UM sheds weight on Topcall diet

Unified messaging (UM) is supposed to provide end-users with a single point of contact, but according to Topcall International AG, UM also acts as a pressure point for IT – a burden that causes headaches. To alleviate the strain, Topcall created a Web-based painkiller.

Topcall, with North American headquarters in Malvern, Pa., last month introduced TC/MetaMail – software that turns fax and voice messages into URLs.

The program works in conjunction with Topcall’s own UM platform. According to Andy Chaleff, the company’s global marketing manager at the Vienna, Austria office, TC/MetaMail addresses a problem with e-mail archives.

“Most people don’t offload what they have stored on the (e-mail server) hard drive,” he said, “so e-mail back-up is a huge issue.”

It’s even worse in UM environments, he continued. “Add to that the fax and voice mail component. Even in compressed forms…(they) will increase the burden on the local mailbox.”

TC/MetaMail addresses the archiving problem, he said. The program sits on the Topcall server, which is tied to a company’s PBX. As voice mail arrives, TC/MetaMail turns it into WAV files and URLs. The server archives the messages, connects to the separate e-mail server (IBM Corp.’s Lotus Notes, Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange or Novell Inc.’s GroupWise platforms) and sends the messages to the appropriate inbox, where the user clicks to view the notifications. TC/Player, another Topcall program, lets the user hear the message on her desktop computer.

Faxes undergo a similar transformation. At the desktop, software dubbed TC/Web lets the user read the message.

The point is messages are kept not on the e-mail server, but on the Topcall server. “It is independent of the mail server…not just reliant on, for example, Microsoft Exchange,” Chaleff said. “A standard UM provider would store the message inside Exchange, because they don’t have an independent message store or archive.”

Alister Sutherland, IDC Canada’s director of software research in Toronto, said e-mail archiving is a problem for many large companies. He notes how TC/MetaMail maintains an audit trail for messages, a path denoting who received the message, when it was received and where it was forwarded.

“The [Topcall] server acts as an internal URL-based resource for accessing the message,” Sutherland said. “That makes sense to me. It seems like a good solution, especially in enterprise environments, where you could have literally tens of thousands of messages a day.”

However, he added, the Topcall platform adds another box to the e-mail system. As such, “it might actually add a new layer of complexity for IT.”

Since it’s part of Topcall’s UM platform, the company has not set a unique price for TC/MetaMail. For more information about the product, consult Topcall’s Canadian Web site,