen Windows Phone locked screen Windows Phone menu

You can set up your Windows Phone to synchronize text messages in the Activesync options:

ScreenShot1

The feature also allows you to compose and send SMS text messages from Outlook or Outlook Web App. Let’s take a closer look:

  • When I receive a text message, it (obviously) reaches my phone,
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  • It also gets synchronized with Exchange Server 2010 through Activesync and I can see the message in Outlook
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  • Notice that I can reply to the text message right here from Outlook or I can compose a new one. And I can add emoticons too.
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  • The sent items are synchronized both in Outlook and on the Windows Phone
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  • The same functionality is available in Outlook Web App too:
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You now have your voicemail, email, fax, SMS text messages, missed call alerts, missed conversations, all in one convenient location – your Outlook inbox. This is the power of Unified Messaging. πŸ™‚

Configuring Outlook Voice Access

by Shijaz Abdulla on 21.08.2008 at 11:44

Exchange UM is NOT messy!  -- Messy datacenter Courtesy: davidandkelly.com

I was amazed at the simplicity of configuring Outlook Voice Access (OVA) on Exchange Server 2007. You could be up and running with Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging in just a day.

Whatever the case may be, I will have to admit one fact: Microsoft has lived up to their ‘VOIP AS YOU ARE’ campaign. You practically don’t need any extra hardware as long as you have an IP telephony infrastructure in place – one that is not archaic, and you have a VOIP gateway that falls within the List of Supported IP Gateways for Exchange 2007.

Many VOIP hardware vendors have taken advantage of the release of the new Unified Messaging features in Exchange 2007, to push for upgrades and new installations of their own VOIP equipment/solutions. Some try to sell their own replacement for OCS (with voice integration), others try to bring add-ons or a replacement to the Office Communicator client. Some vendors even say that their hardware is necessary to "enable" the Exchange UM features. Others go a step ahead, and try to make an impression that its their hardware that’s doing the Voice access to email.

As far as configuration on your IP Gateway is concerned, the only thing you need to do to get OVA working is to configure the gateway to redirect the Subscriber Access Number (the phone number on which people dial in to OVA) to forward all calls to the IP Address of the Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging Server. In short, its like telling the telephony infra to just forward anything on the OVA phone number to the OVA server and stay put.

Here are the things that I had to do on Exchange Server 2007:

  • Install Exchange Server 2007 UM role
  • Create a UM Dial Plan
  • Create a Unified Messaging Mailbox Policy based on the above dial plan.
  • Create a UM IP Gateway, and set it to point to the IP Address of your VOIP Gateway
  • Create a UM Hunt Group for the above UM IP Gateway
  • Associate the UM Dial Plan with one or more Exchange UM Servers
  • Enable Unified Messaging for one or more users

You don’t need to configure a UM Auto Attendant if you want to just enable Outlook Voice Access.

On our Mitel VOIP Gateway:

  • Forward all calls incoming on the pilot number (our Subscriber Access Number extension) to the Exchange UM Server’s IP address.

 

 

 

Related Posts:

Outlook Voice Access Rocks!
Getting the Exchange UM Test Phone to work
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 1
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 2
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 3
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 4

Outlook Voice Access rocks!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 21.08.2008 at 10:14

I’ve just enabled Outlook Voice Access here in HCT.

This comes after a day of testing with the UM Test Phone.

Outlook Voice Access is a new feature in Exchange Server 2007 that lets users dial a number from any telephone (anywhere in the world) to access their email, calendar, voicemail, and address book. Users dial a predefined phone number, and Exchange server answers the call. Users can login to their mailbox by entering their telephone extension number (stored in AD or Exchange) and their secret PIN number. The PIN number can be auto-generated or specified by the administrator for first time use. On the first use, users can be forced to change their PIN.

The menu is interactive and is speech enabled – you can actually say voice commands and Exchange will do things for you. It’s really exciting. Here’s a sample dialog between me and my server:

I dial the subscriber access number

Exchange Server: Welcome . You are connected to Microsoft Exchange. To access your mailbox enter your extension. To contact someone press the # key.

I enter my extension number

Exchange Server: Shijaz Abdulla, Please enter your PIN, then press the # key. If this is not your mailbox press the * key.

I enter my PIN and press the # key.

Exchange Server: You have no new voice messages and no new email messages. Please say voicemail, email, calendar, personal contacts, directory or personal options.

I wait for sometime and Exchange gives help on each of the above options.

Me: "Email"

Exchange Server: Opening your mailbox.

Exchange Server: First, a message from Saifudheen CEV, titled Test, arrived today at 9.56 AM

Hi Shijaz,

This is a test message

Saif

Me: "Next"

Exchange Server: "Next, a message from Varghese Varghese, titled Antigen uninstallation, arrived today at 9.49 AM

……"

Me: "Main Menu"

Exchange Server: "Sure. Please say voicemail, email, calendar, personal contacts, directory or personal options."

Me: "Calendar"

Exchange Server: "Sure. And which day shall I open?"

Me: "Today"

Exchange Server: "Opening today’s calendar"

First, a meeting that you organized from 10 to 10:30 titled "exam" with no location specified. You can say ‘Attendants details’, ‘Previous’, ‘First’, ‘Last’, or ‘More Options.’

Me: "Goodbye"

Exchange Server: "I heard you say Goodbye, do you want to end this phone call?"

Me: "Yes."

Exchange Server: Thank you for calling. Goodbye!

See the Call Reference Guide to see all the Voice navigation options.

 

This is certainly an Exchange Server feature that wont be missed by users. And it adds visibility for any Exchange 2007 Upgrade project – so consider enabling UM as part of your Exchange upgrade. The upgrade from Exchange 2003 to 2007 is not "just another email server upgrade"!

 

 

 

Related posts

Configuring Outlook Voice Access
Setting up the Exchange UM Test Phone
Preparing for Unified Messaging – Part 1
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 2
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 3
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 4

Getting the Exchange UM Test Phone to work

by Shijaz Abdulla on 19.08.2008 at 17:02

I am done with the setting up of the Exchange 2007 messaging transport infrastructure and moved all the mailboxes at the main site to Exchange 2007. Now I finally can focus on the real charm of Exchange Server 2007 — Unified Messaging!

To start off, one needs to set up servers that run the Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging role. I’ve got two of these installed – running on Windows Server 2008 x64. I then configured the following:

  • UM Dial Plans (with subscriber access numbers)
  • UM Mailbox Policy

Next you need a client machine (PC with a sound card) to run the Exchange UM Test Phone application. Here’s the catch: If you’re running 64-bit version of Exchange Server 2007 (which you would, if it’s a production environment), you need a client machine running a 64-bit OS to run the test phone application. No, chances are that you cannot use one of your 64-bit servers, because they don’t usually have sound cards in them. If you try to run the test phone from the 32-bit OS or without all the files I mention below, the application crashes.

So, I set up the Windows Server 2008 x64 OS on a Dell Optiplex 755 and then installed drivers for the sound card. I disabled the Windows Firewall as well. I also disabled all unnecessary network cards. Next, I copied the whole ExchangeBin folder directly off the Exchange 2007 UM server and pasted it in a new folder on my test PC. Then I copied the contents of the ExchangePublic folder too in the same folder. The ExchangeBin folder contains the test phone application (ExchangeUMTestPhone.exe file).

Then I ran the following commands in the command prompt, to enable the desktop experience:

ServerManagerCmd -i Desktop-Experience

A server restart ensued and then I opened the test phone application (ExchangeUMTestPhone.exe file). It started happily.

Let’s get back to the UM Server. On the UM server, you need to create a UM IP Gateway. Normally this should be your hardware VOIP gateway IP, but if you want to test with the UM Test phone, you need to set this to the IP of the test phone computer. Next, you create a UM hunt group, in which you specify the same gateway you created in the previous step.

Exchange UM Test Phone

 

  • In the setup window, I entered the IP address of my UM server in the Server Address field
  • SIP Port is 5060 (default)
  • Call security is Unsecured in my case
  • Logging options: Both

To test the Outlook Voice Access, simply click on the Call button (green handset icon) on the test phone. Exchange 2007 will answer your call, greet you and ask you if you want to open your mailbox or just reach another user by voice. Outlook Voice Access is so cool! It is an exciting experience.

Now that the Exchange UM server is tested and working fine, I will wait for our VOIP guys to create a hunt group for the subscriber access number so that calls made to our subscriber access number (a.k.a Exchange’s phone number) gets forwarded to the IP address of the Exchange UM server and we can go-live!

See the Call Reference Guide to know the Voice navigation options.

Related posts
Configuring Outlook Voice Access
Setting up the Exchange UM Test Phone
Preparing for Unified Messaging – Part 1
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 2
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 3
Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 4

VoIP as you are?!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 16.07.2008 at 12:46

I happened to see this funny ad on Microsoft’s Unified Messaging platform. It’s themed “VOIP as you are”.

The way the cable roll smashed thru the glass doors is amazing. But when I saw the next two videos of the same cable roll smashing through the same glass door, I was amazed by the ingenuity of the person who planned the whole ad in three different angles, three different ways to depict the same thing.

One, through a security cam:

The other, through a handycam held by a lady

LOL!

TechDays 2007, Dubai

by Shijaz Abdulla on 12.11.2007 at 16:05

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be there when it happens. Register here.

Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 4

by Shijaz Abdulla on 31.08.2007 at 18:42

Hope you enjoyed Parts 1, 2 and 3 of my series of posts on Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging. Here we go again πŸ˜‰

User options for Unified Messaging: Tinkering with the client

Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 has options that are specific to Voicemail. These can be found under tools –> options menu. The Voicemail tab appears only if you have a mailbox hosted on Exchange Server 2007.


The Telephone Access number is the number on which you dial-in when you want to access your OVA (Outlook Voice Access). This is normally set on the UM dial plan on the Exchange UM server (Subscriber Access tab –> Telephone Access Numbers). This cannot be changed from Outlook.

Reset PIN
Use this button to reset the PIN number that you enter on your phone keypad when you want to access your mailbox through OVA. A temporary PIN will be generated in compliance with the complexity requirements that you specified in UM mailbox policy. The temporary PIN will then be sent as an email to the user’s inbox. The next time the user dials-in to OVA, he can change the PIN.

Change Folder
This option is used to specify the folder which should be read when accessing mail using OVA. Pretty useful if you have rules on your mailbox that divert all mails received from your boss(es) to a particular “big shots folder”, and you want to configure OVA to read out only emails from big shots and not the lesser mortals, whenever you call your mailbox via phone.

Play on Phone number:
This is the phone number on which you want to use the ‘send to phone’ feature. This is the number on which Exchange calls you if you want to play or record your voicemail greeting/OOF greeting. Usually this is the user’s own extension number and is picked up automatically from the AD. Use the Call button to record or hear your own voicemail greeting/OOF greeting.

You can also set Exchange to send you an email whenever you have a missed call on your extension.

Lastly, all the above options are configurable from Outlook Web Access (OWA) as well.

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

Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 2

by Shijaz Abdulla on 19.08.2007 at 18:41

See also: Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 1

So, you set up your VOIP gateway and have figured out how to install the UM server. Let’s have a closer look on how stuff works.

How UM Voicemail works

Scenario 1: Somebody calls the extension (No. 101) on your desk while you’re at your desk

The Central Office (your telco) sends the call to your organization’s PBX. The PBX forwards the call to your extension no. 101 based on the configuration/coverage plan that is already configured on it. You answer the call. End of story.

Scenario 2: Somebody calls the extension (No. 101) on your desk while you’re out of office

The Central Office (your telco) sends the call to your organization’s PBX. The PBX forwards the call to your extension no. 101 based on the configuration/coverage plan that is already configured on it. Of course, nobody is there to answer the call, so the call is returned to the PBX.

Based on the hunt group that you have configured on the PBX, it can be made to forward the unanswered call to the Unified Messaging server. The PBX (if not IP enabled) will have the VOIP gateway behind it, which will convert the circuit switched network to a packet switched network that the UM server can understand. A non-IP PBX cannot talk directly to the UM server.

The VOIP gateway uses the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) to establish a session with the Unified Messaging server over a packet-based network. Once the session is established by the SIP protocol, transmission of voice to the UM server is done by the RTP protocol (Realtime Transport Protocol).

The UM server queries the Active Directory to find out who’s extension is ‘101’. This information is found by querying the AD for the user account that has Office telephone number attribute set to ‘101’. Once it looks up the user, the UM server connects to the mailbox server (using MAPI) to fetch your prerecorded greeting message: “Hi, this is Shijaz and I think I’m not at my desk now, could you please leave a message?”

The UM server then records the caller’s voice message and attaches it in WMA format to a new email message and sends the message to your Hub Transport server (using SMTP). The caller hangs up. The Hub Transport server eventually delivers the email (with voice attached) to your inbox.

You can check your voicemail in your OWA as well


And that’s how it works!

Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 1

by Shijaz Abdulla on 19.08.2007 at 17:44
Do I need a VOIP Gateway?

To answer this question, you need to take a good look at your internal telephony system that you already have in place. Basically, the ones that are supported by Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging (UM) are: Key telephony, Centrex and PBX. Find out which kind you already have. Chances are that you already have a PBX system in place.

Once you’ve identified the telephony system that you are using, its fairly easy to determine if you need a VOIP Gateway. There are two kinds of telephony networks: Circuit switched network and Packet switched network. IP falls under the latter. Normally the line from the telephone company uses circuit switching. Exchange Server connects to IP network, so it needs packet switching. A VOIP Gateway just does that: it converts a circuit switched network to a packet switched one.

Whether or not you need a VOIP Gateway can be summarized as follows.

You DON’T NEED a VOIP Gateway if:

  • You are using a PBX telephony system, and you have an IP-based PBX
  • You are using a Centrex telephony system and you have an IP Centrex.

You NEED a VOIP Gateway if:

  • You are using any kind of Key Telephone Exchange
  • You are using a PBX telephony system, but you don’t have IP-based PBX
  • You are using Centrex telephony system, but not IP Centrex.

In short, if your telephony system doesnt support IP, you need a VOIP gateway to convert to a packet switched IP network.


There is an e-learning product on the Microsoft Learning web site which is available for free for a limited period. Check it out: Clinic 5091: Introduction to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging.

See also: Preparing for Unified Messaging, Part 2