Convergence - Unified Everyhting

The internet has enabled better integration of all of our communications technologies. We have begun to see unified message offerings by various companies that combine email, fax management, voicemail, text messages, and other technologies into a single "mailbox".

Many companies pay large sums of money to integration contractors to provide such solutions, but the truth is that this can be done on the cheap by individuals, or small companies. This is possible because many of the services that enable such services provide some of these packages for free, or at very low cost. Of course, if you are in a large company, you need regular support for all of these functions, and your company is willing to pay more for such an offering that affects the outward company image.

If you are looking to do this on the cheap, however, here are the services you should consider:

  • Google Voice - Formerly known as Grand Central, provides a personal phone number that you can configure to ring on all your phones (Cell, Office, home, others) simultaneously. Voice mail left for you is sent as a link in email, so the voice mail ends up integrated into your mailbox. It will even do voice recognition on your messages and include its best text transcript it can compute, in your email.
There is more to integration than just the mailbox. Ultimately, you need the communications lines themselves, and this is another aspect of convergece. Once upon a time you got your phone service from the phone company, television over the air (or from a cable company), and internet via dialup.

Today, if you choose, you can have the internet as your only connection to the outside, and you can receive television and phone service over the internet. In some cases, the part of the internet used is a dedicated network used by your cable company, or ATTs U-Verse, or Verizon's FiOS to send data for television and voice, but you can get these services over the open internet from other providers, such as Vonage. You can also purchase equipment to provide you with effectively free phone service over the internet (after the equipment purchase), with products like the Ooma Core phone system.