Meeting Core Business Needs with Skype

If an important part of your business is communicating with other people, whether for purchasing, connecting to your customers, or other ways, the chances are pretty good that someone in your company is already using Skype. According to the creators of Skype, roughly 30 percent of all Skype users regularly use Skype in their business. No matter how you slice it, this amounts to millions of people having adopted Skype as a standard business tool. It behooves you to know a little more about what Skype can do for your business, as well as how to control any risk or downside associated with adopting the technology. Be aware, however, that Skype is not intended to be a replacement for your phone system. Here are some reasons:
No emergency call capabilities:
Skype cannot be used to call emergency numbers such as 911.

SkypeOut and SkypeIn calls don’t carry the same high fidelity experienced with Skype-to-Skype calls:

Although the sound quality of both SkypeOut and SkypeIn keeps getting better with each new version of Skype, these services still have a ways to go before catching up with regular Skype calls.

Microphone-headsets or speakerphones are needed with Skype:

Not everybody is comfortable wearing headsets or using speakerphones. There are dual-phones that can send and receive regular phone calls and Skype calls. They work well, but not everybody knows they exist.

Answering an incoming call on Skype requires that a device be turned on:

Many people are in the habit of shutting off their computer at the close of a business day. This means that Voicemail needs to be enabled. The good news is that when you sign up for SkypeIn, you automatically get Skype Voicemail for free. The passage of time and new Skype and VoIP technology are sure to overcome these limitations. Meanwhile, however, because you can’t replace your entire phone system with Skype, why bother adopting it? Here are some reasons to consider:

It’s not an either/or proposition:

Skype enriches the communication process by allowing you to do things not generally available on a telephone. You can use Mood Messages. You can transfer files. You can combine audio conferencing and text chats. You have video. All this points to a feature-rich system that is remarkably inexpensive.

Skype can save your business money:

Many businesses that are service oriented, such as consulting, can eliminate large portions of travel expenses through the use of Skype and Web conferencing. The benefit can amount to saving thousands of dollars per employee who travels.

At least Thirty percent of all Skype users regularly use Skype in their business:

You don’t want to be left out in the cold when other businesses are using an effectively free technology to get ahead. All businesses have similar, although not identical, core needs. Among these core needs are sharing documents, preserving privacy, and controlling costs.

Sharing documents

Everybody is used to moving files around. We do it all the time as attachments to emails. Whether sending files by email, file transfer protocol (FTP), or some alternative means, the process is sometimes fraught with obstacles: file size limitations, encrypted or executable files, and so on. Skype offers a quick and expedient way to leap-frog over these challenges when you have to get things done quickly. Three aspects in particular are worth noting about file transfer on Skype:

Ease and convenience:
From an open chat window, you can just drag one or more files from your desktop and drop them onto the chat window.
With regular email, unless you specifically go through some setup in advance, the files you transfer and receive over email are unencrypted. Many popular email systems won’t even let you send encrypted ZIP files. Skype allows you by default to send files securely.

No predetermined file size limit when transferring files:
Although Skype is not a speed demon with file transfer, it doesn’t complain about file size. By comparison, many business email servers complain if attachments are more than a couple of megabytes and prevent such large files from being transferred. Skype enables you to carry on a conversation while you are transferring files over Skype. Keep in mind that you have multiple services (voice and video versus file transfer) competing for a limited resource (your network bandwidth). Skype audio trumps the Skype file transfer service. To speed the file transfer, try hanging up temporarily so that your voice and video transmissions don’t compete with file transfer. You don’t need to close a Skype chat, though — it’s not a resource-intensive service.

Preserving privacy

In a world in which hackers and competitors would love to unscrupulously exploit your communications, protecting your business is imperative. With Skype, you can conduct the audio and video portions of a Skype conversation, as well as text chats and file transfers, as encrypted sessions. This means that when you are carrying on a conversation in the middle of, say, an airport, on a conference call, your competitors can’t pry into your information no matter how hard they sniff the packets. They can’t get into your voice communications, file transfers, or chats. With regular phones, however — both wireless and landline — privacy is not even an option! If you are using SkypeOut, whether for a one-to-one conversation or on a Skype conference call, or someone uses SkypeIn to reach you, the portion of the communication going to and from the telephone is not encrypted.

Managing costs

These days, who isn’t on a budget and trying to shave off a few dollars? At the same time, it would be nice to expand your business communications options. Because just about everybody is connected to the Internet, you can use Skype in addition to your phone system as a communications platform for a no-cost or low-cost solution. To help you manage costs, Skype offers a service called Skype Business Groups, which allows you to purchase Skype credit in bulk and apportion it to members of your business or even selected customers. Rather than tie up large amounts of capital for specific resources for specific people, you can allocate it where you need it, when you need it. To get started with it, go to the Web site at and follow these steps.

1. Sign in using your Skype Name and password. A Control Panel – Business Development Web page appears that allows you to create groups, add users to those groups, and purchase Skype credit for those groups.

2. Click the Create New Sub-Group link. On the page that appears, enter a descriptive name for your group, such as Sales Team, in the text input field and click the Create button.

3. Click the Add Users link. A page opens on which you can add users to any of your groups.

4. Enter the Skype Names you want to add to a group and choose from any of the groups you have created; then, click the Verify and Invite Skype User Names button. The Skype User Adding Results page appears and you receive a notice such as the following: “You successfully invited Skype Name to your Skype Groups. Skype Name will shortly receive an email containing the invitation details. They will need to accept the invitation by logging into My Account (link provided in email) and accept or reject the invitation there.” Of course, the Skype Name that appears in the message corresponds to the one you enter. The invitees receive an email message inviting them to join a Skype Group. To join, they follow the link on the indicated Web page in the email, supplying their Skype Name and password to log in.

5. Purchase Skype Credit for the Group. You have the option to add Skype credit manually for a group or use what Skype calls the Auto Top-Up feature, which prevents Skype credit for the members of your group from dipping below a dollar balance that you set. The principal advantage of Skype Groups is that you can centralize and more easily manage the purchase and use of Skype credits on an organization-wide basis.

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