Is there a difference between Skype and Skype for Business?Skype and Skype for Business are two similar sounding services, but there are some notable differences between the two. While Skype remains one of the most popular communication options for one-to-one calls, this isn’t enough for most businesses. Hence the need for an enterprise Skype solution. That solution is Skype for Business. Microsoft, which owns both services, states that any company with up to 20 employees in size should be able to get by with the basic Skype. Employee numbers beyond that require enterprise tools to keep communication flowing. Microsoft has worked hard to carve out a different role for the two. When the technological juggernaut acquired Skype in 2011, it sent a jolt through the industry. After all, Microsoft already had Lync, which offered many of the same functions that Skype did. Three years later, what many saw coming finally came – Microsoft was reworking and rebranding Lync into Skype for Business. Perhaps buying Skype was a way to gather intel on one of the most popular communications platforms at the time. But whatever the inner workings of Microsoft, it’s a strategy that has paid off, as Skype for Business is a popular communications option for larger operations.
What are the differences between Skype and Skype for Business?Skype is designed for individuals, while Skype for Business is designed for businesses. Anyone with experience in residential and commercial tech knows where the fault lines are going to lie. Enterprise-level companies place greater demands on how their employees communicate and the environment in which they communicate. The somewhat informal nature of smaller businesses doesn’t work when the business scales up, and Skype for Business is built with a nod toward this transition. These are the areas where the differences between the two are most notable:
1. Meeting Volume – This will be the most noticeable difference for managers. Skype is free for Skype-to-Skype calls and credits can be purchased for calls to mobile or landline phones. It can accommodate up to 25 people in a single meeting, though getting there requires a fair bit of fiddling around, so it’s not the smoothest way to get 25 people onto a call.
Skype for Business is streamlined in this area, so it’s easier to add people to the call. And up to 250 people can join the meeting, which is almost always more than sufficient.
2. Security – For IT personnel, this is the real pressure point. Enterprise communications require the best security measures available, and Skype for Business is built with security in mind. Locking down a video conferencing session means reinforcing several attack vectors. End-points, servers, the control channel and all of the connections between are a potential dent in the armor, and loose security can have dire consequences for companies. In addition to possible spies, poor security can expose a company to various forms of service denial, which will disrupt or bring down the meeting entirely.
Skype for Business is designed with powerful security features that are added to on a regular basis. This adheres to Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle, or SDL, approach to Skype development. All network communications within the Skype for Business system is certified and encrypted, using industry-standard techniques like TLS, SRTP, Kerberos and AES encryption. Skype for Business also allows clients to deploy their server in a way that allows for extremely tight control of permissions.
3. Skype Meeting Broadcast – Unsurprisingly, Skype for Business comes with some additional features that allow for greater control over how meetings are organized and delivered. Perhaps the most impressive among those features is Skype Meeting Broadcast.
With Skype Meeting Broadcast, a Skype for Business meeting can be broadcast to up to 10,000 people, which is a staggering number. Armed with Skype Meeting Broadcast, companies can effectively put together meetings where important announcements or training materials are disseminated to all the company’s employees at once. Of the more than 18 million businesses in the U.S., there are only a couple thousand employing more than 10,000 people. In short, Skype Meeting Broadcast can get the entire company into a single meeting, making sure everyone is on the same page.
4. Skype Room Systems – Another feature tied to Skype for Business is its Skype Room Systems. This is ideal for businesses that are willing to make a significant hardware investment, but the payoff is a comprehensive conferencing experience.
With Skype Room Systems, companies can bring in standalone monitors, cameras and audio equipment. Microsoft’s Surface Hub can also be part of the package, and many professionals are already familiar with it. The hardware boost takes the room into account, so the image and audio quality will be better, and there won’t be any blind spots where people are hidden from the camera.
5. Native Integration – As a flagship Microsoft product, it’s no surprise that Microsoft is integrating Skype for Business with every Office 365 offering it has. Microsoft is always adding new tools to the Office 365 box, so Skype for Business will always be among the first services to receive updates. Now, thorough integration isn’t an unalloyed good, as it does lock the company into certain processes, but integration can make life easier for managers who don’t have the time to mess around with a ton of software.
6. Pricing – This is probably the biggest difference between the two options. Skype is free, with the exception of calls to other platforms. That alone can be the deciding factor for a small business. Skype for Business comes with a monthly cost. Specifically, it’s $2 per month, per user. Fortunately, that is a cost that scales up or down with the company, so it’s within reach for any business. Even at the top end, it’s something that enterprise companies can afford without destroying the budget.Skype and Skype for Business each have their place. As companies grow and their needs increase, the switch to a secure, multifunctional platform is a smart move.