Voicemail systems are, in effect. more sophisticated answering
machines. They can simultaneously handle as many lines as
they have ports or connections to the outside
world. They are usually supplied with 2 ports and can be upgraded
with further ports as the need arises.
Users are assigned a personal area or mailbox
where their messages are held for later retrieval. They can
record their own greeting for callers to lend a personal touch.
Voicemail systems are normally able to operate in two modes,
Voicemail or Auto Attendant.
Voicemail will answer incoming calls, play a pertinent message
requesting a user mailbox number or menu response to be dialled
by the caller in DTMF. The response is recorded and used to
route the call to a specific mailbox where a message can be
left for the user concerned.
Although they have a small number of ports a Voicemail system
can have several hundreds of users each with their own mailbox.
If the system to which the Voicemail is connected is sophisticated
enough it can automatically supply the user mailbox information
and the first message heard by the caller would be the personalised
greeting for the person they are calling.
Voicemail can be used as front line answering system handling
all calls and taking messages or as a fallback from an operator,
coming into use as the system gets busy with traffic or the
required person is unable to take calls directly.
An Automated Attendant is a front-line answering system which
will answer calls and ask the caller to dial an extension
number or selection form a menu in DTMF. It will then use
this to route the call directly to the required person or
department and transfer the call thus releasing the automated
attendant ready to take the next call.
Most Voicemail systems can be set up to operate with some
ports as Voicemail and some as Automated Attendant.
A combined Voicemail / Automated Attendant system will not
only accept calls and take messages it will also allow the
users to perform more complex message handling functions.
Each system by different manufacturers will have its own set
of facilities, the more common of which are:
|Message Lamp / Tone
||To notify the user at their extension that
new messages are waiting for retrieval.
||A single message can be copied to a range
of mailboxes for announcements and internal
notification of staff.
||A message can be copied to the mailbox of
another user who can more effectively action it.
||Users can call into the system from outside
and retrieve messages without being in the office.
Most mailbox functions are available for remote access
and should be password protected
||When new messages have been recorded the
system will call and external telephone number and
deliver the messages either immediately or at a set time.
A unified messaging system (UMS) is a development of the voicemail
system. It provides the same types of features as the voicemail
and adds new facilities and delivery options, which were not
possible before the linking of computer and telephony systems.
As well as accepting messages for users the UMS will convert
them to sound files that can be played back on a multimedia
PC and send them as an email to the recipient via an interconnected
computer network mailserver (a dedicated email handling computer).
It may also allow reception of faxes, which it can also convert
to email and send to the intended recipient directly.
Users then need only a multimedia PC and their email software
to see and handle their voicemail, email and faxes - in some
cases they may not even know how to use the voicemail system
except via the email type interface. The UMS may even be located
at different company office. Messages and faxes can then be
copied, forwarded and in some highly integrated systems replied
to from the PC.
Current developments are moving towards converting email to
speech so they can be retrieved by telephone when users are
away from the office and allowing internet access to the mailserver
and hence the voice and fax messages as well as the emails.