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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Everywhere is Local: Providing seamless local access for clients, and stay connected globally - Cheaply!

[Also available as a Podcast]

Want to learn how to keep your business communication costs down, and solve the problem of staying in touch when you travel, without roaming, and without changing phone numbers?

Want to make it easier for your key clients to contact you, when those clients are long distance or overseas?

Want to travel overseas for a couple weeks, stay in touch and call family at home - for as little as $40 a trip?

These days it is possible to do this, and there are a number of options available, but I will tell you how with the methods and systems I use.

But first, the requirements. Note that I live and work with this every day, living where I want to and serving customers "locally" around the globe.

Business Requirements:
#1: Local access for clients to contact you - domestic, long-distance and overseas customers
#2: "One number" for your clients to contact you, no matter where you are
#3: Have all calls follow me when I travel - without roaming
#4: Save money. Lots of it.

How can we accomplish this - and for only hundreds, not thousands, a year?

Setting it up at home
Step 1: Signup for a VOIP provider like Skype. There are more and more out there, but compare features and cost to see which works best for you. The VOIP provider will be the hub for your communications. Choose a plan that works for you - I personally use the annual Unlimited Plan for around $100USD which provides calling to over 31 countries for no additional charges beyond your annual plan.

*(Calling mobiles in some countries can incur charges, that is up to the mobile provider in those countries. So keep some funds available in your Skype account for these occurrences, or signup for auto-top-up)

Step 2: Setup an inbound number (Skype-In) in each of the key countries you have key customers. Skype lets you have many inbound numbers for one account - for example, I have a NZ inbound number and a US number, for local and North American clients. Each inbound number costs about $30US/year with your plan.

Step 3: Receiving the calls. You need to setup forwarding from Skype to your main work number or mobile phone. Of course if you have Skype running on your PC you can answer the calls there before it forwards to your other phone. And if you have Skype on your smartphone (needs your data plan), you can receive the calls that way too.

Step 4: Tell everyone your new Skype-In number(s). Give your US clients the US number, your UK clients your UK number, give your local clients your local Skype-in number, all of which come to you through Skype.

Stop publishing your actual fixed numbers - this will become important, as you will see in the next steps.

Step 5: Calling your clients. With your VOIP plan, you can now call your clients overseas for little to nothing above your annual plan - especially if you call land lines. But - what about when you are out of the office, away from your PC, or don't have Skype on your smartphone?

Skype also provides, for free with your subscription, Skype-to-Go access numbers in as many countries as you need, where you can call a local access number and then call through Skype on your plan to any of your eligible countries. So the costs are limited to your local mobile call.

Getting away from it all - Travel
Travel without roaming. Seamlessly. Really!

Step 1: Unlock your GSM mobile phone (has a SIM card) and make sure it is Quad-band so all countries are covered. Note - if you live in NZ this may already be the case - few mobiles are locked there.

Step 2: Before you board the plane, forward your "home" mobile to your local Skype-In number, so people who call your mobile at home will still be able to reach you.

Step 3: Buy a local Prepaid SIM (or microSIM for iPhone4) in your destination country. Get your best deal with local providers there - and if you do regular trips there, keep the SIM for your next trip. You can usually buy these right at the airport - so no need for delays in being connected, even if on your first trip.

In the US you can get 10c/min prepaid plans, and sometimes free evenings too. You can also add on casual data options. I pop in my US SIM before I land so that I am connected as soon as I get off the plane.

Step 4: Change your Skype forwarding to your new (temporary) local SIM phone number. Now, everyone who calls your Skype-In number gets forwarded to you - seamlessly.

Step 5: Calling. When calling clients in the visiting country, just use your mobile. Do remind them to not save your temporary number -just your published Skype-In number. When you need to call anywhere else - home, or clients in another country - lookup and use another Skype-to-Go access number wherever you are, and use that to make calls - again, for little to nothing more than your local usage minutes, or if from a land-line, free.

Step 6: When going home, remember the prepaid SIM is temporary - you don't want to forward it anywhere.
However, in the event someone did save it from callerID, you may want to leave a message to call your Skype-In number instead of leaving a message (that you may not get until your next trip).

Before you get on the plane, set your Skype forwarding to the next destination (home, or the next stop on your trip). When you get on the plane, swap SIMs for the next destination.

Step 7: Finally, and don't forget this step! When you land at home, turn OFF forwarding on your mobile phone (with your home SIM plugged in).

I hope this helps you too - it has saved me thousands every year.

Good luck, and Be Local!

Gary Nelson, PMP
Gazza Consulting Services

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