Unified Messaging 101: Stop letting it stump you

- select the contributor at the end of the page -
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.

What is Unified Messaging?

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.

Unified Messaging features

  • 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:

TrainSignal now offers access to all of our training courses for $49 per month. Sign up for a 3-day free trial to see all of our courses, including our Exchange Server training.

Get our content first. In your inbox.

Loading form...

If this message remains, it may be due to cookies being disabled or to an ad blocker.


J. Peter Bruzzese

J. Peter Bruzzese is an author with over a dozen titles sold internationally. He has written hundreds of articles, speaks at a variety of technical conferences held by Microsoft, 1105 Media, WindowsITPro and others and is the Enterprise Windows columnist for 3+ years for InfoWorld. Most notably, J. P. B. is a member of the Train Signal family and is our very own Exchange instructor. Follow him on Twitter at @jpbruzzese. (Exchange MVP, Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP: Enterprise Messaging 2007/2010)