Build a Skype Server for Your Home Phone System
Safely Cutting Your Phone Line
To cut your incoming phone wires safely, you need a pair of wire cutters (or sharp scissors) with insulated handles, a roll of electrical insulation tape, and you need to follow a simple procedure to do the cutting (Figure 6).
Your phone wires are powered by the telephone company; that's why your regular telephone works during a power cut. Now, even if you've had the phone company disconnect you, your phone wires may or may not still have electrical power. Consequently, you must be careful not to short the wires when cutting them. Even a momentary short can be bad news. This can happen if you cut two or more wires at the same time (step 1). The solution is simple, cut only one wire at a time (step 2). As you cut wires, you should insulate their exposed ends with electrical tape (step 3).
Now, if this activity looks to be beyond your comfort zone, you always have the option of calling the phone company and having them send a technician to do the job for you. Even after paying for this to be done, your Skype savings will most likely recoup the cost in very little time.
For those readers who are security-conscious, and don't trust Skype as an application, building a Skype server has an added advantage. By placing the Skype server on your Internet connection outside your firewall, you gain the peace of mind that should a hacker break in to your server, or compromise Skype somehow, then as the server interfaces with nothing more than a copper phone line into your home beyond the firewall, any damage will necessarily be contained and limited to the Skype server outside the firewall. Worst case is that you'll need to do a reinstall on your Skype server, and perhaps, a better job of locking it down from a security point of view so that it can protect itself. Indeed, if your firewall is sufficiently restrictive that Skype won't work on the inside, then placing your Skype server outside your firewall is the only way in which you can take advantage of Skype's phone services.
Phone bills have a lot in common with taxes. Both are mind numbingly complex, and both take a lot and give little in return! To help work out your potential savings from switching to Skype for your phone services, in whole or in part, I've written a spreadsheet that simplifies the process and can be downloaded from the Elpis Web site (see the on-line Resources).
You should factor in the cost of building and running a Skype server into your savings analysis. Running costs will depend on the machine that you choose to use in order to run Skype 24/7. An old clunker of a machine may consume so much power that it would be worthwhile to build a new machine in the long run. As always, run the numbers and make some decisions.
Let's look at the cost of running a small Skype server 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Without a monitor and other peripherals to guzzle power, a small modern computer typically consumes between 50W and 100W. If your cost of electricity is $0.10 per kWh, then the annual cost of running your Skype server is between $44 and $88. These are just ballpark numbers and you'll no doubt do your own, but it does show that the cost of running a Skype server 24/7 is not insignificant. (Cost = power consumed in kW x 365 days x 24 hours x cost per kWh, where a power consumption of 50W is 0.05kW and 100W is 0.1kW.)
Resources for this article: /article/8644.
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