If you’re researching Skype for Business as a conferencing solution, here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
With so many conferencing solutions available today, many organizations are wondering whether their existing conferencing solution is an ideal fit, or whether they’re settling. Do businesses even need to pay for dedicated conferencing products anymore? Or can something like Skype for Business, which offers video conferencing, screen sharing, and chat functionality similar to Webex and GotoMeeting actually get the job done? While we can’t tell you what is right for your organization in a blog post, we thought we’d share some helpful information about Skype for Business to aid your research. In the previous blog, we explored whether Skype for Business with PSTN conferencing is a viable replacement for traditional voice conferencing. To continue our exploration, here are a few other factors to consider when researching Skype for Business for conferencing.
Native Integration with Office 365
Skype for Business has native integration with the Microsoft Office suite of applications, so it interacts well with common office tools many people are already using. You can initiate instant messages or conferences directly from emails in Outlook, and Skype will include the message context within the communication. You can also initiate communications from directly within Office applications like Word, PowerPoint, and SharePoint.
See who has access to documents, interact with your team within the document environment for unified, clear, efficient communications. Discussing a PowerPoint deck with a colleague? Initiate a Skype video conference, share the document with your colleague, and begin real-time collaboration on the document with them right then.
Learn More: An Overview of Skype for Business
As we mentioned earlier, Skype for Business boasts a feature set comparable to conferencing solutions like Citrix GoToMeeting and Cisco Webex. However, Skype for Business sets itself apart by also supporting hybrid-mode configuration, enabling coexistence between on-premise and cloud Skype for Business environments. This is a huge differentiator in the marketplace.
Essentially, an organization can have some of its users in the cloud and some on-premises all leveraging the same domain name space, all seamlessly collaborating within the Skype for Business environment. This can make it easier to support Skype for Business services for users of your organization in different geographic locations or users that require specific calling features that are unavailable online today. This hybrid configuration also helps serve as the beginning of a migration path to Office 365, allowing for a phased migration.
What does that mean? As an example, imagine a business is looking to move both their sales and call center support teams to the cloud. In this scenario, the features specifically required by the call center are currently only supported on-premises. In the past this would have prevented the move to Skype for Business online even though the sales department could still benefit from Skype’s calling features. However, with hybrid topology, the sales department can be migrated safely to the cloud while leaving the support center users on-premises. Even while the two departments are split, everything is still consolidated within the Skype for Business platform; sales and support can find and talk to each other within the same environment. Eventually, when the features required by the call center are available online, that team can then be seamlessly migrated to the cloud.
Dial-In Conferencing Functionality
The public switched telephone network (PSTN) or dial-in functionality of Skype for Business also give it a few distinct advantages over third-party Audio Conferencing Providers:
- Sign Up: Dial-in conferencing in Office 365 simply requires you to create a user, purchase the Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing license, and then assign the correct license to the user. There is no need to duplicate the sign-up process with a third-party solution.
- Billing and Support: Receive one monthly bill with all of your Office 365 services and manage one support channel.
- Management: Manage phone numbers, conferencing IDs and meeting PINs through a single admin center. There is no need to use any external tools or dashboards.
One of the most compelling differentiators between Skype for Business and other conferencing solutions is the cost. While conferencing solutions like GoToMeeting, Cisco or Avaya cost an average of $15-$35 per user per month, Skype for Business can land at a significantly lower price point for users with a Microsoft enterprise plan in place. For example, organizations using all-in-one plans like the $20-per-month E3 plan for everybody (which includes Exchange email, OneDrive for Business, and the full suite of Office desktop programs and mobile apps) can also trim costs by selecting individual Skype for Business services like Dial-In PSTN conferencing from an a la carte menu. The cost to add individual Skype for Business features ranges from $4-8 dollars, making it a serious consideration for businesses questioning the value of maintaining accounts with other conferencing solutions like GotoMeeting or Webex. To learn about how Skype for Business may fit your organization’s conferencing needs, you can read SADA Systems’ three Proof of Concept options here.