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Reserving Conference Rooms and Equipment the Easy Way in Office 365

By: Total Computer Solutions

Group of business people in a meeting at the office

Scheduling the use of rooms and equipment is a necessary function of any business. Managing reservations by hand is tedious, and Office 365 has a better way. Resource mailboxes represent places or things that can be reserved, so employees can request them by merely adding them to an Outlook meeting. Reservations can be automatic or go through a human reviewer. Either way, the mailboxes simplify the job. TCS can help you to set them up for your organization.

How do resource mailboxes work?

There are two kinds of resource mailboxes. Room mailboxes let you manage fixed locations such as meeting rooms. Equipment mailboxes are for resources that are not tied to specific locations but need to be reserved.

The way the two work is almost the same. The difference is the type of data describing them. A room can have a location, phone number, and capacity. An equipment item is associated with a department and an organizational unit. It can have the ability if applicable; for instance, a car can carry a certain number of people.

They are like a personal inbox, but these mailboxes are not associated with a specific user. A resource mailbox can operate automatically, or it can have one or more delegates assigned to it.

There is no need for a separate reservation system that could fall out of sync with Outlook calendars. Managers and employees all check the same place to determine whether they can reserve a room, a projector, or a car for a given time period. Inadvertent double booking will not happen.

Reserving a resource

A user schedules a meeting in the Outlook calendar. Each resource has a calendar of its own. If the request specifies a location with a resource mailbox, an email message automatically goes to the mailbox. The meeting organizer does not need to know that a mailbox exists for the room, only that the request will be processed.

Reserving equipment is similar. Each reservable item has its calendar, and users can book it for a time slot.

Managing a resource mailbox

The simplest way to set up a resource mailbox is to give it scheduling parameters and allow automatic booking. Resource names should follow a consistent convention. They should not merely name the resource but provide useful information. A room might have a name like "Meeting Room B, boardroom table, projector, and screen." A piece of equipment could be named "Sound System 1, 4 table microphones, 20-watt speaker."

When a user sets up a meeting or reserves a piece of equipment, Office 365 checks a few points:

  • Is the reservation for the hours when it is available?

  • Is the resource already reserved for that time?

  • Does the number of invitees exceed the capacity?

  • Does the request block exceed the maximum permitted time?

  • Is the request for further in the future than reservations are allowed?

If no conditions prevent the reservation, it will go through immediately. If there is a problem, the person making the reservation will receive a message explaining the difficulty, and the organizer can try to reserve another time or place.

If there are more complicated conditions on reservations, a delegate can be put in charge of the mailbox. The organizer will get a notification when the administrator approves or rejects the request. There can be more than one administrator for a resource so that a backup is available when the primary manager is away.

Reserving resources through Office 365 simplifies the process and eliminates conflicts. If the process is already set up in your organization, contact your administrator or IT provider to find out the details of using it. If you are looking for help in setting up a room and equipment reservation system, contact TCS at 336.804.8449 or submit a request form.