Dialing for Pennies

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted Jun 11, 2009


The best-known global telephone company isn't really a telephone company at all — or is it? Although Skype promotes itself as "The Global Internet Telephony Company," it's really more of a Software as a Service (SaaS) company whose software allows you to make phone calls to any phone or other Skype user in the world. Start for free and continue for pennies a day with this leading-edge technology that propels your business into the 21st Century and your bank account back into the black. Cover Your Assets: Get the 411 on how to pay your phone bill with pocket change.

If you don't believe me about the pocket change comment, how does ten cents per day grab you for unlimited U.S. and Canada calls. If you have a more international flavor to your business, how's 43 cents per day for unlimited calls to over 40 countries worldwide? Oh, now you're interested.

Traditionally, Skype appealed to the techie or advanced home user for making cheap or free calls via the Internet. Now its appeal has reached into the business world and has the potential to transform the way you communicate.

So, what does a consumer-oriented product like Skype have to do with business and saving money? Everything.

Skype Features

  • Free Skype-to-Skype Calls
  • Call Any Phone
  • Multi-Way Conference Calling
  • Caller ID
  • Online Phone Number
  • SMS Messaging (Texting)
  • Voicemail
  • Call Forwarding
  • Low International Rates
  • Flexible Billing
  • Use Skype With Land lines and Cell Phones

Skype has all the common features of a standard phone system: Call forwarding, conference calling, voicemail, caller ID. It also has free Skype-to-Skype calling anywhere in the world. If you want your customers to be able to call you from standard phones, sign up for an online phone number. With an online phone number, your Skype setup receives calls like any other phone and the fee for the service is very low ( about $30/year).

A bonus feature of the online phone number is that your Atlanta-based company can have a San Francisco Bay area phone number, essentially creating a California branch office. Alternately, your Indianapolis sales group can now enjoy a New York City metro number. If you're traveling and have computer access, your Skype phone number follows your account and isn't connected to a particular device or location.

The Downside

All isn't rosy in Skype World — there's an annoying downside to every good story, although this downside isn't too far down. Unlike your familiar telephone handsets, Skype uses the Internet to carry your voice around the world and back; a technology known as Voice Over IP (VOIP). A primary requirement for using Skype is an available Internet connection, so you'll have to tether yourself to a computer and a headset to use it. For home or office, this isn't a problem, but what about when you're stuck in traffic and you need to make that 9:00 am call to the U.K.? Making that call on your cell phone is not a cost-effective option.

Here, too, Skype has a solution.

It's called Skype to Go and it allows you to setup several phone numbers from which you make calls using Skype's network. You have to step through the online wizard before you use the service, but it's worth the effort to pay only a few cents per minute for those international or long distance calls.

Service Quality

Your Skype service is as good as your Internet connection and just about any headset or built-in laptop microphone delivers acceptable call quality. For those who want to hear the delicate nuances of tummy gurgling or chirping birds on the other end of the line, a higher-end headset can be had for $40 to $60. Forget about those days when VOIP calls made your voice sound like you are starring in a movie about giant robots. Call quality is now at least as good as your standard cordless phone. Skype-to-Skype calls are the best quality and have almost no background noise, thus providing service good enough for professional recording.

If you do interviews or just like to record your conversations, I recommend you download an add-on called SkypeCallRecorder from VOIPCallRecording.com. This product installs easily and records all outgoing and incoming Skype calls automatically.

You might not be able to replace your cell phones just yet, but it's time to retire those expensive landlines and PBXs. Putting VOIP technology to work for your business and extra money in your back pocket is a good start. Write to me using the Comments section below and let me know how you use Skype. Let everyone know about any cool Skype add-ons that you use as well.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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