New article featured in the new Ten West Living magazine. (http://www.tenwestliving.com)
Dont Call me, Skype Me!
by Darryl Wilkinson
Ever since Alexander Graham Bell told his assistant, Thomas Watson, “Come here – I want to see you!”, the telephone has been both an indispensable convenience and an unavoidable curse. And it has also always cost money, if not for the phone itself, then certainly for the service. But in the age of the internet, nothing stays the same for very long – and that includes telephone services as we used to know them.
One of the most prominent companies utilizing the power of broadband internet to change telephony is Skype. At its most basic, Skype is a proprietary Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service that breaks up phone conversations into little packets of data and sends them back and forth between registered users via the internet rather than using the traditional method of going through the local phone company’s landlines, cell towers, and switching stations. Skype users can make free voice calls to other Skype account holders using a variety of devices, including home PCs, Skype-enabled mobile phones, iPhones and iPads, Skype-ready TVs and Blu-ray players, and even Skype home-phone adapters. In case you missed that, Skype lets you make free voice calls to other Skype users – anywhere in the world!
But there’s quite a bit more to Skype than just cheap (or free) talk. You can use the Skype service to make free video calls to other Skype users and even hold group video calls with up to 10 participants. For personal use, this can be a fantastic way to keep in touch with relatives or friends who live out of town (or across the globe). When it comes to using Skype for business, the video conferencing feature can save immensely on travel time and costs and still allow you to maintain most of the benefits of having a face-to-face conversation. Video calling becomes even more powerful when you add in another free aspect of the Skype service: the ability to send files (documents, photos, or even entire presentations) of any size using Skype. With Skype video calling and screen sharing, you can discuss important photos or documents in real time as the recipient looks at them – and you.
Skype has several other highly useful features, as well, although not all are free. For instance, Skype Manager is a web-based management tool that allows business owners and office managers to create Skype accounts for colleagues, allocate credits and features, as well as keep track of overall spending with real-time usage monitoring. Skype also offers call forwarding of incoming Skype calls to a mobile or landline number for times when you aren’t able to receive a Skype call directly. A Skype Online number allows non-Skype users to call you via your Skype service. And Skype To Go numbers can be used to make low-cost international calls from any mobile or landline phone without having to sign into Skype or use a computer.
Of course, nothing is perfect, and Skype is no exception. One of the major drawbacks of the service is that Skype does not offer the ability to call emergency numbers, such as 911. And since Skype requires a broadband internet connection, you won’t be able to use the standard Skype services if your internet connection is down. (Either of these might be enough to prevent someone from choosing to use Skype as their sole telephone service.) Data usage for people with limited data plans can be an issue, as well.
I’m not sure Mr. Bell would have approved of the name “Skype”, but I do think he would have been mighty impressed with the features this rapidly growing service (with well over 600 million registered users) has to offer.