Skype is a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software package that is revolutionizing the telephony landscape. In the past VoIP has been both expensive and cumbersome to use. Skype solves those problems with an intuitive user interface and simple installation. Bottom line – if you have a computer, broadband Internet access and a bit of initiative, Skype is a cheaper (even free) alternative to our friendly national telecoms provider. I’m going to give you five easy steps that will explain how Skype will change the way you communicate forever.
Step 1: Download Skype
Go to Skype’s download centre. Download Skype for Windows or Skype for Mac, whichever is appropriate (you do not pay for the download – the complete Skype package is FREE). The file is 9.5 MB – bearable even over a dial-up connection. Double click on the installation file once you have finished downloading, and follow the installation instructions. To use Skype’s VoIP functionality, you will need a microphone and speakers connected to your laptop or PC. Most modern computers have a built in mic and speakers. If you do not own either a mic or speakers – look to buying a USB Skype phone from these guys (just one option – there are many) for a measly R 300. I use the microphone and speakers in my IBM laptop – it works like a charm.
Step 2: Connect with the World – for free
You’ve successfully downloaded and installed the Skype software. You’ve also successfully configured the software, run the standard Skype configuration test, and all is well. All that you need to connect with ANYONE in the world via Skype as you would over a normal telephone call, is for them to have downloaded, installed and successfully configured Skype on their computer. The beauty is – once you’re both up and running, you can Instant Message, voice talk, video conference (with a webcam or digicam), or transfer small files – ABSOLUTELY FREE. All you pay for is your Internet connection, and if you’re on ISDN or ADSL, you have an always-on connection already. Therefore you pay zero for the cost of the call.
Our entire company (www.tomorrowtoday.biz) – a network of 34 people spread across the globe, communicates free of charge thanks to Skype. We can instant message each other or call as we would over the telephone, and all we pay for is our (in many cases permanent) Internet connections. Just how much money could your small to medium sized enterprise save on internal phone calls if you had Skype on every terminal in the office?
I communicate with family and friends in London, Australia and Canada this way, and provided they have Skype setup, we don’t pay a cent. Beautiful. Use Skype’s easy search function to locate your local and international contacts.
Step 3: Get SkypeIN
Ok, so it’s all fair and well that you can communicate via Skype to Skype over an Internet connection for no charge. But are you able to offer someone the opportunity to contact you on a unique Skype number from an ordinary landline or mobile number and have it ring through on your Skype interface? Well, easily – and this is how Skype makes money. Skype to Skype is free – but landline or mobile to Skype is a paid service. It’s called SkypeIN and costs you 30 EUROs for a 12 month subscription. It also comes with free Skype voicemail service. You can apply for SkypeIN here.
Step 4: Get SkypeOUT
Now we connect for free Skype to Skype, and folks can call us at a unique Skype number thanks to SkypeIN, but what if we want to be able to phone landlines and mobiles, both local and international, from our Skype interface. Easy, once again, and thanks to the paid SkypeOUT service – check it out here – you can dial any ordinary telephone exchange anywhere in the world from Skype.
Is it worth it? Well, I did the exercise of comparing SkypeOUT rates to our friendly national telecoms provider’s international and local rates: Here are the somewhat startling results:
The figures supplied are call charges per minute as per the Skype international rates and Telkom’s local and international rates at 24 Feb 2006:
SkypeOUT is at least 12 times cheaper to international destinations than Telkom. SkypeOUT is 8c cheaper by the minute than even our local Telkom call charges. In other words, you could switch ALL YOUR CALLS, local or international, to Skype, and save on everything.
Sourced from Telkom price lists and www.skype.com.
Step 5: Revolutionise Internal Communications
Instant Message, call, video conference (you can video conference or conference call up to 5 people free with Skype) and transfer files your office. Cut down on email overload and the cost of physical meetings. Save money on calls with overseas suppliers and customers, and show that you are tech-savvy, cutting-edge and progressive. Heck, if your overseas stakeholders have Skype, you talk for free.
The catch? Without a broadband connection, Skype’s functionality is pretty much limited to instant messaging, but even then it is a useful tool for connecting with people across the globe.
The proof is in the pudding. Download it, try it, play with it, save a whole lot of money.