A while back I discovered the delights of free VOIP calls and instant messaging courtesy of the revolutionary Skype. I bought me a nice Skype phone for my Mac, installed the Skype program, and purchased some credit so I could call landline numbers from my computer. It was fantastic. Until I got frustrated at the poor quality I was getting when connecting to conventional telephone numbers. I would call clients on business and the call would fall apart and I would have to call them back on my mobile and apologise profusely for the dodgy phone connection. Not very professional. And as such I stopped using Skype altogether and let my credit expire.
So why am I now considering it again? Is it just the Christmas merriment making me more receptive to trying something in the hope it’ll be better this time round? Or have I left things long enough to allow for technology to catch up, enabling me to take full advantage of the services on offer to transform the way I do business?
If you were expecting an answer to any of those questions, I’m afraid I can’t give you any. At the moment it’s just an idea, the merest germ of an idea at that. I do still have my Skype phone, and very nice it is too, but I don’t have any Skype credit any more so I can’t test the connection quality to see if things have improved. That said, I did have a partial video conference with my Dad a while back (with video streaming from his end but not from mine, as I don’t have a webcam), and that seemed to be ok, though with a little delay in the sound.
It’s a very tempting idea, using my internet connection as a phone, but there are a number of factors to consider. For a start, all my clients know my existing business mobile number, so I would have to keep that anyway. Calls on Skype would certainly be a lot cheaper than calling from my mobile all the time. That said, I hardly use my business mobile for making calls, but perhaps that’s because it costs me lots… maybe if calls cost me less I would spend more time on the phone. But I do need to be sure that the quality of the call is good enough to present a decent professional service to people when they call (or when I call them). My current internet connection is pretty basic if I’m honest; a broadband speed test I did today showed that my download speed is just over 1Mbps, and upload speed is around 340Mbps. So not great by modern standards. It ought to be enough for Skype, as long as I’m not trying to do anything else at the same time. What happens if I’m uploading a big file via FTP and someone phones me?
So, although Skype is cheap, there is still an overhead involved. I would need to buy credit, or go onto one of their monthly plans, which costs money. I would need an incoming Skype telephone number so that traditional phones can still reach me (I’d get one included with a monthly plan, but I’d have to pay for it separately otherwise), which costs money. And I’d probably have to consider upgrading my internet connection so that it could cope with the increased traffic, which costs money. So although in the long run I might end up saving money, I would need to invest in it first to see any sort of effective return. Swings and roundabouts. And the occasional climbing frame.
Has anyone else had experience of using Skype recently? Has the revolution taken hold yet, or are there still too many problems?