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A Complete Guide to Unified Messaging

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - 14:45
Unified Messaging

Unified Messaging: An Overview

By now most people have at least heard of Unified Messaging, whether or not they have experienced and utilized its features.  Unified Messaging (UM) is defined as the integration of various electronic messaging and communications media (i.e. email, fax, SMS, video messaging, voicemail, etc.) technologies into one combined interface.  With UM, all types of messages are stored in one comprehensive system.

In other words, Unified Messaging is a group of tools within a Unified Communications platform that ensures you always have access to your communications data, whether across voicemail, fax, or email. For most, the email inbox is the center of the communications universe. UM provides access to voicemail and fax messages from your email inbox—anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Why the move to Unified Messaging?

As the population of mobile users has increased, a growing number of these employees are forgoing use of their desk phone as their primary communications device.  Most use either a mobile device or IM-type software for messaging and daily communications.  Modern-day mobile users agree that staying connected is key for communications.  This notion has pushed messaging into the role of ‘preferred means of communication’.  Corporate professionals have turned away from many traditional options and now see messaging as the proper, more effective and responsive means of communicating with clients and vendors.  

Available services like mobile web mail, conferencing, SMS, and video messaging have become the foundation of communications across many of today’s organizations.  It has become more common for companies to communicate with internal and external contacts via enterprise IM solutions – whether over a PC, laptop, or mobile device.  Data and information is shared in real-time, for efficient and effective decision-making.

Advantages of Unified Messaging

With the variety of communications tools available today, the dominance of the desk phone for daily communications is rapidly coming to an end. Enterprises are realizing that there are more flexible alternatives for workplace communications, including Chat/Instant Messaging, Conferencing, Desktop Sharing, and the ever-popular Email. In most of today’s enterprises the primary purpose of voice mail is to answer the phone for the few callers who lack other tools. Therefore, enhanced user productivity and reduced costs are possible by integrating the voice mail functionality with e-mail.

Also, as business and regulatory compliance continue to evolve, their guidelines are becoming easier to meet with a combined Inbox.  In the current environment, a Unified Messaging (UM) solution that answers telephone calls and then stores the voice recordings in the user’s e-mail inboxes not only likely meets these requirements, but is also the best business process option for most enterprises. Moreover, having voicemails stored electronically also provides a permanent, archived, and searchable record.  By implementing UM, organizations can not only improve end-user productivity and business outcomes, but can additionally reduce costs – with a consolidated and flexible UM solution – compared to traditional voice mail systems.

Furthermore, according to Gartner (the world’s leader in information technology research) in their 2014 report on Unified Communications (UC), “The primary goal of unified communications (UC) is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes.”  In fact, Gartner defines UC products (equipment, software, and services) as “those that facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communications methods to obtain that goal.”

Moreover, as described in a recent technology article: “UC allows organizations to meet the growing demands from customers and employees.  Employees are able to complete tasks faster when they can move seamlessly from one device or channel to another. Employees are able to communicate with colleagues from any location, allowing organizations more flexibility and (the) ability to save money.”

Tools for Unified Messaging Implementation

Recognizing what unified messaging is and all of the advantages it has to offer is the first step towards implementation.  Now we can get into the specific tools and functionality that can be applied to bring your enterprise’s communications toolset current.  For employees that are on top of their Inbox, especially those that travel or work from multiple offices, a tool that converts received voicemails into digital sound files that arrive in the Inbox would be ideal.  The positives of this tool include:

  • Simultaneous checking of emails and voicemails
  • Saving the time and reminder of calling into the voicemail system for messages
  • The ability to quickly scan and review call information and details
  • The option to forward voicemail files to any other internal or external contact
  • Retaining the ability to check voicemails from any phone, but protected behind a secure portal

Next, to accommodate the many companies that still utilize faxing, a tool that can receive and send inbound and outbound faxes right from your computer would surely appeal to many mobile workers.  For example, a solution like West IP Communications’ DirecFax not only enables users to send and receive faxes through their computer, they can also print faxes and save them as image files.  Additionally, faxes can be sent from any program on your computer.

For comprehensive messaging features like instant messaging (IM), presence, video calling, voice, and voice messaging, West IP Communications’ deployment of Cisco Jabber combines all of these capabilities for all desktop and mobile devices into one nice, neat package.  This all-in-one messaging product makes it easy to find, connect, and collaborate with contacts over a variety of devices.

Products like a Voice to Email unified inbox, DirecFax, and Cisco Jabber help to drive down communication costs, while simultaneously offering users access to advanced feature packages to enhance accessibility, mobility, and productivity.

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