Clear Picture Communications with Skype

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Skype 4.0, ooVoo, Tokbox and Mebeam aim to make videoconferencing simple, but are any of them good enough for business use? Solution providers will find that limitations abound, creating up-sell opportunities.

Skype 4.0
Skype 4.0 brings some significant improvements to the product—enhanced video and audio quality, full-screen video, and an easy-to-use interface. The product also incorporates a bandwidth manager, which improves the user experience over slow-speed connections.

There are a few prerequisites to get started with Skype 4.0. Users will need a compatible computer (usually a Windows PC, but some products also support Macintosh and Linux), a broadband connection, a Webcam (many portable PCs have these built-in) and a headset (although not necessary, a headset is recommended).

With Skype, getting started is pretty easy—it takes little more than downloading the client software, installing the product, creating an account and integrating the peripherals. Skype has this down to science, and it is the easiest way to get started.

Usability with Skype is excellent—users who are configured properly just need to click on a contact to initiate a voice or video call. Video calls are very high quality, as long as a quality Webcam is used. The audio portion of the call is clear; a built-in microphone will suffice for locations with low background noise. For noisier environments, users may want to use a headset or a noise-canceling Bluetooth headset, either of which will give audio quality superior to most cell phones.

Skype 4.0 can be enhanced with add-ons from a library of extras. Dozens of extras are available, ranging from the silly (Gizmoz Talking Heads) to the very useful (Yugama SE Team Collaboration).

Most users will want to install a few of those extras—the most usable free extras include Pamela Call Recorder (records audio of calls), PamFax (adds fax capabilities), Convenos Meeting Center Extra (full-featured Web conferencing), InnerPass Share and Collaborate (file sharing, screen sharing and meeting rooms) and Supertintin Video Call Recorder (records both video and audio in Skype). Solution providers will find it’s the extras that will make Skype much more than a simple VOIP (voice over IP) client with video capabilities. Those extras will only help to legitimize VOIP and videoconferencing solutions, leaving the customer wanting something more and probably willing to pay for it.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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