Can you hear me now? Tales from a Cisco voice instructor

January 16, 2010  8:03 PM

My Unity Mailbox is Full – But Don’t Tell Anyone

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Let’s say a customer calls you and wants to know why you didn’t return their call. You explain to them that you didn’t get their message. The first time this happens they might believe you and let it go as a fluke. But, then it happens three more times that week. They might start doubting your honesty. If you are using Unity, you might want to see if your voice mailbox is full. You see, with Unity if your voice mailbox is full, by default it does not inform the caller of this. The reason for this is that by default the message is not delivered to the message store (Exchange or Domino) until after the message has been left. Since Unity does not contact the message store until the caller has left the message, it has no way to know that the mailbox is full. But don’t worry, we can fix that, and I will show you how shortly. But for now let’s say you have changed this behavior.

A few months later your mailbox is filled again but you are covered because you have configured Unity to check to make sure your mailbox has room before letting the caller leave a message. So guess what happens? The caller is not allowed to leave a message but they are not informed that your mailbox is full. They are sent to the opening greeting of the auto-attendant with no explanation as to why. They assume your voice mail system is broke. Unity is not broke, it is doing exactly what it was programmed to do. In addition to configuring Unity to check the message store before it allows the caller to leave a message, you must configure it to play a mailbox full message if the mailbox is full.

You configure both of these parameters using the Advanced Settings Tool. This tool can be found in the Cisco Unity Tools Depot, which is accessed by clicking the Tools Depot icon (Figure 1) on the desktop of the Unity server.

Figure 1

Figure 1

From within the Tools Depot double-click the Advanced Settings Tools (Figure 2) found under the Administration Tools folder.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Find the setting labeled Conversation – Full Mailbox Check Feature (Figure 3) and set the value to 1. Do the same to the Conversation – Full Mailbox Check Prompt setting.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Warning: It is important to understand that the Advanced Settings Tool changes the registry on your Unity Server. It is important that you have a current backup before making any changes of this nature. Do not use this tool unless you are certain of what you are doing.

January 12, 2010  9:04 PM

Backups, Who Really Needs Them Anyway?

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

I was talking with a co-worker today, and he told me that his laptop hard drive died. He followed that with… good thing I had a backup. Good thing, indeed, I thought and then quickly backed up my own files. I am pretty sure that if he had not had a backup, his mood may have been slightly different.

Can anyone tell me why it is that even when we know we should do regular backups and have been burned before we wait until smoke is coming out of the PC before we try to back it up? I think that would make a good New Year’s resolution: “I promise to backup my data on a regular basis.” Now, based on my past experience at keeping my resolutions, I’ve got a feeling my backup drive won’t be too busy this year, but I will try harder.

I know there are some out here that are shaking their heads at me because they do regular backups and are covered if anything goes wrong.  Are you? I mean are you really covered if ANYTHING goes wrong? An author who was 90% complete on her manuscript felt she was protected because she faithfully backup her hard drive each evening. One night she came home to find a fire truck in front of her house. Yes, her office had been damaged in the fire and her PC and backup unit were destroyed. As if having a house fire isn’t bad enough, she lost six months of work. After hearing this story, I started doing off-site backups. There are a number of ways you can do this. There are services like Cabonite and Envaloc. Some choose to simply backup to an FTP site that they have access to. If you simply want to make a back up of an important file you are working on, you can email it to your Gmail or Hotmail account. It really doesn’t matter how you create an off-site backup of important data, it’s just important that you do.

Even though I am not the most diligent of people when it comes to backing up my data, I do make sure I backup important projects that I am working on. Some say I go a little overboard but, as Andy Grove says, “Only the paranoid survive.” I backup my data onto an external hard drive and up to two remote sites. Occasionally, I will also copy it to a thumb drive.

I guess when it comes down to it, backing up your data is like buying insurance. No one really enjoys it and you really don’t need it… until you really need it. I know I didn’t really think I needed insurance on my truck. I mean, I am a pretty good driver. But when that deer forgot to look both ways last week and destroyed the front end I was glad I had it.  Do yourself a favor, don’t wait for a deer to smash into you server, go backup you data!

Do you have a funny or tragic backup story? Maybe you have found the ultimate backup solution. Go ahead and share it with the rest of us. Remember, the best comment this week has a chance at 200 Knowledge Points which could better your odds of winning that free Google Nexus phone.

January 9, 2010  7:59 PM

Creating Macros for Anything

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Have you ever found yourself on your computer, repeating the same task over and over and thinking, “there has to be a better way.” It has happened to me one too many times. I often think, “why hasn’t someone created an automated way to do this?” If you are using a program that supports macros, you can always create a macro, but often by the time you figured out how to make the macro do what you want it to do, you could have completed the task by hand and had time to spare. And then, what about those programs that don’t support macros?

You most likely know that there are many applications out there that claim to allow you to record any action on your PC and replay it as a macro. Most of these apps aren’t free. Now, I don’t know about you, but I like to try before I buy. Well, a while back I went on the hunt for a program that would allow me to automate a few tasks I found myself doing too often. I wanted something more than a “recorder” as I wanted the ability to input information at various points within the macro. I also wanted the ability to create this marco and then run it on any PC without having to load any runtime software. Well, after spending some time playing around with a lot of pieces of software, I stumbled across a program called AutoIt.

AutoIt offered pretty much everything I wanted and the price was right – FREE! You can’t do much better than free. But then again, is anything really free? In this case, the price is that you need to invest a little time. It is not a recorder, it is more of a programing language. Having taken a few programing classes in college years back, I thought I was up for the challenge. Well, thanks to the awesome built-in help documentation, samples and an active support forum and the fact that I was able to pull a few programing principles out of the cobwebs of my mind, I was able to create the macros I needed. I also found it fun to sit in the programing seat again after so many years. What really made this app work for me is that fact that you can compile these scripts to an exe. This took care of my need to be able to run it on any PC without having to load other software. I was even able to email a complied script to a friend.

If you find yourself in need of a special little macro and you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty, you should check out this program.

January 5, 2010  8:58 PM

Enhancing Cisco Meet-Me Conferencing (Part 4)

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Over the last few articles we have been exploring how we can enhance Cisco Communications Manager Meet-Me conferencing. Primarily we have discussed how we can add caller name announcement and reject undesired callers from joining the conference. These enhancements are accomplished by leveraging Unity and Communications Manager. Up to this point we have covered the Communications Manger side of the setup. In this article we will start to look at the setup required within Unity.

Unity will be the entry point to the conference for the callers. The caller will need to enter the extension on the Meet-Me conference they wish to join. This requires that a call handler is created for each Meet-Me number there is within Communications Manager. The call handler will be configured so that it requests the caller to record their name before the call is transferred. The call has to be accepted by a participant of the conference before the transfer is completed. To configure the call handler follows these steps:

1. From within Unity Administration, select Call Handlers and click the plus sign in the upper right hand corner.

2. Give the call handler a name that is easy to identify, such as Meet-Me5570 (I am using the extension 5570 in this example), and click Add.

3. Assign the extension 5570 (Figure 1).

Call Handler Extension

Figure 1

4. Select Call Transfers from the left hand column and set the Transfer incoming calls to a phone setting as seen in figure 2.

Call Transfer Settings

Figure 2

5. Select Supervise transfer for Transfer type and set the Rings to wait to at least 6.

6. In the Gather caller information section, check the Confirm and Ask Caller’s name check box (figure 3).

Caller Information Settings

Figure 3

These are the base requirements for this call handler. You may also want to record a busy and standard greeting. The standard greeting is what the caller will hear if they are not allowed to join the conference so you will want it to say something like, “You are not authorized to join this call, you will now be forwarded to the operator.” The busy greeting is what a caller should hear if the conference call had not yet started. The greeting should be something like, “the call you are trying to join has not yet begun, please try again in a few moments.”

The last thing we need to do is provide a way for a caller to know how to join a conference. The simplest way to do this is to add an option to the opening greeting. Typically a customer will add a line to their existing greeting that says something like, “If you are calling to join a conference, please enter the conference number now or at anytime during this message”.

December 26, 2009  12:55 PM

Enhancing Cisco Meet-Me Conferencing (Part 3)

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

In the last post we started to look at the configuration required to add the ability to have the name of the caller announced and to prevent the caller from joining the conference. So far we have configured the Meet-Me number; now let’s move on to the voicemail port configuration.

Warning: This article deals with modifying the Class of Control. If this is done incorrectly, you could cause calls to fail including emergency calls. If you do not have the proper training and are not qualified to make these types of changes DO NOT proceed.

Once you have created the Meet-Me number, placed it in the MeetMe_PT partition and added the MeetMe_PT to the calling search space of users that will initiate the conference, you are ready to configure CM’s class of control so that Unity can reach the MeetMe_PT partition. Do this by assigning a calling search space to the Unity voicemail ports. Assigning a calling search space to a voicemail port is very similar to assign one to a line or device. Keep in mind that Unity will most likely need to reach devices and numbers other than the Meet-Met number so you need to make sure that the calling search space assigned to the voicemail port has access to all required partitions. The following steps show how to assign a calling search space to a voicemail port. In this example, we will be assigning the Employ_MeetMe_CSS calling search space to the voicemail port. Again, it is assumed that this calling search space has already been created.

1. Within CM Administration navigate to Voice Mail>Cisco Voice Mail Port.
2. A list of ports should appear.
3. Select the first port that is associated with Unity.
4. Set the calling search space to Employ_MeetMe_CSS (figure 2).
5. Click Save.

Voice Mail Port configuration

Figure 2

At this point we are almost half way through the setup. In the next post we will start to discuss the Unity side of the configuration.

December 24, 2009  9:49 PM

Enhancing Cisco Meet-Me Conferencing (Part 2)

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

In the last post we discussed that the Cisco Meet-Me conferences lack the ability to announce the name of the caller and allow the caller to be rejected from joining the conference. In this article we are going to start looking at the steps required to add these features to a Meet-me conference by leveraging Unity.

Warning: To implement this feature, the Class of Control has to be modified. If this is done incorrectly, you could cause calls to fail including emergency calls. If you do not have the proper training and are not qualified to make these types of changes DO NOT proceed.

The key to this trick is that callers join the Meet-Me conference through a Unity auto attendant. This way we can use Unity’s supervised transfer feature to record the caller’s name and confirm that we want the person to join the conference. So the first thing we need to do is make sure that callers cannot directly join the Meet-Me conference. This is pretty simple: just place the Meet-Me number in a partition that callers do not have access to. However, in order to start the Meet-Me conference, that initiator must have access to the Meet-Me number. This means you will need to make sure that the calling search space for anyone that is going to start a conference has access to the partition that the Meet-Me number is in. I typically recommend that the partition is named MeetMe_PT.

The following steps show how to create a Meet-Me number and assign it to the MeetMe_PT. Keep in mind that it is assumed that the MeetMe_PT already exists.

1. Within CM Administration navigate to Call Routing>MeetMe Number/Pattern.
2. Select Add New.
3. Enter the desired Meet-Me number in the Directory Number/Pattern field.
4. Enter the Description.
5. Select MeetMe_PT from the Partition drop down list (Figure 1).
6. Click Save.

Meet-Me Number Configuration

Figure 1

In the next post we will look at how to configure it so that Unity can access the MeetMe_PT partition.

December 19, 2009  9:20 PM

Enhancing Cisco Meet-Me Conferencing (Part 1)

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

A popular feature within Cisco Unified Communications Manager is the Meet-Me conferencing. This feature allows a user to setup a conference call that others can dial into. The configuration and use of this feature are pretty simple. In most cases, simplicity is a good thing. But, simplicity often comes with a price, as it does in this case. The Meet-Me conferences do not offer a couple features that many users desire. Often users want the new participant’s name announced before they join the conference. They also would like the ability to disallow a caller from joining the call. Standard Meet-Me conferencing does not offer these features. But, as I said in a previous article, just because the feature isn’t there, doesn’t mean we can’t mimic it. By combining the features of Unity and Communications Manager, we can create Meet-Me conferences that offer these two features.

Since there are a number of concepts that you will need to understand in order to configure this, I am going to be breaking this topic up into a number of articles. At first I was a bit hesitant to cover this topic in blog format but, based on the interest I have received on this subject, I have decided to present it. Be sure to check in over the next couple of weeks as I explain the required tasks to make this happen.

December 18, 2009  10:03 PM

Has Cisco Flipped When It Comes To Acquisitions?

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

I had an interesting conversation today with a gentleman that asked if I had any idea as to why Cisco had acquired the Pure Digital Technologies and had been marketing the Flip camera so hard. For those of you that hadn’t noticed, Cisco acquired Pure Digital Technologies in March of this year. Pure Digital Technologies is the company that created the Flip camera. It is a small video recorder that has a flip out USB connector which makes copying videos to your PC quite easy. And for those of you that haven’t watched any TV lately, Cisco is marketing the heck out of this product.

At first glance this acquisition seems a bit strange, but when you step back and take a good look, there are a number of reasons that it might make more sense than one would think.

First off, it is a great product with lots of potential. If you haven’t played with one of these devices yet, you should stop by your local electronics store and check it out. When you do, you will notice that other companies have competing products. I actually bought a competitor’s product. I did so because it offered the features I was looking for at a lower price. I did have to give up a few features (such as the flip out USB connector) but I am willing to deal with the additional hassle factor. If I had been purchasing this for someone like my mother, I would have gone with the Flip. It is simply easier to manage.

Another area that this fits in well with Cisco is their new Show and Share product. This product allows companies to create private secure video communities. If you are going to be creating video content, a camera sure would come in handy. I won’t be surprised to see them to bundle Flips with this product.

And finally, the most obvious reason: what do people do with these videos once they create them? They post them to online services so that friends, family and the world can view them. This drives the demand for bandwidth. Remember, at its core, Cisco is a router and switch company. Whatever drives the need for more bandwidth will drive the need for more routers and switches. So does this acquisition make sense? Absolutely!

December 12, 2009  7:48 PM

Creating Corporate Speed Dials on Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

As I stated in the last article, corporate speed dials aren’t necessarily a feature in Communication Manager but that doesn’t mean you can’t have corporate speed dials in it. You can create corporate speed dials by using translation patterns.

Translation patterns translate a dialed number to a different number. Allowing users of a phone system to reach the office operator by pressing zero is a good example how this is often used. The extension of the operator’s phone is not zero. Let’s say their extension is 2001. A translation would be created that would translate the dial digit of 0 to 2001.

I bet you can already see how this could be used to create corporate speed dials. One thing you need to be aware of is that, in some versions of Communications Manager, translation patterns have a flag called “Urgent Priority set.” What this means is that as soon as digits are dialed that match a translation pattern; the translation pattern will go into action. This is true even is there are other patterns that may match. For example, let’s say you create a translation pattern of 200 and there is an extension of 2001 on the system. When someone tries to dial 2001, the translation pattern will be matched instead. This is because Communication Manager does a digit-by-digit analysis and when it receives the second 0 (200), it will match the translation pattern. This problem can be avoided by using a leading digit that is not used by any other number on the system. I typically use the asterisk.

Let’s say the customer wants 20 corporate speed dial numbers. I would create translation patterns of *01, *02, *03 and so on. Each pattern would be configured to translate the dialed digits to the desired number. For example, if the user dialed *01 the translation pattern would translate it to 1-800-555-1212.

The one drawback of this is that the users will need to know what numbers are assigned to each speed dial. This is usually resolved with the creation of a speed dial cheat sheet that ends up getting tacked to the wall of each cubicle. Sometimes, no matter how far technology takes you, you end up right back where you came from.

December 11, 2009  7:05 PM

Just Because the Feature Isn’t There, Doesn’t Mean the Feature Isn’t There

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Sometimes I wonder if speed dials were an after thought for Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager. One of the first questions I was asked when I started to teach this technology was, “How do I configure corporate wide speed dials?” I have to admit that the first time I was asked this, I must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights. I wanted to tell them that they are configured on the corporate speed dials configuration page, but I couldn’t, because there isn’t one. This is when I learned that the instructor sometimes has more learning opportunities than the student.

As I have mentioned before, what makes Communication Manager so powerful is how flexible it is. Even though there is no corporate speed dial feature, it doesn’t mean you can’t have them. Yes, I know that sound contradictory. Since Communication Manager is so flexible and modular, you can often have it mimic desired features that don’t seem to be included. Now, as the product has evolved, there are fewer and fewer features that it seems to be lacking. But every now and then a customer wants it to doing something that Communication Manager doesn’t do out of the box. I actually love when these opportunities arise. Note I didn’t say problems; it’s only a problem if you can’t get it figured out.

So, how did I fix the corporate speed dial issue? I used translation patterns. In order to understand how this solved the problem, you really need to understand what translation patterns are and how they work. In the next article I will provide an overview of translation patterns and how they can be used to create corporate speed dials.

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