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Thanks to my cell phone and cable internet, I haven't had, nor needed, a personal landline phone for the last five years. In today's world of constant connectivity, the idea of having a phone that isn't always on your person is becoming more and more antiquated. I know all the old arguments of why it's important to keep a landline: what if the power goes out, or all the cell phone towers go down; but those are risks I'm willing to take if it means saving a few extra bucks on my personal bills. In regards to our business, however, we can't ignore the importance of having our own, set-in-stone, landline telephone... or can we?

About a month before we opened, I started researching what options were available for our in-house phone needs. As a movie theater, I knew we'd need at least three lines: one for our 24/7 movieline, one for our office, and one for our fax (another archaic technology I'd like to see bite the dust). Three separate lines from our local telephone company would run us about $130 per month, which didn't include the additional cost for broadband internet. Most of the voice over IP (VoIP) services were also pricey (Vonage and the like), but one stood out above the rest, and that was Skype.

For those of you who don't know, Skype is a free VoIP program that allows you to talk with other Skype users from anywhere in the world, requiring nothing more than a broadband internet connection and a free account. The idea of using Skype for our business was intriguing, but we couldn't realistically expect our customers to sign up for an account if they wanted to contact us. As we were researching phone packages, and the idea of VoIP was looking less and less desirable, Skype unveiled two new features that would make them the perfect fit for our business.

The first feature was SkypeIn, which allowed Skype users to register a local phone number and have it associated with his or her account. Now whenever someone wants to call our business, all they have to do is call our local SkypeIn number, and their call will be transferred directly to our computer. SkypeIn also included free customizable voicemail, which made it easy for us to set up our own movieline. The best thing about SkypeIn, however, was the price: $60 for an entire year! That's $5 a month per phone line! I immediately signed up for two numbers that were similar to each other, and just like that, we had phone access.

Calling in was fine, but what if we needed to call out? Again, Skype came through with another great feature called SkypeOut, which allows users to place phone calls to any phone in the world -- landline, cell phone, whatever. When we first started using this feature, we were charged by the minute at a ridiculously low rate, but Skype has since unveiled a new unlimited plan that allows you to make phone calls to anywhere in the US or Canada for $30 per year. That's $2.50 per month! At this point, with two lines coming in, and one line (our office number) going out, we're only paying $12.50 per month, which is an incredible savings compared to having all those landlines.

Our fax service, however, is not provided by Skype, which is something I think they should really look into. We handle all of our faxes with an email-to-fax service, which runs us about $7 per month. In total, we're still paying less than $20 per month for all our communication needs.

If you're not wild about fielding phone calls on your computer (like my wife), perhaps you should consider buying one of the many USB phone adapters that give you the convenience of using a real phone with Skype. We use Ipevo's Free-1, which works great, but there are many, many models and types for you to choose from. I've seen several of the wireless versions, which purport to not need a computer to access Skype, but I have my suspicions about how well they might work. Of course, if you really want to get DIY-rty (sounds like dirty), you could always hack your own!

In the end, I've been extremely happy with our choice to use Skype for all our in-house phone needs. We've had outages from time to time, mainly because our internet went down, but with the amount of money we're saving, I think it's totally worth it. Next time you're considering whether you need a landline or not, give Skype a try. With a little DIY ingenuity and a slew of great features, you'll be saving so much money that you can finally afford that trip to Iceland!

[ full disclosure - I do not work for, nor am I affiliated with Skype or any of the other businesses mentioned in this article. I'm just a big fan. ]

  • Lisa Hoover

    Great post, Dan! I'm a big Skype fan too and, though I keep a landline around for faxing because I do a lot of it, I rely mostly on my cell phone and Skype with a handset. Anyone considering dumping their landline really ought to give Skype a try. It's terrific. (I'm not affiliated with them either, just another happy customer. :-)

  • Dan Chilton

    Lisa, you should look into email-to-fax services. They really do work, and save a lot of time and space.

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