Top Ten Things You Might Not Know About Office Communications Server 2007 R2

You probably know that Office Communications Server 2007 R2 was just released. You probably also know that Office Communications Server offers a wide range of unified communication services, including such things as instant messaging; online conferences (e.g., Live Meeting); and an integration between your telephone, your e-mail, your computer, and even your cell phone. But here are ten things that you might not know about the 2007 R2 version of Office Communications Server:

  1. You can have someone screen your calls for you. And with the New Call Delegation Feature of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 you don’t even need a personal assistant sitting right outside your office to do this. Call Delegation enables you to delegate phone duties to one or more people who can answer your calls; place calls for you; transfer calls to you; or do pretty much anything else you need them to do (at least when it comes to telephones). And because this is a software-based solution as opposed to a hardware-based solution, it doesn’t matter where this person sits. Did you say that your delegate is going to be out of town tomorrow? That’s OK: you can also designate a backup person who can handle phone duties whenever your primary delegate is unavailable.
  2. You can have phone calls forwarded to an entire team. So you have a team that’s working very closely together on a project. Wouldn’t it be cool if, instead of handing out everyone’s individual phone numbers, you could simply hand out a single phone number and reach any member of the team? You could instruct people to call your number, then have calls to that number automatically forwarded to all the people on the team: all the team members’ phones would ring simultaneously, and then stop as soon as one of those phones was answered. And wouldn’t it be cool if you could configure this so it occurred only during working hours; or so phone calls from certain people would go straight to you, without ringing the phones of other team members; or so that calls are forwarded only if you are out of the office? Here’s a thought: you could implement the “Team Call” feature and it would provide a simple and easy way to do any or all of this.
    See the New Team Call Feature to find out more.
  3. You can create chat sessions that last forever. Once an instant messaging session has ended, the record of that session effectively disappears: people who did not participate in an instant messaging session can’t easily retrieve a copy of that session, nor can they (or anyone else) continue the conversation. Is that a problem? Not anymore: the Group Chat feature introduced in Office Communications Server 2007 R2 enables you to set up chat rooms where the conversation persists even after everyone has logged off. Depending on how you’ve set things up, any one, at any time, can re-enter a chat room and read the conversation transcript, as well as access any files associated with the room. Even better, they can also resume that same conversation any time they want. (How will you know when someone has resumed the conversation? You can request notification any time new messages are added to a chat room.) You know how, hours after a conversation ends, you find yourself thinking, “Man, I wish I would have said that.” Well, for once in your life, you can actually go back and say it.
  4. You can let people see what’s running on your computer … and even let them control what’s running on your computer. The budget proposal for the next fiscal year is almost done, but you’d like a couple of people to take a look at it – and maybe correct a few portions – before you submit it. Here’s a very cool way to do that: load up the spreadsheet, start an instant messaging session (using either Office Communicator or Communicator Web Access) then use the new desktop sharing feature to share your desktop with everyone in the session. Everyone will be able to see the spreadsheet, as well as anything else that takes place on your computer. What’s that? You say someone spotted an incorrect formula on the spreadsheet? No problem; if you want to, you can temporarily give others the right to control your desktop, meaning they can use their computer (and their mouse and their keyboard) to change the spreadsheet (or run applications, modify documents, and so on) that reside on your computer.
    Interesting idea: we are familiar with the story about Tom Sawyer getting people to whitewash a fence for him  ….
    If you want to find out more, check out New Desktop Sharing Feature.
  5. You can set up a conference so that anyone with a cell phone (or any other phone) can join in on the audio portion of the conference. Are you trying to set up a conference (either a Live Meeting session or a Conference Call) but some of the people you need to participate are away from the office? Or maybe you'd like to invite people from different companies. Thanks to the new Dial-in Conferencing feature of Live Meeting and Office Communicator you can easily set up a conference so people can join from just about anywhere. To tell you the truth, you could do this without Dial-In Conferencing, but you needed to have a complicated conference bridge set up, and no one really wanted to go through all that. Now nobody has an excuse to miss out on the audio portion of your meetings, unless they happen to be away from all telephones and computers. And what are the odds of that?
  6. You can add fancy phone routing and queuing to your telephone answering system. You know how sometimes you dial a number and then hear something like, “Please hold for the next available agent,” and then you wait until someone is able to answer the phone? Or maybe you hear “Press 1 for English or press 2 for Spanish” and then you press the appropriate button on your phone in order to get the desired language. How do companies do things like that? To tell you the truth, we have no idea. But we know how you can do that: by implementing the New Response Group Service feature found in Office Communications Server 2007 R2.
    Response Groups are primarily a way for you to direct phone calls. For example, if someone calls your help desk you can configure things so that the system first tries to connect to "Agent 1" (that is, the first designated support person). You say that person is already on the phone, or is away from their desk? That's fine; the system will then automatically try to connect to the next support person. That person is busy, too? No problem: the system will simply continue moving down the list until, in the ubiquitous words of cal answering services everywhere, it finds the next available agent.
    By the way, did we mention that Response Groups can include Interactive Voice Response, which means people can speak words (“English”) instead of pressing 1? Did we mention that these Response Groups can be made “aware” of your business hours and your business holidays? Or what about this: did we mention that you can even play music of your choice (or any other recording) any time you put someone on hold? What more could you ask for?
  7. You can access Voice over IP capabilities using your cell phone. So you’ve opted to use Enterprise Voice, Microsoft’s implementation of the Voice over IP technology. But there’s a problem: many of your employees spend a considerable amount of time on the road, and cell phones can’t take advantage of the capabilities offered by Enterprise Voice. Yeah, that’s too bad, it’s a shame that – hey, wait a minute: who said cell phones can’t take advantage of the capabilities offered by Enterprise Voice? Obviously you’ve never heard of “enterprise cellular telephony” (also known as “outside voice”). Enterprise cellular telephony enables users of the 2007 R2 version of Office Communicator Mobile to make and receive Enterprise Voice calls over their cell phone. In fact, using Single-number reach you can make and receive phone calls using your cell phone, and without ever handing out your cell phone number. (People will assume they are calling your office phone.) Cool, huh? But that’s not all: Office Communicator Mobile users can also access their contact list, check presence, send instant messages, and perform many of the tasks Office Communicator and Communicator Web Access can perform. All from their cell phones.
    Take a look at Enterprise Cellular Telephony Enhancements for more details.
  8. You can easily connect your Voice over IP phone to the standard telephone network. OK, we admit it: “SIP trunking” doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it? But trust us: it’s very exciting. With Office Communications Server 2007 you could deploy Enterprise Voice (Microsoft’s implementation of Voice over IP, telephone service over the Internet) while still maintaining your old-fashioned telephone network, but you had to set up a few IP-to-PSTN Gateways and/or Mediation Servers in order to make all this happen.
    With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, you can use SIP trunking instead. SIP trunking allows your IP network to transmit voice data that used to be carried over standard phone lines. People on your Enterprise Voice network will be able to call people on the regular old telephone network (the so-called Public Switched Telephone Network, or PSTN), and people on the PSTN network will be able to call people on your Enterprise Voice network. That's nice, but the cool thing is that it does all this without requiring additional hardware like IP-to-PSTN gateways or Mediation Servers. Instead, all you need is an account with a SIP trunking service provider.
    For more, see New SIP Trunking Support.
  9. You can use Communicator Phone Edition to access contacts (and their status and information) right from your telephone. If you’re lucky enough to have a Communicator Phone (perhaps better known by the code-name Tanjay) then you’ll be thrilled to see the enhancements included in Office Communicator Phone Edition 2007 R2. What kind of enhancements? Well, how about the ability to access a person’s Contact Card, right from the phone screen? How about the ability to redial the last number you dialed? How about the ability to select your own ring tone? And, of course, this all comes in addition to the “traditional” features found in Communicator Phone.
    What’s that? You have no idea what the “traditional” features of a Communicator Phone are? Then you have no idea what you’ve been missing. Communicator Phone is almost like having Office Communicator built right into your telephone. With Communicator Phone you can view your Contact List on the phone’s screen; you can locate and call people by name (as opposed to having to memorize a bunch of phone numbers); you can search for people in both the global address book and in your Microsoft Outlook contacts; you can check status for all your contacts. And you can do all these things right from your phone, no computer required.
    Read more about Office Communicator Phone Edition 2007 R2 here: Telephony Devices.
  10. You can make high-definition video calls using Office Communicator. Using Office Communicator and a Webcam in order to make a peer-to-peer video call is pretty cool. What would be even cooler would be to use high-definition video when making this type of call. It just so happens that with the 2007 R2 version of Office Communications Server you can make a peer-to-peer call using high-definition video (defined as a resolution of 1270 pixels by 720 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:9). Because let’s face it: who doesn’t want to see a high-definition video feed of their boss first thing in the morning?
    Learn more about Voice and Video Enhancements in Office Communicator.


Just can't get enough of the new features found in Office Communications Server 2007 R2? Then be sure and check out our companion article Office Communications Server 2007 Act 2 -- Er, R2.