Gtalk back-up for Skype

Skype helps me stay in touch with friends and family overseas. I rarely use it for business because it is unreliable.

The problem isn’t Skype‘s technology, but my broadband connection. My Telecom NZ broadband speed is unpredictable because I’m on a plan which gives me uncapped downloads but for most of the day means I share pooled bandwidth with other users on the same plan. In other words, one minute my connection is 3.5Mbps, the next minute I’ve got only 100kbps or so.

Google’s Gtalk voice over IP service copes with the fluctuating bandwidth better than Skype. I suspect this is because it chews through less data.

In general I find there’s otherwise little to choose between the Skype and Gtalk experience. Skype can give better quality audio, but there are times when it is just appalling. Gtalk never reaches the highs or the lows.

For me Gtalk almost beats Skype. Consistency is a good thing. I also like the way it integrates smoothly with Gmail – which is my main email client, and the Gtalk instant message tool.

But there’s one big problem. Almost nobody I know uses Gtalk for voice calls although a lot of people use it for messaging. I have dozens of contacts on Skype, but scheduling Skype calls is much harder.

Which means I need to keep both programs installed.