Whether you need to contact someone half-way around the world or right around the corner, our always-connected digital lives demand robust and powerful communication tools to talk to the people that matter the most. In terms of business, for example, this could be crucial for reaching out to clients and staff in an efficient manner, or perhaps you are looking to save money that would have otherwise gone towards a fancy PBX or dedicated hardware conferencing solution. With that said here are five apps and services that help to bridge the gap between people virtually.
Microsoft's relatively recent acquisition of Skype has seen this once humble product become the resounding success it is today. Video and audio quality is above average and many platforms are supported, including tablets and smartphones. Windows 8.1 is expected to bake Skype right into the OS as well, so you won't need to download and install it beforehand.
If you desire more privacy and less potential outside intrusion from third-parties and governments, Jitsi is an excellent application that supports SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and gives you complete control of your security. You can host your own SIP server and use bank grade end-to-end encryption to protect everything discussed between audio and video callers. In addition to SIP, other instant messaging platforms based on XMPP are supported as well.
Want to have your guests work together on documents within virtual rooms in addition to your bog standard voice and video chat? VSee is a Skype type of product that offers a nice remote screen feature with additional options for adding annotations and visual markings to shared windows for documents. VSee even offers an API which allows web developers to embed a video conferencing widget into their sites. The basic package is free with plus and pro versions available for $9/month and $49/month respectively.
Oovoo seeks to gain an edge over Skype and others by delivering seamless multi-video chat capabilities (up to 12 users at once) for free while maintaining quality performance and call quality. In addition, with a premium subscription plan of only a mere $2.99 per month, you get priority support, ads removed, and 1,000 minutes of storage time for saving video calls to the cloud for easy sharing and access at a later date.
5. Google Voice
And finally, if you are simply looking for a solution that caters well for free calls to landlines and mobiles, Google Voice has your back with free calls to anywhere in the United States and Canada. For any other country, Google offers competitive rates for calls to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and others. Voice mails are transcribed to text messages as well as accessible via Google Voice's web portal.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.