My Adventures in VoIP: Google Voice
I’ve had a Google Voice account since it was known as GrandCentral, but I never had much use for it. Until now. When I started blogging regularly I needed a desk phone to speak with my industry sources and with The VAR Guy’s staff. So I figured now is the time to take Google’s VoIP telephony solution for a test run.
Google Voice’s basic premise is pretty simple: It strives to offer one virtual number that rings all your phones, so you have a single voicemail inbox and the ability to only have certain phones ring at certain times (much to The VAR Guy’s chagrin, my Google Voice number stops work-related calls from ringing my cell phone at 6:00 p.m. each Friday).
Where Google Voice falters, though, is in fine-tuning the control given: I’d prefer it if I could have it only kick a call to my cell phone if I don’t pick up my desk phone, but as it stands now, my number can only ring both at once. The Google voicemail system is slick, and I definitely appreciate the ability to listen to calls in my browser, but Google’s automatic transcription service is immature at best and gimmicky at worst. Sample transcript excerpt: “My question for you is if you get 25 West 75 Hey Class, it’s written, 7501 AM put the number is down some of the 7 Look, I don’t like it so.” In all fairness, it is constantly improving.
Google also offers point-to-point calling, where you pop a phone number into the web interface and it calls the phone of your choice and connects you to the other party when you pick up. It’s free in the U.S. and the audio was fine, but it seems like it would only really be useful if you’re on an extremely limited voice plan and also near a computer when you need to make your call.
Before I really put Google Voice through its paces, I wondered how corporate hosted VoIP solutions like M5Connect could compete since Google provides the same services entirely for free. But in reality it isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Google Voice works — and for the most part it works fine. But Google Voice can’t hold a candle to the feature set of an enterprise-grade VoIP solution.
Google doesn’t currently offer a version of Google Voice to channel partners, and it’s easy to see why. Google Voice can be very useful on a personal basis, but it isn’t currently built for an SMB in mind.