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Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 - An Overview

What is Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007?

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Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 - An Overview

(c) Microsoft

Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 is the battle horse of Microsoft in the VoIP arena. It is an enterprise communications tool that provides a series of integrated tools for unified communications. Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 focuses mainly on instant messaging, presence monitoring, application sharing, file transfer, and voice and video communication; aiming at enhancing collaboration with enterprises.

OCS 2007 interprets Microsoft's endeavor to toggle VoIP from hardware to software. If it is widely adopted, traditional IP PBXs may massively be replaced by software-based servers. OCS 2007 is an upgrade of Live Communications Server 2005. OCS is a server software and it works in pair with Microsoft Office Communicator (OC), which is the client-side desktop unified communications client.

OCS 2007 Editions

OCS 2007 comes in two editions, Standard and Enterprise. Both are roughly the same functionally, but the former is designed for smaller installations. The Enterprise edition is for higher capacities, allowing businesses to extend the components to a number of servers.

Dont' Dump Your PBX

One of the long term targets of Microsoft is to replace hardware-based traditional IP PBXs with software server solutions for VoIP unified communications, but in the short term, it is showing a bit of realism. Microsoft claims that OCS 2007 is compatible with IP PBXs, so users won't need to 'rip and replace' their expensive existing PBXs.

OCS Features

Microsoft OCS carries the same features that characterize a normal IP PBX. There are however a few unique enhancements, especially with call management. For example, you can grade calls according to their importance; or have a context-sensitive presence and availability experience. This means you can click to call or contact people in other ways, in MS Office applications, MS Outlook 2007, or anywhere names or numbers appear within Microsoft applications that integrate to OCS 2007.

How OCS Works

Phone call management is done in your PC, instead of a PBX. Calls are routed to their destinations through your computer, or an IP phone. The PC is the base for software-based communications, and OCS allows instant messaging, email, and voice calls on the click. switching between these types of communications is done as easily. Integration in OCS has made voice calls and conferencing easier, with the possibility to click-to-call and call from any program or file. Microsoft RoundTable, as it name suggests, is the product's element that hosts round-table meetings.

One main PC tool of the product is Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, which, along with traditional email, allows also voicemail and fax in your inbox. Moreover, any name, address or number anywhere provides presence and availability information.

OCS Voice Quality

Microsoft has taken special care of the aspect of VoIP people ask about more: voice quality. OCs comes with a brand new Microsoft-made codec called Real-Time, which automatically adapts the sampling rate to the bandwidth. This gives optimized voice quality, both in internal networks and over the Internet. OCS tests have observed good voice quality so far.

OCS and Mobility

A unified communications product would never be complete without provision for mobility. Microsoft OCS 2007 does cater for mobility, but according to me, they could have done much better. True there are certain good things, like when away from the office, dialing there can make you hear your emails in audio, for example. But it seems most of the time, one would need their laptop computer to be connected, since apart from BlackBerry and some Microsoft-powered mobile devices, most mobile handsets and communication devices are not compatible with OCS.

OCS Software and Hardware Requirements

One of the greatest liabilities of Microsoft OCS 2007, like many of its predecessors, is the heavy requirements for both hardware and software. To run OCS 2007 or OC 2007, Microsoft advises no less than dual core processors. I guess I need not say more.

OCS 2007 needs a small Microsoft software crowd to feel at ease on a system. For instance, on your server, you will need to already have installed at least Windows Server 2003 or later, .NET framework 2.0, Internet Information Server (IIS), a database server where necessary, and some others..., which are already very bulky.

Installing and setting up the product on a machine is close to adventure. You need heavy resource, a lot of time, and a lot of nerves too sometimes, and good skills. You need to be very good to find it easy.

How To Get Microsoft OCS 2007?

On the 16th of October 2007, Microsoft has officially launched a free downloadable trial version of the product. The download link is here. This trial version includes Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, and Speech Server 2007.
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