Skype might be good enough for your Grandma, but can it really be trusted for your business communications?
On paper, Skype is now a tempting choice for a company, as well as being the go-to tool for catching up with tech-fearing relatives. It’s recently been made available as a Web service and amalgamated with Microsoft’s other business communication offering, Lync, bringing enterprise security and IT control features with it.
But Skype is by no means without its issues (many of which are well documented), such as poor call quality, out-of-control notifications, poor connections, problems with Skype credit, and so on. The good news is that there are many communication apps that are credible alternatives to Microsoft’s popular product. Here are some of the best of the bunch.
As the name suggests, GoToMeeting is all about arranging meetings and it makes it pretty easy, too. With the ability to virtually meet with up to 25 people, you can either chose to chat via video or VoIP, or join with your mobile phones.
There’s a plethora of other useful features, including screen sharing, personal “chat rooms”, and the ability to record the meeting and share it with those people who were unable to attend. It’s straightforward and simple to use.
There are a couple of features that make Zoho Meeting a particularly interesting alternative to Skype. First of all, as Zoho offers a number of other apps such as CRM, Chat, and Calendar, you can start the meeting directly from there, as well as other integrations such as Google Apps.
What makes it a useful business tool is that you can rebrand the app according to your company brand, as well as easily manage users and create customized reports. Then it also comes with all the usual features, such as VoIP, video chat, and screen sharing.
Cisco WebEx has a strong focus on HD video calling, with a key feature being its ability to show seven screens at a time. It also comes with audio and video recording options, as well as annotation, note taking, and whiteboarding tools.
The screen sharing feature is pretty cool, allowing you to only share certain apps on your screen, instead of your whole desktop, as is the “call me” option, which can call you when everything is ready instead of you having to dial in.
While Join.me may market itself as a simple solution that is super easy to use, it actually boasts features to rival its more “complicated” competitors.
It has the usual VoIP, screensharing, video chat, and file transfer features, plus record functionality, the ability to chat with up to 250 participants, calendar plug ins, Salesforce.com integration, cloud storage, and personal chat rooms, along with integrated mobile apps. Overall, it’s a fully-featured program that is suitable even for tech novices.
Aircall’s VoIP solution is an excellent way to simplify and localize the way you connect with your customers. From providing you with local phone numbers in up-to 30 countries, to cascading phone calls through team members, to the shared inbox option where multiple employees can access voice messages, Aircall has a strong feature set.
There are also no limits to the amount of calls you can make at one time, while desktop notifications mean that you can always be aware of when your customers are calling.
Phone.com is all about VoIP rather than video chat, focusing on providing a fully-featured conference call service for your business.
Innovative features include conference calling for up to 500 people, SMS messaging to your Phone.com number, the ability to send and receive faxes from your account, and integration with the Phone.com mobile app, which allows you to start group messaging chats.
While you can use traditional landlines and mobile phones, the good news is that by downloading Phone.com’s software, your computer can serve this purpose just as well.
8×8 helps you to better service your customers with a smattering of intuitive features and a squeaky clean interface. It’s a fully-featured VoIP application that provides more than just phone service. 8×8 also includes first-class Web conferencing, faxing and mobile integration.
If you’re switching from Skype, you’ll appreciate the improved audio quality, which sounds clear as a bell, thanks to its audio compression methods. Add to that excellent iOS and Android integration, and 8×8 quickly becomes a worthy alternative to Skype for business.
RingCentral is an voice-focused alternative to Skype that brings a professional edge to VoIP for business. The solution emphasizes security, as well as ease of use, focusing on voice calling, text messaging and conference. And those are tasks that RingCentral does exceptionally well. Overall, it’s solid, reliable, and flexible.
When is a preview no longer a preview?
When everybody has access, but don’t tell Microsoft that. The company is making Skype Translator Preview available to everyone running Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 Preview, but keeping the “Preview” name intact.
Five months after Microsoft introduced the real-time translation-ready version of its popular video, voice and chat communication tool, it removed the sign-up requirement and is letting anyone download the app from the Windows Store.
Skype Translator Preview is the company’s first foray into real-time translation services.
In December, we used it to conduct a lively conversation with a Spanish-speaking linguistics expert in Seville, Spain. At the time, I was impressed with Skype Translator Preview’s ability to deliver translated English audio to her and spoken Spanish translation to me instantly. It was clear that the system was not only interpreting each word, it was understanding the context.
In December, Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, told me the system does try to make sense of the words, “It’s not good enough to just get all the words you’re saying, [you] have to understand a little bit about the words,” he said.
Since that first trial run, Microsoft has added Italian and Chinese (Mandarin) voice translation services. It can also do text-only translation for 50 languages.
Along with the wider release of Skype Translator Preview, Microsoft posted a video highlighting the app’s impact on the New York City-based nonprofit Pro Mujer and its work with women in Latin America.
No word yet on when “preview” will be dropped or if it will ever support Windows 7.