Skype servers, the permanent free communicator
Searching for a feasible VoIP solution isn't always easy. Hidden costs, unreliable services, fixed contracts, there are plenty of downsides. Even using Skype becomes a task when your computer needs to stay on to have the "always available" service that would be associated with a normal telephone line. Skype offers this service, but you will need to pay a hefty fee for the "computerless" Skype phone.
So what about a Skype server? A small form factor, base spec system which is always on to keep you connected with those both on your Skype account and, depending on your subscriptions, anyone in the world via Skype(In/Out).
This is the route I took.
Using an old Compaq with 800mHz processor and 256mb ram, a stripped down version of XP was installed. Removing all non essential software and windows features. Next came disabling all GUI effects and making sure all aspects of the system were set for speed. This took all of 40mins from installation of the OS to installing Skype.
For the phone, I decided to use a phone I had picked up some months ago which was designed to be used with Skype, while also being a normal telephone (it has both USB and telephone ports). After installing the correct drivers and setting it up to sync contacts with the telephone, the hard work was basically over.
A few test calls to check the quality, then a relocation to an out of sight area and removal of the mouse and keyboard left a silent, surprisingly quick server running 24/7 without fault.
Later in the year, when moving into a bigger house which will require more telephones, I will be purchasing a USB - Telephone adapter. This device simply plugs into your telephone wall outlet allowing all phones to connect to the wall and receive Skype calls.
I have been using this now for almost 2 weeks without a glitch. Highly recommended for those who don't want to spend a lot of money for something that should, and can be quite cheap.
Since writing the post, I have upgraded the server to a Dell Optiplex 280 that I had going spare. Seeing as it's powerful enough, I'm also running a file server, webserver and email server on it as well. Happy days.