There are a number of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions on the market, many of which you may not even know are VoIP (such as those furnished by Cisco and ShoreTel). But beyond the enterprise, cost-cutting VoIP office phone solutions that look and feel just like a normal land line, there are some easy-to-use, software-based VoIP solutions that work just like voice chat. Essentially, with these VoIP programs, you can make phone calls from your computer for cheap or free. Here’s a roundup of the very best in VoIP software.
One of the originals and still one of the best, Skype offers great calling features and a low price. The best part of Skype is that it’s not only a VoIP solution, it’s an IM network in itself. And with so many of your colleagues and clients already on Skype, you can often forgo the VoIP networks and just make free Skype-to-Skype communication—either by chat, voice chat or video chat. But for those with friends and family still not hip to Skype, Skype can easily replace your phone service, too. You can get your own SkypeIn number for people to ring you on your computer (or smartphone) and you can SkypeOut to landlines and cell phones just like you were calling from a real telephone. Skype also features voicemail.
Skype is a must-have for those who make frequent international calls, since long distance rates are exceedingly affordable. And the more friends you have on Skype already, the cheaper it gets. With dead simple setup, excellent audio quality and useful integration with other programs, website and social networks, Skype is the gold standard in VoIP solutions for the desktop.
2. Call Phones from Gmail + Google Voice
This odd entry into the VoIP race is such a darkhorse that it doesn’t have a name. But nevertheless, Google’s new feature that allows you to call phones from Google Chat. When it was initially launched, Call Phones from Gmail was free in the U.S., but they plan on charging competitive rates once the service emerges from its infancy. International rates give Skype a run for its money as well.
What gives Google an edge is its brand cachet and the potential for integration with its other services, such as Google Talk and Google Voice, the latter of which has already revolutionized visual voicemail, replete with transcription and archiving. Incoming calls can be routed through Google Voice. Google Voice is also incredibly friendly for smartphones, as it has a web app interface that doesn’t require you to download an app. Google Voice also offers free text and SMS messages.
In terms of the winner in the battle of Google vs. Skype, it’s hard to say. The products are very different and Google’s call features are very new. For now, Skype seems to be the winner in terms of penetration and familiarity. But Google will certainly be a top contender.
VoIPBuster has great rates and excellent call quality. Many VoIP users end up using a combination of Skype for PC-to-PC calls and VoIPBuster for calls to landlines. Calls within the U.S. and Canada are free and local calls throughout the rest of the world are lower than the SkypeOut per minute rate. Like Skype, VoIPBuster offers an incoming calls number called a VoIPin number. VoIPBuster also has mobile apps for iPhone and Symbian which allow you to make free calls over the WiFi or 3G. In terms of look and feel, VoIPBuster isn’t nearly as attractive as Skype, nor as recognized as Google. But it’s offbrand feel is made up for by its low, low prices.
There are a number of excellent VoIP options that can save you significant money, especially when making international calls. Skype is great for its PC-to-PC calls, but Google is certainly going to give it a run for its money. But for landline calls, VoIPBuster wins in terms of cost. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using all three of these services—and many users do.