June 23, 2010 5:39 PM
Yesterday, Google announced that it will now allow anyone to sign up for a free phone number and free voicemail using its previously invitation-only Google Voice service. All over the Internet, bloggers have been hailing this development as a wonderful cost-saving tool for a small business, even though many of the capabilities of Google Voice have been available to small businesses for quite some time through other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) providers, such as Skype and Sipgate. In fact, Skype and Sipgate offer one service that Google Voice does not: the ability to send and receive a fax.
However, Google Voice has upped the ante, so to speak, by offering some new services. These services will make it even easier for entrepreneurs to start new businesses that do not yet have a home, simply by combining a self storage unit (to hold inventory and records) with a laptop computer and cell phone. Small business owners are using VoIP services to make their businesses appear larger and more established than they actually are, to convey a professional appearance (even when the business owner may be working at home in casual attire), and to appear more local than they actually are, sometimes targeting local residents by setting up a special phone number that is located within that area code. In some cases, business owners add to the appearance of being local by opening a self storage unit at a facility that also includes a small post office where businesses can receive mail. [More]