By John Gardner
Increasingly, individuals are dumping their home land-line phones and going to all cell phone use. Makes sense, especially for those who already have multiple cell phones in the family and are looking to cut cost.
MY STORY / SCENARIO:
Years ago, my small business required that I and my employees report to a physical office daily. I installed a 5-line phone system that included separate lines for two different businesses and a dedicated fax line plugged into a physical machine with paper. Due to our rural service, we had periodic phone troubles, particularly after significant storm activity. The response from the phone company was always that,
“if the problem is on the inside,
we will bill you for the call and the repair”.
We still use a radio internet connection, beaming to a receiver atop a grain elevator a mile away. Yes, rural Indiana.
Over the past decade, wife Joan and I have been fortunate (sons through college debt free) to be able to return part time to education; not because we had to, but because we could. When we did that, some of our bi-vocational staff transitioned to telecommuting and, eventually, to other employment. And that’s okay. But now, in addition to those two business names, I answer my cell on behalf of a high school, university and another business (this Virtual Music Office) — and one cell with one number and one greeting wasn’t working for me. And, because we can get faster Internet from our home in town, working from home has several advantages — except that I couldn’t remotely answer the business lines or send/receive a fax….until now.
I now use four cellular and VoIP (Voice over Internet) systems for my personal and small businesses; Net 10,Google Voice,Nextiva Voice & vFax, and Skype.
Net 10 for cell phone. I used Verizon (great service and coverage) for years, and when my sons were in college, that they could call home on free minutes was a good deal. After they graduated and became responsible for their own cell expenses, one son went via Android to Sprint and the other to AT&T for his iPhone. When I wanted to get a smart phone (I was waaaay behind), the least I was going to pay Verizon was over $80/mo. Net 10, a ‘no contract’ carrier which uses Verizon towers for my service, offered unlimited talk, text and data to Joan and I for $40/mo/ph. I’ve noticed the coverage is slightly weaker, and I have 3G vs 4G (for now), but for the half price difference, I can live with that.
One major difference with ‘no contract’ service is that you pay a higher price for the phone. Most stop at that consideration alone without calculating the total costs of the options. My Android smartphone which would be $49 (or less) with one of the major carriers – cost me about $180. But over the 2-yr life of the contract, consider the difference:
Contract Carrier: Phone @$49 plus 24 months @$85/mo = $2089 for 2yrs.
No Contract: Phone @$180 plus 24 months @$40/mo = $1140.
That is @$950 difference!
My wife’s iPhone 4S cost $500, but that is still significantly less over two years vs the $199 iPhone and higher monthly service.
Google Voice for my VirtualMusicOffice.com. I have a free number, which I put on my VMO business cards. When someone calls that number (260.786.6554), which is a local number to where I live, the call rings BOTH my home phone AND my cell. The cell indicates it as a VMO call. I have call screening where the caller leaves a name — so I can hear who is calling before deciding whether to take the call. If I do NOT take the call, the caller hears a special voice mail greeting different from callers to my cell number. I receive an email notification of the message, including a text transcription and the ability to listen to the actual message. I like the text transcription because I can read the message in a situation where it might be inappropriate to have the phone to my ear. The only downside is in returning a call from my cell. If I really don’t want the other person to have my cell number, my only option is to use #67, which identifies me as an unidentified caller. That means, then, that when I call as ‘unidentified’, I would have the opportunity to leave a message, which is usually sufficient.
Nextiva for Business Phone and Fax. I have managed a business for decades and have a five line land-line system that was no longer meeting my telecommuting needs. We had one company charging us for a business line, but not for the calls. Another company charged us for the long distance and separately for a toll free number. When our business transitioned away from a full-time in-office staff, I was missing calls that my system couldn’t forward.
About a year ago, I cancelled my fax line and went with Nextiva’s vFax. I have a toll free fax number and can send and receive from my computer or my cell. There are some free virtual fax services, but I wanted a dedicated number I could put on a business card, so I opted for a subscription. Now that I have added the voice component… I have ported the local and toll free business numbers — and pay much less than for my land line setup. Now I can be seamlessly mobile.
I chose to port my numbers, but you get a local and toll free and fax numbers as part of the Nextiva package. I am using the most basic of their packages at roughly $32ish/month.
When someone calls one of those business numbers:
If my Nextiva mobile app is ON, my cell phone rings and opens the mobile app with the caller ID and the ability to accept or decline. Obviously, if I accept, I am connected to the caller – who does not know they reached my cell number or that I am answering the call remotely. If I DECLINE the call, the caller hears one of three business voice mail messages (not the one on my cell phone). It can be my ‘not available’ message, my ‘on another call’ message or an ‘after hours message’. I receive an email notification of the voice mail and the ability to listen to it, either through the email message or the mobile app.
If my mobile app is OFF, the caller goes directly to the business voice mail.
There is a conferencing capability and several others that I have not tried yet. Nextiva also offers large scale business solutions complete with the phone equipment, but everything happens over the Internet vs through the phone lines.
Faxing is less popular today, but there are still some entities (lawyers, banks, government, etc) that require faxes vs email.
Sending a FAX. I can save a computer document, or scan one to a PDF format. Within the Nextiva vFax program, I enter the to/from info, type anything I want on the cover sheet, then attach the documents to go with it. Send. I can send to multiple recipients, scheduling each separately or sending immediately (actually, placing in the Nextive print queue immediately, which means it could be a few minutes before it actually goes). In the same send process, I can email copies of the transmission to multiple recipients. I receive email confirmation that the document was sent and received, similarly to the way former faxes would time stamp a confirmation.
Receiving a FAX. I receive an email notification that I have a fax. Attached to the email is a PDF file of the actual fax. I can view or print, giving me the option not to waste my paper and ink. The fax number I chose is toll free for senders and costs me nothing to send.
I use the free version of Skype for video calls. I use those when I am working with a music student remotely or when I am making a sales presentation. I do not purchase minutes or use a monthly plan.
I’d live to hear what systems or programs you use for communication. I may like yours even better.
And if I can help set you up with any of the services described in this blog, please don’t hesitate to contact me.