Review of Skype

Thinking about choosing Skype as an Internet-based communications solution?  Here are some points about the program that you should consider.

Pros

  • Simple to get started -- as one of the more basic voice-over-Internet services on the market, it's fairly easy to install Skype on your computer and set up an account, even if you aren't that tech-savvy.

  • Reach out to the world for free -- most of Skype's communication services don't cost any money to use, even if they cross international borders.  That means even if your family's halfway across the world, you can still get in touch with them using Skype, and you won't have to worry about long-distance charges!

  • Use text, phone, or video chat -- choose the way you want to communicate: send quick text messages back and forth, talk on the phone, or have a full face-to-face conversation with real-time video.  Why just hear the voices of your (grand)kids and family members when you can see their smiling faces?

  • Easy to share your stuff -- you can send computer files over Skype, so you can share important business documents with colleagues, or maybe just some cute pet pictures with your loved ones.

  • Stay in touch in other places -- you can connect Skype to your other Internet accounts, such as ones on Microsoft Live and Facebook, so that you can send and receive Skype communication through any of these places.

Cons

  • You need to be on the Internet -- even though Skype includes a phone service, you have to be connected to the Internet and logged into your Skype account to use any of Skype's features.

  • Your contacts need Skype too -- usually, if you want to contact someone using Skype, they must also have Skype installed and be logged into their account, and you must know their Skype contact information.

  • Certain features aren't free -- some of Skype's features, such as using it to send text messages to people's mobile phones, or allowing Skype to forward phone calls from others on Skype to your home or mobile phone, require a paid subscription or purchased “Skype credits”. 

  • Technical difficulties -- phone and video calls require a microphone and/or webcam (though they're pretty inexpensive and come built-in to many modern computers).  People also occasionally have various issues with using Skype, such as having poor voice call quality, having the video freeze up or not work at all, or being unable to call anyone.

The Bottom Line: 8/10

Skype is a good basic way to communicate in various different ways over the Internet.  It's relatively easy to set up and log into, and most of its essential features don't cost money, even if you call someone in another country.  The features you do have to pay for aren't all that expensive, either.  You can also use Skype to exchange computer files, and integrate Skype with other Internet and social media accounts for even greater ease of connectivity.

Though Skype is relatively inexpensive, in this case at least, you get what you pay for.  You have to be connected to the Internet and logged into your account to use Skype at all.  Also, the person you're trying to contact has to have Skype installed on their computer and be logged into their account, and you must know their Skype contact information, in order to use most of Skype's free features.  Finally, Skype doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to ensuring that its services work; most of them are free, after all.

The upshot of all this is that Skype is a low-cost, low-risk way to keep in touch with friends, co-workers, and family over the Internet, even across great distances.  Just don't expect too many fancy bells and whistles from it.

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