Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Too many numbers

We have an opportunity to rethink our phone lines and phone numbers, since it's no longer urgent if an agency can't reach us. We also have a prompt to do so now that our home line is going up in cost from $240/year to $600/year.

Our current setup feels overly complicated. We have two landlines at the house. One is for home ($600/year) and one is for business ($720/year), but really we have two lines so that we can both be on the phone at the same time. I have a Chicago-based number ($25/year) through maxemail to receive voicemail for home when calls are forwarded there, and a different Chicago-based number ($15/year) through maxemail to receive voicemail and faxes for work. I have a remote call forward number ($348/year) which was my advertised business phone line, and a different one ($360/year) which was my advertised business fax line. Plus two cell numbers ($50-$100/year each), though we don't really use our cell phones much, and three Google Voice numbers (free) that we're not doing anything with yet. That's $2218/year in total, and we don't have smartphones. Sigh.

For actual phone numbers, I need to keep the remote call forward numbers around somehow. I'm asking maxemail if they can port the remote fax number over to them, since $84/year through maxemail would be better than $360/year through Verizon. That seems like an obvious step to take. It reduces costs, even if it doesn't reduce the total number of lines.

If I could port the remote voice number directly over to my current business landline, I could save another $360/year. Verizon won't let me do that. I may be able to port it to a forwarding service like Google Voice, if I can convince Verizon to let me port the number over to a cell phone first and then port it from the cell phone to Google Voice. All so that Google Voice can send my phone calls straight to my business line. I'm nervous about what happens if my remote number gets stuck on the cell phone and can't be forwarded back out.

If maxemail allowed conditional messages based on the forwarding line, I'd only need one maxemail account instead of two or three. But that's not going to happen any time soon, and their service works really well as it is, so I don't want to mess with it.

If at some point you try to reach us and can't, try email. We have no current plans to mess with that. But any of our phone numbers may suddenly stop working as expected, or go away entirely, because 11 phone numbers is too many when only 2 of them are important. It's not that we don't want to talk to you on the phone; apparently we REALLY want to talk to people on the phone.

Update on November 27, 2012

STEP 1: I've ported the remote fax number to maxemail, which went very smoothly.

STEP 2: I've signed up for a FIOS installation, which should take over our home phone number as part of a package where the phone line basically costs nothing for at least two years. We'll lose the home voicemail that we're used to, but supposedly FIOS can forward voicemails to email just like maxemail has been doing. We'll also lose our good international calling from the home line, so any international calls will have to go through the business line. (I realized that the $2218/year total didn't include our separate long distance bill of $120/year, which could in theory drop by $40/year if we move all outgoing domestic long distance calls over to the FIOS line.)

STEP 3: I'm considering porting the remote voice number to maxemail. This is the public work number which is on every book, catalog, user manual, and postcard I've created in the past 18 years. If I do this, the number would always go straight to voicemail.

If step 2 works, I'll have reduced the total from $2338/year to $1462/year, which is more reasonable. Step 3 would bring it down to $1198/year (or persuading Verizon to replace my home business number with my remote business voice number would bring it down to $1114/year).

STEP 4: Replace the business landline with a smartphone, since the cost of a smartphone is not a lot higher than the $720/year cost of that landline. Open question: keep the copper line open with few features, useful for extended power outages? With a small child and a dog, how long are we really going to stick it out around here during an extended power outage anyway? Small added savings would be only needing 1-line phones in the house (saving $200 when I replace the dying cordless phones next year), not needing my $50/year basic cell, and perhaps not needing the $120/year long distance service at all.

Update on January 30, 2014

STEP 5: Home and work landline numbers now go to two smartphones (one for me, one for Lisa), and the landlines have been disconnected. Both smartphones use maxemail for voicemail. Cost is similar to what the two landlines cost.

STEP 6: FIOS took over the remote voice number, and that now goes to all of our landline phones. Savings: $360/year.

STEP 7: Our long distance account has been closed, since we no longer have any lines where we can choose a long distance carrier. Savings: $120/year.

Notes for the future: If we need to replace phones in the house, we can get 1-line phones. It’s hard to imagine needing a second landline as long as cell phones keep working. If David needs a phone, he can get a cell phone.

Current cost for cell phones: $1080/year. Voicemail lines: $40/year. Fax line: $84/year. FIOS business line: free, since we have television and internet with FIOS anyway. Total cost right now: $1204/year, including data on our smartphones. And we had to buy smartphones.


Matt Fowles said...

You should try Republic Wireless. I have been using it quite happily for several months. $25/month (after all taxes and stuff) for a mid/low quality smartphone.

Michael said...

Thanks, Matt -- that looks really interesting!

I just sent in the paperwork to get the fax line ported away to MaxEmail directly instead of being a virtual number forwarding to MaxEmail. Verizon claims they no longer object to doing this (they've previously said it couldn't be ported), so in just over 4 weeks I should know whether it has worked. MaxEmail sent me the form and clear directions in under an hour, so their end is nice and prompt. I've really liked doing business with them since 2005.