You may be a long time Skype user and wondering if you should upgrade to Premium. If you’d like to upgrade to use group video and make unlimited calls to phones, those are good reasons to consider paying for Skype.
If you’re upgrading just to get premium call quality, then you may want to reassess your needs. Since they rely on the Internet, Skype and other VoIP services are susceptible to call quality issues. However, there might be other compelling reasons to start paying for Skype. In this article I take a close look at Skype Premium and some of the alternatives.
Skype Premium subscriptions feature group video calling for up to 10 people and includes group screen sharing. Currently with free Skype you can have only two on a video call, but you can have up to 25 on a voice conference.
You can make unlimited calls to landlines and mobile phones to a country of your choice. You also get live tech support via IM and no ads in the software.
Skype Premium is reasonably priced at $9.99 USD per month. If you pay annually you can get it for as low as $59.88, which comes out to only $4.99 a month. That’s not bad at all.
Now you may be thinking of upgrading to Premium to use Skype in your business, and wonder how dependable voice and video conferencing is and if it can be relied on for professional meetings.
Skype for Business
One of the complaints I often hear with Skype is that it can be unreliable, especially in multiparty calls. This is a concern if you hope to use Skype for your business.
The problems may not be Skype’s fault. It could be your Internet connection, router settings or something with your ISP, which would affect any VoIP service. Using another service may not improve your call reliability.
Perhaps the best strategy is using several communications services. When your primary service has problems, you switch to a backup. This is a strategy I use, often rotating services to make sure we get through meetings.
Switching services in the middle of a call is certainly not convenient, especially when there are more than two people on the call. The interruption breaks the current stream of thought and you may lose momentum. For one-on-one calls this is less of an issue in my experience.
The key is to always be prepared. For example, for important meetings I may record the session. If anyone has connectivity issues I will continue the meeting and send a copy of the recording to all attendees.
Skype does not have a recording feature built into its software, but it is possible with the use of add-on tools. The tool I use, which is the one Skype recommends, is Evaer Skype video recorder. You can find out more about here:
Most people are forgiving when you have technical issues, especially if you have a good relationship with the involved parties. People understand having been there before and realize it’s not your fault. However, when you have a meeting with someone or a group you don’t know very well, it can be another story. A bad connection or dropped call may annoy some in group. It might be better to rely on your mobile or landlines for initial meetings with a new client or partner as you build rapport, then move collaboration to VoIP later.
If you do use Skype Premium for your business, you should have at least one conferencing backup. Here are a few free and low cost VoIP services that can serve as backups or alternatives to Skype:
There’s been a lot of hype since the launch of Google Hangouts. Unlike Skype, Hangouts allows video conferencing with 10 people for free.
Hangouts has some nice features such as integration with Google apps, like Google Docs, and live video streaming. The live streaming feature, “On Air,” allows viewers to watch a Hangout live on YouTube. Great for your own “TV” show or other live broadcast.
Hangouts does have some very cool features, and even more impressive is that these features are free. However, for basic chat and one-on-one video calls, I don’t think Hangouts has any advantage over Skype.
When it comes to calling phones Hangouts is limited. Google Voice, which is integrated with Hangouts, only works in the U.S. If you’re outside the U.S. or need to call people outside the U.S. you’re out of luck. But if all your business dealings are within the U.S. or you only need a backup for video meetings, then Hangouts should work out well.
Oovoo was designed for video calling, and it does it well. You can have 12 people on a video call for free. It even has screen sharing and can record calls under the free plan. The Premium plan just removes ads from the software, provides priority support and gives you some online storage for your recordings.
The only problem is getting people to use Oovoo when there’s Skype and Hangouts, which is why I use it mainly for backup purposes. It’s much easier to coordinate and get a group of people connected on a Skype call. It does have a feature that allows people to receive calls without an Oovoo account, but the participation is limited.
If most of your business or personal communication is over the phone, and video conferencing is less of a priority, then Phone Power unlimited business phone servicemight be a better option than Skype Premium.
Phone Power is a top rated VoIP service that provides unlimited calls for as little $8.33 USD a month. You get a phone number for others to call you (additional cost with Skype) and a second phone line for free. It’s packed with features, such as 3-Way calling, call forwarding, 911 and ClickToCall. See all of the 45 features visit here: Phone Power plans
Phone Power is a replacement for residential or small business landline, but it does not offer video calls. If video is not important to you, then Phone Power is the way to go. If you ever need video conferencing, just use Google Hangouts or Oovoo for free.
Other Communications Backups
Look around, these days there are chat programs embedded into many apps and desktop programs. Many offer voice and video, and can be pretty reliable. For instance, sometimes if my gamer buddies and I are using Hangouts or Skype and experience poor quality or drops, we’ll switch to Steam chat and not miss a beat.
Once I had a Skype meeting planned and joined the meeting from my desktop computer. Because of poor call quality, I couldn’t understand when people spoke and they had trouble hearing me.
I opened the Skype app on my smartphone, dropped off my desktop and rejoined the meeting on my phone. The call was clear. I suppose the improvement was because I was on a different Internet connection, one through my phone provider.
The great thing was that I missed only a second or two of the meeting while I was reconnecting. Since my phone was on my desk I was able to fire up Skype and sign in while I was still in the meeting on my desktop. The switch was almost seamless. This is a case where I used Skype as a backup for Skype thanks for my phone!
This is another example of planning ahead, having not only available backup services, but backup devices too. You may not realize it, but if you have a data plan with your phone or tablet, that’s a backup Internet and communications line you can use when you have issues with your primary line.
So it is possible to effectively use Skype in your business with some planning and preparedness.
Skype’s Biggest Advantage
Possibly the biggest advantage of using Skype is that it’s user friendly and ubiquitous; most people already know how to use it. Everyone in my family uses it to stay in touch more than they use their phones. My relatives in their 70s and 80s are probably the ones who use it the most!
With millions of subscribers, Skype is almost as universal as having a phone number. It’s now integrated with Facebook, and Microsoft has been forcing people to use Skype as they phase out MSN Messenger, bringing even more subscribers. If you want to have a call or meeting it might be a challenge to get other parties to use something else.
This is sometimes an overlooked benefit of using Skype. Sure, you can get cheaper VoIP services, but few can offer hassle-free video calling with almost anyone in the world. I can’t tell you how many friends and relatives I have who depend on Skype to video chat with isolated and elderly family members, and how much they value those calls. You can’t put a price on that.
Is Skype Premium worth it? In my opinion, yes, as long as you have realistic expectations.