For the past year, my wife and I have gotten used to using Google Voice for both our personal phone and business phone numbers. It took a while to get all the kinks ironed out, but as I reported last month, we're finally happy with it.
I'm not the only one. I've gotten a number of very nice notes from people like reader Charles, who wrote me:
Just migrated my office land line to Google Voice via the AT&T Go Phone method you outlined. Thought you'd like to know that all phone numbers, URLs, etc. cited in your original articles are still valid as of two weeks ago. The best bet is to go to an AT&T store and get the phone, the minutes, the account number, and the porting order all at the same time. Took me all of 30 minutes. A day or so later and you're good to go. Thanks much for your original article.
But for every Charles, I've also gotten letters from readers concerned about the process, concerned about moving their long-time and well-known land line phone numbers to Google Voice, and concerned about whether there would be a glitch along the way.
While most of them were excited by the features offered by Google Voice (most notably, the ability to instantly re-route phone calls and filter spam), they weren't sure the benefits outweighed the risks.
Ultimately, they wanted to know if, just because you can port your number to Google Voice, should you? In other words, is it a wise thing to do?
The answer is: that depends.
For us it was a wise thing to do, because we were moving anyway. Our land lines were going to have to be moved anyway, and, after a few unsatisfyingly vague conversations with customer service, we were none too confident in the ability of our local phone company to get it right.
So we saw risk either way. My wife didn't want to lose our family line and I didn't want to lose the business line, but it although it was certainly risky porting to Google Voice via the scheme I'd worked out, it would also have been risky just moving the land lines.
If you're not forced to move your land lines, then you need to determine if it's worth the risk.
Second, for us, we very much needed the phone-following features of Google Voice, where calls would ring on multiple phones. That's not quite as critical now as it was then. Back then, we were shuttling between two houses, our office was partially in a moving truck, we were living out of one house for a few days, living out of another for a few days, and this all went on for six months.
It just wasn't possible for me to constantly tell my clients, "Oh, I'll be at this number on Monday, this one on Tuesday, and that one on Wednesday." Plus, half the time I didn't even know. I'd think I'd be working at the old house, but then I'd get an emergency call from a contractor working at the new house. By using Google Voice, no matter where I was, I could get calls from my clients.
So, again, because we had an immediate, tangible need, the risk of the port was worth it to us. But if you're not migrating between a bunch of locations all the time, or you just think it might be a nice feature, you might not want to risk your phone number to a complex move.
There is another factor at work. For us, at least, we saved a few bucks, but you might not. I'm an engineer, so I'm pretty comfortable (if no longer patient with) hacking together hardware and software solutions. But if you have to hire help, or you can't fix glitches yourself, this kind of hacky solution might not be for you.
We spent a bunch of months after we'd migrated our numbers wishing we were back on the land lines. As I mentioned last month, the original system didn't work well.
For the record, the Obihai folks contacted me shortly after that article, to tell me they had a new system they were selling, and some firmware upgrades for the glitches I'd experienced.
But the point is, no matter what gear you use, if you're moving multiple lines to a complex home office environment, this stuff gets messy quickly. It might not be for you.
So what's the bottom line? Should you port your land line to Google Voice?
Obviously, that depends on your circumstances. I'll tell you honestly I did not enjoy the experience. It was nerve-wracking, frustrating, and I didn't like the complaints I got from people we talked to over the phone.
However, now that it's working, and working solidly, I love it. A feature I truly value now is one I didn't think was nearly as important back then: the spam filter.
Between the Google Voice spam filter and the Ooma's community spam filter, I rarely get junk calls anymore. When those calls came in, they'd interrupt sleep, interrupt my concentration while writing, or interrupt important or pleasant conversations. And there were two or three a day on a good day. Now, we get one or two a month, mark them as spam, and never hear from them again. I'd much more relaxing.
The bottom line is your mileage may vary. But if you're willing to take the risk, if the risk is necessary (like if you're moving anyway), if you need ring-everywhere features, and if you'd like spam filtering, then go ahead and port your land line number.
On the other hand, if you're not moving, are only considering this as a possible cost savings, and would experience severe hardship if you lost your phone number into the mists of some phone provider's customer service jungle, then don't port your phone.
Be smart, think it through, and weigh the risks.