I live in what is occasionally referred to as pre-civilization. I once went to a local Post Office to send a letter to Canada and was told it wasn't possible to get mail across the border. I sent the letter to a friend in Dallas who then sent the letter out of the country for me. So when it comes to communication issues, I know what I'm talking about.
The offer to join a new business startup was interesting and exciting. Especially since I'll be doing what I do best and love most - promotional writing and marketing. In addition to budget (of course) communication was a serious issue. Those involved are scattered around the continental U.S. Some have landlines, some have cell phones, some have both. All have computers.
Our first meetings were held via online chat. Great for the designated minutes taker - all she had to do was print out the chat and organize it into a report. Not so great for productivity. Don't get me wrong - it worked. It was just that we had page after page of website settings to cover with additional business topics waiting to be addressed also.
Then I remembered Skype. I checked into it once upon a time and never got around to doing anything with it. I got reacquainted with the program. Still free to download. Still free to use for online conversation. Better yet, free conference calling.
In order to use Skype, we'd each have to download it and have headset or microphone available. Since I use Dragon Naturally Speaking, I had a great headset handy. Downloading was pretty much instantaneous, even here in the boonies. (Our service is billed as DSL but it's really just speed-walking dial-up.)
Our next meeting was a Skype conference call. Productivity hit warp speed. There were a couple of interesting moments. A small child piped in to say hello and a few minutes later a dog was heard. Overall, Skype works great for us. It costs nothing and is really easy to use.
Skype offers a free video option also. I rated this a 3 simply because a rating was required but I don't have personal knowledge of how bad or good image quality is with Skype. We are not using the video option - by choice. Our meetings have to be worked in around all else. By the end of the day or the late night hours, I'm certainly not looking my best.
I'm now considering a Skype subscription for calls to landlines and cell phones. Currently at about $3.00 per month. you can't beat the cost. Someday we'll all be online. Until then, there's Skype.