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If you're looking at different options for unifying communications at your nonprofit, TechSoup will be publishing a new article on the topic in the coming days.
From switching to a VoIP phone system, using electronic fax, phone-to-email systems, or using a communications server, there are a variety of levels of solutions that can help your nonprofit streamline communications and work more efficiently from remote destinations and distributed offices.
What tools have you used for UC? Do you use Vonage or BetterWorld Telecom? What about electronic faxing? How do you keep your staff in touch when working from home or on the road? Share your tips and experiences here.
I'll update the thread with a link to the article once it's live.
Becky from TechSoup.org
Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at TechSoup.org @bajeckabean on Twitter
Unified Messaging is a component of Exchange 2007 - We are in the process of a migration that involves integrating voice (VOIP) and email, message-to-text; fax-to-email, Office Communicator etc. I'm happy to answer any questions anyone may have on this.
From my experience, many (if not all) of the companies I've dealt with who say that they want this sort of thing really don't.
Some of these companies have barely functional mail solutions (small storage, Exchange server directly on Internet, no redundancy, poorly updated AV updates, etc), and yet they're talking about integrating all of this into some big gigantic monstrocity.
Regardless, all of this is converging, and it's definitely has the potential to make people more productive. But until I see it implemented well, I'll stick with my free/cheap ghettofabulous solutions, such as pfax and Google Voice.
Yeah, like Rog I have my own ghettofabulous solution to unified messaging. I use gotvmail.com that will email, MMS, and/or call me when I have new voicemail. I have an account with myfax.com that emails me new faxes. Its not secure email, but I don't get sensitive information via fax that is covered by HIPAA or anything.
I haven't found a solid, well-priced solution for this running in-house either. Its technically pretty simple, so I think its just a matter of time.
Our org currently doesn't have plans to implement UC anytime soon. Our phone system vendor (ShoreTel) is coming out with a new version that is capable but the license pricing is cost prohibitive, plus we'd need to purchase Live Communication Server. For now, we'll keep things separate. We have a fax server, an in-house instant messenger, ShoreTel, and Exchange 2003 for email.
Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NHHost Non-profit Tech Careers, Security ForumsCo-Host Networks, Hardware, & Telecommunications Forum
We'd like to try UC, but our bandwidth is an issue (despite it being a T1), and concerns with IT outages disrupting the phone.
====================================== Michael J. Webb Administrative Assistant/IT Administrator Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust, Inc. 6611 W. Whooping Crane Dr. Wood River, NE 68883 Office (308) 384-4633 x104 FAX (308) 384-7209 email Mike_Webb -at- WhoopingCrane.org www.whoopingcrane.org ======================================
Well, an effective UC strategy doesn't need to include dialtone via the Internet. You could simply start with routing faxes, voicemail and email into one Inbox per user on your Exchange server. Your dialtone wouldn't be effected by an Internet outage. Neither would your faxing be. And in any implementation that does rely on some sort of dialtone by Internet or T1, you still want to have backup POTS lines in your phone system. Just in case.
Great point, Chris, and that's really the point that we were trying to drive home with the article. I like thinking of UC as not a specific solution, but rather a whole mess of solutions and processes that can come from thinking more strategically about how your organization is communicating internally and externally. I think that an all-hosted setup could be optimal (not to mention extremely inexpensive) for many small and medium nonprofits.
Staff Writer, TechSoup
The article you refer to is very good, but I was disappointed to only see one small metion of Druid, and nothing about the other versions of Asterisk and FreePBX systems that are out there. True, they are not yet for the faint of heart, but the do seem to provide most or all of what anyone could want for unified messaging.
People are starting to think more about phone systems as being an extention of the Internet and that opens up many new and useful possibilities.
I have plans to get my new Asterisk-based Elastrix server working soon and get a SIP trunk for it that will also have an 800 number. I want to advertise and get calls that are filtered with an auto attendent (IVR) and then sent to voicemail. So far it looks I can do it with a fixed monthly cost of $7-$15 plus paying for incoming minutes.
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