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The VoIP Report

Skype for Business Delivers UC
October 5th, 2016

Skype for Business Delivers UC

Ian Linton

Today’s employees want to communicate in many different ways. They might want to send a text, instant message, or email. If they prefer voice calling they may use a desk phone or mobile, or hold a mee...

Today’s employees want to communicate in many different ways. They might want to send a text, instant message, or email. If they prefer voice calling they may use a desk phone or mobile, or hold a meeting via video conferencing.

There’s a large list of communication channels, but with traditional models, employees need to switch between separate applications.

Fortunately, there is an alternative that brings all these channels together and creates a single seamless communication experience.  It’s known as Unified Communications (UC) and it’s available in Microsoft’s Skype for Business solution.

Skype for Business brings together a number of important communication technologies, services, and devices into a single integrated platform. It integrates voice, mobile, messaging, email, video, voicemail, text, and chat, making them available on phones, computers, and mobile devices.

This makes it easy for employees to choose the most suitable form of communication without switching devices or leaving the UC interface. Employees who are away from their desks can check messages or emails on their smartphones. They can also place a voice call or join a video conference, all from the same UC application.

This single platform and consistent interface makes it easier to communicate on any device from any location. It also improves productivity, reduces costs, and helps build a more collaborative workplace.

How Skype for Business delivers UC

The Skype for Business UC solution offers many important benefits.

  • Availability—Employees can check if colleagues are available to take a call by using a UC feature called Presence, which indicates a contact’s status.
  • Single number reach—Employees only need to ring one number to reach any device their contact is currently using. They no longer have to try multiple numbers to reach someone.
  • Mobility—Skype for Business supports the mobile workforce. There is no need for employees to be at their desks to use the full range of communication services.
  • Switch devices—Employees who need to leave their desks during a call can switch seamlessly to mobile phones without disrupting or leaving the call.
  • Choice of tools—The wide range of tools allow employees to choose the most appropriate or convenient channel to meet different communication needs.
  • Consistent interface—With a single interface, users don’t have to switch applications or devices for different communication tasks.
  • Single inbox—Skype for Business incorporates a single inbox for voicemail, texts, emails, and other messages. This improves productivity and makes it easy for employees to keep track of important messages.

Integration with Office 365

Skype for Business is an integral part of Microsoft Office 365 meaning it can offer features that other UC solutions cannot.

For example, to improve collaboration employees can schedule meetings through Microsoft Outlook, or launch a video conference from an Office 365 application. If they are preparing a presentation or report and want to share it with colleagues, they can email the content via Outlook. Then set up a call or conference from Word or PowerPoint to discuss or review their proposal.

The integration of Skype for Business with Office 365 makes collaboration easy by making UC features available in Office programs.

Collaboration in any workspace

Unified Communications solutions like Skype for Business make it possible to take collaboration tools out of the conference room. Making them accessible to any employee.

Skype for Business provides a collaboration solution for every type of workspace, including:

  • Personal workspaces
  • Huddle rooms
  • Teaming spaces
  • Conference rooms
  • Executive suites/Boardrooms

Personal workspaces include an employee’s desk, home office, or any location away from the office where a mobile phone is present.

Huddle rooms are small rooms suitable for a meeting of up to six people. Teaming spaces are also suitable for small, informal meetings. Unlike huddle rooms, teaming spaces may not have any furniture.

Both huddle rooms and teaming spaces are suitable for the informal style of team meetings that is emerging. Teams can meet, share content/ideas, and communicate with colleagues in other locations.

Conference and boardrooms are suitable for larger, more formal meetings of groups such as executives, management, and project teams.

More collaboration options

With easy-to-use, affordable solutions available for many device types collaboration is a practical reality for any employee, wherever they happen to be working.

Skype for Business gives participants in any workspace the flexibility to use the full range of Unified Communication tools to improve meeting outcomes. Because Skype for Business provides a single interface for communication tools, users can choose the best one for the task.

  • Voice—Audio conferencing is suitable for simple forms of collaboration when face-to-face contact and content sharing are not essential. Meetings are quick and simple to arrange from any location on desk phones, mobile devices, or conference phones. With Skype for Business, users can launch calls from directories, Outlook, or Office applications.
  • Video—Video conferencing ensures participants have the face-to-face contact that is an essential part of collaboration. Within the same meeting, participants can use audio, video, and content sharing features to enhance the communication experience. They can also use other Skype for Business tools to send messages or hold group chats during a video conference.
  • Content sharing—The ability to share content is important for successful teamwork, project management, and customer meetings. Participants can view and update content including documents, reports, presentations, models, and images, helping them share/present information more effectively.
  • Instant message and chat—Messaging is useful when users only need a quick response to a question or an update on a project from a colleague.
  • Text messages—Text is also suitable for a quick response or update. Text messaging is a convenient channel when users need to reach colleagues who can’t take an audio call.

With Skype for Business, users can move seamlessly from one tool to another within the same interface. For example, they can escalate a chat to a voice call, or a one-to-one voice call to a video or audio conference.

The accessibility and ease of use extend collaboration capability to any employee, encouraging teamwork and helping to develop a collaborative culture. Skype for Business also makes collaboration accessible to smaller businesses who may not have an office or conference room.

This UC solution is available with different versions of Office 365 via the cloud, making it affordable for any size of business.

Extending meeting capability

Skype for Business has added new features, including PSTN Conferencing and Skype Meeting Broadcast. These features improve the scale, scope, and convenience of conferencing, extending UC capability even further.

PSTN Conferencing

With PSTN Conferencing, participants can use a local dial-in number to join Skype for Business meetings from any device, including a standard landline or mobile phone. Event organizers can also dial-out to invite participants into a meeting by offering them a phone number.

Traditional dial-in capability adds further convenience and flexibility to the single-touch joining options already available on computers, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. PSTN capability also allows participants to join an online meeting, even if they have no Internet access.

PSTN Conferencing also simplifies meeting management by utilizing a single integrated solution for all participants. It also streamlines administration with a single vendor, billing, and support channel.

Skype Meeting Broadcast

Skype Meeting Broadcast extends meeting capability. Now, event organizers responsible for large meetings can reach up to 10,000 attendees who can join from any browser and device.

This makes Skype for Business suitable for presentations, webinars, and larger team conferences.  Meeting formats are also more flexible and include features for real-time polling, messaging, and questions.

Skype Meeting Broadcast supports near real-time and on-demand viewing, with easy-to-use playback controls. The broadcasts can be deployed online or in hybrid technology and organizers can manage and control access to SharePoint video.

This new service lowers costs and simplifies IT management by consolidating all meeting formats into a single solution. It reduces training and support requirements by using the familiar Skype interface and enhances collaboration by incorporating features that increase interactivity and engagement.

Towards integrated business communications

Skype for Business is working towards a complete business communications service with the introduction of PSTN Calling and Cloud PBX. These services are designed to replace or supplement the services available from telcos, with cloud-based communications from Microsoft.

With PSTN Calling, employees can make and receive business calls in the office, at home, or on the road using phones, PCs, and mobile devices.

Using the PSTN connection, they can reach any contact, rather than just subscribers to Microsoft Lync or Skype for Business. They can manage their calls with traditional features like hold, resume, forward, and transfer.

Businesses can choose PSTN calling plans delivered by Microsoft or use existing phone lines at their sites. This service is built on the proven enterprise voice technology available in Microsoft Lync Server and Skype for Business Server.

The Cloud PBX service offers businesses a configuration option that allows them to use existing premise phone lines for inbound and outbound calling. Administrators no longer need to maintain a separate PBX to enjoy business-grade voice calls on Skype for Business.

Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling brings enterprise-grade voice to Skype for Business and extends Skype for Business call-handling capability. It reduces infrastructure costs by eliminating premise-based PBXs and simplifies telecom management with a single centralized solution.

Migration path

Unified Communication offers important business, financial, and operational benefits for any size organization. With Skype for Business, organizations have a clear migration path from Microsoft Lync or Skype’s consumer service, protecting their investment in existing installations.

For small or growing businesses, Skype for Business provides a comprehensive portfolio of communication services. It also gives businesses the flexibility to add features and services to suit changing communication needs and growth.

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