VoIP — 24 July 2014

– Jake Anderson, says:

Although Skype is one of the most widely-recognized services for VoIP, it is not the only option. When choosing a service for your business or for personal use, it is important to look for one that meets your needs. If you are looking for a service that provides video calling and voice services, here are six to consider, in no particular order.

1. Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts functions somewhat like a chat room and is a popular option for social gatherings. It allows for up to ten participants, free of charge. It is part of Google Plus and is integrated with all of the other Google services on both desktops and mobile devices. Additionally, the chat can be broadcast live on your Google Plus channel or YouTube. Participants can insert photos and GIFs into the discussion, as well as shareable maps with location pins. One of the most practical elements is that the program automatically detects who is talking or moving and displays that individual as the full screen. Other participants move to small icons at the side of the page.

2. Blue Jeans

Blue Jeans is a cloud-based video service that is used by a number of businesses for meetings, conference calls, and interviews. It is accessible from any device and compatible with other platforms, including conference room systems through Microsoft Lync. One of the most useful elements is that users can schedule meeting via Blue Jeans in advance and attendees can keep track on a calendar. The standard meeting option includes up to 25 connections, but it can expand to 100 with the Large Meetings add-on feature. Participants can also share video presentations, post slides, or record the whole presentation for later access. Additionally, the standard service plan includes an option for extended customer support.

3. Ooma

The review site Cheapism recommends Ooma as a hardware-based VoIP service and an alternative to the typical home landline. The service comes highly-rated due to the quality of audio on calls. However, the service has a notable upfront cost for the purchase of Telo, the hardware adapter. Once users have purchased and installed the necessary components, basic service within the United States is free, plus taxes. It also includes common phone service features like voicemail, caller ID, and call waiting. To include more than two people on the call, premium service is required.

4. FaceTime

FaceTime is a proprietary program by Apple and therefore only accessible from an iOS device. To contact anyone, all you need is an email address or phone number. For iPhones, the software and connection is automatic. For Mac and iPad users, you will need to create an account with Apple. Digital Trends breaks down the software step by step, along with screen shots, for setting up an account and making a call. The system is fairly simple and easy to use, but it does not include many of the add-on features found in other services. The primary benefit is that, upon installation, this service is automatically tied into your cellphone contact list, so users need no extra accounts or programs.

5. GoToMeeting

For businesses looking to plan an online meeting, GoToMeeting is another option. It is available for Android and iOS devices, as well as PC and Mac computers. The program, created by Citrix, runs through software and provides the option for audio through VoIP or telephone. It does not allow for file sharing, but screen sharing is available. One individual is designated the presenter and maintains control of the screen. For internal office use, one of the most useful features is the ability to monitor employee usage, designate seats for specific meetings, and create attendance reports. This feature is helpful for use with training seminars.

6. Infinite Conferencing

For large companies needing to conference with a bigger number of employees, Infinite Conferencing can support up to 1,000. Each meeting has its own unique URL, which can be sent to attendees via email without creating a formal account. The best feature is the ability to create performance reports at the end of each meeting. Find out how many people attended, which ones were active, and other statistics. It also includes file sharing, which can be targeted to include only some of the participants. Infinite Conferencing is a monthly subscription service with rates based on the number of people you need to include.

Ultimately, there are a few factors that can help you choose a VoIP service. Primarily, you will need one that is compatible with the type of device and operating system you will be using. You should also consider the clarity of the signal, privacy, and costs for subscriptions and add-on features. Some paid services offer a free trial, which can give you firsthand experience. Once you have determined your needs, you can select the one that best meets them.

Awestruck by Star trek as a kid, Jake Anderson has been relentless in his pursuit for covering the big technological innovations which will shape the future. A self-proclaimed gadget freak, he loves getting his hands on every piece of gadget he can afford. Get in touch with Jake at Google+ and Twitter 

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