Skype for Business, formerly known as Microsoft Lync, is a type of software called a unified communications (UC) platform. It’s primarily a tool for allowing two or more employees at the same business to communicate with each other when they aren’t in the same specific area or need to transfer a file to each other.
The main features of Skype for Business include instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, screen sharing, file transferring, and presence (which is the formal name for the feature that allows you to see the availability status of your colleagues).
Other, more advanced features of Skype for Business include:
Centralized management of the Skype accounts of all of your employees
PBX features such as call holding and forwarding and voicemail
Support for integration with existing PBX systems
PSTN support (which allows you to call regular phone numbers, not just other Skype or VoIP accounts)
Active Directory-based authentication
Centralized archiving of all instant messages
In-transit encryption of all IMs, file transfers, and calls
Support for meetings/webcasts with up to 10,000 participants.
Advantages Over Other Communications Tools
Of course, there are a lot of other tools that can be used to allow employees to communicate with each or transfer files to each other, including email, the telephone, project management software, and standalone instant messaging and video conferencing clients.
However, IM and video conferencing clients are better tools for internal communications than email, telephone, and project management software, since they’re faster and more convenient than email and telephone and more direct than project management software. And UC platforms like Skype for Business are better than standalone IM and video conferencing clients because they’re centralized, which makes it easier for businesses to monitor and manage them and maintain a centralized archive of all user IMs; and because they possess advanced, business-grade features such as PBX functionalities and PSTN support.
What Companies Should Use It?
Since the main purpose of Skype for Business is, as we mentioned, to allow two or more employees to communicate with each other when they aren’t in the same specific area, the businesses that should be most interested in deploying this UC platform are those that have more employees than can fit in a small area (more than five, let’s say), that have multiple offices, or that have a lot of employees that complete some or all of their work away from the office.
Businesses with call centers should also be interested in deploying Skype for Business, because although call center employees are often located in the same specific area, they’re almost always on the phone. The UC platform’s IM client would allow them to communicate with each other without having to put a caller on hold, and without interrupting or delaying each other’s calls. It also has PBX features and PSTN support and can integrate with an existing PBX system, so you can use it to either replace or augment your existing PBX system with a centralized and comprehensive UC platform.
By allowing employees to communicate with each other that normally wouldn’t be able to do so in a convenient, non-disruptive, and direct way, Skype for Business can increase coordination and collaboration between employees, and thereby increase their effectiveness and productivity. Similarly, it allows managers to monitor the availability of their workers and communicate with them when aren’t in the same area, which in turn allows them to keep track of them and provide them with effective leadership and guidance, helping to maximize (again) their effectiveness and productivity.
In addition, it’s easier to manage and maintain a single UC platform than a bunch of separate internal communications tools and VoIP/PBX systems. And with a single UC platform, you can ensure that all of your IMs are archived for compliance purposes, and that all of your employees are communicating with each other and with callers over a secure, encrypted connection.
Finally, Skype for Business can reduce your costs by keeping you from having to purchase separate IM, video conferencing, web conferencing, VoIP, and PBX systems; by reducing your phone bills (if you’re not currently using a VoIP system for both internal and external calls); and by reducing your travel costs by allowing you to hold virtual meetings with both fellow employees and clients.