New Voicemail Options for Lync

4 Nov 2014

Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging (Exchange UM) provides good voicemail capabilities to complement a Microsoft Lync voice deployment. However, in some cases Exchange UM does not meet the needs of an organization. With AVST's CX-E voicemail platform, however, organizations have another voicemail choice that works well with Lync.

The Limitations of Exchange UM

In my experience deploying Lync for many offices and organizations, there are several specific situations where the strong integration between Lync and Exchange may be a weakness, as opposed to a strength:

1. Emails and voicemails are combined into a single message store.
For compliance reasons, some organizations, often in the financial services sector, do not want to mix email and voicemail within the same mailbox, in the manner that Exchange UM does. While Exchange lets you apply different retention policies to different folders or items (e.g. email vs. voicemail), these can be complicated to setup.

Outside of compliance, some organizations don't want to put voicemails into their email inbox because they are already having storage issues related to email, and adding voicemail messages just makes things worse. Additionally, some organizations have reliability issues with the Exchange environment.
2. Challenge to keep voice mailbox active after a person has left the organization.
At times when individuals, particularly sales representatives, leave an organization, you would like to keep their voice mailbox available for a period of time. The tight integration between Lync, Exchange UM and Active Directory makes this difficult because when you disable the departing individual's AD account, voicemail for that person is also shut down.
3. It is hard to properly restrict private voicemail messages.
While you can implement Active Directory Rights Management Services (ADRMS) with Exchange to keep people from being able to forward the voicemail audio file attachment, this is complicated and likely overkill unless an organization is committed to restricting permissions on all other types of emails.

It is even harder to deal with private messages that need to be sent to a group of individuals, such as a broadcast message to the leadership team. This is certainly possible with Exchange UM, but you need to "jump through hoops" to make it happen.
4. The Exchange UM attendant capabilities are limited.
Exchange UM can be used to create automated attendants (IVR menus) that respond to speech or DTMF inputs, but the call flows created within Exchange UM have a number of limitations that prevent some organizations from meeting their business requirements.

What AVST CX-E Delivers

The AVST CX-E voicemail platform has been continually upgraded since 1982 and as such includes a much wider set of voicemail options than is currently supported by Exchange UM. Some organizations may welcome and require the wider configuration choices.

Architecturally, CX-E runs on separate servers, preventing the "co-mingling" of email and voicemail, and may more easily address the need to maintain voice mailboxes regardless of AD account status. This separate architecture also means that restricting the re-transmission of voicemails marked as private and applying retention policies to voicemails is arguably easier than when dealing with Exchange UM.

Although on separate server(s), CX-E can still provide Exchange UM-like missed call notifications and can email audio files along with transcriptions of the audio files (what Exchange UM calls "voicemail preview") if so configured.

Other key features CX-E provides include:
  • The ability to connect to both Lync and legacy PBXs (integrates with up to 10 integrations on a single system at the same time) in order to help in the process of migrating to Lync voice.
  • A more robust automated attendant capability including DTMF and speech input. This can be used to access company data and speak out the information to callers, or optionally send the information via text, email or callout.
  • A virtual personal assistant called Atom™ that can integrate with users' Lync presence status, WiFi mobile geopresence, and Outlook calendar to best decide how to route calls.
  • Cost-effective informal call center, TeamQ™, that delivers ACD, UCD, agent desktop control and informational screen pops, supervisor interface, and more.
  • Fax server integration and fax identification so a single voice/fax number can be used.
  • A CX Platform API that can be used to extend the platform to implement complex IVR processing applications.

More Choice is More Goodness

As the Lync ecosystem continues to grow, organizations have more choices to match the best technical solutions to their specific business requirements. Exchange UM may be a great choice for many organizations but not all, due to the limitations mentioned above. Solutions such as AVST's CX-E voicemail platform remove some of the barriers that may prevent some organizations from moving to Lync as their primary voice platform.

As usual my advice is to define, document and prioritize your business requirements and then evaluate the pros and cons of each viable solution option.


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