What is Skype?
Skype is an Internet video calling app. It’s been around for years and most people who have experience if using PCs or laptops will have come across it. If you haven’t, but you have used Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet of any other collaboration platform for home or remote working, you can think of Skype as a simpler version.
Skype was founded in 2003 by a team of people from Scandinavia and Estonia, so it’s been around a while. The original ideal was to provide a low-cost or even free way of making voice calls across the Internet. It soon became popular and attracted a lot of attention and was snapped up by eBay in 2005. It continued to grow as more people registered and started to connect to their contacts via the simple peer-to-peer VoIP connection Skype provided.
Skype was bought by Microsoft in 2011. It was by now established was the app everyone used for Internet calling and it had now introduced video calling capability as well, which made it even more attractive. You could download and use Skype for free and the number of users continued to grow.
Today, it’s not quite as popular as it once was as there are plenty of alternatives available and many businesses have already switched to a dedicated VoIP system that offers them a wider range of features and benefits.
Skype has a few functions that are useful for business, but really speaking, it’s still just a simple video calling platform; if you have a Skype address (you can set this up yourself, anyone else who has Skype – on their laptop, tablet, desktop, or smartphone, can call you – and you can call them. In that sense it is no different to ‘face-timing’ people using social media platforms like WhatsApp.
However, you can buy call plans for Skype that enabled to ‘break out’ to call mobiles or land line numbers in certain countries. For example, one of the current (summer 2021) plans for landlines and mobiles in the UK costs £6 per month; and there is one priced at £12 per month for worldwide calling. There are also plans for European countries only. But you need to examine the options as the call rates and minutes available vary, so you’d need to find the right plan for your needs.Back to top
What is Vonage?
Vonage is really something quite different to Skype in that it’s a complete hosted VoIP service that is designed to act as an IP-based replacement for business telephone systems with multiple users and more advanced needs. This means you can make any take calls from ordinary phone numbers with Vonage, as well as simply connecting and communicating with people who are also on the same platform – although you can do that as well, of course.
With Vonage can run business video meetings with up to 100 participants and you get more than 50 standard business phone features. It’s designed to offer business-grade reliability, although to be fair Skype is also pretty reliable – and both services depend on having decent Internet of course.
Vonage costs, as of summer 2021, start at £9 per line – but to this you’ll need to call plan costs. If you want unlimited calls to UK landlines and mobiles that will cost from £14.50 per month.
Interestingly, Vonage actually got started two years before Skype in 2001. It was founded in the US specifically to provide voice over IP services, and that’s been the company’s 100% focus. Today it is one of the world’s most established and best-know specialist providers of VoIP services.Back to top
Skype vs Vonage: which is better?
Well, as already noted, they are really quite different systems. They take a different approach and deliver a different experience. Skype is available free to download on just about any operating system and while you can pay for a call plan, at heart Skype it a simple Internet video calling platform.
Vonage is a complete VoIP telephony service, designed from the ground up to be an effective replacement for telephone systems and services. You always need to subscribe to Vonage.
Fundamentally, they do both use the same technology, but they are entirely different; you won’t get the same kind of experience when you use Skype and Vonage – or any other collaboration or conferencing platform, or dedicated VoIP service.Back to top
What about Teams?
Now, you may be wondering where Teams comes into all of this, because that – as well as Skype – is a Microsoft platform. Well, Microsoft did use the core technology in Skype to create the calling components of Teams, but that’s about it.
From that point on, the products diverge quite dramatically and although you can use both of them to run video calls with contacts, Teams has a much greater depth of functionality. It is a much richer and more capable product and the platform that Microsoft is placing its bets on for business collaboration.
While Skype is simpler many business-people make use of it regularly – out of habit or as a back-up when, for some reason their usual platform is not working. There can sometimes be connection problems with Teams or Zoom.
That said, there is no suggestion that Microsoft is about to drop Skype if it ever did, it would probably just update and re-brand it as a kind of ‘Teams-lite’ offering. Skype users certainly won’t be left high and dry.Back to top
Key comparisons of Skype vs Vonage
While the use the same basic technology at their core, these are two quite different and distinct services. With the basic Skype you can only call or take calls – voice or video – with someone else who also has Skype installed and has registered.
With Vonage, you can call anyone, and they can call you – using a phone number. You get all kinds of call features, such as call monitoring and call queuing, virtual receptionist, call groups and call recording. It’s also possible to integrate Vonage with your own apps, so you can call from within them.
Both are quite easy to use, but Skype is simpler and that might be seen as a positive. You can also hold conference calls in Skype and even record calls. But it is not designed with business in mind really – that’s the real difference.Back to top
What’s best for small businesses?
The smaller the business, the more chance that Skype can be a good fit – especially if there are not many other businesses you need to call and you know that they are all on Skype. The call plans can be good value if you have a limited number of calls you need to make out to external numbers.
For businesses that have more than a handful of users or who need to make a lot of external calls and receive calls on a standard phone number, Vonage or some other dedicated business VoIP service will be a better choice.Back to top
What’s best for large businesses?
Almost certainly, the best choice for big organisations will be Vonage – or some other advanced and established business VoIP service. That’s not to say Skype can’t be used or is not useful for larger firms. You’ll probably find that most desk workers, as well as making use of Teams, Zoom and other conferencing platforms regularly, also use Skype now and again as well. But these companies will also have their own telephony system as well – and it could well be provided by Vonage.Back to top