Unified messaging (UM) gives employees the ability to check and retrieve their e-mail, voice mail and fax messages through a PC or via touchtone prompts. UM typically includes text-to-speech technology, where email messages can be read out loud to the employee via speakers, the handset or a headset. Faxes can be routed to the single inbox as well and can be viewed, forwarded or printed. Voice mail viewer applications allow users to check their unified messaging voice mail messages visually, and to choose the order in which they listen to them. UM has been around for the last 20 years or so and is consistently improving in functionality. Some UM vendors to keep an eye on in 2016 include:
Intermedia’s services are integrated into its HostPilot® Control Panel. This means that users have only one log-in, one password, and one bill. This cloud-based service is easy to use and simple to manage. Enterprise-grade security is also included with Intermedia offering a 99.999% uptime guarantee and 24/7 phone support with low hold times. Unified messaging features include:
- Find me/follow me
- Voice mail to e-mail
- Web and remote access to voice mail
- Fax integration
- Instant callback during voice mail message
- Rebound to take users back to voice mail immediately
Unified messaging is part of Intermedia’s Hosted PBX offer, a cloud-based solution that has been recognized as top product in the “Gartner 2015 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, Worldwide” report.
Microsoft products that support UM include Office 365 and Lync with Exchange 2013 UM. Office 365 voice mail is delivered as an online service, while Exchange 2013 UM is a premise-based system. For Office 365 end users, features like Voice Mail Preview and Call Answering Rules are almost all available and behave as they do in Exchange 2013 UM. The one feature area that isn’t available in Office 365 voice mail is speech access using automatic speech recognition to search the directory (global address list). Instead, users must spell the person’s name with the telephone keypad. All other speech features in Outlook Voice Access (voice mail, mail, calendar, personal contacts) are available. UM features include:
- Call Answering: Call answering is when the system records a voice message because a user’s calls are not answered or the user is busy. The system plays personal greeting, records a message and queues the message to the user's mailbox. If a caller leaves a message, the message is routed to the user's inbox. If a caller chooses not to leave a message, a missed-call notification is provided to the user. Users can then access their inbox by using the Microsoft Outlook messaging and collaboration client, Outlook Web Access, the Exchange ActiveSync technology, or Outlook Voice Access. The subject and priority of calls can be displayed the same way as in e-mail.
- Outlook Voice Access: Outlook Voice Access enables a user to access not just voice mail, but also e-mail, calendar and contacts from a telephony interface.
- Auto Attendant: Auto Attendant is an Exchange UM feature that routes calls to a series of voice prompts that allow an external caller to navigate a menu.
- Fax Services: Exchange UM includes fax features, which allows users to receive incoming faxes in their Exchange mailboxes.
Microsoft is continually growing and developing its products, so look for UM enhancements in 2016 and beyond.
This company offers hosted Exchange, hosted Lync and hosted Microsoft Office 365 as well as an option for e-mail compliance, among other products. Unified messaging features supported are:
- Outlook Voice Access: Users can call their inbox in order to access voice mail, e-mail, calendar and contacts (all read to the user with text-to-speech).
- Voice Mail Preview: Uses speech-to-text in order to take a voice mail and put a preview in a user’s inbox (uses best guess for words it does not understand).
- Incoming Fax: Requires a specialized fax vendor that will allow faxes to be sent to your inbox in .tif format.
- Play on Phone: Allows users to play their voice mails on a phone, rather than through their computer speakers.
- Auto Attendant: Has a set of default prompts but can also have company-specific prompts (can be voice or DTMF).
With SherWeb, resellers and end users benefit from a certified team showing an ability to innovate and present fitted solutions to just about any problems. The software-as-a-service model allows SherWeb to provide highly scalable solutions that can be easily adapted to a company’s specific needs and adjusted to the organization's growth.
Does your company offer UM products and services? What would you like to see in UM in 2016?