Perhaps on a day where Skype is out globally, it is time to rethink your telephony strategy.
Reports about Skype being unavailable started at about 09:00 BST on Monday morning in the UK.
But just after midnight on Tuesday, it said Skype services have been fully restored.
Ironically, I have been planning this article for some time. In general, I wanted to give myself time to prove that I can come up with a better alternative than Skype. Skype going down this morning was just the gravy that proved I was doing the right thing by dumping Skype.
So, why am I kicking Skype to the curb? After all, I started using it around 2007, and it has more or less done its job, right? Well, actually, it has been a struggle at times, and after Microsoft taking it over, it has pretty much steadily gone downhill.
Even in the beginning, call quality was often poor when forwarded to a cell phone. Forward it to another VOIP service like Google Voice, and the call quality was often even less, even though calls received directly through Google Voice did not suffer as bad of a degradation.
Then, speaking of forwarding, it would often forward calls even when the number was blocked. And, don’t get me started about missed calls! Then, it would at times roll over into its own voicemail inexplicably in spite of the fact that GV was setup to handle the voicemail.
Even paying for Skype credit was often a pain. I would often use PayPal, but then I would get charged an additional foreign exchange fee by my bank. That really is odd, seeing as I often have purchased things from other countries without such a fee getting charged. So, to work around that, I would run around looking for a store that carried Skype gift cards that I could use to charge up the account instead.
Oh, and one thing that has always gotten into my crawl was that you can send a text but not receive one. I’ve never understood that. Google Voice proves it can be done, in spite of what Skype “help” support will tell you!
Skype updates would often inexplicably break things on Linux. At one time, it gave a terrible feedback when using the pulseaudio driver, so I ended up uninstalling pulseaudio, but then a couple of updates later, they forced you to use pulseaudio, which of course had already been uninstalled because of Skype.
Still, I stuck with it. Skype is hard to replace for the price. Then, there is the hassle of changing numbers.
However, one day an update occurred on Android which really crossed the line. I had logged out of Skype on my smartphone, but then it rang with a call! Say, what? I was sure I had logged out, so how is this possible? I assumed I must’ve only thought I had logged out, and I then made sure I was logged out. Sure enough, two days later, the same thing occurred, and that was when I uninstalled it from my phone almost immediately.
The time to find a replacement had come. The time to kick Skype to the curb was now.
VOIP Routing Using Skype and Google Voice
I had two Skype numbers: one for personal use and one for business. This allows me to separate them out and turn off the business line when I don’t want to be disturbed (and, theoretically, the other way around, although I’ve never done that beyond setting my status to Do Not Disurb on my my personal line).
I refuse to carry two cell phones. I used to work at a place where you carried a pager, and if you were on-call for evenings or weekends, you would wear a second on-call pager. Much of the time, both of them would go off approximately the same time, which was a royal pain. I long ago decided I would do my best to avoid such silliness in the future.
So, how can I get two Skype lines into one phone? Google Voice came along, and it solved about 80% of my issues. I would forward the Skype calls to Google Voice, and if I did not want to be disturbed, I could then turn off the forwarding. It also proved invaluable to limit who could call me when, as some people just could not get it through their heads that working for yourself still meant you were working during the daytime and weren’t available to chew the fat.
If I was in front of my computer, this setup was a no-brainer. If not, the only real pain was that I would have to fire up Skype and login to make a call out. Then, I would have to remember to log back out so as to not disturb this system.
VOIP and Google Voice Forwarding to Ooma
So, I have been fascinated by the Ooma device for quite some time. I always thought that if I were to dump Skype (this has been a long time coming, seeing as how the quality and service has always lacked), the Ooma might be a decent replacement.
Unfortunately, the Ooma service does not give you everything you need to replace Skype by itself. You get a main number and a free alternate “personal number”, so you would be tempted to think that everything is right there. Unfortunately, the Ooma mobile app does not answer any personal numbers. It will only answer the main number, which sort of defeats the purpose, if you ask me.
So, why not simply get a second Google Voice number? Well, that sounds good and all, since all you would have to do is have both numbers ring the same phone, right?
That might be easier said than done. GV will not accept the same mobile number under two accounts without some smoke and mirrors. Unfortunately, the smoke would cover up texting via GV, and that really isn’t a very good option. Not having had a home landline phone for a number of years means I don’t have a home number to input into GV, either.
So, at least for me, Ooma did not do everything I wanted and GV did not do everything I wanted. It made sense to add them together. Instead of GV doing the call funneling, simply have two GV numbers ring the main Ooma line, which then would ring the mobile app. GV would still handle the voicemail and spam filtering, so that would not be a big deal.
The only problem would be outgoing calls. Since I was used to firing up the Skype app to make calls, this isn’t much different. In fact, there is a 50-50 chance that I’m already signed in appropriately, since I leave it running. Worst case, I would have to logout of one and sign into the other to make an outgoing call if I’m on the road. It is worthwhile to keep in mind that the majority of outgoing calls could and would still be made from the computer.
BTW – If you need to respond to a voicemail, call your GV number, and then press * when you hear the greeting and enter your PIN. You can either listen to messages and respond or even simply call out from the main menu, thus calling out with your GV number.
What’s the Cost?
Skype is cheap. SkypeOut is $2.99/mo for US and Canada, which comes to about $30/yr. A Skype number, so people can call you, is supposedly $60/yr, but paying a year in advance gives you a 50% discount. All in all, we are talking about a total of about $60/yr.
That is cheap, but don’t forget that we are talking about 2 lines. So, the real cost is $120/yr. That’s still cheap, though. I can remember when a single landline cost that much per month!
Ooma Basic is free, but you do have to pay taxes. Why? I’m not exactly sure, since Skype gets away without taxes. Still, the gum’nint is going to get theirs, so it looks like this runs about $5/mo here.
Could I get away with just a Basic account? I sort of think so, but I’m sort of tied to the idea of having the mobile app as a backup. That pushes it up to Premier, which is $9.99/mo.
So, altogether, we are looking at about $15/mo, or about $180/yr. More expensive, but not unreasonable.
To me, that is well worth it for clearer calls and a better overall experience.