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What Are the Differences Between Unified Messaging and Unified Communications and Collaboration?

August 12, 2017

UCC is a progression based on UM, and the two terms are often erroneously perceived as being synonymous. UM platforms have been around for more than a decade and provide a common graphical user interface (GUI) or telephony user interface (TUI) to access voicemail, email, and fax messages. When using a UM system GUI, users can click on a common screen and listen to voicemails, access their emails, or view fax messages. Some UM platforms have incorporated speech engines that, for example, turn email into text that can be listened to using a telephone, mobile, or desktop.

Unified messaging provides the opportunity for an end-user to have voicemail delivered to any one of a number of different destinations electronically. Typically, this is accomplished via email delivery with a voicemail from any number of sources including a cell phone, an office phone or even a home number. The ideal situation would be for users to never have to check an individual email box ever again, but to be able to receive and listen to voicemail on any device, anywhere, and at any time.

UC systems, by contrast, share access to real-time applications such as click to call, UM applications, and applications such as instant messaging. Current UC systems also typically offer SIP-based presence engines, collaboration, and support for multimedia applications including email, video conferencing, and collaboration. UC platforms are often bundled with IP-PBXs, offering either a same-supplier UC platform or integration with another supplier's UC platform, but they are also available in a stand-alone format or in the cloud.

Unified communications technology is known by many names: collaborative communications, unified communications and collaboration, and information and communications technology (ICT). Unified communications is defined variously depending on the industry expert you speak to. What was once telecommunications has evolved to encompass all forms of communication, from messaging to Web conferencing to enterprise social media. As current technology improves and new technology enters the marketplace, the components of unified communications will also evolve.

Unified communications applications such as presence, conferencing, and chat offer combined services either from the cloud or as a part of an IP telephony system. IP telephony integration can be challenging and requires that the IT organization understand how unified communications and IP telephony protocols work together, as well as how to implement these combined processes throughout the organization.

IP telephony moves the traditional phone system from a siloed existence to become part of the enterprise data network. Beyond the clear advantages, such as reducing the amount of wiring required per desk and providing the type of mobility that comes with connecting to the voice system anywhere on the wide area network, the opportunity exists to integrate voice with enterprise collaboration solutions.

The main advantage to combining IP telephony, applications and business processes is user productivity. With UCC, users can see if their colleagues are available, decide what the best method of communication with that person is, and communicate with them quickly and easily. A centralized communications solution consolidates all methods of communications supported by a single interface, thus making it easier for users to get done what needs to be done.

The bottom line is that UM is a part of UC. In other words, UCC includes UM, but UCC also includes many other important products and technologies. These tools are easy to cost-justify for VARs and can result in sales that will create customers for life.

Are there additional differences between UM and UCC that should be explored in this blog? Please comment below.