There are a few different types of online answering machines. Among the most common are Internet answering service businesses that perform much like virtual answering machines. In this category, a person can find single or multiple mailbox options as well as options that incorporate call-forwarding features. Additionally, a person can also choose a software-based machine that answers calls when the user's phone line is connected to his computer.
Many online answering machines work much the same way ordinary answering machines do. With this type of answering service, there is a single mailbox into which a person's voice mail messages are deposited. An individual can record a personal message that his callers will hear and then specify the number of rings before the call is answered. For instance, some people may want a caller to hear three rings while another may want his calls answered by the service immediately. One can also specify the maximum number of seconds each caller will have to record his message.
Another type of online answering machine is intended for more than one user or for more than one purpose. This type includes multiple mailboxes on the same account and allows a caller to use an extension number or telephone-key prompt to choose the person for whom he wants to leave a message. This type may prove useful for a business with several employees or even a family that wants to keep each member's messages separate and private. It may also prove appropriate for a company that has several different departments and wants to keep messages for each one separate.
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Some types of online answering machines are combined with call-forwarding components while others involve a phone number that is always answered by the service. For example, if a person chooses a service that is combined with call forwarding, calls to the answering machine phone number are routed to his home, business, or cell phone number, allowing him to answer the calls if he is available. If he does not answer the calls by a predetermined number of rings, however, the service answers for him. Other online options simply provide services that automatically answer all calls.
An individual may also consider online answering machines that are operated via computer software. With this type, the user actually connects his phone to his computer, which recognizes calls through his modem. When he receives calls, he can see the phone number — and sometimes the name — of the caller on his computer screen and decide whether or not to answer. If he chooses not to, the software can record a message. Some will even allow a person to hear the messages while his callers are recording them.