Skype for Business: what your business needs to know

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Collaborating in 2014 still isn’t easy. Every platform has its limitations. Imagine being able to text, conference or screen share with any of your contacts at the touch of a button. Well, today Microsoft made an announcement about its Lync unified communications platform and Skype that has long-awaited implications for business communications. Here’s what you need to know:

When Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 then started pushing users to log in with a Microsoft account, a lot of people were annoyed. They were messing with a beloved platform and users were skeptical that it would turn out well. But there was method to Microsoft’s madness and today’s announcement makes all the pieces fall together.

Just about everyone has heard of Skype and hundreds of millions of people use it. More and more companies are also using Microsoft Lync and the Office 365 productivity suite to communicate and collaborate internally.

Those two worlds just came together in a big way.

In the background over the past few years, the Microsoft unified communications team and the Skype team have been working to integrate some of the powerful enterprise capabilities of Microsoft Lync and Office 365 with the broad reach and familiar feel of Skype. The result is going to make it very easy for business users to telecollaborate with customers, partners and vendors who don’t have Lync or 365 accounts.

Angela Hlavka, President of Calgary-based Iluminari Tech which specializes in next-generation Microsoft communication and collaboration solutions, says that Skype for Business offers, “the single click access from phones, to PC, to tablets and Room Systems that users have come to expect across voice, video and conferencing.”

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Hlavka also points out that Skype for Business is “setting a new vision for bridging the gap between our personal and work lives in the next generation of collaboration”. Face it, there aren’t many 9-5 jobs anymore in the knowledge economy so technology that makes it easy to move between those worlds is a necessity.

Purely for business though, this can make your life simpler. If your company uses (or moves to) Lync or O365 to communicate inside your corporate network, soon you’ll be able to reach hundreds of millions of Skype users the same way. There will be no need to wait for IT to integrate the other company. No need to give outsiders an account on your internal system. Just find your contact on Skype from your corporate client and start talking.

As soon as you’re ready to chat, talk or video conference with someone, you’ll be able to do it easily. Imagine the implications. Just bought a company? Your employees and theirs can start working together. New customer relationship? You can be part of their team, virtually. Contract employees who don’t need full access to your systems? No problem, reach out to them on Skype.

And if your employer is one of the many companies who block Skype now, for security or business reasons, they might well change that because now Skype for Business has security features built for companies who need to protect their environment. Microsoft and Skype did a lot of work to make Skype business-ready, removing barriers that meant IT had to say no.

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