Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cost Savings Calculator for Unified Communications

Microsoft has produced a really well done Cost Savings Calculator for Unified Communications. Although calculators like this are notoriously inaccurate because they make certain assumptions, Microsoft seems to have created a calculator with enough nobs and buttons that would allow a company to make a decent cost savings calculation.
Ultimately, the goal of calculators like this are to start discussions around what changes to communications can mean for a business.
If you click the "About" in the upper right-hand corner of the Calculator it will give you all the formulas Microsoft used for calculations.

OCS / Lync Server Normalization Rule Primer

Overview
When normalization rules were first explained to me in an Office Communications Server 2007 training class, I left completely confused.
I spent quite a lot of time trying to understand how normalization rules work. First, I found that normalization rules are .Net Expressions. A quick search of the Internet for .Net Expression primers and help guides did not help with understanding how they worked.
I finally found a piece of software similar to .NET Regular Express Designer called  RegEx Designer that allowed me to see what is happening in a .Net expression and more importantly a normalization rule.
Let's start with why we need telephone numbers (straight from the IETF/ITU standards).
  1. A telephone number is a string of decimal digits that uniquely indicates the network termination point.
  2. The number contains the information necessary to route the call to the termination point.
A Normalization Rule modifies the user input and presents a fully routable telephone number that can be used by Office Communications Server (OCS) / Lync Server and the PSTN to delivery a voice call to the intended termination point. To OCS / Lync Server, your telephone number is effectively meaningless if it is not presented in E.164 format.
Humans are inconsistent, especially with how we write phone numbers down. People use parens, dashes, dots, and spaces for example. Users in a business might only know a 4 digit extension to call another employee. Normalization Rules help the humans enter the phone number in the format they are used to and then translate that to the pattern that OCS / Lync Server is expecting.
  
There are three main processes happening when a normalization rule is used.  
  1. Does the Phone Pattern Regular Expression match the input?
  2. What is captured in the Phone Pattern Regular Expression to be used by the Translation Pattern Regular Expression?  
  3. What is the Translated number?
Example Normalization Rule 
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^(2\d\d\d)$Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1425555$1
  
The "^" specifies that the match must occur at the beginning of the string.
  
Anything between parens is captured into a group. If there are more than one set of parens then there are multiple groups. 
Any letter that is after "\" is considered a language element and has a special function. For example \d is a single digit wildcard. \D is a single character wild card.
  
"$" Specifies that the match must occur at the end of the string.
  
In the above example we are matching against any 4 digit number that starts with a 2. We are capturing the 2 into group 1 plus any other 3 digits that follow. If a number is 5 digits it will not match. If a number starts with any other number than 2 it will not match. 

Now that we have captured group 1 we can take a look at the Translated Pattern Regular Expression
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^(2\d\d\d)$
Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1425555$1
  
The +1425555 are absolute digits and will be inserted before the captured digits in group 1 "$1". Each group is represented by a $ and a digit for the order in which they were captured. The second group captured would have a "$2" in the Translation Pattern Regular Expression. 
If we entered 2345 then the translated pattern would be +1425552345.
What if we wanted to match against 5 digits and only capture 4 for example?
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^6(\d\d\d\d)$
Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1425555$1
  
The above rule would match any 5 digit number that started with a 6. But, because the 6 is not within the Parens we will not capture the 6 into group 1.
  
If we entered 62345 then the translated pattern would be +1425552345.
  

Is there an easier way to specify multiple digits rather than writing\d\d\d\d?
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^6(\d\d\d\d)$
Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1425555$1 
is the same as
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^6(\d{4})$
Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1425555$1
  
The {x} specifies the number of matches for the preceding Language Element. In this case we are looking for 4 digits. If I specified \D{4} then it would be 4 characters.
  
If we entered 62345 then the translated pattern would be +1425552345.
What does a normalization rule look like capturing multiple groups of numbers?
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^(\d{3})(\d{4})$
Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1425$1$2
  
In the above Phone Pattern there are two sets of parens. Each set of parens captures into a different group. The first three digits are captured into group 1 "$1" and the next 4 digits are captured into group 2 "$2".
  
In the Translation Pattern we use $1 and $2 after the +1425.
  
If we entered 5552345 then the translated pattern would be +1425552345.
  
What if we wanted to handle dashes, spaces, dots, and whatever else users dream up?
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^(\d{3})\D(\d{3})\D(\d{4})$
Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1$1$2$3
  
In the Phone Pattern Regular Expression we are matching for 3 digits, then a single character. Then another three digits, and a single character. Then a final four digits. Since the \D is not within the parens we match against it, but are not capturing it. The result is the Translation Pattern has no dashes, dots, spaces, or any other character the user can dream up.
If we entered 425-555-2345 or 425.555.2345 then the translated pattern would be +1425552345.
Why do you use \D instead of [\s()\-\./] ? 
Simple. It does the same thing and more! \D will match any non-digit. [\s()\-\./] will only match space, parens, dash or dots.
  
Is there a way to do optional matches?
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^9?(\d{3})\D(\d{3})\D(\d{4})$
Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1$1$2$3
  
In the Phone Pattern Regular Expression above we start of with a "9?". This means the expression will match if there is a 9 or not a 9. The key is using the question mark after the number (or character). This is handy if you want to be allow users to still dial a 9 like they used to on a PBX. They can type it in or not, we simply don't care because it is optional and we are not capturing that digit into a group.
If we entered 9425-555-2345 or 425-555-2345 then the translated pattern would be +1425552345. 
How would I do a wild card for any number of characters/digits?
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^\D*(\d{3})\D*(\d{3})\D*(\d{4})$
Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1$1$2$3
  
The above Phone Pattern Regular Expression will look for any amount of characters until it matches against 3 digits. Then any amount of characters until it matches against another 3 digits. Then a match against the last four digits.
  
The benefit of this is that we can handle "(425) 555-1234" or "425-555-1234" or "4255551234" and to be honest we can handle this too "Your grandma 425 has white 555 hair 1234". All the examples would be translated to +14255551234
  
How about logical OR?
  
Phone Pattern Regular Expression: ^\D*(303|720)\D*(\d{3})\D*(\d{4})$Translation Pattern Regular Expression: +1$1$2$3
  
A logical OR is very handy if you need to handle multiple area codes, or NXXs (the second set of 3 digits for non-voice people). The pipe sign is what does the logical OR within the parens. The above Phone Pattern Regular Expression would look to match the first three digits to 303 or 720, but not both.
If we entered 303-555-2345 or (720) 555-2345 then the translated pattern would be either +1303552345 or +17205552345. 
Conclusion
In my experience the above examples will help with 90% of the needs for Normalization Rules. There are much more complicated Normalization Rules that could be written, but I'll leave that to another post. If you want to play around with Normalization Rules I strongly encourage downloading .NET Regular Expression Designer so that you can visibly see how Normalization Rules work.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Exchange UM Express Messaging

When replacing voice mail systems from from companies like Avaya/Nortel, the customer may expect to have the functionality of Express Messaging. Express Messaging is essentially a number that users can call to leave a voice mail directly in a users mailbox without ringing their phone.

Not only can you replicate this functionality with Exchange UM, you can do it speech enabled so the caller only has to speak a persons name.

How to create speech enabled Express Messaging Auto Attendant in Exchange UM
  1. Use a WAV editor (Audacity works well) and record a greeting for this feature similiar to the following (format should be WAV, 8khz, Mono): Welcome to Exchange UM express messaging, to leave a message for someone , say thier name , or dial their extension"
  2. Create a new Exchange Auto Attendant that is speech enabled.
  3. After the Exchange UM Auto Attendant is created, edit the properties and in the features tab uncheck "Allow callers to transfer to users".
  4. In the features tab check "Allow callers to send messages".
  5. In the features tab uncheck the "Allow transfer to operators".
  6. In the dialing restritions tab check the "Allow calls to users within the same dialing plan".
  7. In the dialing restrictions tab check "Allow calls to extenstions".
  8. In the greetings tab assign the recording you made in step 1

Friday, September 24, 2010

Enable Save Password for Office Communicator

Not all users sign in to their PCs with Domain credentials. For those that sign in to a local user on their PC it is a nuissance to enter your username and password every time you sign in to Office Communicator
 
I found a regkey that enables the Save Password checkbox under the Password field.
 
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Communicator\SavePassword
 
SavePassword created as REG_DWORD and the value should be 1
 
Next time you sign in, check the box and from then on it works just like you are signed in with Domain credentials.

New Communicator for Mac

Posted on the Mactopia blog is news that there will be a separate client for OCS/Lync on the Mac that is different than the Mac client for Messenger.

The new client is called Communicator for Mac.

Although there is no mention of Enterprise Voice or Live Meeting support, I think this is a step in the right direction toward having a fully functional Mac client for the OCS/Lync.

One encouraging quote is:


On the Messenger team, that overall mission translates into helping people communicate and collaborate to get their work done using Microsoft Office. One focus of Office for Mac 2011 was to integrate real-time communication features into Office applications like Word and PowerPoint and we expect that effort to continue.

One other quick note is that the new client will be available only to volume licensing customers only.