This document outlines how Resource Calendars (booking meeting rooms and other resources) are intended to work in Office 365 / Exchange Online.
A resource is anything in your business which has limited availability and you wish to be able to reserve using your Outlook calendar. A typical example would be a meeting room but you can also create things like AV systems or specialist equipment for reservation by your staff.
You can create resources using the Exchange Online email and calendaring system, accessible through the Office 365 Admin Portal (https://portal.office.com)
By default, all resources can be queried by all users to check if they are free or busy.
Booking / Reserving a Resource in Outlook
Let us assume that most commonly, a resource is a Meeting Room and this has been set up in Exchange Online.
There is a common misconception that you need to be able to ‘see’ the Meeting Room’s calendar before being able to set a suitable meeting time.
In fact, the process should be as follows, using the Availability Checker.
1. Set Up a New Meeting
- In Outlook, switch to your Calendar view
- Click Meeting in the toolbar to set up a new meeting
- In the To… field, add the email address for all attendees
- Also in the To… field, start typing the name of your meeting room then select it from the list
2. Define the Time and Date
At this stage you have defined who is required to attend the meeting, and the room in which you intend to hold it.
Now, click the Scheduling button in the toolbar.
This will load up a panel indicating when all invitees are free, including when the room is free. In this way, you can easily choose a meeting time which you know can be met by everybody, including the room availability.
Complete the other details of your meeting and then Send the invitation.
The meeting room will automatically accept the booking if you chose a time when it was available. Your other attendees will of course have the choice to accept or reject the invite.
What if I just want to see quickly if the room/resource is free?
Using the same technique as above, you can quickly interrogate the meeting room calendar without actually setting a meeting. Just go to set up a meeting with the room as the only invitee, then hit the Scheduling button.
Can’t I just open / view the resource’s calendar directly?
You can, but it usually the relevant permissions and calendar has to be set up manually for every single person in the company. This is not a very scalable solution and runs the risk of users making manual entries in to the resource calendar to make bookings, which is not supported and may cause breakages or double-bookings.
We recommend this is only used sparingly in special cases, for example where an office administrator needs to very regularly see the availability of a resource across a number of weeks.
I prefer to choose my meeting time and then invite the people, why can’t I do it this way?
The logic is that there is no point setting a meeting room and time/date if the system is able to tell you that required attendees cannot actually make the proposed time.
As such, the recommended method is to use the Scheduling button to identify a time after you have defined who needs to attend the meeting.