Google Voice – The Killer Business Phone Service?

I recently took a test drive of the much-hyped Google Voice service. If you are not familiar with Google Voice, it is the latest “app” in a series of great collaboration tools from the giant, Google, to come to fruition. It allows you to get a single phone number and route incoming calls to any other phone number you own based on personalized routing settings.

The service is based on GrandCentral, which Google acquired a couple of years ago. I am lucky enough to have a an account as a previous holder of a GrandCentral account. As of today (when I wrote this article), only previous GrandCentral customers are lucky enough to have an account.

What is Google Voice for?

If you are a like me, you have multiple phones, phone numbers and email addresses. You are on the run (constantly) and you have many people trying to reach you at all times. Google Voice helps you by giving you ONE phone number to announce to the world and lets you configure your inbound calls to “Find You” wherever you are.

How Does It Work?

Callers who dial your number are prompted to announce their name while the service “searches” for you on whatever phone you are currently using. When you pick up the inbound call, Google Voice tells you who is calling and gives you the option to answer or send to voicemail.

There are some additional nice features including voicemail transcript, SMS and conference calling.

Is this right for your business?

If you are a one-person team, this is great for you. You will never be out of reach. If you are a company with, let’s say, 25 employees, you need a full-scale business phone system and should look for other options. For a multi-person business, Google falls short in its ability to help colleagues stay connected behind a set of PBX-like features such as extension dialing, auto-attendant, corporate directory, multi-person ACD queues and more.

To get the virtual aspects of Google Voice, a multi-person company should look at a hosted business phone service. There are plenty of business VoIP solutions such as hosted PBX, many of which incorporate some of the find-me anywhere features at the user level inherent in Google Voice.

While I don’t think Google Voice is quite ready for corporate deployments as a complete phone service alternative, kudos to Google for snapping up GrandCentral and bringing it to the mainstream. I was a fan back in the day and will continue to use it!