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Summary:

David Pogue raved about it. Grand Central is getting some great buzz from high-profile web workers, and with good reason. What is Grand Central? Simply, it’s a web service/VOIP player that promises to be a single point of contact for all your voice communication needs. It […]

David Pogue raved about it. Grand Central is getting some great buzz from high-profile web workers, and with good reason. What is Grand Central? Simply, it’s a web service/VOIP player that promises to be a single point of contact for all your voice communication needs.

It remains to be seen whether the service truly catches on as it inches out of its public beta phase. However, Grand Central is interesting because it breaks the hold our phone service providers have over our voice communications in a similar way that we were able to take control over our email out of the hands of our ISPs years ago. Remember when your dial-up service was from Earthlink or AOL so your personal email address was @earthlink.net or @aol.com?

If you changed ISPs, you had to change the way everyone in your address book contacted you electronically. Now, most of us have email addresses that stay with us no matter where or how we get our internet service. Among other things, Grand Central promises that you no longer have to worry about changing your public phone number when you change your phone service provider. For us nomads with instant message accounts, VOIP accounts and email addresses in addition to mobile and landline phone numbers…this can be a big deal.

There are other advantages here for the web worker.

With a blurry line between work and life because we work where we live, juggling phone lines is a hassle. In our home, my husband (who is also a web worker) has his personal cell phone, a Blackberry and a work landline. I have a cell phone and a Vonage virtual number in the area code of my employer. We also have a local Vonage number that’s our main family phone. On some days, our home sounds more like a switchboard with all the bells going. I often rely on caller ID to know whether “work-me” should be answering the phone formally, or “Mom-me” should be answering the phone with a casual, “Hello?”

With Grand Central, you can import your address book (from Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo, Gmai, CSV or vCard files). Set your contacts according to the categories they fit in your life, and the service takes care of the rest. If someone from your personal life is calling, the voicemail greeting can be set to be casual, “Hi, I can’t come to the phone right now, I’m running around with the kids. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you…” If someone from your work life is calling, the greeting can be more formal, “You’ve reached Barbara Jones at the Smith Company. I’m away from my desk right now so at the tone…”

To record a greeting, you click on the “Record New” link and select the phone that you want to use for the recording. Grand Central calls that number, and a voice guides you through the process from there.

Another great web worker feature in Grand Central is the ability to forward a call from one phone to another. How many times have you taken a call on your home phone as you’re about to run out the door? If you push the “*” button during the call, the other phones you’ve registered on your account will ring. Pick up the phone you want to continue talking on and go on your way. This will come in handy when my Vonage call quality is poor, which is most of the time these days.

Which brings me back to the first reason that Grand Central is interesting for web workers. With VOIP providers popping up and down, you can feel more comfortable “shopping around” for reliable service without dreading the hassle of porting your phone number around. Nearly 10 years ago, I registered a domain name and selected an email address that I’ve used as my primary address ever since. Many web host and ISP accounts have come and gone since then, but that email address prevails. It’s time for that to happen with phone numbers, isn’t it?

Grand Central is not without its downsides, at least in its current beta form (rumor has it that it will cost around $15/month for a full-featured account at launch, with a basic service always being free). It would be nice if Grand Central had a mobile interface. It doesn’t work at all from the HTML browser on my Windows Mobile phone, due to the site’s reliance on Flash. It does not allow multiple accounts to forward to the same number. So if my husband set up an account, he would not be able to forward to our home phone because I’m already using it on my account. That also means that you can’t set up a second account from a different area code that forwards to the same line.

What do you think of Grand Central? Are you interested in consolidating all your phones to one service?

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  1. Frank ‘viperteq’ Young Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Thanks for pointing this new app out. GrandCentral + Skype = Business Communication W00t!!!

  2. It will be interesting to see if any similar services start getting offered by other VOIP companies.

  3. I recently started using GrandCentral for my business and although I’m not receiving many calls yet, I was pleasantly surprised at the service and setting everything up. I love that I know if it’s time to be professional or casual before answering my phone since it tells me with Caller ID. I definitely agree with your comments on the limitations it has and I hope they come up with solutions for them. Too bad the monthly price won’t be lower. Not that $15 is high, but free is always great!

  4. I pay more than $15 a month in service fees alone, almost double actually, for both my home and my mobile phone. I would gladly pay $15 bucks for this service including kinks. As far as the mobile web interface, with the Apple iPhone will probably have the ability and once the other mobile device companies get with that program, this shouldn’t even be an issue. I give it a year before all new web enabled phones have some sort of similar iPhone interface and accessibility.

  5. WebWorker » Blog Archive » It’s grand, and central! Monday, March 19, 2007

    [...] is getting some nice buzz. Unfortunately US number only for now [...]

  6. Just dropping to say hi

  7. GigaOM » Does everything have to be Web 2.0? Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    [...] for example, GrandCentral, a VoIP application that aggregates many different phone numbers – cellphones, landlines, VoIP digits and office phones – and replaces them with a single number. [...]

  8. I have been using GC since it’s inception. They had a great product right out of the gates. They have consistently listened to the users to provide superior service. I have had some hiccups, but my concerns have always been addressed.

    I am in a National Sales position out of NYC and I rely on GC to always find me. well worth the $15/ monthly when it comes out of Beta.

    Tip- make sure you disable voicemail on your regular phones and use GC voicemail. If you ever transfer a call (via “*”) your voicemail might pick up the call while you are talking to a customer. READ- it happened to me.

  9. Solofo RAFENO Thursday, March 22, 2007

    The buzz around GrandCentral shows us that the “web 2.0 wave” is just a way to push up products and services even if they do not bring any innovation.

    GrandCentral is just another “One Numbering service” which has been in the market for a while. Of course, they have put around some fancy features such as adress book integration but the concept is an old one.
    The supposed value to be delivered is NIL, GC doesn’t fix users main issue: the call transfer cost.

    Should they propose an illimited call transfer for a few bucks? and I’ll change my mind.

    Solofo RAFENO
    Blog: emergingworld.blogpost.com

  10. Gang Aft Agley : grand central Thursday, March 22, 2007

    [...] believe it was on WWD (online and confirmed), that I saw the link to this somewhat new service. While I have had my own [...]

  11. Judi,

    We’re working on the mobile interface. Also, you’ll be able to share a fwding number between multiple accounts from next month onward.

    Solofo, not sure what you mean by call transfer cost: we offer free unlimited forwarding.

    Vincent Paquet
    GrandCentral

  12. iPhoneSystems – VoIP News and info » Does everything have to be Web 2.0? Thursday, April 5, 2007

    [...] for example, GrandCentral, a VoIP application that aggregates many different phone numbers – cellphones, landlines, VoIP digits and office phones – and replaces them with a single number. [...]

  13. A View from Home » Saying Goodbye to Vonage Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    [...] a 703 area code that matches the office. This was a good opportunity to start using GrandCentral. I reviewed the service for Web Worker Daily last month and really liked it. You give out one phone number, and incoming [...]

  14. GigaOM GooCentral… Really? « Monday, June 25, 2007

    [...] can read why it would make sense by visiting this hand-on review over on Web Worker Daily. Also, from the archives: Our previous GrandCentral coverage. Share This | Sphere | Print | [...]

  15. Kolz Blog » Blog Archive » Web Worker 101: Separating Life and Work Wednesday, October 31, 2007

    [...] a business expense. If you don’t want to spring for a second line, look at using something like Grand Central to let you manage your business line as a separate virtual phone number instead. Bank Account: [...]

  16. Web Worker Daily » Archive Open Thread: What’s Your Phone Strategy? « Thursday, February 14, 2008

    [...] and integrate your old-fashioned voice chatting into your newfangled web life? Have you gone the Grand Central route to centralize everything? Are you a fan of using Skype’s services for worldwide access [...]

  17. Web Worker Daily » Archive Weekend Coffee Break: Mindmaps, GrandCentral, and Cellular Balloons « Saturday, February 23, 2008

    [...] work in a limited set of browsers. Get Your GrandCentral – We’ve written before about the GrandCentral phone management system. Now, thanks to Blogger (both are owned by Google these days), you can skip [...]

  18. Web Worker Daily » Archive Living On The Edge With Web Services « Friday, April 18, 2008

    [...] Harris No Comments Last weekend, the blogosphere was abuzz with news about GrandCentral, a service we’ve covered before, experienced an outage.  For a few hours on Sunday morning, calls to GrandCentral were not getting [...]

  19. WebWorkerDaily » Archive Ready to Ditch GrandCentral? Take a Look at PhoneFusion One « Monday, August 11, 2008

    [...] 11th, 2008 (10:00am) Judi Sohn No Comments I’ve been using Google’s GrandCentral since well, before it was Google’s GrandCentral. My day job is based in Virginia and with [...]

  20. Is there anyone who send me an invite for GrandCentral? I desperately need a number, I am currently using T-Mobile and they have been absolutelyh horrible with their phone service – very frequent dropped calls, no dial tone, stuttering beep tones. It has been anabsolutely nightmanre using their “at home” service for business.

    any help would be greatly appreciated.

  21. Grand Central is currently not letting anyone send out invites, alas.

  22. I didn’t want to pay $60 for a skype-in number so I found this site http://www.getausphonenumber.blogspot.com and I now have a free number … in fact other countries are available but I didn’t need one.

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