Read these 7 Free VoIP Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about VOIP tips and hundreds of other topics.
While Skype and other free VOIP services are getting some deserved attention, these services still have enough limits and drawbacks to prevent them from being effectively used as a primary phone. For example, Skype offers no 911 service. And you can't port your current phone number over to Skype. And Skype only works as a free service to other Skype users. Vonage or other major commercial services are much more comparable to standard commercial phone service and can be used as primary phones.
One big advantage to VOIP services is that, essentailly, any number is a local number. So this means that when traveling -- for business or pleasure -- you can make local calls with your laptop computer acting as your Internet phone. What you need is a service -- or an extension of your current service -- that allows you to access your VOIP service from any Internet connection. Then all you have to do is plug a headset into your laptop and it becomes your Internet phone. It's like you're sitting in your home or office -- no matter where you are actually located.
To take advantage of any free VOIP services, you will need to have the following:
* An Internet connection: cable, DSL, even dial-up.
* A computer connected to the Internet.
* A microphone or telephone connected to your computer. A phone will need to use a special adapter to connect to the computer. Some free VOIP companies -- like Skype -- have begun to sell special phones enabled for VOIP service. These phones must be plugged into the host computer via a USB connection to work.
So you've decided you want to check out free VOIP. What do you do now in terms of choosing a provider? The best thing to do, to start, is to search the Internet for web sites that compare and review free VOIP providers. Once you find one that looks good, download the software and try it out. Keep doing this until you find the service that works right for you.
Before you get too excited about free VOIP services, keep this in mind. There are very, very few free VOIP services that offer calls outside their own network. Most of these "free" services will charge you for any call that goes to anyone outside the network. Skype is a good example. If you want to talk to other Skype users, no problem. Use their network, your computer, and they make you look at ads while you talk. Go outside the Skype network, however, and you're going to pay at least five cents a minute for calls. So before you make a big commitment to Skype or any other free VOIP network, think carefully about the limitations.
As with any free service, you need to look at free VOIP services with some skepticism. The service may be free, but what about software, equipment, voice quality, etc.? The one free service that stands up well to this skepticism is Skype. Skype is free -- to anyone else who also uses Skype. It requires only a simple software download and no special hardware. And the voice quality, while uneven, certainly works well enough. It has limitations, of course -- you need to have your computer on to make and receive calls. And there's no 911 or number portability. Still, the cost is right and the service works, as advertised.
Skype gets all the press as a free Internet phone service -- a lot of it deserved. But Skype is far from the only game in town in terms of a free VOIP Internet phone service. Some VOIP providers offer free Internet phone services to anyone willing to limit calls to within the provider's network. This means that you can talk for free to anyone else subscribing to the same Internet phone service as you. These services can be limited -- no free access to public landlines, for example -- and certainly aren't ready for prime time in terms of replacing your current service.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|