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A home business answering machine offers a few distinct advantages over a voice mail system. While you may have to pay a monthly fee for a voicemail service, an answering machine simply incurs a one-time purchase fee. In the 1980s and 1990s, the devices did usually require a mini-cassette. However, modern systems are usually digital and thus will not require the upkeep and possible purchase prices associated with mini-cassettes.
Another key advantage is the ability to screen calls. With a voice mail, you cannot hear the message as it is being left by the caller. An answering machine enables you to hear the message as the caller speaks (unless you are not near the device) and you could therefore pick up the call if needed.
If you purchase this for your home office, the price is often tax-deductible as a home business expense. However, check with your accountant or bookkeeper if necessary to ensure this applies to your specific company structure.
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Some voice mail services will allow up to 20 messages of any length; others offer unlimited message storage. This is simply not the case with virtually all answering machines.
Even the nicest systems will have about a 20 minute time limit storage on the digital memory card. This can be problematic if you receive a lot of messages and are not always in the office.
Another disadvantage is if your electricity goes out, the answering machine won't be able to take the messages. Also, a few systems do not have the capability for you to check your messages from another phone. The good news is most modern home business answering machines do allow you to set a PIN and check messages when you are away from the physical location of the device.
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AT&T 1739 - Corded Digital Answering System
The AT&T 1739 - Corded Digital Answering System listed for about $18 on Amazon as of February 2010, may be a solid choice. User reviews rank this machine at an average of four out of five stars. The price value is excellent and much cheaper than the machines of decades past.
The memory storage is rather high for the market; the machine will hold 40 minutes of messages. Another useful feature is the power saver, which protects your existing messages in case the electricity goes out in your home office. Remote access is also offered.
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AT&T 1738 40-Minute Digital Answering System with Time/Day Stamp
AT&T 1738 40-Minute Digital Answering System with Time/Day Stamp is a more expensive AT&T answering machine. As of February 2010, the system costs about $35 on Amazon. Users rank this device with an average of three-and-a-half stars. Though it is nearly double the price of the previously mentioned model, the still-modest cost may be worth it to some home-based entrepreneurs.
Unlike some other systems, this answering machine can take messages when you are on the phone. It also is Caller-ID compatible; if you subscribe to Caller-ID service the system will let you know the names and numbers of all incoming calls. This can save you money on purchasing a Caller-ID box or phone with built-in Caller-ID.