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If you're tired of paying for monthly voice-mail services or missing phone calls while you're online, numerous Web-based voice-mail services will allow you to get those important messages when you can't pick up. In exchange for listening to a few advertisements, you and your staff can take advantage of free or low-cost voice mail, available nationwide and often delivered via telephone, pager or e-mail. Here are just a few options out there:
Evoice.com allows you to register up to nine voice-mail boxes on one phone number, and users can access their data via telephone, e-mail or pager. The service is a good idea, but you must dial in to activate Evoice every time you want to use it (no automatic answering machines here). While a little inconvenient, it's still a good value, considering it's free.
ThinkLink.com is an advertising-free option and hence is not free, but it can still be cheaper than paying a monthly flat rate through your phone company: Users pay 5 to 15 cents per minute for incoming calls and for listening to their voice mail. Since there are no monthly fees on top of usage costs, this could be an economical solution for temporary or low-end users. ThinkLink also offers message delivery by pager and the ability to check voice mail via the telephone or Web.
BuzMe.com gives you the option of either a free, ad-driven service, or a $4.95-per-month service with extra features. Unlike other clients, BuzMe requires users to download a software program that interacts with callers if the line is busy. Users can see who's calling and decide whether they want to reject the call, send it to voice mail, or, with the enhanced service, reply to the phone call or take the call with a few minutes of talk time. The $4.95 service also gives greater storage area for voice messages.
Karen Solomon is a San Francisco-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Industry Standard and Wired News.