The Skype Engram: Trying to Find a Viable VoIP Alternative

August 19, 2007 0 By Tad Reeves

I have never tried so hard to get people to take my money.

As any one of the few thousand people who saw my post about Skype alternatives would have seen, I think I chose the wrong time to pick up VoIP.  Skype being down only contributed to my VoIP engram [as in Dianetics], which is still happening.

I started with a simple problem – I have 50 people that I’m looking to set up on VoIP clients, so they can make long-distance calls.  My main requirement is to get it so I can manage all of them centrally, add money to their accounts, and just let them have at it.

I started with Skype, and after the login was finally working, I fired up everyone with accounts, loaded up some cashola, and was up and away.  Then, I ran into the big wall – in that I could only put a max of $30 on the account, and under no circumstances could I add any more.  That in addition to extreme lags in logon speed, I finally ended up exhausting my $30 in a matter of hours, and my people were without telecommunications.  If you know anything of Scientology and the Communication formula, that’s called a break in communication. 

So, luckily, I had helpful neighbourhood blog commenters, who pointed me at VoIPStunt.  However, much to my dismay, the payment woes were the same, and after $30, I was SOL once again.  Unlike Skype, they had 1.3 billion different ways to pay, but unless I wanted to set up each individual user by paying with a totally separate credit card, and then having absolutely no central administration means.

So, after saying ‘argh’ a number of times, I struck out trying to find some other way of doing it.  My misunderstood words in VoIP abound, but I flung myself into understanding the do-it-yourselfer approach anyway.  I went into SIP and H.323 and all of the different ways of doing NAT with the reverse-static-snow-cone NAT and whatever, trying to figure out how to punch UDP through the firewall and blah blah blah.  It’s a nightmare, and I still can’t figure it out.

Anyone have any great suggestions?  It seems like such a simple problem — to just be able to centrally manage 50 people doing VOIP, and for someone to just take my money so I can fire it up. 

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