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Microsoft Office 365 Unified Messaging Retirement

by Aimee Green

Microsoft recently announced that they will be retiring Unified Messaging (UM) in Exchange Online in February 2020, this is likely to affect many organisations. UM is being replaced with Cloud Voicemail and Cloud Auto Attendant services.

Who does this affect?

If you have Microsoft Lync Server 2013 or Skype for Business Server 2015/2019 as your phone system and have your voicemail in Exchange Online, you have until February 2020 to transition to Cloud Voicemail. If you’re still using Lync 2010, you’ll need to upgrade to Skype for Business Server 2015 or 2019 before February 2020 if you want to retain voicemail functionality.

What will I need to do?

Customers using Exchange UM Online will be transitioned to Cloud Voicemail by Microsoft. The transition timing will vary depending upon how your company has utilised the UM features. Over the course of this calendar year, Microsoft will selectively notify customers via the Office 365 Message Centre of their coming transition. The first group of customers will be notified in February 2019 and then can expect to be transitioned in March 2019, however to complete your transition you must deploy a Skype for Business Hybrid topology with Office 365.

What are the benefits?

The main benefits come from the new Cloud Voicemail workload, this replaces the 10-year plus old Unified Messaging code which was ported to Exchange Online. You’ll see continued enhancements, improved support and more accurate voice transcription.

Will we lose any functionality ?

The most notable feature gaps between Exchange UM and Cloud Voice are as follows:

  • PSTN Dial-in Access - Cloud Voicemail has no option to dial a regular phone number to listen back to your voicemail. This is now achieved by email.
  • Play on phone (PSTN) - to play message - The ability to click play and have your PSTN phone ring and play the message back to you.
  • Call Answering Rules/Personal Auto Attendant
  • Message Waiting Indicator light on some phones
  • Sending a voice message to a group of users
  • Voicemail notification using SMS
  • Fax integration

Don’t worry Microsoft are working on reducing the features gap and bringing new functionality to Cloud Voice in 2019

  • Call answering rules
  • Web portal administration

Features you may be using in Exchange Online Auto Attendant which won’t be in the initial release of Cloud Auto Attendant

  • Transfer to PSTN number externally - Q2 2019
  • Extension dialling - 2019
  • Mailbox for AA callers to leave a message - 2019

What are the next steps?

You should consider planning any required work now, well in advance of the February 2020 retirement date. If you’re unsure of where to start, get in touch with us and we can help you transition to Cloud Voicemail and Cloud Auto Attendant services.