I recently moved into an office building and opened a training center offering technology and productivity workshops for business professionals, The Digital Breakthroughs Institute (DBI). I have two perfectly-sized training rooms and a full kitchen. The decision to make this move was made easier when I figured out how I could use virtual technologies (that are either free or low cost) to communicate.
This office space is for training, not office staff. So instead of installing a wired telephone system, I opted to use Google Voice, the magicJack, and efax. Here is how all this works.
This is a free service from Google. With it, I have one number for all my phones, voicemail that I can either read in email or listen to, free US long distance, low rates on international calls, and many calling features.
My Google Voice number is the official phone number for DBI. When people call that number, my home office phone, BlackBerry, and magicJack numbers ring at the same time (you choose where you want the numbers to ring). I’ll pick up either one of them, depending on where I am. I don’t have to give out all numbers, nor do I have to remember to forward my home office number to my BlackBerry when I leave (I don’t give out my cell phone number). If I answer the phone in my home office and then need to change phones, I’ll press * and all phones will ring again. I’ll then answer a different one (e.g., answer via the BlackBerry so I can leave).
When I need a land line for a Webinar or radio interview, I’ll either work from the home office that day (I have unlimited long distance with Comcast) or the office next door.
Note: If you’re outside the U.S., here is an article on how you can access and use Google Voice. I don’t know if it works or not, but it sounds good.
I couldn’t get my arms wrapped around the concept of the magicJack until I ordered it and used it. In this photo, the magicJack USB connector plugs right into the computer. A regular phone wire plugs into the other end. The other end of the phone wire plugs into a regular, analog telephone. The telephone does not plug into the wall, which is why no installation from a phone company is needed.
When I make a call, I open the magicJack software on my laptop, pick up the phone and dial any U.S. number as I normally would. Or I can dial from the magicJack software. Although the sound is better when I’m not on a wireless Internet connection, it’s more than clear enough for most phone calls. If I have a teleseminar or radio interview, I’ll conduct them in my home office on the land line.
UPDATE 3/20/2010: Here is a more detailed review of the magicJack from the Wall Street Journal’s Personal Technology blog.
I rarely receive or send faxes. I got rid of a separate fax line in my home office years ago and signed up for efax to get faxes via email. The free service offering is buried on their Website but I found it here, http://home.efax.com/s/r/efaxprint. This works great for me because I never exceed the free limit of receiving more than 20 pages a month.
When I need to send a fax, I do this from my home office using my Epson WorkForce 600 combo printer/fax/scan unit and regular home phone line.
Let me know what you think about all this and if you’ve come up with some ideas on how to save money in this economy but not let your business suffer.