Skype for Business: (b)ringing the personal Skype experience to the workplace

Today, telephony is more than just making and receiving calls. It is an experience which is an integral part of our work and our private lives.  It’s an essential communication channel within organizations and as such should be part of any efficient and intuitive workplace. It enables file sharing, quick chats, makes information available and overall accelerates a rapid exchange of information. We live in a world where we no longer go to get in touch with the neighboring village. Our world has changed so much through all the technological innovations that it has become one village where we can communicate easily with each other.

By Jeroen Engelander, Cloud Consultant at COMPAREX

A personal experience

I know from personal experience that communication has changed, because a big part of my family lives on the other side of the ocean. What at first was family calls and contact through NetMeeting, has changed enormously in the last decade. Although my family lives in other countries, we are in contact with them every day through modern means of communication such as Skype and WhatsApp.

How beautiful it is to see that my daughter has contact with both her grandmothers on the other side of the world: Skype brings us closer together. This applies not only to my personal situation, but also for many organizations with which I as a consultant come in contact with. More and more organizations operate internationally and have to quickly and dynamically adjust their IT. They seek solutions which easily enable internal and external contact with customers, business partners and colleagues. The world is connected in a unique way that has not occurred before in the history of mankind.

The world is now a giant network

The scope of Skype

Since the acquisition of Skype Microsoft has been working to bring the personal Skype experience to the workplace.  With  300 million Skype users and  100 million Lync users Microsoft has a large market share in the field of communications in their hands. 

Currently, Skype facilitates up to  50 billion minutes Skype traffic per month all over the world.  This is equivalent to one-third of the overall long-distance communication. Even more so, according to a survey from 2014, Skype data traffic accounted for  approximately 40 percent of the total conventional international telecom market.

Skype traffic continues to thrive

Microsoft and cloud providers

If you as a consumer use a cloud service like Netflix or Skype and a problem occurs, it’s annoying but not disastrous.  When organizations use cloud services, the trust that they place into another organization is crucial.  Microsoft has years of experience in building large network environments. Some 48 million users have been using Xbox Live (since 2002), an enormous service demanding great amounts of bandwidth.  At present, Microsoft connects its cloud services through  1,600 unique networks with multiple redundant nodes. In total, Microsoft has the capacity to move 110 million petabytes of information through all of their data centers and have 2.2 million km of fiber optic connections.

Skype for Business in Office 365

Skype for Business is part of the Office 365 package, which is divided into three plans. In all plans,  Skype for Business offers functionalities such as presence information, audio and video conferencing, internal telephony, chat and screen sharing. The Office 365 E5 package released in December 2015 replaces Office 365 E4. In addition to the aforementioned features, the E4 package included the rights to install Skype for Business on-premise so that external calls can be made and received through an traditional PBX or SBC. E5 contains all these functionalities plus several additional products and innovations in Skype.

Features in Office 365 E5

The Office 365 E5 plan includes, as mentioned earlier, all the options for E1 and E3. In addition, Microsoft added the following products to the package:

  • Cloud PBX serving Skype external telephony.
  • PSTN conferencing on Skype for Business. This is facilitated via a local PSTN dial-in number for virtual meetings (PSTN conferencing is an additional add-on that is available for Office 365 E3 and E5).
  • Advanced Threat Protection, an additional e-mail service in addition to Exchange Online Protection (EOP) containing an additional layer of security for different types of sophisticated threats.
  • Power BI Pro, a solution that translates data into intelligent (richly illustrated) Business Intelligence reports.
  • Equivio Analytics for eDiscovery using Equivio Zoom helps to analyze unstructured data within Office 365.
  • Delve Analytics, gives the users more insight into their activities to improve their daily routine and become more productive.
  • Customer Lockbox gives a Microsoft Engineer safe access to the Office 365 environment of the organization if needed (e.g. to solve a problem).

Microsoft Office 365 E5 was launched on December 1, 2015 and is constantly innovating mainly in the area of Skype.  In the United States, it is already possible to call directly from the cloud and receive calls through a PSTN connection.  It is expected that these options will also reach our side of the ocean soon.

Leipzig, 6/6/2016

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