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Product Reviews
June 2002

BuzMe Plus 2.0

RingCentral, Inc.
1450 Fashion Island Blvd., Suite 525
San Mateo, CA 94404
Fax: 650-655-6633
Web site: www.ringcentral.com

Price: BuzMe Basic is free (unlimited); BuzMe Voice Mail is $5.95/month; BuzMe Online is $5.95/month with a 30-day no-obligation free trial period; BuzMe Plus is $7.95/mo with a 30-day no-obligation free trial period; BuzMe Pro is $9.95/mo.

Editor's Choice Award

Installation: 5
Features: 3.75
GUI: 4
Overall: B+

BuzMe, a division of RingCentral, Inc., offers a variety of services aimed at optimizing communication for home, home office, and small business users. BuzMe services integrate the Internet and conventional telephony functions resulting in a variety of intriguing communication solutions. With both Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS support, BuzMe provides a means of identifying and accepting incoming PSTN calls while online, facilitates call forwarding or call pick-up, and provides a voice mail function that can be checked via the Web, e-mail, or from any telephone.

The BuzMe client runs on various Windows versions (95, 98, NT 4.0, 2000, ME, XP) and MacOS 7.6 and above. A sound card (for voice mail via e-mail or the Web), 3MB disk space, and Internet access are also required. BuzMe works with dial-up modems, cable modems, ISDN, and DSL connections. BuzMe requires Netscape 4.0 and above, Internet Explorer 4.01 and above, America Online 4.0 and above, or a CompuServe 2000 browser.

BuzMe also requires several services of the local Telco to operate: Call Forwarding on Busy (CFB), Call Forwarding No Answer (CFNA), and CallerID. Depending upon the Telco, a small monthly charge may apply for these features. According to BuzMe it can take the phone company from three to seven business days to get these features installed on your line.

Installing the BuzMe software is accomplished through a simple Internet download. Potential customers can fill out the short online application from the Web site (www.buzme.com) to expedite use of the service. This grants access to the downloadable version of the desktop application. This one-megabyte self-executable file provides call control and the user interface. After exiting all programs, accepting the service agreement, and choosing the installation path, the installation is nearly complete. Once the files are in the newly created RingCentral directory, the BuzMe pager appears in both the lower corner of the user�s PC screen and as an icon in the System Tray.

BuzMe Online: Allows users to check voice mail by phone, takes messages while online, provides incoming call notification (while online), and access to voice mail via the Web. Users can choose whether they want to accept a call, reply to a call by typing a response to the caller transposed by a TTS engine, or send the call to voice mail. BuzMe Online can store up to ten, 45-second messages for up to seven days.

BuzMe Plus: Provides voice mail services while online or offline; notifies user of new messages via e-mail, pager, or cell phone (via SMS service); keeps a detailed log of incoming calls in addition to features listed above. BuzMe Plus can store up to 15 one-minute messages for up to 14 days.

BuzMe Voice Mail: Takes messages while on or offline; check messages by phone and Web; notifies user of new messages via e-mail, pager, or cell phone (via SMS service); keeps a detailed log of incoming calls

At the time this article was written, TMC Labs learned of two forthcoming additions to the BuzMe lineup: BuzMe Basic and BuzMe Pro. BuzMe Basic is planned as a free service with a scaled down feature set including incoming-call notification, in addition to the Ignore and Reply features, which we will discuss shortly. Call log and pre-recorded message options will also be included. BuzMe Pro targets business users with find me/follow me capability as well as call screening and fax functionality. BuzMe Pro is scheduled for release sometime in May, according to a RingCentral Representative.

RingCentral provided TMC Labs with a BuzMe Plus account in addition to a phone number already equipped with the necessary call-forwarding features to expedite our tests. If using dial-up, before logging onto the Internet you must disable Call Waiting.

Once logged on to the Internet with the BuzMe pager enabled, the user is notified of any new messages via the GUI. Additionally, the pager primarily serves to notify a user of incoming calls as they arrive, while providing the means to identify and then accept or reject the caller. Accessing the call log required nothing more than clicking on the pager�s button by the same name.

Through the GUI it is also possible to accept calls at phone numbers other than your home phone. The Accept Call tab allows users to input up to five phone numbers they�d like the call routed to if they decide to accept it via the user interface. This is not a find-me, or follow-me type feature, quite the contrary, this is where BuzMe comes into its own. With a username and password already established, a subscriber need only input them on BuzMe�s Download page to receive a second client. Logging onto the client from work for example, allows subscribers to screen calls, check voice mail and answer their home phone�s incoming calls with call control features such as Accept, Reply, Ignore, and Send To Voice Mail, if desired.

Reply and Ignore were especially interesting features in that Reply allows you to select from a small list of pre-emptive responses: �Will Call You Back In,� �Call Me Back in�� (for which you can enter a time in minutes or hours), �I�m On My Way,� or Other, which allows you to type any response about 18 words in length or less. All of these responses are played in real time via a Text-To-Speech (TTS) engine to the caller. Once the response is conveyed, the caller has the option of responding via an audio menu and a phone�s DTMF digits. The Ignore feature dismisses the caller without granting access to leave a voice message.

If the caller is sent to voice mail, clicking the button appropriately titled �Messages,� on the GUI links users to their password-protected voice mail page. Here, subscribers can view call statistics and listen to messages. The page can also be reached directly from the BuzMe Web site. BuzMe subscribers are entitled to the additional functionality of forwarding and replying by voice among themselves (without the use of the phone). A subscriber must have a microphone attached to their sound card for utilization of this feature.

For the most part BuzMe�s GUI and service exuded quality of design and function in our opinion. Still, we found a few things we�d have done differently. For example, when using the local Call Log it wasn�t possible to sort the columns for the purpose of expediting a search. While this may seem almost inconsequential for voice, our messages and calls stacked up fast; we would welcome this addition to the GUI.

Though the Reply feature is generally welcome, we found it somewhat limiting when trying to ascertain who was calling, should the ANI information not be available or be recognized. An audible announce caller feature is really what we were looking for: A prompt that asks the caller to state their name, or state their name and company for business purposes. Forwarding the caller�s voice via VoIP to the desktop thereby giving users the information to make a more definitive choice to accept or reject the call would have further enhanced this service. That would really be the most powerful tool we could think of in terms of providing users with all of the information to make call-control decisions.

Many rural communities today still do not have the option of end-user, broadband Internet access. Further, many users today don�t require this pricey service to perform fundamental Internet tasks relevant to their jobs when working from home, or spending hours online researching for school projects. In our opinion, BuzMe provides relief to dial-up modem users allowing PSTN communication to persist while online, and unlike newer modems with built-in voice mailboxes, BuzMe offers the option of call control. Supplying a GUI that allows users to observe ANI information, and a Reply feature to aid in gathering additional information about the caller, or communicate a short message without disturbing the Internet connection provide subscribers with additional flexibility. Though we mentioned a few areas for possible improvement, our examination of the service proved it a worthy and economical alternative to a second phone line.

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