The digital era has brought about changes to all forms of business communication, including voicemail. Historically, voicemail messages were stored on analog tapes, but, in the past decade, companies have increasingly utilized digital technology for their voicemail systems. Now, many companies have implemented or are considering "unified" systems - systems in which a company's telephone and computer systems are integrated such that voicemail messages are received through a user's e-mail messaging system. Such systems can improve efficiencies, but they can also present challanges associated with control, preservation, and retrieval of voicemail messages.
There are five basic types of digital voicemail, ranging from the most basic to a completely unified system that even includes message transcription. In the most basic digital voicemail arrangement, users are notified of a voice message by the red light on the telephone, and the message is digitally stored on a voice message server. The next level involves the addition of an e-mail alert notifying the user of a voice message. As with the traditional arrangement, voice messages are stored on a voice message server. A third option involves the addition of a link to messages on the voice message server. The message can be reviewed and played by accessing the link. Again, these messages are stored on the voice message server; however, they can be copied to an e-mail system as a .wav file that could be forwarded as an e-mail attachment or saved on a user's hard drive. The fourth arrangement is a fully unified system which not only allows e-mail notification but also includes delivery of an audio file containing the message. Most users can play the message with a media player simply by double-clicking the file. This arrangement is different from previous arrangements in that the message is stored on the e-mail server. As with the link system, users can forward the e-mail with a copy of the audio file to others, and can save it to their hard drives. The final arrangement takes it one step further and includes not only an audio file in the e-mail message but also a transcription of the message. These messages are also stored on the e-mail server.
When evaluating which system is right for your company, it is important to consider both data security and e-discovery issues. It is more difficult to access and retrieve information from traditional, non-unified voicemail systems, which helps to limit data security risks - such as users forwarding voicemail messages outside of the company and storing and accessing work voicemail messages on personal devices. In addition, traditional, non-unified voicemail systems make voicemail messages less accessible for purposes of discovery. If you choose a unified system wherein messages are stored on the company's e-mail server, the voicemail is more accessible and will increase the volume of discoverable data preserved on and collected from e-mail servers. The costs of handling the data also increases because voicemail messages are not text searchable and are therefore more expensive to filter. Choosing a system which converts voicemail messages to text will not substantially reduce the costs because these systems are not fully reliable as a discovery tool. In addition, once messages are stored on the company's e-mail server they become subject to the retention policies applied to e-mails, which may be more stringent than the retention policies used for voice message servers. One final wrinkle to consider is the possibility that your e-mail or voicemail servers may be hosted by a third party, which raises additional issues regarding cost, control, and accessibility. In sum, any decision regarding voice messaging systems must include an analysis of data security risks and the increase in accessibility and costs of preserving and searching voicemail data.
For more information, contact Alison Grounds, John Hutchins, or Lindsey Mann.
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