In my Exchange support experience, customers often ask me about the differences between using the Auto Accept Agent and Outlook Direct Booking. They want to know which they should use for their specific environment. After much research, I compiled the following matrix of advantages and disadvantages of each to help you decide for yourself which you should use.
The Auto Accept Agent is a server-side store event sink available in Exchange 2003 SP1 which provides automatic server-side processing of meeting requests sent to resource mailboxes. The Agent handles initial scheduling, cancellations and updates and sends responses to the meeting organizer - meaning less scheduling conflicts and allowing receptionists and conference room owners to spend their time more productively.
What are the advantages of using Auto Accept Agent?
Does Auto Accept Agent have any disadvantages compared to direct booking?
With that said, I would also like to talk about direct booking and its advantages and some considerations while using it.
Why direct booking?
Direct booking is an Outlook-specific feature that uses the organizer's Outlook client (Outlook 2000 or later) to book an appointment directly into a resource mailbox schedule. The Outlook client of the person organizing the meeting performs all the necessary tasks, such as conflict checking and placing the reservation on the resource calendar. To set up direct booking, follow:
291616 How to direct book a resource in Outlook 2002 or in Outlook 2003
Advantages of Direct booking:
With these advantages in mind, some disadvantages of Direct booking include:
Direct booking should not be used in conjunction with automatic booking done by the Auto Accept Agent. There is also configuration associated with direct booking that could conflict with Auto Accept Agent settings. For example, the default setting for direct booking is to accept all requests, regardless of conflicts. There is also a direct booking setting that automatically declines all recurring requests. These settings are only honored by Outlook and only when the resource is specified as a resource attendee. You should not register a resource mailbox for Auto Accept Agent in Exchange 2003 when you set up a resource for direct booking in Outlook. This is discussed in the below article
903290 You should not register a resource mailbox for Auto Accept Agent in Exchange 2003 when you set up a resource for direct booking in Outlook
Cluster Server Installation Notes
I also get asked if the agent can be installed on a cluster. Installing the Auto Accept Agent on a cluster requires only minor considerations. The installation of the binaries is the same as installing on a standalone server. However, Auto Accept Agent must be installed on each node that may be used for failover. If Auto Accept Agent is not installed on a passive node, meeting requests will be orphaned in the resource mailbox Inbox if this node is made active. Since the agent starts only when needed, there is no need to change the service startup settings. Because the configuration is file-based, it is important to use the same settings across all nodes in the cluster. If Auto Accept Agent is running on multiple active nodes, any per-mailbox settings must be put in all AUTOACCEPT.CONFIG.XML files. This file can be copied to all nodes of a cluster.
Mailbox sink registration must be done using the active node which hosts the mailbox. Although passive nodes must have Auto Accept Agent installed, they are not actually running Exchange services and are incapable of performing the mailbox registration. There is no need to make a node active to install or remove the Auto Accept Agent.
In next blog post: Troubleshooting Auto Accept Agent top support issues.
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