CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
Unified messaging is the bringing together of all electronic messaging to allow greater ease of use for users, and greater manageability for the message system supporter. Thus, typically, e-mail, faxes and voice mail can all be managed from a single computer screen. The users can access all messages from a single, simple menu. For voicemail, this can be particularly useful as it avoids the sequential run through all the boring, unimportant messages before the few priority ones are reached. The user can also see when each message was sent, its length and, assuming the telephone system supports it, the caller's phone number.
Messages can also be relayed through multiple methods. Typically, the user sitting at his/her own PC will simply need to open a window or two to access messages. However, mobile users can redirect faxes to a "local" fax number (including their mobile phone if it supports fax reception) or have their messages read to them over the phone (via a speech synthesizer for e-mail and fax messages). There are even now applications that will take your messages, split them into SMS length and relay them to your mobile phone or PDA as a series of text messages. Web-enabled systems allow you to collect your messages from any PC in the world, and some of the systems will send you a brief message (via SMS or voice message) simply to tell you that you have new messages available – you can then access the full message set when convenient.
This mixed message mode offers a number of advantages – besides more comprehensive and easier access. For example, it becomes possible to respond to an e-mail message with a voice message (if that is more appropriate, and especially if it avoids typing messages on your mobile phone keypad) – which is passed to the e-mail inbox of the original message sender as a sound file.
Of course, some unified message systems are more functional than others – it is important to check what is available, and to resist promises of what will be available tomorrow.
Again, of course, functionality comes at a price. Generally, as ever, you get what you pay for. It is therefore important to decide on the level of functionality you need before looking at systems. It may be possible to opt for a system that is upgradeable with higher functionality as your needs change.
Unified messaging is essentially a PC/network application. This means that your local area network must be "up to scratch" before adding on the additional messaging burden. It also means that you may want to retain your existing e-mail system – most of the unified messaging systems will integrate with the more popular e-mail systems.
Certainly anyone thinking of purchasing a voicemail system should consider integrated messaging. The additional price premium for integration is not that high.