Archived Practically Speaking

Issue 3
Image for Do You Skype?

Do You Skype?

Putting VoIP to the test

by Andrea Goldman, Esq.
Law Office of Andrea Goldman, Newton

We have all heard about the new mysterious telephone options available over the Internet. Skype and Vonage seem to be the most well-known services, but I assume others have cropped up as well, offering VOIP (Voice Over IP). I had very little interest in learning about these options, having dealt with bundling my at-home services (telephone, internet, cable) and spending tons of money on my cell phone service. I have even mastered IM.

That all changed when my daughter left to spend the rest of her senior year of high school in Beijing, China. One of the first causes of concern was how we were going to communicate. The students would all have cell phones, but we did not know how much it would cost them for us to call. So, everyone agreed that the best option was to Skype.
    
My fourteen year-old helped me set up my Skype account (www.skype.com), which took about two minutes and I was in business. First of all, you can search for others who have Skype by clicking on Add, and entering the Skype Name, full name or e-mail address of the person you want to add. Click ‘Search’ to find them. You then add the contact and wait for them to authorize you before you can call them.

You can also import your Outlook contacts into Skype. Any Skype-to-Skype call over the computer is free. Your first call to a land line or cell phone is free, but then you can purchase Skype credits at their low rates. They also have business plans, call forwarding, voice mail and text messaging.

So, to get started with Skype, I took advantage of a www.woot.com special and bought a webcam package. Now I open Skype, see that my daughter is online, set up the webcam and my microphone and click on the green phone symbol. Shortly after my daughter answers, I see her and she sees me and we are having a conversation. She shows me her Chinese knot tying and her latest purchase. Everyone else is weighing in, so I open the chat window and type in some comments that I do not want the rest of the family to hear.

When I was an exchange student in Peru, I spoke with my parents once in three months and it was really expensive. Now Suzannah and I talk to each other when the time difference will allow, and we planned her prom dress design by exchanging pictures from the Internet. It’s all amazing, and it makes me miss her a little less. Oh, and by the way, did I mention it is free?
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