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Understanding Custom Prompt Distribution

[This is pre-release documentation and subject to change in future releases. This topic's current status is: Milestone-Ready.]

Applies to: Exchange Server 2010 Beta Topic Last Modified: 2009-02-18

In Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging (UM), you can create and configure UM dial plans or auto attendants that are fully functional but use only the default audio prompts included in Exchange 2010. However, the audio files installed for greetings, informational announcements, and menu prompts are generic and should be customized and then distributed to all the Unified Messaging servers in your organization. This topic explains how a custom prompt is copied to all computers that have the Unified Messaging server role installed so that the custom audio prompts are available to all callers who use Outlook Voice Access and UM auto attendants.

With custom prompt publishing, custom audio files are made available to all Outlook Voice Access users and callers who dial in to UM auto attendants. After you create a custom audio prompt, you must first copy the custom prompt to the Unified Messaging server you've designated as the prompt publishing point. The prompt publishing point is a shared folder located on the first server associated with a single UM dial plan. After the custom audio file is copied to the prompt publishing point, all the UM servers that are members of the same dial plan will copy the custom audio prompt to a local folder so the Unified Messaging server or servers can play the custom file for Outlook Voice Access users or when callers dial in to a UM auto attendant.

The UM custom prompts in the prompt publishing point will be copied locally by a Unified Messaging server regardless of how many UM servers belong to the UM dial plan. Each UM dial plan represents a set of UM servers and the set of UM-enabled users for whom the UM servers answer incoming calls. Small dial plans that serve hundreds of users or fewer may have only one UM server. Large dial plans that have several thousand users or more or that provide redundancy to help maintain UM or voice mail service availability have two or more UM servers.

Publishing custom prompts has the following benefits:

  • Consistent user experience   To the user, custom prompts seem to always work in the same manner and at the same speed.
  • Consistent server configuration   You don't have to make sure each UM server is updated correctly.

After you create a single copy of the custom audio file you want to use as an audio prompt, greeting, or information announcement, you must make sure all the UM servers associated with the UM dial plan receive a copy of this custom audio file. You can do this by configuring the UM dial plan or UM auto attendant to use the custom prompt using the Exchange Management Console or the Copy-UMCustomPrompt cmdlet in the Exchange Management Shell.

When you install the Unified Messaging server role, the audio files for the system prompts are copied to a folder on the Unified Messaging server. The system prompts copied to the UM server are used as the default prompts for UM dial plans and auto attendants. Because the system prompts are generic, you might want to enable custom greetings, announcements, and menu prompts in your Unified Messaging environment. You must first create your custom audio prompts, enable the custom prompts on a UM dial plan or auto attendant, and then make sure your custom prompts are available on each UM server that belongs to a single UM dial plan.

You can use the Exchange Management Console or the Exchange Management Shell to copy the required custom audio files. To make sure the custom prompts are available to each UM server, you perform the following tasks either by using the Copy-UMCustomPrompt cmdlet or when you select the custom audio file in the Exchange Management Console:

  • Locate the prompt publishing point in the Active Directory directory service.
  • Copy the custom prompt to the prompt publishing point.
  • Update the configuration for Unified Messaging in the Active Directory directory service.

After these tasks are performed, the Microsoft Exchange File Distribution service updates each Unified Messaging server associated with the dial plan.

Bb124349.Caution(en-us,EXCHG.140).gifCaution:
We don't recommend using the Copy-Item cmdlet, Windows Explorer, or another program such as xcopy.exe to copy the custom prompt .wav files into a folder within the custom prompt publishing point folder.

The following figure shows the custom prompt publishing architecture and tasks performed by the Copy-UMCustomPrompt cmdlet or when you configure the dial plan or auto attendant to use a custom audio file using the Exchange Management Console.

Custom prompt publishing architecture
Custom Prompt Publishing Architecture

The Copy-UMCustomPrompt cmdlet queries the appropriate dial plan object in Active Directory to determine the location of the prompt publishing point. There is only one prompt publishing point for each dial plan, and it's stored as a Windows file share (also known as UNC) path that identifies a file share available for custom prompts. After the location of the prompt publishing point is determined, the cmdlet validates the content in the custom prompt, and verifies that it's in the correct format and uses a supported audio codec. If the custom prompt passes the validation tests, the Exchange Management Shell command copies the prompt content to the prompt publishing point.

The custom audio files in the prompt publishing point are automatically organized into a directory structure that reflects the dial plans and auto attendants that are configured in your Exchange organization.

The following figure shows the prompt publishing point directory structure. In this figure, a prompt publishing point has various subdirectories that correspond to UM dial plans and there are auto attendants within each dial plan.

Prompt publishing point directory structure
Custom Prompt Folder Structure

Each UM dial plan and UM auto attendant that is created is given a unique ID. The directory names are generated from the unique IDs given to the dial plan or auto attendant when their configuration objects are created. You don't need to know the exact names or locations of files under the prompt publishing point because the Copy-UMCustomPrompt cmdlet uses the unique ID associated with the dial plan or auto attendant to make sure the custom prompt is copied to the correct location in the directory structure.

After the custom prompt is copied to the prompt publishing point and any necessary directory updates are made, the prompt is copied to each Unified Messaging server in the dial plan. After the custom prompt is added to the appropriate folder on the UM server that is configured as the prompt publishing point, the Microsoft Exchange File Distribution service that runs on each UM server refers to the prompt publishing point and determines whether the files in the prompt publishing point have changed or additional files have been added. If files have been changed or additional files exist, the other UM servers pull the custom prompts from the prompt publishing point and copy them to the correct location in the \\<Server name>\ExchangeUM folder that exists on a local drive.

Bb124349.note(en-us,EXCHG.140).gifNote:
The Microsoft Exchange File Distribution service is installed together with the Unified Messaging server role. It's also installed with the Client Access server role because it's also used to copy the offline address book for clients running Outlook Web Access.

All the Microsoft Exchange File Distribution service information is stored in Active Directory. However, you should back up the source locations for replicated files, for example, offline address books and UM prompts. The offline address book source is the Mailbox server that generates the offline address book. The UM prompt location is on the first UM server, unless otherwise specified. As long as the source is backed up or restored, the Microsoft Exchange File Distribution service replicates the content. If any of the replica servers go down, the Microsoft Exchange File Distribution service replicates content from the source as soon as they are back online without any administrator intervention. You can run Update-FileDistributionService to force replication if you don't want to wait for the automated process to occur.

Bb124349.note(en-us,EXCHG.140).gifImportant:
After you configure a new custom prompt or update one, it may take several minutes for the Microsoft Exchange File Distribution service to make the custom prompt available on all UM servers in your Exchange 2010 organization. If you want to make the custom prompt available immediately on all the UM servers in your organization, you must run the Update-FileDistributionService cmdlet to make sure the custom prompt is copied to all UM servers in your organization.

The prompt publishing point for a UM dial plan is automatically set when the first Unified Messaging server joins the dial plan. It can be located on any server that can be accessed by the UM servers associated with a particular dial plan. The prompt publishing point is a property that is set on a UM dial plan and is set to \\<server name>\ExchangeUM, where <server name> is replaced by the NetBIOS name of the UM server.

For dial plans with one UM server, there is little reason to change the location of the prompt publishing point. However, you may want to move the prompt publishing point for the following reasons:

  • In a dial plan with multiple UM servers, the prompt publishing point represents a single point of failure.
  • A UM server generally doesn't act as a file server. A UM server may not be backed up as frequently as other servers and may not be configured to have disk storage devices such as redundant array of independent disks (RAID) arrays. If a file server with a RAID array exists on the network, you may want to use it for the master copy of the UM custom prompts.
    Bb124349.note(en-us,EXCHG.140).gifImportant:
    You must move the prompt publishing point to another location before you can uninstall the Unified Messaging server role.

For more information about how to change the prompt publishing point, see Change the Prompt Publishing Point.

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