Let the Web Answer Your Phone

by Scott Bass for Digital Living Today

If you dont have a second phone line for your computer, by now youre familiar with the one drawback of being online: Surfing the Web cripples your incoming calls. No doubt single-line households have tried curfews, time limits, and perhaps even old-fashioned fistfights to try to fix this modern problem.

Of course, there are other options. Your phone company offers internal voicemail, but this can cost up to $15 a month, and you dont know if youve missed a call until you disconnect and pick up your phone receiver. Fortunately, there are now a number of online messaging services that offer a fittingly Web-based solution for a small fee.

CallWave (http://www.callwave.com) have dubbed their software “The Internet Answering Machine.” Its a small, ad-based, no-frills application that is easy to use and free. If youre online when you get a call, your caller is asked to leave a brief message, which shows up on your Callwave Toolbar. The program downloads in just a few minutes and you’re on your way.

eVoice (http://www.evoice.com) has a free ad-driven service like CallWave and a premium service upgrade for $1.95 a month. Premium subscribers enjoy toll-free voice messaging between eVoice users, the ability to forward voice messages to anybody with an email address via RealAudio attachments, and other cool and convenient features.

Pagoo (http://www.pagoo.com/cc.asp) bills itself as “the answer to missed calls while youre online,” thanks to their “Call Catcher” feature. In addition to hearing your voicemail online, you also have the option to retrieve messages via the telephone — ideal for road warriors. Pagoo offers a 30-day free trial and thereafter, the service costs $3.95 a month.

BuzMe (http://www.buzme.com) presents the cutest mascot of virtual answering machine services and ups the ante with new features. For their ad-driven free service, you can either retrieve voicemail or reject calls. If you upgrade to their premium service ($4.95 a month) the ad banners are eliminated and you may record a greeting (such as “call me back in ten minutes”) or if youd prefer, the software will hang up your Net connection and let you take the call.

Thanks to these — and, surely, more to come — online messaging services you need not worry about missing an important business call and the kids can Instant Message each other until they collapse from exhaustion. Household harmony restored!

***DLT Tips: 7 Expect to pay a small service fee from your phone company when they configure your account for Web-based voicemail. 7 For more phone-based Internet services, check out Gareth Branwyns “The Sound of Ear Commerce”.

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