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Opinion: Why Exchange Unified Messaging is worth paying attention to

In addition to e-mail, Microsoft is designing the next version of Exchange Server to support voice mail and fax. Redmond is calling this new Exchange 12 collaborative feature Exchange Unified Messaging.


What is Exchange Unified Messaging?

My Exchange 12 beta copy does not include Exchange Unified Messaging support, so I unfortunately can't show it to you here. Even so, I want to introduce you to it, because several folks at Microsoft told me it's going to be the biggest new feature in Exchange 12.

The main idea behind Exchange Unified Messaging is that you will be able to work seamlessly with e-mail, voice messages and faxes. Voice mail and faxes will be stored in the Exchange information store similarly to how Exchange Server stores e-mail now.

When users open Microsoft Outlook, they will see their voice mails and faxes appear in their inboxes right alongside their e-mail. They will no longer need to use a phone to check voice messages or walk to the fax machine to retrieve faxes.

Exchange Unified Messaging is about more than just mailbox consolidation though. It is about being able to work with e-mail, voice mail and faxes interchangeably. For example, you will be able to forward voice messages and faxes just like you forward e-mail messages today. Likewise, you will be able to use Microsoft Outlook's Search feature to search for voice messages. Rumor has it that you will even be able to add notes to a voice message that can remind you what it was about to help you stay better organized.

Exchange Unified Messaging will be able to retrieve all three message types through Outlook Web Access as well.

Outlook Voice Access (OVA)

Exchange 12 will include a new interface called Outlook Voice Access (OVA). OVA will allow you to check your voice mail and e-mail by phone (I don't think it supports faxes, but I'm not positive) -- but there's a lot more to it than that. Think of OVA as a verbal version of Microsoft Outlook that will allow you to check your e-mail, calendar, tasks, etc., through verbal instruction.

In order to fully appreciate the power of OVA, imagine that you're returning home from a meeting in another city. You have a late afternoon meeting scheduled with your coworkers at your home office, but your flight is delayed and you can't make it back in time.

With a cell phone, you could dial into OVA and verbally check your calendar for the next day to find a new meeting time. You could then cancel the meeting and send attendees an invitation to the new meeting date and time.

While you're stuck in the airport, you could also check your e-mail from your phone. OVA will read the messages to you vocally, and let you verbally reply to or forward messages to contacts listed in your address book.


We'll have to wait to see how well Microsoft implements Exchange Unified Messaging. Like any new technology, I'm sure the first version will leave something to be desired. But, if done right, it has the potential to become an indispensable collaboration tool.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Exchange Server, and has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at


How will this affect the mail store size? Are the VMs compressed? Are they contained in a new database (i.e., MSG.edb)?
—John C.


From what I have been hearing from Microsoft, voice messages will be stored along side conventional email messages in the Exchange Server database. I don't have any information on their size or on whether or not compression is used.
—Brien Posey, tip author

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