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Unified Messaging (UM) is a great application with a very straight forward description: It provides the integration of different electronic messaging and communications media (e-mail, voicemail and fax) technologies into a single interface, the email inbox, and makes them accessible from both the desk top PC and smart phones.

A couple of comments about Unified Messaging in general before proceeding to the benefits. First, UM is not new – it has actually been available for about 15 years and was originally developed by a company called Active Voice Corp. Acceptance in the SMB market was relatively slow until last five or six years because of cost – it was a $5,000.00 addition to the base cost of a voice messaging system when it was first released by Active Voice and remained an expensive feature as part of Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager platform for many years. Now, the cost of adding this capability to any of Samsung’s OfficeServ SVMi series voice messaging systems is less than $650.00. Competing products also offer cost effective UM solutions.

The other point deserving clarification is that Unified Messaging is not a Voice over IP application and does not require any VoIP capability in the office telephone system for deployment. I am not sure of the origin of this misconception, but it is quite common and awareness of it can help significantly reduce the cost of implementing a new telephone system.

The primary benefits of Unified Messaging are simplifying office life and increasing efficiency. With UM, voice mail messages and fax’s are delivered directly to a user’s email inbox – simplifying the user experience by providing one place to check for all three types of messages. This also applies when people are away from the office as all smart phones (IPhones, Droids and Blackberrys) can fully integrate with the office email system. The task of calling into the office to check for voice mail messages is eliminated and they are delivered as soon as the calling party completes the message. Having instantaneous access to messages and being able to respond quickly offers huge competitive advantages to any organization.

The other big benefit of Unified Messaging is the management of voice mail messages. UM allows the user to store voice mail messages that need to be saved in folders on their PC or network. Stored voice messages can be retrieved as easily as Word docs, emails or spread sheets – and they can emailed to anyone as they as are stored in a standard Wav File format. This functionality also applies to fax’s and will hopefully save some trees as the need to print fax’s will be mostly eliminated.

In terms of bang for the buck, I have not seen a telecom application more useful than Unified Messaging in quite some time.

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