It turns out that you can use only .wav files for your announcements and greetings. Yes, Exchange has an option for importing .wma files, but it doesn't work. Worse, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (my client and server setups) do not have recording software that supports the .wav file format; the sound recorder supports only .wma files. Go figure.
After a bit of research, I found some third-party recording tools, including Audacity, GoldWave, and Blaze Media Pro. But it's not that simple. The recommended .wav setting for Exchange UM recordings is a PCM, 16-bit, 8KHz, mono file. But when I used that, the recordings generated by Audacity and GoldWave wouldn't work -- Exchange 2010 rejected the files. The audio files from Blaze MP worked fine, but I didn't like the idea of having to spend $50 to record audio that my Windows 7 PC and Windows server should be able to do natively.
There had to be another way. One recommendation I came across was to open the .wma recordings from Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 in a Windows XP system using its Sound Recorder application, then saving them as .wav files using the recommended settings. Somehow, the XP recorder has the right codec that Exchange UM's speech engine appreciates. This approach works -- if you have an XP system (or VM) laying around.
But I found an easier approach courtesy of Exchange expert and blogger Tim Harrington: Set up the auto-attendant so that you can simply call into it and have it record your greetings and announcements. Harrington's blog gives the specific details, but the basic premise comes from a TechNet article that explains the steps to enable custom prompt recording using the telephone user interface.
Even if you go the XP route for your recordings, being able to call in new greetings over the phone is still worth enabling, as it lets you update and add recordings anywhere, any time -- such as when a blizzard has closed your offices and you want the phone system to inform callers of the fact.
In the end, dealing with this audio recording oddity is not a big deal, and it is far outweighed by the benefits of using custom auto-attendants.
This article, "The trick to setting up custom auto-attendants in Exchange," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.