Communications Server 2007 ably integrates communications, but requires plenty
of Microsoft infrastructure.
been seemingly inching toward unified communications for years, but with Office
Communications Server 2007, the company is finally there.
VOIP (voice over IP), videoconferencing and instant messaging in a single slick
and with a familiar user interface-while layering on unified mailbox and
collaborative work sessions-Microsoft has put together a compelling communications
and collaboration solution, particularly for companies that are already heavy
users of Microsoft infrastructure components.
For users at
such organizations, the UC tools could not be much more familiar. OCS 2007
bakes real-time presence information into Office (Versions 2007 or 2003) and
Office Communicator 2007, allowing users to trigger communication sessions directly
from their contact lists, e-mail messages, shared documents and more.
OCS 2007 also
allows users to easily navigate among communication modalities, with the
ability to view other users' status across the enterprise to gauge the most
effective communication mode.
Click here for screen shots of Office Communications Server 2007.
For example, User
A may see that User B is marked "Away," so User A sends an e-mail to User B
instead of an IM. User B returns and sees that User A is present. User B responds
to User A's e-mail with an IM, at which time User A upgrades to a voice or
video call with User B. Each conversion takes only a click or two per user.
Likewise, callers can upgrade a
two-party call to a full-fledged conference with a minimum of clicks, and new
parties will get invited automatically via e-mail.
conference, the system has the intelligence to put the focus where it needs to
be. For instance, in a videoconference, the video image represents the person
actually speaking at the time, and it will shift as the conversation moves from
person to person. In addition, conference participants can share documents or applications,
and the conference lead can pass application control to other parties as
experience is meant to occur directly from the PC, with no need for a desktop
phone at all. I tested OCS 2007 using a variety of off-the-shelf Webcams and
USB headsets, but Microsoft also provided
a few accessories designed specifically for use with OCS: a USB handset called
the Catalina and the Polycom Communicator C100 personal speakerphone, both of
which provide minimal controls to pick up or drop calls from the respective
device itself. Still, the lion's share of control is performed on the desktop.
Server 2007, which provides unified mailbox capabilities, is required by OCS on
the back end. Users can access all their messages from one location now, with
the ability to listen to voicemails directly from the computer (no punching
codes into the phone) and return a call directly from the message itself.
Exchange Server 2007 also can archive Office Communicator chat sessions.
users to check in from PCs that do not have Office 2007
installed via the OCS Communicator Web Access server role. Users log
into a Web server to gain access to a Web-based Communicator, which provides
the ability to search for users throughout the organization. While users cannot
make VOIP calls through this interface, they can initiate IM sessions with
other users and forward incoming calls from their office extension to a
convenient telephone number (such as a cell phone).
OCS 2007 is
licensed in both Standard and Enterprise editions. The Enterprise edition is
for companies looking for high-availability clustering and costs $2,790, plus
$698 for one year of Software Assurance. Standard OCS licenses run $488, plus
$122 for one year of Software Assurance. The real costs will likely start
adding up when you add in the
Communications Server CALs (client access licenses) and
External Connector Licenses that
will need to be purchased for users participating in audio, video
or Web conferences. (Note: Prices do not include the costs for Exchange Server,
Office or SQL Server.)