There’s a big push these days towards unified communications, or a single platform for all communication. These products usually include telephony (mostly VoIP), presence awareness, instant messaging, voice mail, and email in one interface. Unfortunately for you and me, so far vendors like Microsoft, Cisco, and Avaya have pushed hard into the enterprise space while ignoring the little guy. This is not so anymore with the arrival of Unison.
Unison was founded in 2006 by some industry veterans from Intermedia, a hosted Exchange and Sharepoint provider. Unison Server runs on Linux and provides e-mail, instant messaging, IP PBX, calendar, contacts, antivirus/antispam, and integrates with directory services for simplified implementation and user maintenance. The Unison client runs on Windows and Linux, is based on Mozilla Thunderbird, and looks very much like Outlook. Those of you who feel comfortable in Outlook will defintely feel comfortable in Unison plus will get the extra voice, IM, and presence features.
Presence is a critical component of any unified communications solution. This is, essentially, knowing whether someone is available to communicate or not. Sophisticated products add further information like how someone wants to be contacted, by whom (privacy) and maybe even about what. How many times a day do you call someone to ask a quick question and they aren’t there? How much time does that waste? With unified comm that is totally removed because you know whether someone is there or not before you even try to contact him. Amazing, isn’t it? So simple, and yet so elusive from a technology standpoint.
The best things about Unison are that it is standards based and that it is affordable. It’s $50/user/year, which is extremely reasonable. I’m not crazy about support fees which run $2000 for 10 incidents, but if you can keep the support cost minimal it is still a good deal. And do you want to hear the great deal? For companies with less than 20 employees it is free!