Unified messaging provides variable access for e-mail, voice mail and fax communications. Unified messaging service allows messages to be retrieved via a phone call or Website access. E-mail can be heard over the telephone, voice messages can be read over e-mail or the Internet, and either message type can be forwarded to a fax machine. In addition, unified messaging allows users to set the appropriate priority on received messages. For example, messages received from an individual's boss or significant other can be configured to be heard or read before all remaining messages.
Cisco installs their unified messaging component (Cisco Unity) with the Microsoft Outlook e-mail client. This configuration offers speedy retrieval of e-mail, voice, and fax messages from the computer. With text-to-speech capability, all voice mail and e-mail messages can be heard over a telephone. In addition, having each message delivered and identified appropriately to one inbox, the end user can determine the number and type of messages received quickly. All fax, voice mail, and e-mail messages can then be saved in the personal folder space of Microsoft Outlook.
Some of the advantages of unified messaging are as follows:
- It is no longer mandatory to purchase fax machines, answering machines, and office budgets can be significantly reduced.
- Message notification and having a single access for all incoming messages saves time previously wasted from accessing and retrieving messages via paper with fax machines, via voice mail with telephones and via e-mail over the Internet.
- Messages can be retrieved from increasingly more locations over phones, wireless devices, or computer devices throughout the world (e.g., restaurants, hotels, and airports).
- Because of the ability to store messages electronically, the security of messages is increased when compared to the likelihood of losing or misplacing paper facsimiles.
- Notification via pager or other wireless devices increases the responsiveness to clients and coworkers attempts to contact an individual.
Unified messaging is a major benefit of VoIP and has become a prominent focal point for companies that use their IT infrastructures as a competitive advantage in today's business. The International Data Corporation (IDC) stated there were 1 million worldwide unified messaging users in 1999. Today, IDC estimates there will be 38 million unified messaging users worldwide in 2004. Recently, technological advancement has made it easier to integrate unified messaging into the existing company infrastructure. These advancements and the expansion of mobile workers in the industry necessitate the presence of unified messaging today and in the future.
Richard Parsons (CCIE#5719) is a Manager of Professional Services for Callisma Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of SBC. He has built a solid foundation in networking concepts, advanced troubleshooting, and monitoring in areas such as optical, ATM, VoIP, routed, routing, and storage infrastructures. Rich resides in Atlanta GA, and is a graduate of Clemson University. His background includes senior and principal consulting positions at International Network Services, Lucent, and Callisma.