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RingCentral's new SMS feature keeps your number private

RingCentral's cloud business phone service will enable SMS texting to and from a business number--even on personal mobile devices.

What do you do when you call a co-worker but they're not at their desk to answer the phone? You might send a text message to their mobile phone to try and reach them, but people using their own mobile devices may be reluctant to share their personal mobile number for business purposes. RingCentral may have a solution for that.

It is adding a new feature to its cloud-based business phone service that enables your business number to be the focal point for text messaging as well as voice and fax calls. The text messages can still be routed to an iOS or Android personal mobile device, but the sender only needs to know the business number, so there is a consistent, professional point of contact that also maintains a veil of separation between work and personal life. A "Do Not Disturb" feature enables users to stop receiving business-related communications after hours--and RingCentral simply holds the texts, calls, and fax messages until it's enable again.

RingCentral Office lets managers send a text message en masse to entire departments without having to look up each individual phone number. The RingCentral tool also makes it easier for users to keep track of business voice, fax, and text messages by organizing them together in one place.

People generally have their mobile phone nearby 24/7, and can engage in an SMS texting exchange even while already on a voice call or engaged in other text conversations. It allows people to respond to questions or relay information even when they're in the middle of a meeting, or sitting on a loud, crowded train where voice calls would be impractical.

BYOD (bring your own device) is a growing trend among businesses, but it's nascent and the ground rules are still being established. There have to be some boundaries between work and personal life, and those are harder to maintain if co-workers, customers, vendors, or partners know your personal mobile number and can call or text you any time.

RingCentral alternatives include Microsoft Lync, a unified communications tools that integrates voice, email, instant messaging, and video conferencing. It's not SMS text messaging, but Microsoft has Lync client apps for the dominant mobile platforms that also integrate with Microsoft Outlook calendar data, and share real-time presence information. The capability to communicate via instant messaging is essentially the same thing as text messaging, and Lync provides a platform for communicating with through a business phone number and email address on a personal mobile device.

The new SMS text messaging feature will be available in early 2013 as a part of the standard RingCentral Office service.

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