Skype is one of those pieces of software that has become so ubiquitous so quickly that it is now a part of our everyday vocabulary. We tell friends “I’ll skype you later” in the same way we suggest people to “google it”, “send a tweet” or “Whatsapp me”. Any one of these common phrases would have caused total confusion just a few years ago.
But because Skype is now everywhere, we lose sight of just how revolutionary it is. Not so long ago making overseas calls could cost you or your company a fortune, and face-to-face video communications could only be seen in science fiction movies like Star Trek. Now families and friends on different sides of the planet take for granted chatting and seeing each other in real time. People even teach languages, music and cooking to each other using Skype. And for most users, this revolutionary interaction doesn’t cost them a cent, as Skype is based on a freemium model.
Upgrade to Skype for Business
So it’s little wonder that Skype has made a huge difference in the business world. And as a small business owner, you are always watching your bottom line. This is why 15 or so years ago, email was such a boon for owners of smaller companies who could make huge savings on stamps and calls. And nowadays Skype lets you offer a more personal touch for free. Skype-to-Skype calls cost you nothing while calling a landline or cell phone incurs a fee that would be much lower than if you used a landline. You also save money by integrating voice, video, and online meetings into one solution.
But if you are finding that you are doing a lot of business via Skype, it’s well worth upgrading to Skype for Business, which replaced Microsoft Lync, Microsoft’s instant messaging services in 2014. Skype for Business uses the same easy-to-use interface as the free version and is great for growing organisations or companies who want to give the appearance of being bigger than they actually are.
The basic Skype for Business package is known as Online Plan 1 and costs less than Aus $3 dollars a month per user. Online Plan 2 costs more at around Aus $7 per user each month. For this you enjoy high definition video, desktop sharing and remote control as well as the ability to join meetings directly from a web browser. With Online Plan 2 you can also record meetings and integrate Outlook and other Microsoft programs. Larger companies still might need Skype for Business Server which offers highly sophisticated conference room integration and special audio features.
So lets look at some of the advantages for SMEs using Skype for Business: bear in mind, most of these examples are based on the Online Plan 2.
Enjoy easy integration
Many small businesses enjoy the collaboration and efficiency that Office 365 brings, and Skype for Business integrates directly into this software. On the Microsoft platform, all account info stored for each member of your staff will be recognised across the Skype for Business software. The messenger, voice and video features of Skype can be integrated with Word and Outlook. Meetings can then be scheduled and archived. In addition PowerPoint and Excel can be viewed by all participants in a call or conference by sharing screens. This makes business meetings much more efficient as everyone is on the same page – literally.
You can host larger meetings
It’s not likely that a small business will need to conference call 250 people at the same time, but Skype for Business still makes it possible. You can hold large scale presentations too and support calls from landlines and mobiles.
Works with sophisticated conference rooms
Skype for Business doesn’t limit you to the tiny cameras on your laptops. Using Skype Room Systems mean you can integrate the program with standalone cameras, screen and audio setups for a much richer communication experience. Online Whiteboarding can be done with Microsoft Surface Hub and you can link up to PBX VoIP phones too.
If you’re using Skype standard or Skype for Business for communication, you always have an extra level of security in that all traffic is encrypted with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Skype for Business also allows you to act as administrator so you have control over accounts used and can decide who in your organisation can access your Skype account and what tools they can use. Subscriptions can be added or taken away and different features assigned. In terms of general data safety, it must be noted that mass surveillance disclosures in 2013 showed that Microsoft have given unfettered access to Skype communication content to intelligence agencies in the US. So if you’re using the software for anything nefarious, you may get caught out.
Early uses of Skype probably remember dropped calls were common and there was often interference and echoes on the line – not something that would reflect the professionalism of your company. But like other types of VoIP, Skype quality has improved greatly in recent years and as long as you have a stable internet connection, calls can be as good as those from landlines. What’s more, you don’t need to be at your desk to call or receive. Skype can be used on laptops, tablets and smartphones. This is great for companies where there aren’t staff to man the desks or people are always out and about.
If you’d like to know a little more about how Skype for Business could help your company, you should come and talk to the team at Empower IT. We’re experts in this area and are standing by to answer any questions you might have.