With voice mail, e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging and even fax, it's not just the number of messages coming in every day that poses a challenge--it's also the multitude of channels. According to a 2009 study conducted by SIS International Research on behalf of Siemens Enterprise Communications, approximately 70 percent of small businesses spend 17.5 hours a week addressing the pain points triggered by communications barriers and latencies.
Larger companies have turned to unified messaging, a way of integrating various types of messages into a centralized repository that can be accessed from devices such as PCs, landline phones and smartphones. But few smaller businesses have followed suit, largely because of the daunting cost associated with most unified solutions, says Jon Nelson, product marketing manager with Toshiba America's telecommunication systems division in Irvine, Calif. Toshiba's response: Strata Messaging, a low-cost, entry-level unified messaging solution developed expressly for the small-business market.
"Unified messaging can be just as valuable to small customers as large customers," Nelson says. "Applications like auto-attendant and call routing play the same role regardless of a company's size. You may have only 10 employees, but if two of them are road warriors, those kinds of applications become extremely important to them."
The Strata platform supports two to eight voice-mail ports and as many as 400 mailboxes. It also boasts 300 hours of storage. The base package offers two voice-mail ports and 10 seats of unified messaging. Nelson says the system grows in price as it grows in size, with the average four-port configuration optimized for 10 users starting at around $1,700.
"Unified messaging is about convenience," Nelson says. "You constantly get messages thrown at you from a variety of places--the value lies in consolidating time spent gathering up all these messages. With [Strata], you can go to your Outlook inbox and see all your e-mails, voice messages and mobile voice mail in one place. It saves a lot of time."
Chicago-based writer Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of Fiercemobile content, a daily electronic newsletter dedicated to mobile media, applications and marketing.