Key Unified Messaging Features
The concept of unified messaging and the features it delivers vary from vendor to vendor, but in general these are some of the capabilities you can expect:
Automated Attendant. An automated attendant is like a virtual receptionist or operator. The automated attendant may work on either touch-tone menu input or voice-response recognition and can make it simpler and more intuitive for callers to reach the department or individual they are seeking.
Receiving Voicemails. Rather than being stored on a separate phone server or system, voicemail messages are stored in a common inbox along with e-mail and other communications. Voicemails can be played directly from within an e-mail or may be attached to the e-mail as an audio file.
Receiving voicemail in the e-mail inbox also expands the options for accessing voicemail; it can be retrieved from a phone, from the e-mail client, through Web-based e-mail access, or even through e-mail access on a mobile phone.
Receiving Faxes. If you receive faxes on a standalone fax machine that spits out actual paper copies of the message, this won’t help you much. However, if you rely on a fax server, the faxes can be rerouted to a unified messaging inbox.
Old-fashioned faxing requires that you be physically present at the site of the fax machine in order to receive it; unified messaging faxes can be accessed anywhere, any time, in all of the same ways previously mentioned for accessing voicemail.
Voicemail Notification. Traditional voicemail typically relies on either a flashing light on the telephone handset or a stutter tone when the phone is picked up to notify you that there is a pending message.
With unified messaging, the user receives the voicemail in e-mail, making it accessible from anywhere in the world at any time, plus the softphone client generally has some sort of voicemail notification to alert the user that there’s a new voicemail.
Direct Access to Voicemail. Some enterprise phone systems have this capability already, but it is still a cool feature. With voice tied into unified messaging, you can leave voicemail for a co-worker without actually ringing their phone.
If you want to leave messages for someone without interrupting that person or just want to leave a reminder without having an actual conversation, the capability to connect directly to voicemail can come in handy.
Route Playback to Phone. Even though unified communications and unified messaging can give you the capability to play your messages back on your computer either through the softphone client or by playing an embedded or attached audio file from an e-mail, you might not always want to do this.
If you are in a coffee shop or sitting in an airport, you may want your messages to be private. Unified messaging allows you to initiate playback of voicemail messages on your computer, but reroute them to your desktop or mobile phone.