Avanquest Text Message Server 5 review
Today’s mobile generation can’t do without text messaging. So it makes sense to use it for business purposes as well, since it offers a low-cost, simple and fast mode of communication that everyone is familiar with. Text Message Server 5 (TMS5) adds a new dimension to this, as it provides a service that allows users to send and receive SMS messages directly from their PC desktop.
TMS5 uses Avanquest’s routing service. Its text message costs compare well with standard mobile phone operators – only 6p per outbound message. The product comprises several components with modules for handling delivery of inbound and outbound SMS messages over the Internet and an SMTP gateway that processes messages and SMS requests originating on the internal network. You also get modules for database backup and purges, reporting, diagnostics and error log monitoring, plus optional GSM modem support if you want something to fall back on should your Internet connection fail.
Each component can be distributed across multiple servers, but we found it easy to load the lot on a single Windows Server 2003 system. Configuration is carried out from a Control Panel utility and the first tab provides a rundown on the service status. Three methods of user authentication are supported, so you can use the TMS5 users and groups, Windows domain membership or the RightFax user lists if you’re already using this product.
Handing free text message services to your workforce may seem like sheer folly but you can restrict outbound messaging services to registered users only. Good reporting tools also keep track of usage, although this will require a local copy of Microsoft Access to be installed. Report design is rather crude but you can look at daily, weekly and monthly activity to see who is sending the most texts and also view the destinations of the messages. The bundled client utility makes light work of sending messages, and users can maintain a local contact list or place them in a global list during creation. Outlook users can employ the bundled plug-in that gives them direct access to the TMS contact list, but messages can be sent with any mail client just by using the mobile number and SMTP gateway as the recipient’s mail address.
Administrators use the same utility but also get access to the system Inbox and Sent folders and are allowed to create and modify users and groups. Users that are out of the office can also have inbound messages routed to a mobile number or an email address. Inbound message routing can be managed by providing users with individual phone numbers, although this can become expensive. It’s far easier to use the Short Name feature, where senders simply input the user’s name as the first word of their text message.
TMS5 should fit in easily enough with most company email systems. During testing, we found the Avanquest service delivered outbound messages promptly to our mobiles, usually inside 30 seconds, and inbound messages were handled equally swiftly. The software lacks a certain polish and the documentation could be a lot better, but otherwise TMS5 is a powerful utility. It’s easy to deploy and manage, and simple enough to use.