My Communications Infrastructure is led by Google Voice (with teammates the iPhone and Ooma)

In the last month I have completely revamped my communications infrastructure, hopefully for the better.

Here are the before and after pictures.

Before


After


Yep. I am using Google Voice as a hub for phone communications. My Google Voice number will be a primary number for people to contact me. Depending on the person calling, Google Voice will forward to my iPhone, my home phone, my spouse's mobile phone or any combination of the three. (With Google Voice, you can actually get so granular that you can forward to different numbers based on the person calling, have a different greeting for any person, and a different voicemail message for any person or group of people). And I can add or remove phones from the forwarding mechanism at my leisure because my Google Voice number will shield anyone who calls from the black box that is now my web of communication facilities.

Sure people will still call my iPhone directly. And I expect some people to do that as it is my primary line for business discussions, etc. But for a majority of people, calling the Google Voice number will be all that is needed.

And, as what I am seeing as a huge money saver, I have left Vonage (where I was paying $20-25/mo) and came to Ooma. I paid $199+tax at Costco for free U.S. calls for life. Ooma has premium services that you can pay for, but at this point, since I have Google Voice, I don't see the need just yet. (Note: I had no real negative issues with Vonage. The service was actually very good for the time I had it. But, you can't blame someone for trying to save some money).

What if Ooma goes out of business? Well, that's the beauty of Google Voice. I can remove Ooma and add something else to the infrastructure and no one would be the wiser. People know the Google Voice number and don't really care how (and with what device) I answer the phone on the other side. I am actually considering adding a Skype phone number to my account to see if I can forward numbers to the Skype number for the times I am away from my home and online.

Here are my assumptions about using Google Voice as a communications hub:

  1. Google is not going out of business anytime soon. Thus, my Google Voice number can be my number for life.
  2. Google Voice will continue to be free (or ad supported), or some reasonable charge if it comes to that.
  3. Google Voice will keep my privacy just as well as the government does with respect to my phone calls ;-)

We'll see how this all plays out; but right now I feel excited with my new setup.

Google Voice is in beta right now, but you can sign up for an invitation and these invitations are going out daily.


Choosing a Web Collaboration or Conferencing Solution

I wanted to show my brother a skeleton of a website that we are developing. He lives about 30 miles away from me right now, but soon he will be living across the country from me. So this type of functionality will be crucial.

I could have emailed the skeleton. That would have been simple, I suppose. But it is not real-time collaboration. We can't make changes on the fly. Those sort of things.

We both have Windows Vista. I have Ultimate. He has Home Premium. We are on different networks -- basically our home networks via our Internet Service Provider (ISP).

So what to do? What can we use to collaborate real-time when we are basically just two people on the Internet somewhere.

 

Windows Meeting Space  image

Vista has this new "feature" called Windows Meeting Space. I thought that would help, but no such luck. It only supports collaboration on the same wired network, WLAN or ad-hoc, PC-to-PC network. Basically, you have to be close to each other. That really doesn't help me in this situation.

NetMeeting  image

So I looked for NetMeeting. That would work, of course, right? I have used it before. Wrong! NetMeeting exists no more in Windows Vista. Apparently Windows Meeting Space is supposed to take the place of it. You can download NetMeeting for Vista, but it only works on Enterprise, Business or Ultimate. Again, can't be used in my situation.

Remote Desktop Connection  image

I thought about Remote Desktop Connection. But then I realized Remote Desktop Connection is not really for web collaboration. It is more of a 1-way communication system with another desktop. Only one person can see the desktop. So that was out.

Windows Live Messenger  image

I have the latest Windows Live Messenger. My brother could have easily downloaded it. I know I remember in the past being able to use Windows Messenger to share my desktop. There was a button or menu item to do this. It is not there anymore on the latest version. But then I realized that it used NetMeeting on the back-end -- so see my comments above about NetMeeting ;-)

Microsoft Office Live Meeting  image

OK. So Microsoft Office Live Meeting is now Microsoft's recommended way of web collaboration. It could work, sure. But the pricing is prohibitive. For now, I am trying to be a bit frugal (i.e. free). So I looked for other less pricey alternatives.

GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc.  image

For comments about GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc., see comments for Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

 

Yugma image 

So I found this thread on the Business of Software forum where someone recommended Yugma. I never heard of it. But the poster used his real name and had a link to his website, so I figured chances were that it wasn't spam or anything evil. I went to the Yugma site. Seemed easy enough. Sign up for a free account. Install some software. And go.

Both my brother and I went through the sign up and install process. I started a meeting. I gave my brother the session id. He joined the meeting. And off we went. It would pretty flawlessly, actually.

And, it is free for up to 10 meeting participants. This more than meets our needs.

And, it is Java based so I can host a meeting using Mac OS X if I wanted to and my brother can still remain on Windows.

I was very impressed for our first collaboration. It was quite cool.

Yugma will be my collaboration tool of choice until something better comes along.

 

Any comments?

Anyone have any experience with Yugma? Any better collaboration tools out there? Am I mistaken on my thoughts about the other collaboration tools I mentioned here?