One way to deploy the Server version of Skype for Business is to install it on one of your own servers at one of your offices. Another is to sign up for hosted Skype for Business from a hosting company like Iron Orbit. With hosted Skype for Business, the hosting company will install and maintain the unified communications (UC) platform on one of its servers in one of its datacenters and rent the platform to you in exchange for a monthly fee.
The advantages of hosted Skype for Business over locally-installed deployments of the UC platform include:
Low-cost assistance with the setup process. Skype for Business Server can be a difficult solution to deploy since it can require extensive configuration and may need to be integrated with multiple other solutions and services. For example, you may need to integrate it with Active Directory and Microsoft Exchange; set up archiving; and set up the PBX system so that calls to and from your current phone numbers are routed through it, and so that calls continue to be routed to the correct phones. If you sign up for hosted Skype for Business, the hosting company can help you with the setup process, and may even take care of the entire process for you for a small fee.
Less IT management responsibilities. With hosted Skype for Business, you don’t have to worry about purchasing or maintaining any of the hardware on which the UC platform is hosted. The hosting company may also handle other aspects of managing and maintaining the Skype for Business deployment for you, either for an additional cost or no cost at all, including by monitoring the performance and security of the deployment, protecting it from cyber-threats, updating it, backing up its data, and providing technical support for it.
Increased security. Hosting companies usually protect their hosted solutions with advanced security measures such as 24x7x365 monitoring, enterprise-level firewalls, IDS/IPS, and gateway antivirus, as well as physical security measures such as 24x7x365 onsite security guards, biometric access panels, and server cages at their datacenters. (Though Skype for Business has built-in security features including user authentication and in-transit encryption, the platform as a whole and its data still need to be protected from inappropriate access.)
Increased reliability. Hosting companies ensure that their hosted solutions are always available by implementing downtime prevention measures such as 24x7x365 infrastructure monitoring and maintenance; redundant servers, storage, networking equipment, Internet, and power; uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and diesel generator power backups; and geographically-separated datacenters. (Preventing your Skype for Business deployment from experiencing downtime is especially important if you use it as your main phone system, since your business obviously won’t be able to receive any calls without it.)
Regulatory compliance. It’s easier to comply with IT-related regulations such as HIPAA and SOX with hosted Skype for Business than it is with an onsite deployment. This is because most hosted versions of the UC platform fulfill many of these regulations’ IT requirements by default, since many of them are protected with advanced security measures (see above) and prevent data loss with measures such as offsite backups. In addition, many hosting companies can customize their hosted solutions to comply with certain IT regulations for an additional fee. Hosting companies have more experience than the average business at ensuring the compliance of IT solutions, so they can complete the process faster and more effectively.
To deploy Skype for Business Server onsite, you can start by downloading a trial version of the software from the Microsoft website, then contact a Microsoft partner to obtain the required software licenses. To sign up for hosted Skype for Business, contact your preferred hosting company, and they’ll guide you through the setup process.
You can also migrate any existing onsite Skype for Business or Lync deployment to the cloud. Your hosting company may be able to perform the migration process for you, transferring the UC platform and all of your existing data (including user accounts, IM and conferencing records and archives, PBX settings, and software licenses) to the new deployment. Switching from an existing onsite deployment to the cloud would have all of the same benefits described above—increased security, increased reliability, etc.