Most of use or have used skype I am sure. Its a great way to keep in touch with friends and family for free anywhere in the world. It’s making long distance relationships bearable and allowing people all over the world to have virtual dinners, catch up for drinks or even have singing lessons with people, no matter the distance. It also allows you to use instant message chats and to send and receive files from your skype contacts.
In fact skype has become so popular that it is now a verb; “I’ll skype you!” or “I’m just going home to skype my girlfriend.” When it gets to the stage the most people know what you are talking about when you say things like this then you know a technology is popular.
So what exactly is skype? For the technically minded skype is a peer to peer VOIP (Voice over IP network). Which means it creates a direct connection between two friends and allows them to speak live over the internet. It does this very successfully carrying 13% of all international voice communication, making it the largest carrier in the world.
It is free to download, set up, register and start talking to other people on skype. All you have to do is download the program at www.skype.com and you will be up and running with in five minutes. Obviously to use the video chat service you need to have a webcam on your computer. Most new computers have them built in these days, but if you need one you can pick up an external camera at a computer shop for under $100.
Skype also has some premium services which you can browse through on the skype website. With a few of these combined you can be in communication with home for a fraction of the cost of what it would normally cost you. I will go through a few of them and then go through the set up I have while I am here in Singapore.
A Skype Number:
One of the first services I signed up for was a skype number. You choose where you want the number based (I chose Melbourne, Australia) and it issues you with a landline number. Now if anyone calls this number it rings on you computer like you were receiving a skype call. Great if you travel a lot and want to have a point of contact no matter where you are in the world, or if you don’t think your Grandma is going to handle skype. Just give her the number and tell her to call when ever she wants.
Now you have a skype number there are going to be times where people will call you and your computer is turned off. Voicemail is available and works like any other voicemail. They hear a recorded message from you, that has no indication that it is a skype number, it sends you an email alerting you that you have a new voicemail and when ever you next log into skype you receive the message.
You can buy credit on skype that allows you to call landlines and mobiles all over the world, or in a specific area. The rates are much cheaper than you would normally pay for international calls. For instance an Australian landline is about 1.9c a minute. There are also packages available that give you unlimited calls to landlines and cheaper calls to mobiles with in a specific area. You can also send text messages, although at this point there is no way of receiving texts.
Once you have purchased some skype credit then skype connect can also help you get online. Quite often when you are in a foreign country and need internet access you have to find a wireless network, enter your credit card details, pay international charges etc. Skype has partnered with over 200 wireless providers world wide so as soon as you connect to one of there networks, skype pops up and offers to take over. It does all the connecting for you and tells you the rates and then deducts the amount from your skype account. There is literally only one OK button to push through the whole process and you are connected to the internet.
Skype Mobile App:
I have the skype app on my iPhone and it allows me to log into skype where ever I am and make skype calls, check my voicemails or receive calls. Its particularly handy, as it will run in the background and only pop up when someone is trying to contact you.
My set up:
As I mentioned I am writing this article from Singapore and skype has been a godsend for communicating with friends and family back home and also running my web design business.
I have a skype number and a plan that enables me to make unlimited landline calls to anywhere in Australia. It also allows me to call mobiles for about 10c a minute. I have it set up so it uses my mobile number for its calling id, so if I call someone from skype it comes up on their phone as me, this also works if I text anyone.
Before I left Australia I diverted my mobile phone to my Melbourne landline skype number. Because its a local number vodafone doesn’t charge anything for these redirections, and I have a voicemail set up so that if I am not available people go to a similar voicemail message as my phone normally has.
Finally when I arrived in Singapore I organised a data only sim card for my iPhone, which allows me to be online with skype running all the time.
So now if someone calls my mobile phone (or my landline which is advertised on my website) from Australia, it rings on my iPhone through skype here in Singapore and I can answer and talk to them and it doesn’t cost anyone any extra. I can also call out from my mobile, through skype, free to Australian landlines and for 10c a minute to mobiles.
Never have I felt so easily contactable in another country. Not everyones idea of a holiday, but if you need to work, absolutely ideal.
I hope this has given you some ideas on how to take your skype use just a little further.