Skype Video Conferencing
A User Friendly and Free Way to Meet with Clients Over the Internet
Most large businesses now have extensive video conferencing systems to communicate with their clients face to face over the Internet. However, what many small businesses and sole proprietorships do not realize is that similar video conferencing is available for only a small fraction of the cost of a large system, namely, the cost of a webcam and Internet connection. The number of individuals using the popular video conferencing service Skype has significantly grown in recent years, because it is user friendly and has high quality video and sound. In addition, Skype’s most attractive characteristic, not surprisingly, is that it is free. Skype allows users to video conference with one another, without any cost and a level of technology that has been greatly enhanced from the days of the original personal webcams.
Video conferencing, if utilized correctly, can be beneficial to all types of businesses, including law, accounting, and financial services firms. It allows for a more personal exchange than a telephone call or email, without the costs associated with travelling to a meeting. Video conferencing is particularly useful for short meetings, where instead of having to get into a car or on a plane, you do not even need to leave your desk. For long distance contacts, video conferencing allows for a closer relationship to be formed through eye contact and facial expressions, rather than simply talking back to a voice on the other end of a phone line.
While Skype has become popular in the United States only in recent years, it was created by an Estonian team of designers in 2003. In addition to video conferencing, Skype’s services also include standard voice calls, instant messaging and file transfers. The seemingly curious name “Skype” is a derivation of the project’s initial name “Sky peer to peer” that was abbreviated to “Skyper,” and later simply “Skype.” While Skype first allowed for free video conferencing between two users only, the latest version of the program offers free video conferencing for up to five users at one time.
To setup and start using Skype, you will first need to purchase a webcam (other than a webcam, all you need is a computer with an Internet connection). Good webcams made by brands such as Logitech cost anywhere between $20 and $50, and can be easily connected to your computer. Once you have setup and installed your webcam (following the webcam’s own separate instructions), you are then ready to install Skype. Go to http://skype.com and click “Get Skype” in the top toolbar, and next “On your computer” and then “Download now.” You will next need to go through the installation steps provided by Skype, which are extremely straightforward and easy to follow.
It is worth mentioning that the most important step during the installation process is testing the video, sound, and microphone (part of the webcam) in order to make sure everything is functioning properly. Be sure to run the Skype tests for each of these components, because failing to do so may result in unnecessary confusion and problems when you first begin to video conference with others.
When developing and testing the Skype program, you will also be prompted to create a Skype account. The account or “name” is your own personal Skype identification, essentially the Skype version of an email address. There is no limit to the number of accounts you may create and you may want to eventually establish multiple accounts for different uses (such as business, personal, etc…). For instance you might not want your child who is away at college to try to conference with you on a Tuesday morning while you are signed on talking to a client. At the same time, you might not want that same client to try to conference with you on a Saturday afternoon while you are signed on talking to your child away at college.
Once you have completed installing and testing the Skype program, you will be ready to begin video conferencing with colleagues and clients. In order to do so, of course, those individuals will also need to establish Skype accounts. When you know someone’s Skype name, you can add them to your Contacts list by looking them up in the Skype directory. After everything has been established, to initiate a video conference with another it is simply a matter of highlighting that person’s name and clicking “Video Call.” Skype can also be used for webinars, just like the Citrix systems, GoToMeetings.com, and Webex.com.
The mechanics of establishing and using a Skype account will be much more clear once you have begun the process for yourself. Still, this article should at least give you a general sense of the program and the ways that it can be used in a small office setting to provide inexpensive video conferencing. As our attorneys can attest from personal experience, Skype is a great addition to a small office’s technology options, and has so far received a positive response from both peers and clients alike.