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I'm writing a school administration software package, but it strikes me that many developers will face this same issue: when communicating with users, should you use email or SMS or both, and should you treat them as fundamentally equivalent channels such that any message can get sent using any media, (with long and short forms of the message template obviously) or should different business functions be specifically tailored to each of the 3?

This question got kicked off "StackOverflow" for being overly general, so I'm hoping it's not too general for this site - the answers will no doubt be subjective but "you don't need to write a whole book to answer the question".

I'm particularly interested in people who have direct experience of having written comparable business applications.

Sub-questions:

  1. Do I treat SMS as "moderately secure" and email as less secure? (I'm thinking about booking tokens for parent/teacher nights, permission slips for excursions, absence explanation notes - so high security is not a requirement for us, although medium security is)
  2. Is it annoying for users to receive the same message on multiple channels?
  3. Should we have a unified framework that reports on delivery or lack thereof of emails and SMS's?
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I'm sure this would help textmarketer.co.uk/software-partners it has lots of email to SMS integration related stuffs ... –  user56279 Jun 9 '12 at 17:50

1 Answer 1

A common subsystem of applications with sufficient scope and maturity is what I refer to as Alerts and Notifications.

The basic gist is that the system has certain events that users and other systems may be interested in (That's the alert). Users can subscribe to alerts and inform the system how they want the alerts to be delivered. Some kinds of alerts might be high priority so they want them blasted across every channel immediately. Others might be something that doesn't require immediate action (or any) so the user might want it delivered in a digest with other low priority alerts.

You should consider designing your system to enable users to configure what alerts they want to receive and how they want to receive them. To answer your specific questions:

  1. The security of each channel depends on the measures put in place to ensure security. For example if a user opts to receive SMS messages, what happens if someone gets their phone? If you require users to pin-lock their phones, you can assume some modicum of security. If not, well it's about as secure as water in a sieve. The same considerations apply to email. What measures are in place to protect against unauthorized users accessing the email account?

  2. Being able to configure how they receive messages addresses this issue.

  3. Yes I feel that you'll want something in place that you can leverage and extend without the client code having to be impacted.

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