All projects: DIY-IT Project Guide
This project: The Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide (2014 Edition)
As more and more of us use smartphones and ditch our landlines, we're not quite as aware of the newness of being reached anywhere.
If you have multiple landing zones (like home or work), it's nice to be able to be reached by callers whenever necessary. So, again, because we had an immediate, tangible need (and we're still seeing the benefits), 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 and you might, instead, just want to add a new Google Voice number assigned by Google.
What if you just want to move your number?
Another aspect that's caused confusion among readers is where Google Voice fits into the number portability formula. Some people who have read my articles were confused and thought you needed Google Voice just to port a landline to a mobile phone, or move a phone number from one carrier to another.
You do not need Google Voice for number portability. Number portability is a law in the United States and you are permitted to move your telephone number across carriers and from landlines to mobile phones.
If you merely want to move your number, but don't need all of Google Voice's features or fiddly bits, just contact the carrier you want to move to. They'll help you make the move with a minimum of fuss.
If you rely on MMS
I've been using Google Voice's texting service successfully for a few years now, but it's important to note that multimedia messaging just doesn't exist on Google Voice. Worse, if someone sends you a picture via SMS, you don't get any notification at all -- it just vanishes.
Many people who use Google Voice use their phone's native messaging service for images and Google Voice for texting, but that's a bit of a hassle. If MMS is very important to you, Google Voice might not be the complete solution. Just keep that in mind as you think this through.
If you have DSL service
If you get your broadband over DSL, it may be difficult to move your number away from your landline. DSL piggybacks over the phone cabling system and many DSL carriers do not offer DSL without phone service.
You'll need to check. Some service providers do offer DSL alone, allowing you to terminate your landline phone service, but others do not. Because DSL carriers run on top of the last-mile lines of phone companies, a DSL carrier that will permit you to buy DSL-only service at one location may be prevented from offering that service at another.
Do your research ahead of time, or you might find yourself in for a nasty, broadband-free surprise.
Is it too hacky for you?
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. The original system didn't work well.
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.
It also took three full system iterations until it was something we liked reasonably well, and yet there are still some annoyances that need to be resolved. That said, it's better than anything we've had before and there are features that I can't imagine giving up.
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.
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. 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.