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Voice messaging - integrated or unified?

2008 was a great year for debates, decisions and elections - big decisions, big interest and big turnout.  Now that its 2009 I'd like to get back into the debating spirit.

Do you want your voice messaging deployment to be integrated messaging or unified messaging?

First, let's define the debate terms.  Integrated messaging is voice messaging that is integrated at the client level.  Voice messages are stored on a voice messaging server and integrated into a variety of clients for ubiquitous access - email, web clients, instant messaging applications, mobile devices, etc.  Integrated messaging differs from unified messaging, in that in a unified messaging deployment, voice messages and email messages are stored on the same server - a unified store for all messages.  Unified messaging also allows for message access from a variety of clients, but requires what can be a more complex deployment with an email server.

Now that you know, where do you stand?

Do you like your voice messages to be kept separate from email messages or together?  Why?

Does your organization require a certain method of storage for compliance or retention reasons?

Chime in!  I'd love to read your thoughts on this topic and reasons for choosing one or the other.


Unified Communications Solutions Marketing


Re: Voice messaging - integrated or unified?

Hi, Mark,

Yep, those are good questions.   There's another one, too.  Is anyone even sending voice messages anymore, or are they all just "call answering messages" for that small portion of callers that don't "slam down" to call the cell phone or send an IM. 

Our consulting firm, UniComm Consulting, looks at this data with our clients and finds that the traffic is mostly going elsewhere when a called party is not available and that very few people are even creating and sending voice messages at this stage.

The outcomes are two fold:

1. Find the best 'voice portal' features possible in any new "voice messaging" system, since the caller experience is most important.  Link that to presence and IM so the caller gets served as much, as quickly, and as often as possible.

2. Then, find the least expensive way to store any resulting messages and be sure to deliver those messages to the user's personal (usually mobile or PC-based) device.  In this case, a single message store will often be the answer.  Of course, there may be the regulatory concern you mention, but the technical answer will be the most converged solution, just as it has been for networks.

Again, good questions.

Marty Parker

Cisco Employee

Re: Voice messaging - integrated or unified?

Now for integrated messaging if you have a voicemail on your email through imap and you delete it does it delete off of your phone?


Re: Voice messaging - integrated or unified?

That's a great question, VA.   And the one that the suppliers work hardest on to make their integrated offer as robust as possible.

Approaches that can be seen in the market:

-- Just push the voice mail "header" to the e-mail inbox.  This usually includes the caller's number, if the user wants to callback directly from the header (with or without listening to the caller's voice message).

-- Push the voice mail "header" with "action links".   One type of link (usually on a mobile phone) is to immediately log the user into their voice mailbox to listen to the message or to stream the message to the PC (if in the visual interface), thus facilitating the access.   Another type of action link is to allow save or delete of the voice message from the e-mail client.

-- Create a separate inbox for the IMAP VM.  In this case, which is the default if the IMAP VM mode is mixed with an Exchange e-mail inbox, the VM is treated just like an e-mail with the voice message as an attachment.  Great for the desktop, but terrible for mobile devices, since the IMAP inbox contents are not visible on the mobile device.

-- Use A Synchronizer.  This is probably the best option from a user perspective, but adds overhead for IT/Telecom.  The Mutare EVM product is the best example of this.  Works really well, combining the best of the options above by placing either the header or the header and voice message in the e-mail inbox, along with links that provide for coordinated deletion from both e-mail and voice mail.

Thanks for sharing.

Marty Parker

UniComm Consulting


Re: Voice messaging - integrated or unified?

What options are there to deploy a “unified messaging” (single inbox) for 80% (vm’s stored in exchange or unity/unity connection) of the firm and a “integrated” (email and voice inbox and vm’s stored on Unity connection) solution for 20% of the firm.  From a compliance perspective we only want a percentage of user voicemails stored in exchange and my understanding is the following:

·         MS UM does not do this (messages stored in exchange)

·         Unity provides UM but messages are stored in exchange

·         Unity connection stores messages in Unity but doesn’t provide UM (single inbox)

What is the best way to do this?


Cisco Employee

Re: Voice messaging - integrated or unified?

I am going to assuming they absolutely have to store the 80% UM subscribers voice messages in their corporate email inbox.  If that wasn't a requirement a pure Unity Connection deployment would be the best and most compliant solution storing all messages in a separate message store then limiting functionality exposed to the Unity Connection subscribers.  There are really two ways to go about this.

First the pure Unity route.  Unity supports UM but also has the ability to support mixed UM / VM.  You would home your Unity UM subscribers on the corporate Exchange servers with messages stored in their respective mailboxes.  Then to draw a clear line in the sand compliance-wise you would have a dedicated Exchange server for VM only Unity subscribers.  Since these subscribers still need AD/Exchange accounts in the same AD forest, these subscribers would use a format like vm_JohnSmith for their AD/Exchange aliases and would be hidden from the address book so corporate e-mail subscribers couldn't e-mail them on accident.  Unity also has a tool that can associate other AD accounts with Unity subscribers so even VM only subscribers could benefit from single sign-on when using CPCA or IMAP access leveraging their own AD credentials.

Here is a link on mixed mode UM/VM, this document also applies to Unity 7.x...

Secondly you could go with a mixed Unity / Unity Connection deployment when your Unity subscribers are all UM and the Unity Connection subscribers are all VM only.  In this case you would use VPIM to message between the two voicemail environments.  Since both support VPIM contacts, you would be able to address messages by name and hear the recorded name for subscribers on the other system.  Although this is a clear separation of the two systems it also adds to the administrative overhead as you now have to administer two different products.



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