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By John L. Beath
Outdoor communicators use to have a choice whether to go digital or not. Today there is no choice – go digital or get left behind, stuck in an analog quagmire full of dinosaur-like technology. The choice really is simple, if you want to earn money or save money in your profession today, you must go digital!
In the new I-Tech column I’ll detail new digital technologies that will help OWAA members make or save money in their business or home life. Some of the technologies will be challenging but well worth the effort to stay technologically up to date or ahead of the digital curve. Other technologies will be simple and easy for anyone to use and save money.
This month’s column features a way to save money at home, work or while on the road gathering stories. While in China recently on business, I had two articles on deadline that required interviewing several story sources. Without spending a fortune, I simply used my Skype phone (www.skype.com) to make crystal clear, inexpensive phone calls from my hotel room. Skype uses voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) that works extremely well. My biggest challenge was taking into account the time difference between China and the West Coast, not the cost or quality of the phone call. If you still have doubts, just ask member Tom Stienstra, who received one of my calls and could not believe how great the call sounded. My dad says my Skype calls sound better than my cell phone.
Skype is free to download to your computer and allows users to make computer-to-computer calls to other Skype members for free. However, if you want to make calls from your computer to a landline or cell phone you can “load” your account with $10 or $25 worth of Skype credit. Rates vary but on average cost just 2.1 cents per minute to call a landline or cell phone in the U.S. While at home, I use Skype to call my daughter in Australia. If I call her cell phone it costs 35 cents per minute. When calling her landline it costs 2.1 cents per minute. In most countries other than North America the caller pays for the cell phone call, not the cell phone subscriber, so keep this in mind and check the rates before calling.
After setting up your Skype account you can purchase a wide variety of phones that use USB to plug into your computer. The phones look, feel and sound exactly like a regular telephone. You can even purchase a wireless Skype phone that doesn’t require pairing it with a computer for it to work – all you have to do is find an open, nonsecured wireless Internet connection, turn on your Skype phone, select connect and it will log you into your Skype account. With countless nonsecured wireless connections worldwide, this phone can save you lots of money and easily pay for itself if you travel as much as I do.
Skype also sells phone numbers from every state and numerous countries. Your computer or wireless portable Skype phone can have its own phone number. While traveling you can receive calls or have calls go to your voice mail without anyone knowing where in the world you are. You can also forward your cell or home phone to your Skype phone number and then check your voice mails from your computer. Or use Skype to call your voice mail.
If you have a cell phone that uses the G3 network or other system that allows you to connect to the Internet you can set up Skype on that phone, too. My son-in-law has Skype on his cell phone which allows me to call him Skype-to-Skype.
Skype also offers a Skype To Go number that allows you to make low-cost international calls from mobile or landlines. Users of this service need Skype credit or a special Skype subscription.
If you need to send a text message to anyone’s cell phone, Skype can do that too. I use this feature when traveling because it costs less than a phone call and allows me to send phone numbers or e-mail addresses that the recipient has a record of faster than waiting for them to log into their e-mail. Skype users can also make video calls and conference calls.
Once you start searching Skype products on the Internet you’ll find dozens of accessories that enable you to connect your landline to a Skype hub, cordless home phones connected to your home computer, etc. Every month new products emerge, making Skype a good choice for anyone interested in saving money and making communications much easier while traveling.
In next month’s column I will delve into other great home systems to save you money and eliminate your old, expensive landline telephone systems. Between now and then my landline will be disconnected, leaving my home and business connected via VoIP while still using my old phone numbers.
To learn more about Skype visit its Web site, www.skype.com.
You can purchase Skype phones at the following sites: www.frys.com, www.walmart.com and www.amazon.com. ◊
John L. Beath is first vice president of OWAA and owner of Pacific Lure Communications. He is a writer/photographer and owner/editor of 14 Web sites and 10 online stores. For more information about getting connected on the Internet, visit his site at www.webuildyourwebsite.net.