If you're thinking of buying an online number from Skype so anyone can call you, then don't do it the way I did it. Money & time wasted.
We recently built an office next to our house (we work at home) and our ultimate hope was that Skype might be used for our business, together with mobile phones, eliminating the need for a landline in here.
Here's how not to get a Skype online number:
- Try out skype first to see if you like it. We both signed up for a free account and started using skype. I really like it! Started getting contacts, having conversations (chat is great, it really frees up your email inbox). Bought a headset, the phone call quality is excellent.
- Buy some credit in order to make calls to non skype numbers. Having successfully trialled skype to skype calls, we decided to buy some credit and start phoning non skype numbers. That also worked great. The cost compares well to the landline, so the next step was to get an online number so that anyone could phone us.
- Open a Business Control Panel & buy some online numbers. At this point I discovered the business control panel. As there are 2 of us, and this is a business expense, it seemed like the right thing to do. So I started a business control panel and bought 2 online numbers, with the intention of allocating them to our 2 existing skype accounts. This is where it started to go horribly wrong. As I now discovered, online numbers can only be assigned to accounts created within the business control panel. So at this point we had 2 personal accounts with credit on them, and 2 online numbers that we had paid for, which could not be used on our 2 accounts.
- Create Skype accounts within the business control panel for the online numbers and forward the new accounts to the preferred accounts. The solution to the mess created in No. 3 was to create 2 skype accounts from the business control panel and assign the online numbers to them. We did not want to discard our personal accounts because we both had credit on them, and a list of contacts who knew us. It is also not possible to transfer credit between accounts. So we decided to forward the new skype accounts to our preferred skype accounts. In this way anyone who phoned the online numbers would be transferred immediately to our personal skype accounts. Great! The next step was to set up call forwarding to our mobiles when we are not online.
- Set up call forwarding to mobiles when not online. This is the last thing we needed to be able to use skype for business, and have it forward to mobile phones when not online, or not answering. Without this it's not a great idea to give out the number to anyone. So I set up call forwarding to my mobile on my personal account. So at this point I had a business account with an online number which was being forwarded to my preferred personal account which has credit, which was then being forwarded to my mobile when unanswered. Note that you need to have credit on an account in order to forward calls to non skype phones.
Unfortunately double forwarding just doesn't work.
It seemed to work sometimes, but it turns out it only works if another skype caller calls you. Twice I contacted skype support by email and received a canned response with links to the help pages on how to setup call forwarding. Nowhere on Skype does it tell you that this arrangement won't work. So we sadly decided it had all been a waste of time & money and investigated VOIP through our ISP. We still had the online numbers which we had paid for which were pretty useless, as well as the skype credit, which fortunately we could use up by making outside calls with our skype ids.
VOIP turned out to be less than perfect (expensive, bad call quality, limited support for separate phone numbers). So in desperation I decided to have one more crack at the Skype thing. Looking for a telephone number for Skype support, I didn't find one, but did find chat support, so started a session and got someone straight away. Half an hour later, the helpful agent and I together came to the realisation that what I was trying to do just wasn't going to work.
So after all of this time and energy spent, and with renewed confidence in Skype support after my positive chat session, once again I decided to cough up some more cash & bought credit for the business accounts so that I could set up forwarding to my mobile phone (instead of my personal skype account). This works perfectly. Unfortunately it means that I'll have to discard my personal account, once I've used up the credit on it, & tell all my contacts that my skype id has changed. Sadness, I liked the one I had.
Well atleast we've got it working now, and hopefully after a trial period we can do away with bringing the cordless phone from the house in here! In retrospect, it seems obvious that double forwarding might cause problems, but really the whole thing came about because of Skype's limitations with transferring credit & assigning online numbers. And the lack of documentation that double forwarding won't work, together with an obvious lack of knowledge from skype support agents just caused us to lose confidence in skype altogether. However when it works, it works great and it's probably worth persevering with.