Virtual Voicemail

Category: Voicemail

You may have heard of "virtual voicemail" or Internet voicemail and wondered what it was about. Basically, virtual voicemail is an online answering service that makes a physical telephone optional. Small businesseses and mobile professionals can use it to handle their incoming calls and voice messages online. Here's how it works...

What is Virtual Voicemail?

Virtual voicemail Most residential phone sets have the ability to record and play back incoming voicemail messages. But that's not the best solution when you don't have physical access to that phone. A better approach is a voicemail system in which the phone itself doesn't store your messages.

A typical voicemail service provided by your phone company works like this: When someone leaves you a voicemail message, it is recorded as a digital audio file and stored on a server - a computer located in a secure room somewhere. The server sends a signal to your phone when a new voicemail for you arrives, and your phone passes the alert on to you by means of a flashing LED or a message on its screen. Then you call a voicemail phone number that connects your phone to the server. The server's software lets you navigate a voice response menu to access and manipulate voicemail files, your greetings, etc. If you have a landline or mobile phone, you've probably used a system like this.

But there's nothing unique or essential about the phone; other devices, including desktop and laptop computers, can access voicemail too. That's where we get virtual.

A virtual voicemail service (also called an internet voicemail service) provides you with a phone number that you can distribute on business cards, letterhead, etc. Callers can go to a virtual receptionist or directly to your voicemail box if the phone number is uniquely yours. Some voicemail services have multiple customers sharing a single phone number; then, a caller must also enter your extension in order to leave you a voice message. A unique number, or even a toll-free voicemail number for inbound calls is more desirable and costly, obviously. Some virtual voicemail providers will allow you to forward your existing home, office or mobile phone number to the service.

The voicemail service provided by your phone carrier may send alerts of voicemail messages only to one phone number. Virtual voicemail is more versatile. You can set up multiple numbers for the voicemail service to try until it reaches you with an alert. You can set time periods during which voicemail alerts will be sent to your office, home, or mobile phone number. Better still, you can have voicemail messages sent to your email or stored online.

When you're working at the computer, you don't have to interrupt what you're doing to pick up a phone and check voicemail. The digital audio file that records your voicemail can be sent to your email inbox as an attachment. Just turn on your computer's speakers or plug in earphones, click on the attachment, and listen to your voicemail. Other services allow you to login to a website, where you can view, play and manage your voice messages.

Virtual Voicemail Services

In addtion to toll-free voicemail numbers, other features offered by voicemail providers include an automated receptionist with dial by name directory for work teams or small businesses. You can also get call screening, call forwarding, voicemail to email, and a variety of message notification options. Here are some popular internet voicemail providers that you can check out:

  • My1Voice offers your small business the presence of a big company, with a toll free number and virtual receptionist.
  • RingCentral provides a Virtual PBX with similar features, as well as multiple extensions, call logs, and music on-hold.

Google Voice and some other internet voicemail services take it a step farther, transcribing speech to text and emailing the text translation of a voicemail message to you. The benefit of speech-to-text voicemail is that you can learn a message's content without playing it aloud or plugging in earphones when they would attract attention. Speech-to-text translation is not perfect, but the critical sense of a message is usually perfectly clear. For example, in a recent translation the name "Marty" was translated into text as "Mikey," but I knew from the rest of the message exactly who called.

Virtual voicemail can follow you from phone to phone all day, without you having to remember to forward alert signals from one number to another when you move. It's a handy tool for small businesses or mobile professionals.

Do you have something to say about virtual voicemail? Post your comment or question below...

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Posted by Bob Rankin on April 20, 2010 06:29 PM

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Article information: All About Voicemail -- Virtual Voicemail (Posted: April 20, 2010 06:29 PM)
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved