Tech Tools for Entrepreneurs

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VIRTUAL PHONE SYSTEMS

GoogleVoice2For no cost, Google Voice offers many of the same features as for-pay services such as Skype, which can cost $2.95 per month for non-Skype to Skype calls.

“Google Voice is a phone system that makes [your company] look bigger than you are,” Curtis says. “It is way more than a phone system. It is almost like a personal assistant.”

Pros: The Web-based phone system allows users to place and receive calls, and manage office, cell, home, and an unlimited number of phone numbers and voicemail through one phone number. At the user’s command, Google Voice will forward incoming phone numbers to specified phone lines.

The free service is useful for small business owners that might have employees working from several locations, such as a sales team. Finally, transcribing meeting minutes might be a thing of the past since it can hold teleconferences, record calls, and transcribe the minutes online.

Cons: Right now Google Voice is only available to current users of GrandCentral.com, the company that Google purchased in March 2009, and it has not announced when others will be invited to use it. The service is free, but some critics, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have expressed concerns about data Google could collect from users regarding calling habits and Internet behavior. Also, unlike Skype, Google Voice does not offer video conferencing.

Other Web-based telephone services:

DimDim.com offers free Web conferencing with voice and video for up to 20 people, but upgraded plans that include transcription can start at $228 per year.

RingCentral.com has at $14.99 per month an option to allow you to use professional voice talent to record greetings and on hold announcements.

Grasshopper.com gives you a toll-free, custom vanity number starting at $9.95 per month plus a $30 activation fee.

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