Many people use mistakenly use the terms Unified Messaging (UM) and Unified Communications (UC) interchangeably. This article defines the terms and provides some examples.
With UM, users create different kinds of non-real-time communication messages, such as voicemails, phone-generated text messages (a.k.a. SMS messages), emails, and faxes, which the UM product stores in a single location. Once created and stored, recipients of these messages can retrieve them from this single location using any supported communication devices, including ones different from the device on which they were created. For example:
A colleague sends you an email message, but you do not have access to a computer. You can call your voicemail and retrieve the email message in voicemail format.
You call a colleague and leave a voicemail, but they need the ability to answer his phone. They can read my voicemail as an email message.
Your business partner sends me a fax, but you don’t have access to my fax machine. You can access the fax as an email attachment.
You prefer to use a single device, such as my computer, to receive all my non-real-time communications.
However, with the advent of modern communication modes, such as instant messaging platforms with Unified Communications capabilities, unified messaging is becoming a thing of the past.
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Unified communications are a broader concept than UM. Unified Communications typically consist of several products. These products integrate non-real-time communication messages (such as those supported with UM) with real-time notifications, such as instant messaging, telephone calls (including conference calling), video conferencing, speech recognition, and others.
To support this integration, the Unified Communications product provider delivers a similar user interface across different devices (e.g., a cell phone or computer) and collects “presence information.” Hence, the Unified Communications system knows the options for messaging at a given time. Users can send and receive messages in real or non-real-time, from different locations, based on the location status of the person being messaged.
Unified Communications has excellent growth potential for businesses. For example, customers can be routed immediately to the appropriate person in the organization without a phone or email tag.
Limitations of Unified Messaging
UM has several limitations, which may impact its adoption and effectiveness for businesses or individuals. Some of the limitations of UM include:
UM is limited to non-real-time communication messages such as voicemails, texts, emails, and faxes. This means that it does not provide real-time communication capabilities such as instant messaging, video conferencing, and voice calls, which can be critical for businesses that require immediate communication.
UM needs to improve its ability to integrate with other systems that businesses rely on, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software. This may limit the effectiveness of UM for businesses that require integration with other systems to streamline their communication processes.
UM may be inaccessible for people with hearing or vision impairments, as it relies heavily on visual or auditory cues to communicate. This may limit the effectiveness of UM for businesses that require accessibility features for their communication systems.
UM may pose security risks, especially when used to handle sensitive or confidential information. UM may be vulnerable to hacking, interception, and other security threats without proper encryption and authentication protocols.
Differences Between Unified Messaging and Unified Communications
Unified Messaging (UM) and Unified Communications are related but distinct concepts in communication technology. UM refers to a single location where users can access non-real-time communication messages, such as voicemails, emails, faxes, and text messages. Users can retrieve these messages from any supported communication device, even if they were created on a different device.
On the other hand, Unified Communications is a more comprehensive and integrated communication system that incorporates real-time and non-real-time messages. Unified Communications includes multiple products that allow users to integrate different communication channels, such as instant messaging, telephone calls, video conferencing, and speech recognition for ease of use. Unified Communications products use a similar user interface across different devices, such as mobile devices and computers, and collect "presence information" to determine the availability of the person being messaged.
Unified Communications provides an enhanced communication experience by allowing users to send and receive messages in real-time or non-real-time from different locations. This integration of multichannel communication makes it easier to route customers to the appropriate person in an organization without the need for a phone or email tag. On the other hand, UM is a more limited concept that only provides a single location for accessing non-real-time messages.
While UM and Unified Communications are designed to improve communication and collaboration, Unified Communications provides a more robust and integrated communication experience than UM.
Emerging Trends in Unified Communications
Unified Communications is an evolving field with several emerging trends to look out for.
One of the most significant trends is the integration of Unified Communications with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This integration enables automatic call routing, chatbots, and voice assistants to respond to customers' queries quickly and effectively, improving customer service using Unified Communications.
Another emerging trend is the rise of remote work and the increasing need for collaboration tools. As more and more people work remotely, video conferencing and virtual meeting platforms such as those offered in Unified Communications become essential for effective communication and collaboration.
Mobile Unified Communications
The use of mobile devices is also a growing trend in Unified Communications. As more people work remotely or on the go, there is an increasing need for mobile applications that enable employees to access all Unified Communications features from their smartphones or tablets.
Cloud-based Unified Communications
Adopting cloud-based Unified Communications solutions is gaining popularity as companies look for more flexible and cost-effective ways to manage their communications systems. Cloud-based Unified Communications solutions allow businesses to scale up or down as needed and to access features and functionality that may not be available with on-premise Unified Communications solutions.
Unified Communications Integrations
Finally, integrating Unified Communications with other business applications, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, is becoming more common. These integrations help streamline business processes and improve overall efficiency, allowing companies to provide better customer service while reducing costs.