I am a huge advocate of a decentralized workplace, a workplace where people can collaborate and communicate together, regardless of their locale. I foresee a future where the 8-5 schedule and the hour long commute are relics of the past. Powering this are technology developments in online workspaces, remote file storage, and VOIP phone technology. Cell phones are great, but they can be extremely expensive, especially if you are trying to call between different countries. Here is my list of inexpensive VOIP providers that help you stay connected with your team worldwide.

Skype:

With over 521 million registered users, Skype is an extremely powerful tool for staying in touch worldwide and is one of the most recognised VOIP providers. Skype is great for connecting with other Skype users, via phone or video chat, as that service is always free. However, I believe it’s true power lies in its ability to call out to landlines and mobile phones, using the ‘Skype-Out’ service. Calling abroad costs around 1.7 euro cents per minute to call just about everywhere. They also have a subscription service, that for around 3.95 Euros per month, you can get unlimited minutes within your home country. (1.95 Euros per month within the US & Canada)

Once you have Skype credits, you can also have the service forward calls to your mobile or other line, making it easy to use your Skype number even if you aren’t near your computer.

Skype also has an iPhone app that integrates with your service. If you are connected to the internet via a wifi connection, you can use your phone to call any of your Skype contacts, or any other phone number at your extremely cheap Skype rates. On a recent trip to Europe, I found this service to be extremely useful, as I was able to stay in touch with home, without having to pay exorbitant cell phone rates (I don’t have an international cell phone).

www.Skype.com

Google Voice:

While still under wraps and only available by invite only, Google Voice stands to be a significant player out of all the VOIP providers. A Google phone number is like a regular phone number, except it isn’t tied to a phone or a location. Instead, it is tied to you. You can setup Google Voice to forward calls to different phones or numbers based on the time of call, or who is calling. For example, you could set up Google Voice to ring your office if it is between the hours of 8-5, and then ring your mobile if after 5. Alternatively, you could change it so that it goes straight to voicemail if after working hours. You can also screen calls, by either having the person announce themselves a-la collect calls, or you can pre-screen them by selecting how to handle a certain number within your dashboard. Never again will you be bothered by the same telemarketer over and over. Mark that number as SPAM and forget it. Google Voice also transcribes voicemails and sends them to you via email, SMS, or both. The voice to text technology is not perfect, but it’s still a very cool feature.

Calls using Google voice are free to anyone within the US, and relatively cheap to the rest of the world ($0.02/min to most of Europe, less than $.20/min almost everywhere else).
However, you need to have a phone close by to call someone, as it doesn’t work like Skype where you call using your computer. Once you dial in the number you want to call, Google voice then dials your phone and connects the call. Therefore, until Apple un-blocks the app allowing you to direct dial, it won’t work that well outside of your normal service area. However, there is an app for the Android available now.

Google Voice

Asterisk

Asterisk is a popular open source telephony project that turns an ordinary computer into a feature-rich voice communications server. With this free software and some simple installations steps, you can create a sophisticated call-center for your business. By integrating this software with a cheap VOIP providers like Skype or Google Voice, and you can virtually eliminate your phone bills. Some of the use cases for Asterisk include a VoIP gateway, Skype gateway, conference bridge, voicemail system, call recorder, fax server, speech server, and more.

 

http://www.asterisk.org

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Need another great way to connect with your team? 

Huddle.com, combines award-winning online collaboration, project collaboration software and document sharing, to help manage communication within your organization and with your customers.

Rishi Chowdhury

Customer Acquisitions Executive


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