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18 Dec 2012

Maintaining a physical mailing address presence in the USA

Useful links:

SBI is a company based in Florida focusing on sailing Yacht cruisers who need a postal address. They will scan and make your post available online for >$12/month.

Very useful.

You can tie this in with other remote services such as:
 - a phone number that takes messages and makes them available online (i.e. Google Answerphone); some will also transcribe to email - you can then access this over SailMail with a Pactor or cheaper alternative modem and SSB band
- a virtual mobile phone number accessible online
- callforwarding. A word of caution here, usually if you do this the number you are forwardinf FROM will be charged (probably your mobile phone), not the caller. Bear that in mind if forwarding to a satellite phone
- VoIP can be useful but you will probably want an answerphone service to go with that for when you fly or cross borders like "Hullomail" (spelt with a U). The phrase you are searching for incoming numbers is "SiP DiD"
- also look into "Virtual Office" providers

Skype vs VoIP:

Skype is great for ease of use AT THE MOMENT. To be clear, the way it works is a blackbox. That means that you and your network of contacts are at the mercy of the company. The encryption is enough to stop the casual hostel wifi logger without any skills but given a bit of effort they can crack it. This is plenty enough for most cases but it's not great so a VPN might be useful for you. You could also have your own virtual computer to connect into that way. Obviously the webcam is very nice too, especially on a phone but who knows, perhaps they will withdraw support for your phone one day when you are abroad like they did to me.

Encrypted VoIP is a lot better but tends to be harder to setup.
If you use VoIP without encryption (SIP is a type of VoIP) then all it takes is for someone to run a log command somewhere in between your VoIP provider and you to log the call. It really is as easy in some cases to download and run a command to log your call. Fortunately I don't think this is common. But I wouldn't risk it and as such in this case Skype is better for booking flights with a credit card etc.

Look into getting access to a VPN for your phone if you're using hotel WiFi for calls.

Alternatively, get a local simcard and start a phone-to-phone call. This is more expensive since you are making 2 calls. There are a number of ways of starting the call. The most common is to visit a website. VoIPCheap offer this. Another, better way is to register your phone number with VoIPduniya and call them, the call fails and they will call you back. This is unreliable - sometimes because your local callerID number changes but I've also notice that sometimes seems to fail for no reason but when it works it's brilliant.
The other way to start a call is using SMS. International SMS isn't too expensive but it also isn't cheap so take your pick and let me know how you get on.

I will now look into maintaining a presence in other countries with similar services. Do you know of any?

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