Skype for Business – A Unified Communications Tool?

The most “fame” Skype has received is probably from the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” where the cast uses it regularly to communicate. For example, Raj’s parents who live in India are fringe characters in the show and viewers only know them via Raj who is using Skype on his laptop in the USA.

I use the word “fame” in quotes because TV has given Skype a level of notoriety, which most technology just doesn’t reach. The show has to some extent normalized the use of Skype. And note that the word Skype isn’t actually mentioned on the show but we assume that Skype is the program that is being used.

Skype – The most popular Internet communications software in the world for voice and video

Millions of people use it every day for personal communications.

International Telephone and Skype Traffic, 2005-2012

According to TeleGeography, ”While international phone traffic growth is slowing, traffic from voice and messaging applications like Skype continue to increase at a stunning pace. TeleGeography estimates that cross-border Skype-to-Skype voice and video traffic grew 44 percent in 2012, to 167 billion minutes. This increase of nearly 51 billion minutes is more than twice that achieved by all international carriers in the world, combined.”

And those personal users are extending Skype for business use as well.

Skype is used for a lot more than video. In fact it really started out and is still primarily used for voice calls. Skype offers a full Unified Communication (UC) technology stack, which is pretty powerful, but not as “industrial” as some enterprise UC technology offerings from say, Cisco or Microsoft.

Skype’s full UC capabilities make it a lot more useful than any of the single communications capabilities on its own.

What are the core UC capabilities required in order to qualify as a UC product?

  1. PresenceUC Capabilities
  2. Instant Messaging (IM)
  3. Voice
  4. Video

Skype’s UC Capabilities

Presence: Presence is about knowing the status or availability of the people that are part of your list of contacts in Skype. If you had 25 people that were on your list of Skype contacts, with a quick glance at the list you can determine if they are online, available, busy, etc. Presence is a handy tool to quickly see how your contacts are currently connected into the Skype world.

IM (Instant Messaging): IM is no technology breakthrough but is very handy as part of a UC suite. IM let’s you send instant messages to your contacts, or create group message forums. This is handy in a number of situations; your contact shows as busy but may answer an IM message still keeping their voice or video call going; when you establish a voice or video call, one of the parties may have their mic on mute. IM allows communication to advise that they can’t hear the muted party; sending messages to one of the parties in a multi-party call as a side bar conversation. Interestingly Microsoft, which owns Skype, recently announced that they will be retiring Windows Live Messenger forcing users to upgrade to Skype.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 11.15.30 AMVoice: Here is where Skype really shines. Free calling computer-to-computer anywhere in the world. That is how Skype went viral, established a huge user base and became a household name brand service. Skype’s voice offering capabilities have grown significantly since the early days and includes: Skype to landline; Skype to mobile; and multi-party conferencing calls (can still be dicey), and voicemail. Note: Most of the additional services are chargeable.

Video: Skype video is pretty good for person to person but their multi-party video offering is chargeable, requiring one participant to have a premier account and doesn’t work that well. I have used other products that allow me to conduct a good video to video call with limited bandwidth, where the same call using Skype, has Skype telling me to turn off my video because there is not enough bandwidth.

Skype will likely continue to develop this part of their technology solution. A case in point is that they just recently announced a new Video Messaging service where users (for a fee) can leave video mail messages.

Beyond Unified Communications

Skype also offers features, which go beyond the UC stack, such as: content sharing, files transfer, and SMS messaging. These features make the product more powerful and useful.

Skype also works on lots of devices, PC, Macs, tablets and phones, but typically the full UC suite is not available on all these platforms.

Skype is a powerful communications platform and is getting better all the time. It is not always the best platform for business or for connecting outside participants to meeting rooms.

Time will tell whether this changes as the product continues to develop. Skype’s continued growth and feature enhancement paints a rosy future for it. Skype is a great starter technology for enhanced communications.

But as you start to pay for more Skype features and push the limits of the technology, there are other viable options, which solve some of its limitations and are offered at a comparable price point. Contact us to discuss these alternative options.

 

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