The Top Five Skype "Gotchas"

Skype can be a big time and money saver --- unless you do things incorrectly. Here are the five top things you need to watch out for when using Skype.

May 15, 2006

3 Min Read
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Skype can be a big time and money saver --- unless you do things incorrectly. Here are the five top things you need to watch out for when using Skype.

#1 Expecting Skype will act just like a PSTN call

Making voice calls over the Internet with a VoIP service like Skype is not MaBell, or your Public Switched Telephone Service (PSTN) or Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). These services have had decades to refine their services and improve call routing and quality. VoIP works, and it is good most of the time, but there can be occasional quality issues depending on who you are trying to talk to and where they may be in the world.

#2 Relying on Skype as your primary telephone provider

If you are thinking to use Skype as your primary telephone in your home or small office, don't! Skype is cool and can do a lot, but it was never designed to be a primary telephone service for anyone for any reason (sounds like a Fear Factor disclaimer). Skype should only be considered a supplement and a way lower local and long distance telephone costs, never as a replacement for your PSTN line. It can almost replace Ma Bell and in my case I have rid my home of Ma Bell, but I replaced my PSTN service with the $14.95 per month Vonage and use Skype and Vonage together and lowered my telephone bill by over 60%. If you are trying to call someone with Skype and experience quality issues, you will still have your primary telephone provider (MaBell or VoIP) and probably a cell phone as a backup if Skype is unable to provide you a good experience.#3 Expecting 411 information and 911 (emergency) services

One of the most important "Gotchas" is that Skype cannot call 411 information or 911 emergency services and know where you live to send emergency services. Because Skype is not intended to be used as a primary telephone provider, it is also not intended to have or support 411 information and 911 emergency services, nor should you consider that it should. Skype was designed as a supplement to local and long distance service, and was never designed or advertised to replace it. The lack of these 411 and 911 services are the major reason why Skype is not a primary telephone service.

#4 Expecting Skype to send or receive faxes

I am often asked whether Skype can fax. The answer is "No", unless you consider file transfers a form of faxing, I do not. This is where Skype is not like an analog telephone call that can send the fax negotiation tones to send and receive faxes. If you want to send faxes you will have to use a regular telephone line or VoIP service that supports faxing with a fax machine or a solution like eFax. Do not expect Skype to be able to send or receive traditional faxes anytime soon.

#5 Expecting support

Remember, Skype is free. With free there are some shortcomings, one of which is a lack of real time support. I am often asked for support from the Skype community and I unfortunately have to turn many down and tell them to post a thread on the Skype Forum. I also maintain a forum, but ours is more for solution type questions than general support, but we do try and answer what we can. To get Skype support, use the 'Help Menu' and select Help, FAQ, 'Getting Started' and it will launch your web browser and provide relevant webpages or send you to the Skype Community solution. Staffed support with real people costs money, so to keep Skype inexpensive, self-service is a necessity.Michael Gough is the webmaster of and the author of 'Skype Me!' by Syngress Press.

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