Google is giving a new voice to small businesses – using their existing phone numbers.
The company announced recently that Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral), the telecommunications service developed by the company, now comes equipped with a new feature, one that could entice more small business owners to use it. While previously, Google Voice can only be used by getting a new Google number (a criticism on Google Voice, since not everyone wants to start over with a new number), now it is possible for users to sign up for the service with their own existing phone numbers.
This new capability gives small business owners plenty of reasons to use Google Voice as a sort of online PBX (private bank exchange), and a free one at that. The voicemail feature, for example, lets Google Voice users access voicemail not just from their phones but also through a computer; messages are transcribed automatically into text and can be read on a Gmail-like online inbox or via text messages on the phone. A very cool feature, in my opinion.
Additional Google Voice features that small businesses should find really helpful include custom voicemail greetings (based on who the caller is); low-cost international calling ; and the ability to download, forward and embed voicemails. Users who already have Google numbers, moreover, can add voicemail service to any mobile number that they have linked to their Google Voice account.
However, unlike those who added a new Google number, users who sign up for Google Voice with their existing phone numbers don’t enjoy other service features. Until now, only those with new Google numbers can send and receive free text messages; block, screen, or record calls; or join several people in a conference call. The company says that it plans to soon roll out the full Google Voice service for users who register with their existing phone numbers.