My primary phone number is provided by Lingo – a Voice over internet provider. One of the features it has is server based voicemail with the message automatically forwarded to my email. A feature like this would (AFAIK) be very expensive from a traditional provider, but usually comes for free from most VOIP-based providers. Some providers (like PhoneGnome) even bridge your old-system line to the new functionality automagically.
My primary email system is Gmail and that’s where my voicemails get forwarded to. This means that I can read my messages and listen to voicemails from any location with internet access. Which I do. I don’t even call the voicemail portal anymore when I get home; I check my Gmail account instead. Furthermore, since Gmail’s storage is constantly growing, I haven’t had to delete a single voice mail message yet.
Combined VOIP+Gmail setup allows me to recall past events very fast. For example, I had lost someone’s phone number and needed to urgently call them. Fortunately I did remember that – some time in the past – they called me in regards to a particular subject. I did a Gmail search for that subject and found another email from the same day. I then used Gmail’s advanced search (after:2006/11/19 before:2006/11/21 has:attachment) and the voicemail and the originating number came up immediately. I could then download the voicemail message to confirm that I had the correct person and number. The whole process took 3 minutes and less than 10 clicks.
This is just one small feature of the new telephony, but even this one feature makes it very hard to go back to old providers. To those with broadband internet, I strongly recommend VOIP providers (if not necessarily Lingo itself). I am certainly looking into even more exciting possibilities offered by companies such as GrandCentral, PhoneGnome and Voxeo.