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Unified Messaging Explained

unified messaging

At one time, the process of checking voicemail, reading emails, sending and receiving text messages, and checking the fax machine were all separate tasks.

Realizing that these separate processes were time-consuming, technologists devised a way to pull them all together into one platform, called Unified Messaging (UM).

UM has now been on the market for more than a decade, having once been touted as the future of telephony. However, the technology was hit hard by slowdowns in the telecommunications industry around the turn of the millennium.

While UM adoption has picked up speed in recent years, it also faces stiff competition from a similarly-named piece of technology called Unified Communications (UC).

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What's the difference between Unified Messaging and Unified Communications?

Unified Communications offers many of the same features as UM, in addition to other features like collaboration tools and business process integration.

While UM only gathers messages and stores them in one place for later retrieval, UC gives users the ability to login from any device and check messages in real time, making it a more workable solution for today’s busy professionals.

However, Unified Messaging can be a more affordable solution for businesses that simply need the ability to access messages easily, across multiple devices.

UC may have the ability to integrate with applications like SharePoint or Microsoft Office, but many smaller businesses simply will never use these features. Being able to check messages from a PC or phone is more than sufficient for these businesses, who are always interested in saving money.

For more information about UC see: Unified communications

Advanced Applications

For businesses, UM offers many advantages over traditional voicemail, including the ability to manage voicemails, faxes, and emails in one location. Instead of checking an office voicemail account and mobile voicemail account separately, a professional can listen to all messages at once.

Because these messages can be checked from any device or phone, a professional is never far away from the information they need to know.

Because all of this information is culled into one account, professionals also have access to advanced sorting options not available with traditional voicemail. A user can see all voicemails, SMSs, and faxes from one contact, safely storing that information for future reference.

UM can also integrate with Microsoft Exchange to have all voicemails automatically transcribed and delivered to an email account. That same technology works in reverse, with professionals able to call in and have emails read to them while they are away from the office.

Unified Messaging Users

University of Minnesota Logo

Businesses, universities, and nonprofits across the country rely on UM services for their day-to-day business operations. The University of Minnesota chose Movius’s Unified Messaging solution to replace its system when the existing vendor ceased support for it.

With a substantial telecommunications department, the university needed a system that would reliably support its high daily call volume.

In addition to the one-stop message access employees now have, the university’s phone systems now have find me-follow me, which gives subscribers the opportunity to provide one number to contacts, who can then reach them on their desk phones, smartphones, and home phones with just one number.

Not only was the transition easier, employees reported the new system was much more easy to use and more functional than the old system.


Business owners have a variety of options when choosing a Unified Messaging provider:

  • K7 - With K7, businesses have web-based messaging. Free plans come with a phone number that delivers voicemails and faxes to a user’s computer.
  • Cisco - Cisco’s Unified Messaging Gateway offers a scalable system that intelligently routes messages. Pricing is available on a customized basis.
  • Mitel - With MiCollab Unified Messaging, Mitel offers features like auto attendant and message management of voicemail, fax and email. This product is sold through Mitel partners.
  • Avaya Aura - Built on a Linux platform, Avaya offers the reliability and scalability many businesses seek in a phone system. Pricing is available on a customized basis.