A lesson on Exchange Server 2010 resource mailbox management

Resource mailbox management may seem tedious, but properly configured and customized mailboxes make life easier on admins and end users alike.

Exchange admins have been creating dedicated mailboxes to represent conference rooms for years. In previous versions of Exchange Server, administrators created standard mailboxes and assigned delegates to manage meeting requests. In Exchange Server 2010, resource mailboxes include new functions that make life easier for admins and end users alike.

1. Creating room mailboxes in Exchange Server 2010

Mailbox creation is generally accomplished via the Exchange Management Console (EMC).  Administrators get several options after they launch the EMC. The two available resource mailbox types are Room and Equipment.

Navigate through the new mailbox wizard in the EMC and you'll notice that it is not necessary to have a password to create a resource. This is because newly created resource mailboxes are associated with a disabled Active Directory user. Remember, Exchange 2010 resource mailboxes are not interactive; think of them as service accounts.

Creating a resource mailbox via the Exchange Management Shell (EMS) is quick and easy. To create a new room mailbox for "Conference Room 10," use the following line of code:

New-Mailbox -Name 'Conference Room 10' -Room

Admins can also convert existing accounts to room resources. This is helpful if you've migrated legacy mailboxes to Exchange Server 2010 and need to treat them as true resource mailboxes. Upgrading an existing mailbox named "CR23" is as simple as this:

Set-Mailbox -Identity CR23 -Type Room

After creating a room, look at its properties in the EMC. You'll find several tabs that start with the word "Resource." You may not need to change the default settings, but pay attention to the resource policy options. You can allow or disallow recurring meetings, set the maximum length of a meeting or even restrict how far in the future you can book meetings.

2. Automatically accepting or declining Exchange 2010 meeting requests

Resource mailboxes include a calendar attendant that can automatically accept or decline meeting requests. This saves admins from assigning delegates to manage meeting requests -- although that's still an option.

Meeting requests fall into two categories: in-policy or out-of-policy. If a resource request doesn't violate the in-policy options, the meeting is automatically accepted.

If the request is out-of-policy, it is automatically declined. These policies are generally used to ensure that overlapping meetings are not scheduled for the same resource. It is also possible to customize settings in the room mailbox's properties tab.

The calendar attendant is typically enabled via the "Resource General" tab of a room or equipment mailbox in the EMC. If you'd rather use the EMS, use this command"

Set-CalendarProcessing -Identity CR23 -AutomateProcessing AutoAccept

Admins can also customize who can automatically book meetings or who is subject to approval by a delegate. Just use the in-policy request option for the Exchange 2010 resource mailbox.

3. Customizing automated Exchange 2010 meeting responses

Admins can also add custom text to meeting responses (the calendar attendant must be enabled). This is easily set in the EMC through the "Resource Information" tab. To perform this task via the EMS, use the Set-CalendarProcessing cmdlet:

Set-CalendarProcessing –Identity CR23 ` -AddAdditionalResponse $true ` -AdditionalResponse 'Please contact the help desk at x234 for support'

I've broken this command into multiple lines using the back tick (`) character because I find it easier to read. Run this command on a single line if you like.

4. Add custom properties to Exchange 2010 rooms

Not all conference rooms are equal; some include projectors, whiteboards and so on. Admins can add custom properties that represent these items to their Exchange 2010 organizations. They can also selectively add those properties to resource mailboxes as needed. The caveat here is that you can only add custom properties from the EMS. Here's an example:

Set-ResourceConfig -ResourcePropertySchema @{add='room/Smartboard'}

The above command adds a smartboard to conference rooms. You can add the custom property by navigating to the room mailbox's properties sheet and selecting the "Resource General" tab. This is also accomplished in the EMS via the Set-Mailbox cmdlet.

After a custom property is assigned to a room, it gets displayed in Outlook 2010 (Figure 1).

You can add meeting room properties via the EMC or EMS

Figure 1. Microsoft Outlook displays meeting room properties.

5. Simplify searches using the Outlook 2010 room finder feature

If your company is geographically dispersed, you can group room mailboxes into "room lists." A room list is a distribution group that contains one or more room mailboxes.

Outlook 2010 includes a room finder feature that helps users locate a room in a specific building or physical location (Figure 2). Room lists must be created from the EMS. Fortunately, it's quite easy.

New-DistributionGroup -Name 'Building 1' –RoomList

A look at room lists in Outlook 2010

Figure 2. Users can view room lists in Outlook 2010.

Mike Pfeiffer is a Microsoft Certified Master on Exchange 2010 and a Microsoft Exchange MVP. In addition to being an author and IT conference speaker, Mike delivers Exchange, Lync and PowerShell courses through Interface Technical Training in Phoenix, Ariz. You can find many of his thoughts online at mikepfeiffer.net, where he blogs regularly about Exchange Server and PowerShell-related topics.

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