In a previous post I talked about my quest to find a good and configurable home office phone system. The first option I want to discuss is a simple and inexpensive solution that will likely work for the large majority of homes and home offices.

This solution is Google Voice and a small device named the OBi. Google Voice is a service provided by Google that bridges POTS lines (Plain Old Telephone Service) and the world of VoIP (Voice over IP.) The best thing is that Google Voice does this for free if calling within the United States or Canada…and very cheaply if calling internationally. The problem is that Google Voice wants to connect your call to either a computer or another POTS line.

This is where the OBi comes into play. The OBi accepts VoIP connections from Google and translates that into something your traditional phone will understand…all without needing a POTS line from your telephone or cable provider. There are several models.  The two most popular are the OBi 100 and the OBi 202.   The primary difference is that the OBi 100 can handle two VoIP services and one telephone while the OBi 202 can handle four VoIP services and two telephones.  This means you could have up to four separate Google Voice numbers and multiple telephones or cordless telephones connected to the OBi.  One for different members of your family or separate personal and business phone numbers.

If I’m losing you, just listen to this.  After spending $40 for the OBi 100, you won’t have any monthly fees for domestic calling unless Google decides to start charging for this service sometime in the future.  Industry analysts do not think this will happen anytime soon.

Your setup would look something like this:

  • A Google Voice number would be given to your friends, family or co-workers.
  • When dialed, the call would be routed via the Internet to the OBi in your office or home.
  • The OBi converts the VoIP call and sends it to your traditional telephone connected to the OBi.
  • You answer and begin your conversation.

For outbound calls, just reverse this process and the call will be placed from your Google Voice number. You can also port your existing home, office or mobile number to Google Voice instead of receiving a new number.

Additionally, Google Voice provides even more functionality than your traditional phone line in that when someone calls you, you can have your mobile or other phones ring at the same time.  You can also setup conference calls and you can even record calls.  And of course voice mail is included free of charge.  Google can even email the message to you or transcribe the message and email you a written transcript of the message!

I used this solution for over a year and was quite happy with it.  My configuration allowed my office phone and cell phone to ring at the same time so my calls “followed” me when I was out of the office.  You can also setup different greetings based on the specific caller or groups of callers.  For example a different voice mail greeting could be played for family vs. telemarketers.  I have now switched to a open source PBX for even more flexibility…but more to come on that soon.

Disclaimer: The above solution does require an Internet connection and Google could begin charging for Google Voice in the future.

To buy or read more reviews:

OBi 100 – AMAZON
OBi 202 – AMAZON