How is Skype for Business Different from Regular Skype?
Most people are familiar with Skype. It is a free VoIP and video calling service that enables millions of individuals to have conversations online. Individuals use it, but so do businesses.
In addition, there is Skype for Business, which is different to the regular, consumer version of Skype, and aimed specifically at business users. Also, Skype for Business is not free to users.
What, then, are the differences between the two?
A Question of Scale
Generally, Skype suggests that its free version is good for businesses of up to 20 employees.
There is also a Skype Meetings function, which means individuals can connect to their teams for free. It allows for collaborations with up to 10 people at once, but after 60 days this drops to three people.
Skype for Business raises the upper limit on meeting participants considerably. With it, you can have as many as 250 individuals connected.
This makes Skype for Business ideal for online presentations or live, organisation-wide webinars.
It also offers a wider function, where you can broadcast your meeting to as many as 10,000 people online.
Therefore, in terms of scale of communications, Skype for Business ups the ante when compared to regular Skype.
Office 365 Integration
Skype for Business is closely integrated with Microsoft Office 365.
Users can use Outlook directly with Skype for Business, making use of its instant messaging, voice and video features.
They can click directly on their contacts to initiate conversations, or to schedule upcoming meetings with them.
It also means integration with other apps such as PowerPoint and Excel, sharing screens containing information during video conferences.
Advanced Video Conferencing
For businesses requiring a more sophisticated conference room set-up, Skype for Business allows for dedicated video-conferencing rooms to communicate with each other.
The Skype Room Systems function means Skype will work with standalone cameras, monitors and audio equipment, available via Microsoft’s partner network.
There is also compatible software for whiteboard linking, and integration with VoIP routing of existing telephone systems.
It also allows for recording of video teleconferences and online presentations.
Overall, Skype for Business’s video teleconferencing capabilities are a considerable advance on regular Skype, designed for larger organisations and more wide-ranging corporate communications.
Any widely-used business communications application must have security at its very heart.
Activity on Skype for Business, like all Office 365 traffic, is encrypted with Transport Layer Security (TLS), so that any communications are only readable by intended recipients.
Using Microsoft Exchange, Skype for Business can also archive instant messages and upload the content of meetings.
It also offers increased capability for management and compliance, so that IT departments can effectively manage access where it involves wider networks – essential for security.
In fact, this level of security makes Skype for Business attractive for some smaller enterprises dealing with sensitive information, such as call centres.
The Question of Cost
Is Skype for Business worth it? This is the critical question, since it is about comparing a free platform with a subscription model.
Currently, regular Skype only incurs costs where it involves making calls to non-Skype numbers. Here users must pay a connection fee, either via a monthly subscription or on a pay-as-you-go basis.
As a stand-alone service, Skype for Business offers payment plans based on a price per user, per month. available as an annual subscription.
However, for the full range of Skype for Business features, users must opt for a more expensive payment plan to have access to things such as integration with video teleconferencing systems.
For any business already subscribing to Office 365’s Business Essentials or Business Premium packages, Skype for Business comes included, free of charge.
Which Skype to Choose?
Whether to upgrade to Skype for Business will depend very much on the nature of your business, and on its objectives.
For many SMEs, regular Skype will be sufficient for their communications needs.
But for some larger businesses, or for those enterprises where video teleconferencing or security considerations are central to how they operate, Skype for Business may well represent a sound investment.