When we first address the suitability of Skype for business-use we have to address, what is Skype? How does it work and what are its benefits to the Small Medium Business (SMB).
So what is Skype?
Skype is a type of VoIP service – actually a Peer2Peer model – that allows people to communicate via voice, instant messenger and video over the internet. Typically, anyone with a computer – equipped with a microphone, speakers, webcam and an internet connection – can use Voice over IP (VoIP) and hold conversations free of charge to other Skype registered user wherever they are in the world. This obviously has huge benefits for frequent travelers or those wishing to communicate with family or friends, perhaps in another continent as it save on long distant phone charges. This free method of communication with distant loved ones and colleagues became the standard method of telecommunications for personal use over the last decade. Skype became as a technology, very successful for it is a cheap and easy to use tool to conduct local or more importantly international phone calls. As such, it managed to accumulate over 30 million subscribers. However, is it suitable for business use?
Skype a Personal or Business Utility
Skype’s indisputable success within the savvy internet community, is not the whole story. Skype became the poster pinup for personal internet users, who were in the early days willing to trade quality for value – dollars versus voice quality, reliability and quality of service. However, as the quality of experience improved the value became apparent. Free or very cheap, VoIP, local/long distant/International calls, instant messaging, file transfer, along with presence notification to Skype registered devices, drove the public to register with Skype in the millions. Additionally the Skype service allowed registered users to connect to the PSTN and Mobile networks at very competitive rates – much to the chagrin of the Telecommunication companies.
However the low financial cost and the ease of use, along with the innovative functionality, were not the only benefits, as broadband internet became ubiquitous so did video calling. It was after all, only a decade ago, that developers’ believed video calling/conferencing over VoIP, let alone a P2P network a pipe dream. The vast improvement in broadband internet capacity has made that not just a reality, but also a utility service. Skype moved their focus from the home user, traveler, and the recreational public, towards a more business-orientated model, by adding more business friendly functionality – albeit at a cost. As a result, the corporate giants saw its huge potential, and subsequently eBay and then Microsoft purchased Skype for 8.5 Billion Dollars.
So, What is Skype’s Value to the Business Community?
Skype has developed from a simple peer2peer (P2P) free utility to a robust business grade application. It is now a business-orientated solution, with over 700 million registered users and a price tag of billions of dollars. It now offers in addition to the free home utility a Premium and Business solution. To understand why Skype is now a good business option we have to look at the facilities available. For example, there are basic free features – voice, video, chat, and then there are business orientated premium options, such as SkypeIN, SkypeOut, Premium and Skype Business.
Skype has since its first release been an outgoing call focused service. Its primary goal was to provide free or cheap VoIP services over its peer2peer (P2P) network. When using SkypeOut, Skype routes outbound calls were possible over Skype’s P2P network utilizing VoIP protocols, these calls are free. Alternatively, as not everyone is on Skype or VoIP, traditional calls to mobile of landlines on the PSTN are also possible by interconnection with Mobile networks and the PSTN. When using SkypeOut you are buying time on the PSTN/Mobile network through IP/PSTN Gateways at very favorable rates. These calls are chargeable but typically very cheap. Therefore, the SMB can make considerable savings utilizing the Skype outbound service. But, what about inbound calls how are they handled?
Skype VoIP calls are initiated by calling a known Skype ID. Now that may be fine for personal use but it is not a desirable scenario for business use. As an SMB, it would be preferable to have a main office or business number that is advertised and accessible by all. This is what SkypeIN provides; it is a local real telephone number that anyone can call. If a business wishes to receive calls from a PSTN or Mobile phone, which they surely must, then they will require a SkypeIN number.
SkypeIN however offers many complimentary features such as local or national real PSTN telephone numbers, which are assigned and call forwarded to the customer’s Skype ID. When a call is first answered by the Skype service, it forwards the call for the convenience of the customer, at local rates to the registered Skype ID, on a computer, device or phone. The caller, charged at local rates, believes they are communicating with someone in the same district or city. With SkypeIN you can buy as much as ten numbers per location, for example, New York, London, Milan or Tokyo in order to give your company an international feel or global presence.
If an SMB were considering using Skype as a telecoms solution then the premium offering would be the least they should consider. Premium provides so much more than the free offering. Premium is a truly business grade service, rich with features and options. Some of the more useful business orientated features are:
- Unlimited calls to a country/region.
- Group Video calls (Call video conferencing).
- Group screen sharing.
- Live chat (Customer support or sales).
- No Adverts.
The main benefit for the SMB will be the unlimited calls to a country or region, by paying a subscription upfront allows for more accurate financial forecasting and there is no need to police and monitor call usage. However, the other benefits are the group and collaboration tools. The benefit of having the group video call facility is that it enables remote collaboration for disperse project teams or facilitates video conferencing for national or worldwide meetings. Group screen sharing is another function that allows members in a conference call to share their desktop with the other delegates. This is extremely useful when doing remote presentations, tutorials or just sharing visual information during a meeting, everyone can see on their screen what you are discussing, whether it be a spreadsheet, a graph, software code or a whiteboard, just as if they were looking at a projection on the screen. Live Chat is another bonus feature that facilitates placing a button on a company website – live chat or call free – which will connect through to a Customer Service or Technical support agent.
Skype business version is the next step up from premium in that it provides several business-orientated features such as:
- Group Video
- Instant Messaging
- Send Large files
Group video allows three or more people to hold face-to-face video conferencing anywhere in the world. Additionally whilst on a call send instant messages to any other participant in order to share addition information or links.
However probably the most significant difference is that Skype Business edition comes with a windows installer package (MSI) which can be sent to all employees to ensure that the same version of Skype is installed on all corporate machines, this is a simple way to ensure version control.
Whilst speaking of control, a SMB deploying Skype in the business would also be wise to deploy Skype Manager, previously referred to as Business Control Panel. Skype Manager is a central administration panel that is accessible through a web browser that lets you setup, manage and report on Skype usage throughout the company.
Check out more key functions of Skype Premium and Business for an SMB.
The Benefits of Skype for the SMB
- Big savings on telephone bills – If an SMB has overseas clients, suppliers, employees etc, then Skype is an obvious choice when considering the financial burden of communication.
- Chat and instant messaging – are also valuable tools for the SMB when communicating with their customers, suppliers and remote employees.
- Video Conferencing – for 3 – 10 participants, cuts the cost associated with travel and accommodation
- Screen Share – facilitates real time presentations, meetings, tutorials and distant learning
- Web integration – facilitates click to chat, click to talk buttons on the website for seamless connection through to a customer support agent.
- Call forwarding – Skype is always on so divert calls to a mobile or other devices
- Presence Indicators – shows a contacts or advertises your own availability online
- SMS text – send SMS messages from a computer
- Compatibility – works on almost any device; computers, tablets, smart phones, consoles and smart TV’s
- Plug-ins – many third party applications and adapters available
- Integration with Email – highlight telephone numbers and click to call
- Integration with CRM and Outlook – Caller ID recognition can open a relevant file or contact
- Keep in touch with expenditure – using Skype Manager to administer and manage Skype throughout the business
- Security – encryption of all communications
- Reliability and Call quality – both reliability and call quality have improved since the early versions and with increased high-speed internet and available bandwidth call quality is now not an issue.
- SkypeIN – provides local real telephone numbers for the convenience of customers
- Local and International telephone numbers – are available to project a global presence
- Integration – with an existing IP PBX for long distant trunks and security.
- Call Connect – SkypeIN can be integrated with call answering services such as Grasshopper or an IP-PBX
- Call Manager – set up, manage, administer and report on Skye within the business to control costs and improve quality of service.
For Further information visit Skype for business.
- Skype for Business – Killer Features.
- Skype for Business – Debunking the Security & Reliability Myths.
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