An Office Communications Server 2007 R2 Group Chat Server is capable of hosting many concurrent chat rooms. Chat rooms can be organized hierarchically into a set of categories on the server. Each chat room has only one parent category, although categories can be nested into other categories to form a multilevel hierarchy. This organization creates a useful structure for identifying conversations based on their business purpose and facilitates delegated administration and simplified management.

Although many of the management features of chat rooms are available directly in the Group Chat desktop client, you must use the Group Chat Administration Tool to create or manage categories.

To facilitate delegated administration, each category in the system can have a list of users defined as Category Managers. These users are granted the rights to manage all of the chat rooms that are created in that category. To further refine this behavior, you can define nested subcategories as needed. Management rights extend down through multiple levels of nested subcategories.

Group Chat includes features that simplify chat room management. You can define a set of default behaviors and members lists, and you can adjust these settings on the category level. After this is done, chat rooms that are created in the category automatically inherit the default settings from the category. In this manner, a new chat room can be created quickly and easily by simply giving it a name and a topic. If a new user needs to be added to the membership list of an entire category of chat rooms, the administrator can add him or her to the membership list of the category; all of the chat rooms in the category automatically inherit the change. Chat room managers who do not want their chat rooms to inherit the membership list of the category can opt to create a new membership list to prevent this behavior.

The administrator can control and restrict the way in which category settings are changed. For example, by default, any user who is on the members list for a category can create new chat rooms in that category. However, the administrator can prevent category members from creating new chat rooms. In this case, only category managers can create new chat rooms in the category. Alternatively, the administrator can lock the settings of the category and prevent chat room managers from making any changes to the settings (with certain exceptions). Finally, the administrator has the option of defining a scope for the category that limits the pool of users from which chat room managers can select their membership lists.

Root Category

Upon installation of Group Chat, the system automatically creates a category called the root category. This category serves as the parent of all categories and chat rooms in the system. Settings that are made to this category affect all other categories and chat rooms. For this reason, access to the root category should be limited to a select group of users.

Hierarchical Administration

Creating and managing chat rooms is made much easier through the proper use of categories. An administrator can define the default managers and members lists for each category, as well as default chat room settings and behaviors that will be applied to all chat rooms created in the category. If a hierarchy of subcategories is created, these settings are inherited in a cumulative fashion.

As a best practice, you should not create chat rooms directly in the root category. Instead, you should begin by defining a hierarchy of subcategories that resembles the organizational structure of your company or of the community of users that will be using Group Chat. Doing so gives you greater flexibility for expanding or changing the structure of your system at a later date.