I spend a lot of my time on the road going from office to office to teach classes. Most people know that the best way to reach me is by email or text message, but there are times when a phone call is the best way. The trouble comes when they call when I am teaching a class or I am in a cell phone “black hole” where I have no reception. I’d have a message and not know it. Sometimes they’d leave a message that I wanted to save in a transaction file. It is very cumbersome to try to record a voice mail message into computer files to say the least.
A lot of you may be using the new Voice Over IP (VOIP) phones that offer those features, but I don’t have that available to me at my office. The Vonage phone that I have at home can offer some of those features, but I am getting tired of the monthly fees for something that gets rare use. Then I discovered GrandCentral from Google.
Here is a screen shot of the GrandCentral Home page
GrandCentral is in private beta right now and is absolutely free. (Since it is a private beta, you have to request an “invitation”) I can’t speak for Google and what their plans for the future might be, but this product is good enough to pay for should Google decide to monetize this in the future.
Although they offer 12 great features, my favorites are the call screening feature, and the fact that I get a text message each time someone leaves me a message. I can open the text message, click on the included phone number and play it back though my phone. I realize that I could simply dial any normal cell phone voicemail box with 1 number ease, but this offers so much more. I can see who called, what number they called from and I also get an email message with a link to the call as well. I can log into my account using a web browser and download a file of the call if I wish. I can dial out through GrandCentral which has the advantage of allowing me to record outgoing calls as well incoming calls. These recorded calls can later be downloaded to my computer or forwarded on via email to others.
Here is a screen shot of the GrandCentral Features page
GrandCentral has a nifty tool that allowed me to import all 1457 of my Outlook contacts and can import contact info from a number of different contact managers. Since I had so many contacts, it took an hour or so to do this, but it worked flawlessly.
So, the bottom line is this: I have a business class phone system on my cell phone and I have one number that I can give to people. This will be great when I get my new iPhone next month and have to juggle two phones for a while. You can call my published number and I can answer on whichever phone I happen to be using that day. For free!