Got Broadband? Got Speakers? Got A Mic? You're Good To Go With Voip!
So you've got a PC with broadband internet, so why not take advantage of the free telephone and video calls that are available?
So how does this work and how much does it cost? If you've already got a microphone and speakers, nothing. If you haven't, or want better sound quality, you can pick up a headset with built in mic for under £20. You can then download your VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) software. I'm using Skype at the moment, which as I said before, is free. You then can call anyone in the world, who has Skype installed, for free.
Its not just phone calls, video calls, phone conferencing, instant messaging can all be had. The only costs you incur are if you want to have your own Skype number (so people can phone you from a landline or mobile phone), or if you want to call landlines or mobile phones. Even here though, it's very cheap. Simply launch Skype, and dial the landline number you want, and your call is transferred via the internet until it reaches an exchange local to the person you're calling. This means that you are, in effect, calling anyone in the world on a local number. Brilliant. Call charges apply if you want to call users of a different VOIP service, but why not just download the system they use and get it for free anyway?
Now it has to be said that sometimes the call quality suffers on any of the Voip services. The first and last problem can be how much work your or your callers PC is doing during the call, its best to shut down all other applications, or at least don't do anything heavy such as video or picture editing while you're talking. If your PC is hard at work number crunching during an Internet Call, it won't be able to give Skype the resources it needs, and voice quality will drop.
The next issue is your internet Broadband speed, and if you're on a Network, what bandwidth the other users are taking while you're on the phone. The faster Broadband you have the better, but that won't make any difference if your teenage children are downloading movies in the next room. Similarly its best to use a PC that is wired to your router or the network - wireless will only decrease the bandwidth, increase the lag time (the delay between you talking and the other person hearing you) and reduce the quality.
Another issue is how busy the internet is as a whole - at busy times you might have everything set up just right, but still suffer from drop-outs and distortion because everybody's logged into eBay on a Sunday night to bid on their goodies.
All of these factors apply equally to the person you're calling, so if they're a new voip user make sure they know about, and how to solve these issues too.
The best thing you can do to improve your calls is to do something called Port Forwarding. We haven't got the space to go into here, but if you visit Portforward.com you'll find excellent tutorials and guides on how to set it up, Believe me, it's not as complicated as it sounds, and by giving Skype or whatever Voip client you're using its own specific Ports, or connections to the Internet, call quality will increase and lag time decrease.
A good place to check the capability and readiness of your PC system is this site, which simulates a typical Voip conversation, but the outcome is usually advice to set up Port Forwarding if you haven't already done so.
So there we are, voip is easy and cheap, so why not give it a go today?
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