Skype for Business or Skype Premium will certainly not have the all round functionality and rich features required by most small medium business (SMB) in need of a telephony solution. This is primarily because Skype is lacking as a single/standalone telephony solution – (except for the smallest of SMBs) essential business PBX functionality. Ironically, the functionalities it does provide are extremely valuable to the SMB and are complimentary to an existing telephony solution. So what are the key functions of Skype Premium and Business that is of such value to the SMB?
Skype’s stay connected features are useful for very small businesses (here we refer to number of employees rather than financial turnover) which primarily rely on their own devices (computers, tablets, mobile (cell) phones) to communicate. However, probably an essential requirement of any business regardless of size is to have a recognised real telephone number that is accessible by the public from any phone. Skype can provide real telephone numbers, for several countries, regions and areas, which customers can call directly from mobiles or landlines at local rates. The business however need not be in that country, region or area, as Skype will redirect the call to the registered Skype computer or device anywhere in the world. This feature can considerably reduce the costs of doing international business. The real benefit of Skype numbers however is that it provides a more professional image and they give the appearance of a much larger organization. This instills confidence in the potential customer.
Skype, because of its availability and compatibility with just about any device can redirect calls (when you are away from the computer) to another portable device such as a Smartphone. This provides freedom of mobility without the worry of missing important business calls. A complimentary feature is Skype to go, which allows cheap local and international calls from any phone when you are away from your favored Skype device. Similarly, as Skype is also a mobile (cell) application it can make use of WiFi to make calls – a standard feature -so can utilize any available WiFi hotspots, such as Cafés, shopping malls etc. So again, if you are away from the computer you can still utilize the Skype service to make cheap outgoing calls from a mobile (cell) phone or landline. If however you are away but unavailable to take calls then Skype can take voice messages on your behalf, which is another essential business requirement. So, as we have seen, Skype can perform the basics that any small company requires when handling incoming and outgoing calls, but it can also be used in a marketing capacity – to drive customers to your business – by integrating it with your website or other marketing collateral.
Skype buttons are a great way to have customers call you directly as they browse your website. By just clicking on the button the customer can communicate by voice, instant messenger or both from any Skype enabled computer, tablet or mobile (cell) phone.
Skype Video Conferencing
Skype is famous for its standard consumer Skype-to-Skype free voice and video calls. Indeed, it is not just within the consumer sector that Skype video calls have gained respectability but also with businesses of all sizes. It is common now for even large corporate and enterprises to use Skype as a means of holding remote interviews with job candidates or meetings with small vendors. The reason for this is Skype is so well known and easily accessible by all. A potential job candidate or supplier can easily find a Skype enabled device – computer, laptop or tablet. Whereas before they would have had to travel to face-to-face, interviews/meetings incurring unnecessary time and expense or find a business centre hosting a compatible video conferencing system. Skype therefore has become a standard business tool and practice when conducting remote communications.
Premium and Business editions take video calling a step further by providing full Video Conferencing capabilities. The main difference is in the number of supported participants with Premium/Business able to handle up to ten participants on a video conference call. There are of course other features such as the ability to view simultaneously each participant in their own window and every delegate views the same screen. Video call recording is another capability allowing meetings to be recorded and distributed later as the meetings minutes, this is valuable when on contract calls or board meetings, where detailed transcripts of dialogue are often necessary. Video conferencing is an obvious benefit to the SMB as it reduces the costs of unnecessary travel and accommodation and greatly improves efficiency through better time management. What is more, video conferencing has another complimentary Skype business function, which greatly enhances its worth to the SMB – the ability to share a screen with other participants on a video call.
Screen Sharing is a feature that allows a participant on a video call to broadcast and share their screen to all other participants. The value of this feature is that it enables remote presentations, no longer is a presenter required to be physically present in a room with a laptop hooked up to a projector. Now the presenter can be on the other side of the globe and still present the same presentation by sharing their screen with the participants on the video call. They will see both the presenter and the shared screen in separate resizable windows on their own display. Furthermore, the participants and presenter can (transparent to the others) exchange instant messages or files without disturbing the flow of the presentation. However, this capability has other utility in that it is a great tool for collaboration especially between remote offices or developers. Whereby they can visualize work-in-progress, exchange comments and ideas, give demonstrations of prototypes, display video or graphic designs, or step through financial spreadsheets – whilst being perhaps all in different cities or continents. Whatever the use an SMB finds for the feature it again can save significant sums on travel and accommodation, enhance time management and create a means for and a culture of collaboration within the business.
Skype has several very valuable features in its Premium and Business offerings that provide utility to the SMB. The key features provide for call mobility, incoming and outgoing call handling and enhanced Video Conferencing and Collaboration tools. Skype of course is not alone in providing these features, they have several competitors in each field such as Google Hangouts, Tango, Vsee, ooVoo, Ekiga, Line and Microsoft’s other offering Lync just to name a few. However it is Skype’s ubiquitous presence, coupled with its global recognition – very few out with the industry will have heard of the competing solutions – that makes Skype still the technology of choice in the consumer and SMB business sectors for Voice, Video Conferencing and Collaboration.