The following was published in the Sunday, July 9, 2017 Seacoast Sunday and Foster’s.
If you have not, you should. Skype for Business is the business version of the popular Skype service that many individuals use for chat and calling over the Internet. With Microsoft’s ongoing enhancement of the Office 365 platform, Skype for Business has been bundled into most of the business class subscriptions.
Skype for Business has become a very powerful collaboration platform for businesses. This is for both internal use within the company as well as collaborating with external business partners and customers. It is tightly integrated into the Office 365 platform and Office software applications, providing instant messaging, online meetings, meeting recording, screen sharing, Voice over IP (VoIP) calling, phone system functionality and recording.
In terms of collaboration features, Skype for Business is a powerful meeting platform, allowing you to share anything on your screen, collaborate on documents and presentations, conduct interactive polls, collaborate in real-time using whiteboard functions, manage questions throughout the meeting and facilitate public and private chat with meeting participants. During these online meetings, you are also able to make other participants presenters so that more than one person is able to present content to the meeting participants.
Security is forefront in Skype for Business. All communications, both audio and video, are encrypted. Skype uses both Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to encrypt its audio and video traffic to ensure that if a Skype stream were to be intercepted, that they hacker would only see encrypted text and not the actual audio, data or video. Keep in mind, regarding calls that this only applies to VoIP calls. Calls made over the traditional phone network, often called the PSTN network, that part is not encrypted.
If your business is not yet using Skype for Business, especially if you are already using Office 365, you should really look into it. I see more and more organizations using Skype for increased collaboration and productivity and it has a very positive impact for those who use it.
The instant messaging features make it easy to see if a colleague is available or not. This is called presence and it’s tightly integrated into calendaring, so that Skype will let you know if someone is in a meeting, offline, available or on a call (if you are using the calling features). It’s helps to avoid phone and email tag, trying to connect with someone. This also works between organizations, so if you have a Skype contact that is at a customer of yours, for example, you can see if they are available when you wish to speak or message with them.
Another key benefit is that Skype for Business is a truly cross platform product. You can run it on a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone or tablet and even through a web browser. It truly facilitates communication between parties, no matter what each person is working on. When it comes to using the phone system features of Skype for Business, this also lets you make phone calls from the app on your smartphone, making it appear that you are calling from your office.
With most computers having built in webcams these days, video calls and meetings are becoming more common. Skype for Business fully supports video calls and meetings, so if you walk by an office and see someone on a video call, it’s quite likely it may be Skype for Business. There are several other tools that support this as well, but the key with Skype for Business is that it is all integrated into a single platform and subscription. This makes integration more efficient, so that people are more productive and also holds cost down. The infrastructure can be entirely Cloud hosted and features added to existing Office 365 subscriptions for as little as $2 more per month, for basic services.
As I mentioned earlier, if you are not currently using Skype for Business, check it out. I have yet to see a business that can’t benefit from implementing even just the basic features associated with messaging and presence. It’s a great way to employ technology that used to be reserved for only the largest companies that could afford to implement it. It’s now available to even the smallest businesses, so take advantage of the opportunity to increase your productivity. You’ll be glad you did.