Don’t overlook Skype in your Office 365 business suite

Sponsored By: Rogers

An Office suite is a must-have for most business users, and most businesses choose to provision Microsoft’s Office 365 for their employees. The suite includes a number of different applications and, while you know your users will use Word, Excel, and Outlook, there’s one application that may not be top of mind for them: Skype for Business.

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While Skype will be familiar to many of your users as a video, audio, and text messaging application, Skype for Business actually traces its lineage back to Microsoft Office Communicator and Microsoft Lync, and even Windows Messenger. Unlike consumer-focused products such as Windows Live Messenger and Skype, Lync was designed from the ground-up as an enterprise-class messaging application designed for the corporate environment, with all the security considerations that entails.

In April, Microsoft launched Skype for Business, which replaces Lync by combining key features from both Lync and Skype. The result is an application with the same Skype-style interface your users are familiar with in the consumer context, combined with the enterprise level security, compliance and control from Lync.

The new application will allow users to message Skype users both inside and outside their company network, but their consumer and corporate accounts will remain separate. Skype for Business users will log in using their Active Directory ID credentials, and there will be separate desktop, web and mobile clients and apps for Skype and Skype for Business. And network administrators will still be able to decide how and when the user interface is displayed.

Research firm Gartner put Lync in the leadership position in its most recent magic quadrant for unified communications, noting its integration with Office applications, Active Directory and Skype, the broad set of additional business applications from Microsoft that can be leveraged, and a rapidly expanding partner ecosystem.

“Microsoft Lync continues to make significant gains in the market and is attractive to a broad range of enterprises,” wrote Gartner in its report. “In many cases, it is initially deployed for its IM, presence and Web conferencing functionalities, with gradual incremental deployments of telephony and video added as follow-on phased deployments for specifically targeted groups or regions.”

With Skype for Business Server 2015, if you have a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) desk phone system, with a little configuration you can integrate Skype for Business into your telephony system. This will allow our users to search for people within the organization through the application, place the call through the Skype interface and have the audio flow through their desk phone. They can also place a call from the application to any phone nearby, such as their mobile or home phone, and have it appear to the receiver to be coming from their company’s main number. Other Skype for Business features remain integrated, such as instant messaging, desktop and app sharing and attachment sharing.

Among the new features included in Skype for are:

  • Call Monitor: This popular Skype feature allows the full call window to be shrunk to a small status window so users can still have quick controls at hand as they move between other application windows.
  • Rate My Call: After a user finishes a call, they’ll be prompted by a quick survey to report any call quality issues and give the call quality a star rating. This reporting allows administrators to monitor and address any network performance issues.
  • Quick Access to Call Controls: Compared to Lync, access to the dial pad and call controls has been improved and is now either always on screen or accessible with just one click.
  • Emoticons: Your users will want to be careful with their use in a business context, but Skype for Business now includes access to a range of emoticons – which you can turn off if you like.

There is a wide range of ways Skype for Business can be integrated into a business environment as a robust unified communications solution, including integration with desktop telephony, and your Office 365 license may already include some or all of these solutions. A trusted business partner such as Rogers can help you determine how your business can best leverage the power of Skype for Business.

(Rogers Voice with Skype for Business with Office 365 is a fully integrated cloud-based voice and collaboration business solution that connects people virtually anywhere, anytime on any device – and all with one phone number, for seamless collaboration, enhanced workforce productivity and simplified voice infrastructure management. The solution can act as a desk phone replacement product for business customers.)


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Sponsored By: Rogers

Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.