Skype for Mac OS X
Not so long ago, running a business or staying in touch with far-flung friends and family guaranteed a huge phone bill. The internet and email changed this, but people still like to talk. VoIP (Voice over IP) services, such as Skype, offer a cost effective way to stay in contact both offline and online.
Installation and setup is simple. You then need to register for an account, which is quick and easy, and credit your account for SkypeOut calls – calls to non-Skype telephones (landlines and mobiles) which are dialled conventionally. You must subscribe to get a SkypeIn (currently in beta, but it worked fine in my tests) number, which can be dialled from any land or mobile line. You can also use your computer to speak with other Skype users for free. Additional features include instant messaging, file transfer, call forwarding (to any number using voicemail (15 for 12 months or free with a SkypeIn subscription), and four-way conference calls. Skype uses almost unbreakable 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) security.
You may ask is iChat not enough? And the answer is no. Skype runs on Mac, Windows and Linux systems; it also allows users to make affordable calls to any landline or mobile phone worldwide. It lets you speak with anyone, even if they don’t have a computer. A SkypeIn account lets you receive calls (at normal caller rates) dialled from any phone – otherwise you can only be contacted by other Skype members who know your user name. SkypeIn makes Skype a useful adjunct to your existing communications system – it’s cheaper to use than a mobile phone (for both you and your callers), and more flexible than iChat.
I’ve used other VoIP solutions but these have often been of limited use. Skype has an easy-to-use, attractive interface, is stable and offers feature-parity across platforms. You can make voice calls with others anywhere in the world and independent of a computer. If they also install the software, you can talk for free. It’s a boon for anyone who needs to maintain long-distance contacts. Features like file transfer and conferencing will help, not hinder, modern business.