Unified Communications

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Unified Communications Featured Article


October 29, 2009

Unified Communications Q&A: Including E-Mail in a UC Strategy

By Stefania Viscusi, Assignment Desk Editor


Unified communications or, “UC”, continues to grow today as more and more businesses look to optimize and improve their operations.
 
UC brings together varied communications systems on one platform – for enhanced capabilities and improved productivity.
 
This means users can define their preferred modes of communications and increase their availability beyond just the phone also include e-mail, conferencing, SMS, Web chat, mobile communications, and more.

 
E-mail is an important element in the UC mix because it allows users to manage and store all of their messages as well as take advantage of value-added features like mobile e-mail and more.

I asked Chris Damvakaris, vice president of sales and marketing for Apptix (News - Alert), some questions on the topic.
 
Our exchange follows.
 
TMCnet: Unified Communications (News - Alert) includes a number of communications systems and applications, how does e-mail fit into this picture and what are some of the benefits of including e-mail in a UC strategy?
 
Chris Damvakaris (News - Alert): Voice and e-mail have emerged as the most important communication mediums in business today. As a result, the e-mail client, particularly Microsoft’s (News - Alert) Outlook, has become the most logical interface for unified communication solutions.
 
The e-mail client serves as the primary repository and portal to employees’ most import data. Employees generally turn to the client for a customer’s phone number or to maintain their schedule. And the client is an excellent centralized location to receive, store, and act upon messages they receive from e-mails, to faxes, to voice-mail. This is real unified messaging.
Another important advantage of the e-mail client is that it extends, in a familiar manner, to the devices we use to communicate and access dates when we are away from the desktop.  We are all well trained to manage our e-mails, calendar and schedule on a BlackBerry (News - Alert) or iPhone. You can also do that with a remote computer using a Web browser. And you can also now do that with any phone – mobile, VoIP, analog – using Microsoft’s Outlook Voice Access.
In addition, Apptix now offers Web conferencing and business-class, secure Instant Message with Outlook.
 
So using Apptix’s solution, an employee can: send an e-mail or an IM; collaborate and work on documents with a team through a Web conference; fax a contract to a prospect; initiate a PC-to-PC call; initiate a call on their VoIP phone; or conduct a call from a beach on a mobile phone, but have it routed through their business line (rather than exposing their mobile phone number or that they are out of the office) – all initiated through Outlook and with a click of a mouse. Now that’s unified communications!
 
TMCnet: More specifically, can you talk a little about the benefits of hosted exchange services when it comes to offering e-mail services for businesses?
 
CD: A hosted Exchange e-mail service offers businesses of all sizes access to an enterprise-class service while eliminating upfront infrastructure purchases, ongoing maintenance costs, and the staff resource drain of an in-house solution.
 
Businesses are able to utilize the most common enterprise e-mail client – Microsoft’s Outlook - or Entourage for Mac users.  This is a tool most employees are familiar with, so there’s no learning curve. Outlook bundles a variety of features that enhance employee productivity including e-mail, calendar, tasks, and contacts as well as support for mobile devices such as BlackBerry, the iPhone, or Palm.
 
In the current economy particularly, hosted Exchange offers companies a significantly reduced total cost-of-ownership. A hosted solution spares the need for costly infrastructure or enterprise software licenses. All upgrades are included within the monthly service cost. Resource constrained IT staff is able to focus on projects that grow the company – rather than dealing with mundane daily tasks.
 
In addition, Apptix is staffed by an army of certified engineers whose sole focus is managing mission-critical e-mail services. Apptix robust infrastructure supports an industry-leading 100% service level agreement. And the company offers free 24/7 customer service.
 
TMCnet: What are some of the value-added services offered and how do they improve communications capabilities?
 
CD: Apptix offers a variety of e-mail value-added services that enhance employee productivity or address regulatory requirements.
 
The most common value-added service is mobile e-mail synchronization. Apptix’s mobile e-mail services enable employees to send and receive e-mail via mobile devices, and easily synchronize Outlook e-mail, contacts, calendars, tasks, and notes. Apptix supports a wide-range of mobile devices including BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows devices, and Palm.
 
Also for remote workers, Apptix offers Outlook Voice Access (OVA) which enables voice access and control of e-mail, contacts, and calendar from any phone – mobile, VoIP, or analog. In addition, employees can remotely access their e-mail, calendar, and contacts via a Web browser with Outlook Web Access (OWA).
 
Many business fields such as medical, legal and finance have strict regulatory c requirements for compliance and archiving of electronic documents. For these customers, Apptix offers basic and advanced compliance and archiving services. The basic service enables the storage of inbound and outbound messages in a unified repository that is easily accessed, managed, and retrieved. The advanced service provides for the: archiving of incoming, outgoing, and internal e-mail; access to historical e-mail; National Security Association-level encryption for protection of e-mail records; and includes time-date stamps and authentication of e-mail records.
 
While Apptix’s hosted Exchange service includes basic e-mail security capabilities, we encourage our customers add advanced anti-spam and anti-virus defense. This includes advanced spam blocking, triple virus and worm scanning, inbound/outbound filtering, and fraud protection from phishing.

Stefania Viscusi is an assignment editor for TMCnet, covering voice and Voice over IP technologies. She also oversees production of TMCnet's e-Newsletters in the areas of Internet telephony and speech technology. To read more of Stefania's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan


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