Imagine that you’re a small business owner who deals with a vendor in China. Due to changing market conditions, you want to negotiate a new price for your product. Not only are international phone calls expensive, but you are unable to see the vendor’s body language. You can’t fly out to China due to budget constraints. So what’s a small business owner supposed to do? Now imagine, you sit down in front of your laptop, connect with your vendor face to face through your webcam and discuss your price negotiations all in a matter of minutes….for free. This isn’t a small business owner’s wet dream, this is Skype.
With more than 350 million active users, Skype is the most popular voice communication system in the world. If you use Skype to make a PC to PC connection, then you pay nothing more than the monthly internet service fee. Business people, college students and international travelers have all hopped on the Skype bandwagon.
In the past, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) had been costly and slow but with increases in internet speed and networks that can transmit increasing amounts of data it is becoming more common and sophisticated. Unlike other VoIP services, Skype is a peer-to-peer system rather than a client-server system. It makes use of background processing on computers running Skype software.
- Skype is free, easy to use and effective.
- Video feeds are Skype’s most popular service. The old phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words” comes to mind. The ability to have a face to face conversation with a customer is invaluable. It’s far faster and easier to pick up a piece of paper or an object and show it, as opposed to trying to describe or sketch, scan, and email the same document. Showing an item to the camera is fast, easy and natural.
- Screen sharing is baked right into Skype. You click one button and BAM! The other person can see your screen and you can see theirs. Now, you don’t HAVE to share screens, there is an option to turn this feature off with a simple click. Skype offers screen sharing and voice calling simultaneously. Are you excited yet? Prepare to be. Think about this realistically, you could call your product designer and say, “See this piece over here? What do you think about moving it here?” while visually pointing to objects and locations on your screen. This type of instant feedback leads to greater efficiency and projects getting done in a timelier manner.
- Hands-free lets you work and talk. You can certainly use a headset if you’re trying to be considerate of others around you, but for most people it’s easy and convenient to simply use their laptop as a speakerphone. You can work hands-free while you type, share, annotate and facilitate your meetings. No phone device to hold, manage or deal with, it’s all on a screen.
- Just like screen sharing, instant messaging is built right in. It can be difficult to communicate a website’s URL over the phone but with instant messaging, you just copy and paste the link right in the chat and your partner receives it. You can also use it to send quick text messages, instructions, or URL files.
- Easy file transferring is another benefit Skype offers. You can send files back and forth in real-time AND it’s just as easy as sending chat messages. Just open an instant message chat window, drag a file over, drop the file and BAM! That file is now transferring to your partner….instantly.
To summarize, Skype lets you make calls to anywhere in the world, it lets you share information in real time through text, video or file transfer, and it lets you do all of these things for free! Skype doesn’t eat up a lot of bandwidths, it is very consumer friendly and it’s backed by eBay and Microsoft. Skype is a platform that lets people connect, share and receive feedback instantaneously. Essentially, Skype is what you, the user, make it. And if cost effective, innovative communication is what you’re into, it’s the right software for you and your business.