• 08/06/2010
    10:00 AM
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Skype Ready For Business?

The voice-over-IP service's promise of free or low-cost calling and videoconferencing is music to SMB ears, but a lack of key business communication features should give business owners pause.

Like many Internet-based services, Skype can have outages. In January 2010, the service was down for 3.5 hours. In August 2007, it was down for 36 hours. While the company claims to be working on the problems, assuring 100% uptime can be problematic.

The fact that calls run over the Internet increases the likelihood of reliability issues. Unlike the old phone network where end-to-end connections are guaranteed, calls are routed along Internet lines whenever bandwidth becomes available. If calls are made during heavy traffic periods, problems, such as latency, interruptions, or even dropped calls, can occur.

Third-Party Vendors Step In

The basic service is missing many features that businesses need, but consumers can often get along without. For instance, Skype does not support 911 calls.

In some cases, the needed features are available for an additional charge from Skype. For instance, customers can pay extra for caller ID. In other cases corporations have to go to a third party to fill the void. Pamela Systems offers automatic call recording, an answering machine for voice and video calls, automated chat reply (if a person is not available), Skype voice mail management, and e-mail forwarding of audio files.

As mentioned, Skype has recently started hosting videoconferences and some companies may want to archive such sessions. HotRecorder, which works with Google Talk and other instant messaging clients, allows searchable meta text to be added to each recording. A selection of emotisounds, such as laughs and claps, can be inserted into the conversation for later podcasting.

Helpful, But Not A Panacea

Overall, observers say Skype can be helpful but is not a small and midsize business communications panacea. "Skype is not robust enough so a business can use it for all of its voice needs," concluded J. Arnold & Associates' Arnold. "However, it can serve as a nice compliment -- say for low cost international calls -- to a company's existing calling functions."

For Further Reading

-- Skype Plans $100 Million IPO

-- Intermedia Adds Cloud PBX Service

-- Enhances Voice Servicess

-- Ringio Enhances Cloud Based Voice Service

Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who has been writing about networking issues for two decades. His work has appeared in Business 2.0, Entrepreneur, Investors Business Daily, Newsweek, and Information Week. He is based in Sudbury, Mass. and can be reached at

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