Unified Messaging

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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The goal of unified messaging is to integrate all your communications media--including phones, faxes, and email--into one platform for compatibility and ease of use. If you've ever tried to sync up two applications or get two different machines to talk to one another, you know the idea of unified messaging and the reality of unified messaging are very different. The fact is, we live in a complicated wired (and wireless) world with hundreds of different software makers, applications designers, and programming standards.

Even major governmental agencies such as the FCC recognize the growing importance of standards in the communications field. It may be a Windows-dominated world, but many of the leading challengers to Microsoft's dominance offer programs that run on competing platforms. In the end, consumers invariably choose those technologies that are easiest to use and most practical. This is why so many companies are opting for unified messaging.

Unified Messaging in Practice

Say you're the district manager for a large, successful sales force, and you have a dozen different reps in the field, all across different time zones. Now say there's been a change in the product you're selling, and the manufacturer has just called you to alert you, but you were out of the office at the time. With unified messaging, a special key on your keyboard can alert you that you have a voice message awaiting you in your inbox.

You check your email program, but instead of reading text, you listen to your supplier's message as a WAV file. Thanks to that technology, you're able to hear all his inflections and other nuances. Using broadcast messaging, you can now forward that call directly to each of your dozen reps, no matter what time it is or where they're located. There's no need to call them each individually, and there's no need to interpret the message's subtleties for them. That's the promise that a unified messaging service can fulfill.

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