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Unified messaging

Unified messaging brings all electronic messaging together to make them easier for users to access and easier for message system support to manage. Typically, email, faxes and voice mail can all be managed from a single computer screen.

The user can access all messages from one simple menu. This can be particularly useful For voicemail 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 email 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 email message with a voice message if that is more appropriate, say to avoid typing messages on your mobile phone keypad. This can be passed to the email inbox of the original message sender as an attached sound file.

Functions vary from system to system so it's important to check what is available, and to resist promises of what will be available tomorrow.

Functions also come at a price. It is therefore important to decide what 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 capable of handling the traffic before adding on the additional messaging burden. You may choose to retain your existing email system. Most of the unified messaging systems will integrate with the more popular email systems.

Certainly anyone thinking of purchasing a voicemail system should consider integrated messaging. The additional price for integration is not that high.

See http://www.unified-messaging.com/

See http://www.unifiedvoice.co.uk

February 2001

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