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Skype 101: The Basics

By | Feb.15.11 | Communicating, Daily Dispatch, Legal Technology, Productivity

Depending who you ask, Skype is a socialist upstart, a Voice Over Internet Protocol service (VoIP), software that runs on everything or an opportunity for a lawyer to support client relationships—any relationship, really—at a distance. Actually, Skype is almost all of these with a few tricks added.

At Skype’s foundation is a communications platform that uses Internet services instead of traditional phone lines to connect people in a variety of ways. You can make voice calls with Skype, but it also provides video calls, desktop sharing, collaboration and instant messaging—all of which can be used interchangeably. You can also enhance Skype with extras that let you do things like record calls, integrate with Microsoft Outlook or send a fax.

Cheap Long Distance

But one of Skype’s most enticing features is its price. If you make Skype-to-Skype calls the service is free. If you are calling (or texting) from Skype to a “non-Skyped” phone, you’ll see call rates ranging from .03 to .08 cents per minute, depending where in the world you call. (Texting rates vary more, ranging from.05 cents to .36 cents per text.) You have the options of on-demand payment using SkypeCredits or by purchasing a subscription. The U.S. plans can run $2.99 per month while world plans (encompassing the 40 or so participating countries) can set you back $19.99 per month. Video conferences of more than two people also require a modest fee or subscription.

How do you get started? Here’s all you need:

  • Your computer
  • Speakers
  • Microphone (USB will improve the call quality)
  • Working Internet connection
  • A webcam—preferably with an integrated microphone—if you want to try video calls

Simply download the software, set up your free account and find someone to talk to. It’s free to try, and quick to start, so use a loose hour to explore it. You won’t regret it.

Lincoln Mead is IT Director of the Utah State Bar and an obsessive fan of Cubs baseball. As IT Director, he assists Utah attorneys with evaluation of practice management technology and manages the IT vendor relationships on the Utah State Bar group benefits program. He is currently assisting the Utah state courts to educate attorneys on the court’s new e-filing system.

Illustration ©Thinkstock.

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