Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The VoSKY is the Limit

You know Skype, the software that lets you use your computer to make free VoIP calls around the world. Well, it's now one of the largest "phone" companies in the world with over 300 million user accounts and is in the process of invading corporate America.

Skype? Yeah, right. Can't you just see the company's CEO wearing a headset plugged into a PC while making billion dollar deals over the phone? Not gonna happen. Skype is, was, and always will be for geeks. Right? Wrong!

Skype has come a long way since its Scandinavian inventors sold the company to eBay in 2005 for almost $3 billion. Yes, it's still a way to talk over the Internet for free using a software client running on your broadband connected PC and a cheap headphone/microphone headset. But that's just the most elementary way to get on the network. A cottage industry has sprung up to build hardware for Skype services that mimics what you have for traditional landlines and competing VoIP phone services.

Cottage industry is probably understating the current state of Skype-enabled offerings. One of the most aggressive developers is VoSKY, a Sunnyvale, CA company that is addressing both residential/SOHO users and major corporations. They offer everything from a simple telephone interface to support for legacy PBX systems.

Their simplest interface is called the VoSKY Internet Phone Wizard. It frees you from the tyranny of the tethered headset. There are three LED indicators on the front of the box labeled Ready, Regular Call and Internet Call. You plug your telephone and regular phone line in the back and connect to your PC using a USB cable.

What differentiates the VoSKY Wizard from other Analog Telephone Adapters (ATA) is that you have the option to make either regular phone line calls or Skype Internet phone calls using your regular telephone set. The phone will ring for either type of incoming call. When you dial out, you'll normally use your standard telco service. But push a couple of buttons on the phone and you can be calling on Skype instead.

The next step up is the VoSKY Skype Call Center. This box looks similar to the Internet Phone Wizard and performs the ATA function as well. But it also works as a relay to give you remote Skype access. You can call this device from any telephone and tell it which of your Skype contacts you want to call. It then makes the connection and you're making an Internet call on Skype, but from your cell phone, hotel, work phone or wherever. It works as an answering machine as well and can be set to call you when a selected Skype contact comes online.

What really puts VoSKY in the big leagues is their line of enterprise-grade interfaces called Exchange Pro. These are Linux platform appliances that connect between your existing company PBX telephone system and a server that connects to your company's broadband service. What they do is look like phone lines to the PBX but are actually Skype service connections. The latest model, VoSKY Exchange Pro VIT1/E1 replaces T1 or E1 ISDN PRI service. It supports up to 23 concurrent Skype calls using the T1 ISDN PRI interface that is common on systems in the United States. In Europe, E1 service is the standard.

With Exchange Pro, calls between branch offices and other users running Skype are free from toll charges. SkypeOut service is used to connect with regular telephone system users for a small per minute charge.

With the VoSKY interface boxes, it is now possible for large enterprises to enjoy the advantages of Skype communications services without having to make a major capital investment in ripping out a perfectly good business telephone system and having to buy all new equipment. Companies with strong IT or telecom staff support can likely handle this themselves. Others can get VAR (Value Added Reseller) support to install, upgrade or service their Key or PBX telephone systems.

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