Limiting Calendar Conflicts
Admin wants to limit conference room scheduling. The Auto Accept agent in Exchange 2003 does the trick.
- By Bill Boswell
I have a quick Exchange question for you. We're
setting up meeting rooms as resources and we want to limit how far in
advance meetings can be scheduled. We don't want people setting meetings
further than three months in advance and, in particular, we don't want
recurring meetings being set with end dates six months or more in advance
because our rooms tend to get booked and then not used. Is there a way
to do this? We are running Exchange 2000 but will be upgrading to Exchange
2003 by the end of September.
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Answer: As it turned out, David found the answer before
I could reply. I want to share what he found.
In June of this year, Microsoft released a tool specifically designed
to handle requests sent to resource mailboxes. A "resource mailbox"
is a mailbox that represents a conference room, department laptop, piece
of audio/visual gear, or any other item that can be reserved for individual
The tool is called the Auto Accept agent. It's available as a free download
that you can get by clicking
here. The documentation for the agent is available at this
link. The agent only works with Exchange Server 2003.
The Auto Accept agent installs via an MSI package. You must install it
on each Exchange server that hosts resource mailboxes. The installation
package does not extend the Active Directory schema nor does it store
configuration information in Active Directory.
The agent itself consists of an "event sink," a piece of code
that waits for an event to occur then takes an action. The agent listens
for incoming meeting requests sent to registered mailboxes. When the agent
is notified of an incoming meeting request, it looks up the time and date
in the Calendar folder of the resource mailbox to determine if there are
any scheduling conflicts.
If the requested time is clear, the agent accepts the meeting request
and returns a reply to that effect. If the resource has already been booked
for the requested time period, the agent declines the meeting request
and returns a message informing the scheduler of the conflict. The agent
does not suggest alternate times. The agent can also decline a recurring
meeting due to a conflict. You can assign a booking window to the agent
so that it only accepts reservations within a certain interval during
the day, or within a certain end date.
It's important to note that the Auto Accept agent looks in the actual
Calendar folder of the resource mailbox, not in the free/busy system folder
where calendar information is published. This avoids potential scheduling
conflicts that might occur if the resource mailbox schedule has not yet
been updated in the free/busy folder.
Once installed, the agent is configured using a Visual Basic script called
RegisterMailbox. This script flags a resource mailbox to tell the Auto
Accept agent to monitor incoming meeting requests. Once you've used RegisterMailbox
to identify a resource mailbox, the rest of the magic happens automatically.
You can use RegisterMailbox to assign a delegate to the resource mailbox
that is to say, a human user who can open the Calendar folder in
the resource mailbox and make changes manually to the scheduled events.
This is a great tool, well documented and simple to operated. It's well
worth your time to evaluate it for use in your organization.
Until next time.
Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.