Skype for Business is one of the most versatile components of Microsoft Office 365. It evolved from Lync, the company's previous platform for multi-channel collaboration across chat, video and voice, and was branded with the name of one of Microsoft's biggest ever acquisitions.
The platform consolidates several essential functions into one convenient package:
- It enables a meeting or conference call with hundreds of participants, as long as each one has either an internet connection or a phone to dial in with.
- It allows for conversations within applications such as Word and PowerPoint, and is well-integrated with calendaring and scheduling in Outlook.
- It has sophisticated support for public switched telephone networks, while also being a highly secure cloud solution protected by strong encryption and multi-factor authentication.
- It facilitates meetings broadcasts to thousands of users over the internet (who can interact with each other via Yammer) and is also a go-to tool for screen sharing.
With these features and integrations, Skype for Business is a top-notch collaboration suite. But what is the best way to deploy it within your organization?
Skype for Business deployment options: online versus on-premises
Like many other components of Office 365, Skype for Business can be deployed in the cloud, by using your own IT infrastructure or through a combination of the two. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks.
Skype for Business Online
This is the cloud-hosted version of Skype for Business. Like many other cloud services, it requires relatively little maintenance, but comes with the tradeoff of reduced control.
Skype for Business Online is the sensible choice if Office 365 already meets all your organizational requirements for technical and legal compliance. It has a few tradeoffs compared to the on-premises Skype for Business, server however, including more limited access to APIs and lack of persistent chat and Video Interop Server (VIS).
Since it is hosted in the cloud, it also cannot use a local private branch exchange (PBX) for dial-in conferencing, although it can tap into audio conferencing providers and public switched telephone networks. In fact, its PSTN implementation is directly managed by Microsoft, which simplifies administration and may lower costs since local infrastructure is not required.
Some dependencies in Exchange and SharePoint are also impossible to manage unless these applications as well as Skype for Business are located on-premises. Note that the shortcomings of Skype for Business Online are for the most part addressed elsewhere in Office 365. For example, Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams are both alternatives for persistent chat rooms. The latter app in particular may eventually subsume much of the functionality of Skype for Business for most end users.
Skype for Business Server
This is the proper name for an on-prem deployment of Skype for Business. Since it is deployed locally, Skype for Business Server is much more deeply integrated than Skype for Business Online, plus it allows for much more extensive control. Organizations that pick Server are exchanging the convenience of Online for direct oversight and, for some features, more advanced functionality.
"On-prem Skype for Business offers persistent chat."
On-prem Skype for Business offers persistent chat, VIS calls and full access to the platform's APIs for developers. It is also compatible with local PBX infrastructure. In other words, Skype for Business Server is like any other traditional IT system, except it integrates multiple forms of communication into a single platform.
Skype for Business Server requires much more oversight and maintenance than Skype for Business Online. It has minimum hardware and software requirements, governing everything from its CPU and memory to what versions of Windows Server and PowerShell it needs to function. Having experienced IT personnel is essential for managing such complexities.
Dive into Skype for Business at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers
There are numerous options out there for setting up and using Skype for Business. A certification from New Horizons Computer Learning Centers can set you up for a rewarding career handling the implementation of Office 365 or Skype for Business Server. Learn more by viewing the complete course listings, and also be sure to check out our webinars page for more insight into what we provide.