When you own a small business, the temptation to hand over a business card with your personal cell number plastered on it is natural. You're merely offering a direct line to the person who can make decisions. Accessibility is a key selling point when touting the advantages of your business over larger corporations.
But you can oversell your accessibility — and the end result is interrupted dinners, missed birthday parties, and alarming calls at 2 in the morning. Customers want what they want, when they want it. These interruptions might be good for business, but they're bad for personal health and relationships.
Carrying around a second phone to separate business from work is inconvenient and expensive — what about taking advantage of the devices you're already carrying? The proliferation of apps offering virtual phone numbers has made it entirely possible to manage a secondary business line from your iOS device. Google Voice and Skype are respectable choices, but they aren't the only options — I found three other services that might fit your own use case a little better.
Cloud Phone is a business solution from the same people behind the consumer messaging app Voxox. Cloud Phone offers an online portal for managing your account, setting up an auto attendant (that's the computer voice you hear when calling companies), screening incoming calls, and even receiving faxes.
Cloud Phone's biggest caveat is that it lacks a mobile app. All account management is done through its website, and that, confusingly, includes placing a call. You have to type in the number you want to call and the number of a phone near you. In turn, the service calls your number and asks you to press 1 to complete the the call to the other party. Receiving a call isn't as messy, and the incoming number shows up on your personal phone as any other incoming call would. Clearly, Cloud Phone is a service for those who plan on receiving far more calls than they'll ever make.
Pricing starts at $10 a month for two extensions and 1,000 minutes. It tops out at 10 users and 5,000 minutes for $25 a month. A 30-day trial lets you put the system through its paces before making any commitments.
For those wanting access a similar service through an app, there's ZipZap, although the app is currently iPad-only. The app reminds me of the classic photo displaying a switchboard operator managing random cords. Only instead of cords, you have these circular icons containing pertinent information for the person on the other end of the line. When you want to answer a call, just drag the icon into the middle of your iPad's screen and start talking. The interface is a bit puzzling at first, yet after completing a few calls and sending some messages, it begins to make sense.
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