Using Exchange Conferencing Server in Your Organization

Exchange Conferencing Server allows members of widely dispersed teams to meet online, removing geographical barriers and improving productivity in the process. Online conferences can build team interaction and encourage collaboration across great distances. Team members with specialized knowledge can participate in conferences on the other side of the country or on the other side of the world, without the expense and time required to travel to a physical location.

Exchange Conferencing Server can help you approximate the experience of a formal face-to-face meeting. Instead of finding and reserving an available meeting room, you invite a conference resource — a virtual meeting room.

Scheduling a Conference

You schedule a conference by creating a meeting request and inviting a conference resource. If the associated conference technology providers accept the conference request, Conference Management Service stores the conference details in the conference calendar mailbox. This persistent representation of the online conference gives conference technology providers a storage location for information associated with the conference. Conference Management Service maintains the accuracy of the conference definition by processing all conference updates and publishing the associated free/busy information.

Scheduling Conference Resources

You can schedule a conference resource in two ways. You can reserve a resource or you can invite a resource.

Reserving a Conference Resource

You can directly reserve a conference resource using Outlook 2000. Outlook 2000 checks the free/busy information for the resource and adds the resource to the invitation if the resource is available. This gives you a confirmed reservation. When you send an invitation, the conference resource is reserved and the URL for the conference is included in the invitations.

You can restrict who can reserve conference resources by applying permissions to the conference resource calendar with Outlook. Log on to Outlook using the conference resource user account. In the Inbox, right-click Calendar, and then click Properties. On the Permissions tab, grant or deny users permissions to schedule conference resources.

Inviting a Conference Resource

If you are not using Outlook 2000, you can still schedule conferences and reserve conference resources, but you must use an application that can send a meeting request. You can use the following applications:

Using one of these applications, e-mail an invitation to the conference resource. If the resource is available, the application sends you an e-mail acknowledgement, accepts the reservation, and provides the conference URL. This is called asynchronously reserving a resource.

To restrict who can asynchronously reserve conference resources:

  1. On the Start menu, point to Programs, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Active Directory Users and Computers.

  2. In Active Directory Users and Computers, on the View menu, click Advanced Features.

  3. Double-click System, and then double-click Exchange Conferencing.

  4. In the details pane, select the mailbox you want, right-click, and then click Properties.

  5. Click the Exchange General tab, and then click Delivery Restrictions.

  6. Configure delivery restrictions.

Joining a Conference

In a typical online conference, the user asks to attend by going to the location that the conference URL specifies. Every online conference is identified by a conference access URL. All conference participants use the same URL regardless of the combination of conference technology providers the conference is using. A user can access the URL of an online conference before, during, or after the scheduled start time.

Conference Management Service receives the user’s request and attempts to find the associated conference in the conference calendar mailbox. After Conference Management Service locates the conference definition in the conference calendar mailbox, it determines whether a password or user authentication is required. Conference Management Service then works in conjunction with the conference technology providers to obtain the correct information for the user.

While participants are in conference, Conference Management Service permits the organizer to modify the end-time and properties of the conference.

When a participant joins a video conference, a script runs on the client computer that investigates whether client configuration and network connectivity characteristics allow a direct connection to a multicast conference. If any of the prerequisites are not met, Conference Management Service attempts to connect the participant to the conference over an H.323 unicast connection. You can disable this feature for each resource individually.

When a multicast connection is established, users can see a video of all participants, including any participants using an H.323 unicast connection, and they can hear up to five active speakers simultaneously.

When an H.323 unicast connection is established, users can hear up to five speakers, but they can see only the current speaker.

Note   H.323 bridging is available only for conferences that use both Video Conferencing Provider and Data Conferencing Provider. The actual H.323/multicast bridging is accomplished over Data Conferencing Provider multipoint control unit (MCU) servers. The bridge is installed as a part of a T.120 MCU component installation.