In 1993, the unified messaging system was born. We refer to it today as unified communication. It was installed and integrated with IBM OfficeVision/VM (PROFS) and provided voicemail, fax, alphanumeric paging and follow-me through a single phone number.

This original system was in use until 2000, just after the development and launch of a commercially available ‘presence’ product, allowing users to see the location of co-workers, decide how to contact them, and determine the ways in which their messages were handled, based on their own presence.

While this was a revolutionary development in a rapidly changing technology discipline, there were some major limitations, primarily the reliance upon a phone company, or vendor partner to manage the PBX. This resulted in little to no opportunity, and many more challenges for customers to restructure, customize or modify their costs. Over time, the PBX became more and more privatized, and internal staff members were hired to manage these systems themselves. This, too, was problematic, as only a small percentage of companies could afford to hire skilled technicians for in-house management. Those that could afford an in-house administrator enjoyed the luxury of creating and managing their own system changes, without the burden or logistical requirement of notifying the phone company or PBX vendor, waiting for their availability, and than succumbing to their rigid pricing structure.

The increasing trend toward privatization triggered the development of more powerful software that increased the usability, customization and manageability of the system.

As companies began to deploy IP networks within their own environments, they expanded to include the transmission of voice where previously they relied on traditional telephone network circuits. Circuit packs or cards were then developed for PBX systems, in order to interconnect their communications systems to the IP network, while others created separate equipment, placed in routers, designed to transport voice calls, site to site, across company networks.

Enter VoIP

Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows for the termination of PBX circuits to be transported across a network and delivered to another phone system. VoIP requires special hardware, which must be present on both ends of the network, in order to provide the termination and delivery at each site. Upon its arrival, the more innovative providers realized the economic value, appeal and convenience that would likely result from converting the traditional PBX to an IP-based system.

Since the IP solution is software-driven, traditional ‘switching’ equipment was no longer needed at the customer site (although it was still required for making connections to anyone outside of the company network). This new technology, which we now refer to as IP telephony, uses IP-based telephony services only, rather than a legacy PBX or key system.

IP telephony changed everything, again! The handset was no longer a digital device connected to a PBX-driven copper loop. Now, the handset resides on the network, and is seen simply as another computer device. This is significant in many ways. First and foremost: sending and receiving audio was no longer modified, dictated by, or limited by voltage or frequency modulation, as had always been the case. Audio was now transported with a protocol that adheres to a CODEC, which can also be modified, programmed, managed and improved by the system administrator, within the company. This opened the door to yet another exciting, game-changing development in unified communications and telecommunications: Advanced Features.

Now that the traditional handset is seen, and operates as another computer connected to the overall network, advanced features can be created, added, managed and customized by allowing computer applications to communicate with servers, whether they are on-premise or housed elsewhere, in any number of ways. As a bonus, applications can even be upgraded or freshly installed on the handset.

The landscape has shifted again, for those who are considering the merits of Unified Communications providers, as well as the total value they provide. The overall goal is widen the focus beyond the telephony aspects of daily communications, and to look at all communication devices inside a single platform. Now, ask these key questions… Does this system provide mobility? Does it capture, display and convey presence? Does its contact capabilities extend beyond the phone to include all devices a person may use or have at their disposal, on a daily basis?

We believe that the birth of unified communications, and the birth year of NetFortris are no small coincidence. For twenty-five years, NetFortris has lead the way with innovative solutions that encompass all of the most appealing features and functions of the Unified Communications revolution. We are proud of our achievements in this challenging industry, and look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate our award-winning UC platform, and to help you identify what lies ahead, for you, your company, and the industry we’ve served for a quarter of a century!