Tag: Persistent Chat

Skype for Business News: Skype4B Becomes Teams (Maybe), Teams Gets Guest Access (Sort Of)

If Microsoft wanted to stir up controversy before the Ignite 2017 conference…they sure succeeded!

Last week the Skype for Business community got two major announcements. One appears accidental. The other was not. But both have certainly drummed up a lot of speculation, confusion, and derision.

Not without cause either. Let’s take a good hard look at what we know, and what we think we know, about Microsoft’s future plans for Skype for Business and Teams.

Teams Absorbing Skype for Business?

Hallo Teams, Goodbye Skype? – MS Tech Community

First, the accidental announcement. On September 7, sharp-eyed Office 365 users caught this screenshot after logging in.

skype for business now teams

Image courtesy of Petri.com.

It was quickly removed after social media lit up.

Later the same day, Microsoft posted a message to the O365 admin portal, saying the company planned on “upgrading” Skype for Business to Teams over the next year. They specified that since it’s early-stages for such a move, the change is opt-in, and no one needs to do anything.

Then it removed THAT message a few minutes later.

Further calls for Microsoft to elaborate, to my knowledge, have gone unanswered.

Tony Redmond at Petri.com speculates that this could mean a new client, melding Teams’ chat functions with Skype4B’s voice & IM tools. If this is indeed moving forward, a “universal” Teams/Skype4B client does make a lot of sense.

Others expressed concern that folding Skype for Business into Teams would end up becoming a mess that wrecks both platforms. Still others decried what they see as Microsoft throwing them yet another branding curveball.

I think they’re ALL right.

If true, this was a damaging leak for Microsoft. It belies a migration path few asked for, and clearly some do not want. Either Microsoft has some explaining to do, or they’re about to take two well-received communications systems and smash them together. Because they can.

This really wasn’t the change I anticipated. I expected the reverse would happen: Skype for Business would absorb Teams’ chat and group functions. Replacing Persistent Chat (which, though I love it, is probably the least-used S4B tool).

All that said, there is one point with which I agree. Most of the other communications platforms out there – Slack, Cisco’s Spark, Fuze, HipChat – use short, easy-to-remember brand names. “Teams” as a brand name, is shorter and easier to recall than “Skype for Business.”

Maybe Teams’ initial success prompted Microsoft to explore expanding its brand. We’ll see pretty soon.

Teams Gets its Guest Access! (Sort of. Eventually?)

A full quarter after Microsoft had originally planned to release Teams guest access…it’s arrived.

Kind of. Maybe.

Microsoft Adds Guest Access to Teams – ZDNet

Microsoft announced the new Guest Access feature on September 11. According to the existing details, here’s how Guest Access works.

Stage 1: Anyone with an existing Azure Active Directory account (e.g. an Office 365 user) can now be added as a Teams guest user. (Occurring Now)
Stage 2: Anyone with a free Microsoft Account (MSA) can be added as a Teams guest user. (Coming Soon)
Stage 3: Anyone with a valid email address can be added as a Teams guest user. (The ideal, but I don’t know when this is happening!)

What kind of reaction did this get? Take a wild guess. No, worse than that.

I went over to UserVoice to see what others had to say:
External Access and Federation: Microsoft Teams UserVoice

UserVoice Teams Guest Access

The thread has exploded with almost-universal cries of disappointment. At time of this post’s publication, there are 563 comments. Just over 80 of them came in after the Guest Access announcement. Nearly all of those are negative.

People are trying & failing to enable Guest Access. Reporting big bugs (failure to add guests on mobile, for example). Pointing out that this is NOT what the users asked for.

My thoughts? I agree. This is not what users asked for. This is not Guest Access. It’s just a type of federation.

If adding guest access were only a case of a few bugs, I’d understand. Teams is a cloud offering; that means a huge variety of possible use cases. A few bugs aren’t a big deal.

However, this isn’t just bugs. This is a major stumbling block. Microsoft has taken Teams, a rapidly-growing product, and put the brakes on its growth.

They have effectively told users, “No, you will invite who we say you can invite, when we say you can. You don’t like it? What are you going to do, leave Office 365?”

And the thing is, that’s exactly what they will do. If a big part of users’ Office 365 experience doesn’t work how they work, they WILL leave the service and go elsewhere. Slack already lets you invite whomever you want. Same with Teams’ other competitors.

If I were Slack, Google, Fuze, or even Cisco, I’d work furiously to make some productivity-related software available to my chat customers. Integrate with a cloud email provider (or create one). Partner with LibreOffice or a cloud-based office app service.

You’ve already got a good assortment of chat/voice/video tools. Add productivity tools, and you’ll give Microsoft’s user base an option that actually caters to their needs.

(I don’t say this to drive people away from Teams, or Skype for Business. I say this because it’s probably the only way to make Microsoft listen!)

Ignite Has Some Explaining to Do

We are less than 2 weeks away from Ignite. 115 of the planned sessions involve Teams. 80 sessions involve Skype4B (many of which overlap).

These presenters have some explaining to do. I hope we get some solid answers.

Are you going to Ignite? If so, please make note to share your experience with us in the comments! I’m sadly unable to attend, but you can bet I’ll keep track of the results.

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How Do Skype for Business, Teams, and Slack Meet Compliance Regulations?

We recently talked about SOX compliance in our regular newsletter, “WOOF!” The full article is here: 5 Big Benefits Your Company Gains from SOX – WOOF! March 2017

(Yes, there are actually benefits to SOX compliance. Weird, huh?)

It made me think of how I (very briefly) mentioned compliance in The Security Behind 6 Business Chat Apps (Including Skype for Business). Have I ever examined Skype for Business on its compliance? Not in detail, I hadn’t.

Well, since I’m thinking about it, why not? Let’s see what I can find on compliance!

What Do I Mean by Compliance?

Compliance is a term for your business meeting certain legal requirements. When it comes to communications, compliance means maintaining records of conversations, in case legal entities (e.g. government) need to review those records in an audit or lawsuit.

That means the records must include chat logs, voicemail, voicemail transcripts, and emails. Anything your employees used to communicate and direct business activity.

Library of Compliance Regulations

“Compliance requirements are clearly stated in Volume XIX Section 14, Paragraphs A-F.”
“Wait, where?!”

Several compliance standards exist: SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley), HIPAA, EUMC (EU Model Classes), ISO 27001, etc. If you have to meet one, keeping those records is now a legal requirement. Only option you have is, which solution do you go with?

There are far more potential solutions out there than I could cover in one blog post. For today, I’m covering four communications tools: Skype for Business (Server and Online), Slack, and Microsoft Teams. Let’s see how they stack up.

How Slack Meets Compliance Regulations: Compliance Reports

Good news, Slack users. Your choice of chat app has built-in compliance…and it has since 2014.

Slack has a Compliance Reports feature, which allows you to export all team communications, thereby satisfying compliance requirements.
Slack announced Compliance Reports in a 2014 blog post: Slack’s policy update: What it means for you (November 2014)

Compliance Reports is part of the Slack Plus plan. It’s available to Team Owners. The catch is, it’s NOT enabled by default. You have to request Slack enable it. (The procedure to do so is in the blog post.)

Also, Compliance Reports is NOT retroactive. Once it’s active, it begins archiving channels, private messages, edit history…from that point forward. So if you’re already using Slack, and want to add in Compliance Reports? Better copy out all the old conversations, just in case.

How Skype for Business (Server) Meets Compliance Regulations: Archiving Menagerie

Ah, my old friend. How’s your compliance?
Very good, thank you. Just needs some setup.

First, the Exchange Server. Exchange has well-developed compliance features. So much so that Exchange 2016 will archive some Skype for Business content within its own In-Place Archiving feature:

“You can archive instant messaging conversations and shared online meeting documents in the user’s primary mailbox. The mailbox must reside on an Exchange 2016 Mailbox server and you must have Skype for Business Server 2015 deployed in your organization.”

In-Place Archiving in Exchange 2016 – TechNet


Next, Persistent Chat’s Compliance service. Once activated, this service maintains an archive of Persistent Chat messages, as well as activities. When people join/leave chat rooms, upload/download files, etc.

Setup is relatively simple. You only need to use one cmdlet, configured by identity or instance.

Set-CsPersistentChatComplianceConfiguration [-Identity ] ((COMMON PARAMETERS))

or

Set-CsPersistentChatComplianceConfiguration [-Instance ] ((COMMON PARAMETERS))

Parameters available are as follows:

  • AdapterType – Lets you specify the adapter type (XML default).
  • OneChatRoomPerOutputFile – Lets you specify that separate reports to be created for each chat room.
  • AddChatRoomDetails – Records details about each chat room in the database. Disabled by default, since it can inflate the database with lots of activity.
  • AddUserDetails – Records details about each chat room user in the database. Also disabled by default, for the same reason.
  • Identity – Lets you scope compliance settings for a particular collection (Global, Site, Service levels). Global is the default.
  • RunInterval – Dictates the amount of time before the server creates the next compliance output file (default: 15 minutes).

Thirdly, Archiving Server.
Does your Skype for Business deployment include an Archiving Server? If not, and you have compliance requirements, you should do so right away. (Here’s how to deploy an Archiving Server if you don’t have one yet.)

Archiving Server maintains an archive containing:

  • Peer-to-peer instant messages
  • Conferences (meetings), which are multiparty instant messages
  • Conference content, including uploaded content (for example, handouts) and event-related content (for example, joining, leaving, uploading sharing, and changes in visibility)
  • Whiteboards and polls shared during a conference

My old post on what Archiving Server archives. (Hmmm, I should update that one…)

Once this three-part setup is complete, your Skype for Business Server is keeping track of its conversations. Add a good backup system, and you should be fully compliant in case of audit (or litigation).

How Skype for Business (Online) Meets Compliance Regulations: Trust and eDiscover in the Cloud

As Microsoft says in the Office 365 Admin’s Security & Compliance menu:

“It’s your data. You own it. So we’ve developed features that let you take charge of how and when it is stored, used, and retained or removed.”

Office 365 Trust Center, Compliance

I view Skype for Business Online the same way I do Slack. The records themselves are archived and available. However, since Office 365 products are cloud-based, eDiscovery becomes much more important. You’ll need to locate & extract content as-needed in the event of an audit.

Fortunately, Microsoft put up a slew of information about O365’s eDiscovery capabilities: eDiscovery in Office 365.

For instance, the Content Search tool will search mailboxes, public folders, Skype for Business conversations, and more. Then you export the results (in different formats, like a PST for each mailbox or individual messages) and incorporate the files into your audit process.

How Microsoft Teams Meets Compliance Regulations: Information Protection…But is it Complete?

The Teams FAQ reports that Teams does retain all messages. We also have this:

What forms of information protection does Microsoft Teams support?
Archiving, Content Search, eDiscovery, legal hold, and audit logs are available via the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center for chats and channel messages, OneNote content, OneDrive for Business files, and SharePoint content.

At the same time, compliance tools are listed as “Working on It” here:
https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/forums/555103-public/suggestions/17030296-compliance
Commenters spoke urgently of the need to confirm Teams’ compliance policies.

Now, that could just be out of date. The FAQs are maintained, so they’re likely the latest-and-greatest information. Especially since Teams is an Office 365 product, which is compliant with several industry certifications anyway. The same eDiscovery tools available to Skype for Business Online, are available to Teams. At least according to Microsoft.

Compliance or Lawyer Visit

You don’t want a visit from someone wearing these. Stay compliant!

My Verdict: All Will Meet (Most) Compliance Regulations As-Is

In terms of compliance “thoroughness,” I’d rank these in the following order:

  1. Skype for Business Server. The most work to set up, but the most control over archiving.
  2. Slack/Skype for Business Online. Less work involved, since most of the archiving is done for you, and retrieval features are available. That said, these do use cloud services, which places (most of) the data outside your network.
  3. Teams. I put this one last because it’s still so new. It does fall under Office 365’s Trust Center guidelines, and does facilitate archival. But since it’s in early adoption stages, the need to verify compliance hasn’t come up in large numbers yet. Will Teams fully satisfy legal compliance for the businesses who use it? I think it will…but we may have a few businesses hitting bumps when they begin an eDiscovery process.

How big of a factor is legal compliance in your communications choices? Please comment or email. I’m also curious to note which type of compliance hits your business the most (if you’re able & willing to share, of course).

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Teams vs. Skype for Business: Which to Choose?

A tug-of-war is brewing among Microsoft users. (I wouldn’t call it a ‘war’…we’re all reasonable folks, right?)

The question is, which app do we use: Skype for Business, Teams, or both?

Different Apps for Different Communications

Looking at them in terms of approach, Teams and Skype for Business are quite different.

SKYPE FOR BUSINESS: A server-based or cloud-hosted platform meant to replace phones, give the office full Meetings capability, and connect a suite of communications tools to Office apps & email.

TEAMS: A cloud-hosted chat-based communications tool (with extras, like Online Meetings), adding onto the existing toolset. Also connects with Office apps.

Office Chat

The online equivalent of this should be just as easy to arrange. Photo by Chris Hunkeler

Ostensibly, each element in those descriptions would influence a business’ decision to adopt. You might even consider using both, given their respective strengths.

Problem is, there’s also lots of overlap. Too much to make a decision easy.

If you’re looking at Teams and currently use Skype for Business:
You might think, “We already have most of the tools. Why add more?”
Hearing from users who have both, we know that they experience 2 sets of notification alerts. They’re often confused over which tool to use for calls or meetings. They also have 2 sets of conversation history to deal with (1 stored in Outlook, the other in Teams’ channels).

If you’re looking at Teams and don’t use Skype for Business:
You may ask, “Do we want to try out this chat app instead of Slack/Hipchat/Workplace?”
Teams is good to start with, IF you already use Office 365. But even then, you’ll still need a phone for PSTN calls. You can use cellphones of course, but those offices with phones already (either PBX or VoIP) can’t power them with Teams.

This leaves users with a befuddling choice. One we’ll address later in this post. But first, let’s imagine a scenario…what if you combined the two?

Is Integration Possible? Yes…But the Form it Takes Determines Usability

Because Teams and Skype for Business overlap so much—on chat, PC calls, online meetings—the biggest difference between them is the few features the other DOESN’T have.

If you were to enhance one of them, including all of the other’s features? They would look like this.

Teams Enhanced: Calls can go anywhere (including the PSTN). Chats and Meetings with internal & external users, in the same number of steps. Presence status indicates when someone is active on their computer, not just in Teams (Displaying Status in Teams – MS Tech Community).

Skype for Business Enhanced: Persistent Chat acts more like Instant Messaging. Total control of chat within Skype for Business client. Closer/native switching between Persistent Chat & other services (e.g. conferencing).

Could the two integrate? Yes. Would that result in the ‘enhanced’ versions I mentioned? Possibly, depending on the avenue taken.

Right now, I can see two such avenues:

  1. Integrate Teams’ chat space into Skype for Business. Matt Landis has illustrated this wonderfully over at his blog: A Concept for Integrating the Skype for Business & Microsoft Teams User Experience
  2. Build the remaining Skype for Business tools into Teams. Many users are clamoring for this over in the Teams forums: How can we make Teams Better? – Complete Skype for Business Integration into Teams

Neither seems easier than the other, from a development perspective. But both are desired. Users see two types of communications platforms, each missing something the other has, and want those other features.

Teams Could Not Replace Skype for Business (but Skype for Business Could Improve by Integrating Teams)

In terms of integration/replacement between Teams & Skype for Business, I’m going to make another prediction. I predict that SOME form of integration will occur between them within 2 years. Could be as simple as linking Presence; could be as dramatic as merging the two services entirely.

I like Matt’s approach. It patches Teams into Skype4B, acting as a replacement Persistent Chat. As chat is one of my favorite features, this would give Skype for Business a big usability boost.

I looked at the Office 365 Roadmap for any indication of where Microsoft’s going with Teams. Unfortunately, I found nothing specific about Teams feature add-ins or integrations. If anyone from Microsoft wants to weigh in, I’d love to hear it!

So ends my thoughts on integration. But before I finish up, let me address the choice you’re waiting on. When you’re faced with Skype for Business vs. Teams, which is the better choice?

Which Should You Choose, Skype for Business or Teams? Here’s How to Decide

Your existing business communications will contain a number of factors. Weighing these factors will help you decide which platform to use.

These questions should identify those factors. They presume that you are not currently using either Skype for Business or Teams, but want to choose at least one.

Chat Apps

  1. Number of cellphones: What percentage of employees have cellphones now (for business use)?
  2. Are office (desk) phones already in use? Yes/No
  3. If Yes, do they use a PBX or Voice over IP?
  4. Does your business have more than one office, remote workers, or both?
  5. What is your staff’s preferred communications method (besides email)?
  6. Do you use Office 365? Yes/No/Planning To

Use Teams if you gave the following answers:

  1. Percentage is close to 100%
  2. No, or Yes if #3’s answer is Voice over IP
  3. If #2 is Yes, Voice over IP
  4. Remote workers, or both
  5. Instant Messaging, Skype (consumer), texting, or chat (and you don’t already use Slack or Workplace)
  6. Yes, or Planning To

If your answers are different, use Skype for Business. You have communications needs Teams cannot (at this time) fulfill.

Above all, Teams needs the ability to communicate with users outside your organization. Without this, it’s fundamentally hamstrung and unable to mature. It IS coming, but we’ll see how well it works when it arrives.

I hope this is helpful. But always factor in your current IT systems & network capacity when deciding!

What enhancement (if any) would you like to see in Microsoft Teams? Please comment or email your thoughts.

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Q&A on Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is here! It was released to General Availability (for Office 365 customers) on Tuesday. I’ve already seen several reviews of the chat platform. Links to some reviews are below.

Of course we have to weigh in; what kind of Skype for Business blog would I be if I didn’t? However, this is not just another review. I was able to trial Teams internally after the release, and thought I’d do something different.

By going through the information I’ve scoured from the Web, Twitter conversations, and my internal Teams trial, I have come up with several Teams-related questions. Questions which I shall answer!

Here are the questions. You can jump to any answer just by clicking the one you want. Let’s go!

Questions about the New Microsoft Teams

How is Teams organized?
Is there a mobile app?
What are the advantages (if any) over Slack?
Can we use Teams without an Office 365 account?
Will we get a free version of Teams? How about a consumer version?
What’s the cheapest option: Slack, HipChat, Workplace, or Teams?
How’s the bot?
What kind of integrations are available?
What’s the biggest drawback?

How is Teams organized?

Teams keeps it simple, in terms of organization. Each Team has Users invited to it. Teams may set up Channels to contain their conversations. You have the option of Public or Private Channels. Within the conversations, users can share files, video calls, a Wiki, etc.

Hierarchically, it’s like this: TEAMS > CHANNELS > USER CONVERSATIONS

There’s also an Activity Feed accessible from the left-column bar at all times. It shows your @mentions, replies, etc. Very much like Workplace’s News Feed.

Teams Activity Feed

Is there a mobile app?

Yes, but Microsoft did something a little funny with this one. The Teams app is the most advanced on Android—there you can make video and audio calls. iPhones and Windows Phones don’t have this yet. I’m sure it’s coming, but for now, Android users win out on Teams features.

What are the advantages (if any) over Slack?

I find two main differences, which you could call ‘advantages.’

One: Threaded conversations are native in Teams. (Slack did add this recently.) For those who are used to Slack’s message format, this might take a little adaptation time. But for those used to forums or sites like Reddit, threads are familiar territory.

Two: The Office 365 Integration. That eliminates extra cost, extra user accounts/licenses, and installation time. It’s one more tool in the toolbox.

Want a more direct comparison? TechWyse Blog did a great infographic comparing Teams and Slack:
Teams vs. Slack – TechWyse

Can we use Teams without an Office 365 account?

Nope. Not even to try out. I used a test user from a customer’s Office 365 account to try Teams.

This makes me sad, honestly. Teams is good enough to work as a standalone product. But I guess that’s not part of Microsoft’s strategy anymore (and we just have to live with it).

Will we get a free version of Teams? How about a consumer version?

No. No plans for this at all.

Microsoft: ‘We do not have any plans for a free or consumer offering of Teams’ – VentureBeat

That could change of course. I would like it if it changed. Slack made clever use of a free version to bring customers on, and Microsoft won’t even try a similar approach? It could even be an easy avenue into Office 365.

What’s the cheapest option: Slack, HipChat, Workplace, or Teams?

The numbers are very close here. Workplace is competing on price, but we’re talking a few dollars’ difference per user.

Here are some numbers from each service. I’m going to assume a standard account type, for 100 users.

  • Workplace: $3/month per user (for the first 1,000 users)
  • HipChat Plus: $2/month per user
  • Slack: $8/month per user
  • Microsoft Teams: Depends on Office 365 account level. Office 365 Business accounts range from $6-15/month per user. Office 365 Enterprise accounts range from $8-35/month per user.

As you can see, it’s really close. Teams could end up “costing” more than the others, but you’re also getting Office 365 bundled.

How’s the bot?

T-Bot is ready to help you on load. He’s (she’s? It’s?) really quick to respond too. I fired a few standard questions at T-Bot, and he gave exactly what I needed. Much like Slackbot, Slack’s own bot (who admittedly has a cuter avatar).

Unfortunately, T-Bot lacks a sense of humor. I tried some silly questions and a philosophy question. Poor T-Bot got confused and sent me to the FAQ.

What kind of integrations are available?

Plenty! Teams comes with 150 third-party integrations available at launch. More will come.

To integrate a service into a Channel, click the plus icon in a channel’s top nav. You’ll see a popup window with available integrations.

Integrations Available in MS Teams

I integrated Asana, our project management system. It took one login and about 20 seconds.

Integrating Asana into Teams

That’s one fewer tab I need to keep open right there.

What’s the biggest drawback?

This one deserves its own section. Because there is one big drawback to Teams…and no, it’s not the Office 365 bundling. It’s an operational flaw that many users have already come across. And it’s already hurting Teams adoption.

The Damaging Flaw: No External User Access

You cannot invite external contacts to use Teams.

Teams FAQ on Guests

I have a Skype for Business user account. But it’s Server-based, not O365-based. Thus my trial account couldn’t see it, and I could not send messages “out.”

This is the biggest issue I saw people having with Teams. It just befuddles me. Limited only to O365 users? No possibility of inviting someone into a chat, even temporarily? None.

Annoyed by this? You’re definitely not the only one:
How can we make Teams better? – External Access and Federation

Adding external users to teams – MS Tech Community

This WILL hurt Microsoft. As I said, some potential users are already swearing off Teams in favor of Slack, where they can chat with external users. Now, maybe losing market share will compel Microsoft to enable external users…but a lot of people aren’t holding their breath.

MORE TEAMS LINKS:
Teams is Microsoft’s Most Intriguing Productivity App Yet – Engadget
Microsoft Teams goes live with new email integration, enterprise bots – ZDNet
Teams, Microsoft’s Slack rival, opens to all Office 365 users – TechCrunch
Microsoft’s Teams is almost an excellent Slack-killer, and it’s now live for O365 – Ars Technica

Teams: Feels like an Evolved Skype for Business Persistent Chat

Teams isn’t just competing with Slack. It also competes with HipChat, Workplace, and to some degree, its own Skype for Business Server product!

Here’s why I think that. The Channels, available under Teams (which are either Public or Private, as set by administrators), are basically enhanced chat rooms. Skype4B’s Persistent Chat has a very similar structure. Private messages are essentially Instant Messages. You add voice to existing Conversations. They’re even called the same thing in both Skype for Business and Teams. “Conversations.”

The other Skype4B functions—voice, meetings, IM‐were covered in Office 365’s Skype for Business Online offering. Teams adds the Persistent Chat function.

Now, that’s not a bad thing in itself. As I’ve said many times, I love using chat. But I can’t help thinking Microsoft has miscalculated here. They’re trying to replace one product with another, but hobbled it by not allowing external user access. The MS Walled Garden rears its ugly head.

We’ll see how many people decide to climb over it or not.

Do you have a Teams question nobody’s answered yet? Send it in! Add a comment or email it over. I’ll happily update this post with it. Or create a new one, if the question merits.

And please share your Teams experiences too! I’m certain we’ll come back to Teams, soon enough.

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The Security Behind 6 Business Chat Apps (Including Skype for Business)

In a recent Spiceworks survey, 59% of respondents said that “Sensitive files/information should not be shared via collaborate chat applications.”

Business Chat Apps vs Email

Image courtesy of Spiceworks.com.

So, 59% think chat rooms aren’t secure. A little more than half. Healthy caution; nothing wrong with that.

But you know it’s going to happen. Someone asks a co-worker for help, not realizing they’ve asked for some Intellectual Property. The co-worker pastes it into the chat window.

What then? Does everybody gasp at once? Scramble to delete it?
Or do they just shrug and keep chatting, believing the chat room itself has enough security to protect the IP?

Chances are, they do the latter. The question is, which business chat apps DO have the security to protect data shared within them?

That’s what we’re tackling in this post. A comparison of 6 popular business chat apps at the security level.

The Source: A 2017 Spiceworks Survey

The Spiceworks survey that started all this is here: Business Chat Apps in 2017: Top Players and Adoption Plans

I came across it in my daily reading. (Hey there Spiceheads!) A group of IT Pros gave their thoughts on 6 chat apps – Skype for Business, Slack, Google Hangouts, HipChat, Microsoft Teams, and Workplace by Facebook.

This section caught my eye, talking about chat room security:

“In terms of security, the results show less than one third of IT pros are concerned about business chat apps introducing security risks. For example, 32% said messaging apps put corporate data more at risk of being hacked, and 29% said they pose a security risk that is difficult to manage.
“However, that doesn’t mean caution can be thrown to the wind. Nearly 60% of IT pros believe sensitive files/information should not be shared via group chat apps. In other words, IT pros aren’t overly concerned about the security risks as long as their employees use chat services wisely.”

Using chat services wisely. Agreed! When it comes to IP, take care to keep it safe. So, which of those 6 is the most secure chat platform? Can we rank them? Let’s find out.

The Big Three: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Skype for BusinessSlack Logo

SLACK & MICROSOFT TEAMS—The Bitglass Blog put together a review of Slack’s security vs. Microsoft Teams’.
Microsoft Teams vs Slack Security – The Bitglass Blog
They’ve done their homework; it’s definitely worth a read.

Slack and MS Teams are pretty much neck-and-neck in terms of their security. Teams has greater regulatory compliance, but Slack already delivers on at-rest and in-transit encryption. Adding external users is a risk on both services.

Microsoft Teams LogoThis of course makes me happy! I like seeing Slack and Teams in competition…like iron sharpening iron, they should continue to make each other better. That they both have good security on their chats is yet another benefit to users.

(I talked before about Slack and MS Teams – when it was called Skype Teams – back in October.)

 

SSkype for Business LogoKYPE FOR BUSINESS—Our favorite, naturally. And in terms of security, it’s our favorite for good reason.

Persistent Chat is a server within Skype for Business Server, and uses SQL Server for its database. Hardening the SQL Server and configuring security on the Windows Server on which Persistent Chat runs will provide high-grade security for the chats.

In addition, a Persistent Chat administrator controls memberships, file uploads, and the domains from which users can join. There’s a lot of granular control. It’s safe to say that if you’ve secured your Skype for Business Server, your Persistent Chat rooms are pretty darn private.

Now, what about the others?

The Other Three: HipChat, Google Hangouts, Workplace by Facebook

HipChat LogoHIPCHAT—HipChat is run by Atlassian, makers of Jira and Confluence. Their Security of HipChat page indicates 256-bit SSL encryption on your chats & files. It even tells you where HipChat hosts its data – on Amazon Web Services, which employs its own security.

However, HipChat has had a couple issues. In 2015, hackers stole usernames & passwords from HipChat. Atlassian responded with fixes of course.

But in February 2016, a Redditor pointed out a HipChat flaw with downloading files if you have a link, without logging into HipChat. I haven’t used HipChat much, so I don’t want to disparage it, but I am left a little uncertain on its security after reading these accounts.

 

Google Hangouts IconGOOGLE HANGOUTS—Okay, let’s talk Google. The search giant is famous for collecting data on its users. But it tries to maintain their privacy, at the same time. Hangouts uses encryption to protect your chats and files.

How Hangouts Encrypts Information – Hangouts Help

A few things I note on this page:

  • Direct peer-to-peer. Good; cuts down on overhead and helps keep the chat private.
  • 128-bit encryption. Not 256-bit like HipChat. You’d think Google would go higher on its encryption level…
  • No mention of end-to-end encryption like Slack and Microsoft Teams. In fact, Google avoided the question when asked in May 2015.

Verdict: Google Hangouts is convenient and fun to use. But it’s not the most secure business chat option.

 

Workplace by Facebook LogoWORKPLACE BY FACEBOOK—Up until now I hadn’t even looked at Workplace. It’s very new, and as such, I’m keeping expectations low.

The Workplace app does almost exactly the same things as Microsoft Teams and Slack: chat rooms, groups, external users, video, etc. It’s just made by the Facebook team. Pricing is cheaper than Slack, which makes sense if Workplace wants to grab users from other platforms.

Some good (and bad) points:

  • Workplace accounts are different from Facebook accounts. That’s good; separating work and play means better privacy overall.
  • Workplace has a Trust Center posted, like Office 365: Workplace Trust Principles. Good for you guys!
  • Workplace debuts with a handicap though—Facebook’s dubious privacy practices. It’s a separate system, but Workplace does run off Facebook’s servers. Some businesses will shy away on reputation alone (and I can’t honestly blame them).

It’s too soon to tell what kind of adoption Workplace gets. As such, I don’t want to say this is a good or bad choice in terms of security. It looks like they’re doing all the right things security-wise…but we’ll have to see how it unfolds.

The People Side of Chat: Use a Secure Business Chat App, but Exercise Caution All the Same

From all this, we can conclude that “the Big Three” are pretty secure chat apps. “The Other Three” do take some security steps, but using them may risk your business’ intellectual property. If security is a big concern, stick with the “Big Three.”

Even on secure chat apps though, prudence is called for. There’s the technical side of security, and the people side. As a good security practice, you should only share sensitive data over channels you know are secure. And only when it’s necessary.

Enjoy Business Chat Apps Responsibly!

Readers know I’m a big advocate for group chat. It’s fast, easy, nobody gets bothered by a phone ringing, no participant limit, and there’s a record for conversations.

So long as that record, and all files sent to colleagues within the chat app, are kept secure. It’s easy to presume security, and chat with everybody on the team as if it’s always there. It’s not so easy to verify security after-the-fact.

Which business chat app do you use? Why that one? Please comment or email your thoughts. I would hope that none of my readers have ever experienced a security breach due to a chat app…but if you have, I’d like to hear your account too.

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What Skype Teams Must Do to Beat Slack

Today we’re talking about Skype Teams.  What’s that, you might ask?  Read on and find out.

Skype Teams is a messaging app for group conversations, organized into channels.  Like Persistent Chat, but standalone and with more features.  The first mention I saw of it was a ZDNet post last month: Microsoft to beef up Skype’s team collaboration capabilities to take on Slack – ZDNet

Does this make it a Slack competitor? Is Microsoft going head-to-head with its upstart rival?  It appears so!

As I commented in my last Slack-related post, competition is great.  That goes for everyone involved.  Including Slack.

So let’s take a look at what we know about Skype Teams (admittedly not much).  As well as where it’ll need to compete hardest—and win—or risk stumbling into irrelevance right away.

Skype Teams

Image Courtesy of Petri.com.

Skype Teams’ Current State

Skype Teams is currently in development.  Some testing has taken place.  Closest I found for a projected release date was January 2017.

Skype Teams features referenced by other sources include:

  1. Channel-based Chats
  2. Direct Messaging
  3. File Sharing
  4. Notes
  5. Groups/Group Scheduling
  6. Video Calls
  7. Threaded Conversations (join a topic by replying to an existing message, like Facebook comments)
  8. OneDrive Sync
  9. Apps for the Web, Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone

Challenging Slack? What about Licensing?

The above list is extremely similar to Slack’s feature set.  Licensing however, is another matter.

I didn’t see any mentions of a free option so far.  Only that Skype Teams will integrate into Office 365 for existing users.  Which does mean users can drop Slack and use Skype Teams, thereby saving on paying for Slack.

But Microsoft will have to make a powerful case for Skype Teams.  Their competitor already dominates the chat space, and continues to improve.  Microsoft will have to take a bold approach if it wants to beat Slack.

What Skype Teams Has to Do (if it wants to beat Slack)

Here are my humble recommendations to Microsoft.  If they want Skype Teams to enjoy some success and compete against Slack, they should consider the following tactics.

Clamp Down on Privacy.
We mean it Microsoft…NO spying capability in Skype Teams.  Private means Private.  That includes from you!

This is one area where Microsoft could even overtake Slack. Slack does have private channels, but they aren’t as private as you might think.

(Microsoft overtaking a competitor on privacy?  Hey, it could happen!)

Make Integrations Stupidly Easy.
Slack is famous for lots of third-party integrations.  To even have a chance of competing here, Skype Teams must make adding third-party integrations not just easy…but stupidly easy.  I’m talking extensive documentation, well-tested APIs, dedicated reps for working with app developers, etc.

Plus, Skype Teams must work seamlessly with Skype for Business Online AND Skype for Business Server. Unless you plan to build every Skype for Business tool into Skype Teams, the app will need to co-operate with whatever form of Skype for Business the user runs.

Lots of OneDrive File Storage.
Slack’s free plan gives each team member 5GB of storage.  The Plus plan goes up to 20GB.  Microsoft could easily give each Skype Teams member much more storage space – 1TB perhaps? 2TB?

Make it Available to ALL Office 365 Levels.
Right now, other sites are saying that Skype Teams will be part of Office 365 (of course), available to business plan users.  Likely at E3.  That is too high.  Every Office 365 user, business or personal, should have access to Skype Teams.

How many Slack business accounts come from people trying out the app at home?  Plenty, I’m sure.  Personal affinity often encourages business adoption.  No reason Microsoft shouldn’t try to cover this path.

Searchable Archives Forever.
Slack offers unlimited searchable archives with its Standard and Plus plans.  The Free plan lets you search through the previous 10,000 messages – which is still a huge amount!  Skype Teams should store messages indefinitely, and provide search capacity forever.

Then we can find the one message you’re SURE you sent.  Even if Karen in Accounting says you didn’t!

And finally…

Offer a Free Option.
Slack lets people use their software for free.  You pay to gain more features, additional storage space, and support.  Why not something similar for Skype Teams?  Even a limited free option, open to anyone with a Microsoft Account, would go a LONG way toward encouraging adoption.

My Prediction:  Skype Teams Won’t Beat Slack, But May Propel the Chat Space Forward

In any tech space, you don’t want companies getting complacent.  Witness Yahoo’s recent hack, and the huge delay between the hack and their announcement of it.  I don’t know the reasoning behind such a delay, but the complacency will unquestionably harm them in the long run.

I said last time that the Skype for Business platform “needs to continue innovating, keep adding to its feature set…or it could see upstarts like Slack take its place.”  It appears Microsoft will do exactly that.  To which I say, good!  Let the competition continue.

Until we see more details about Skype Teams, I’m not comfortable making any firm prediction.  But given the E3 level and some comments already made, I’d have to say this: Skype Teams will not beat Slack.  But its introduction may kindle more interest in the chat space overall.

Slack has done extremely well in the past few years.  I do hope they’ll continue their momentum.  Maybe Skype Teams will help more people enter the chat space, weigh their app options, and spur both apps to greater heights.

What are your thoughts on Skype Teams?  Please comment or email.  Will you give the app a try?  Another unneeded Microsoft add-on?  Let’s hear it.

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Does Skype for Business Fit into Microsoft’s Bot-based Future?

Everyone’s talking about the LinkedIn acquisition. Microsoft spends $26 billion to acquire a company, no matter how big, people notice!

Naturally I wondered about what this might mean for Skype for Business. We can already surmise LinkedIn’s profile information will appear in Office 365 apps. Will LinkedIn feeds inform Skype for Business Online too? Will Cortana pop up during a Skype conversation, offering LinkedIn information on that one person you just mentioned?

At this point, speculation runs rampant. With good reason—even Satya Nadella isn’t quite sure where working with LinkedIn will take them.

(Seems like $26 billion is a lot to spend without a crystal-clear path to the future, but it’s not me making the decisions…)

However, my attention got quickly diverted by other news. News, it turns out, that may address Skype for Business’ future more directly.

I do think Skype for Business has some big changes in store from Microsoft’s acquisitions. Not from the LinkedIn acquisition though…from another one.

A Magic “Wand” Might Fit Skype for Business into Microsoft’s Bot Plans

Microsoft Boosts its Chatbot Future By Acquiring Wand Labs – Fast Company

Synopsis: Microsoft bought Wand Labs, a tiny startup working on connecting up different apps & services. The Wand apps use “a messaging interface to let you perform a variety of collaborative tasks.”

Bot-enabled Smart WatchHmmm. A chat/messaging-based system for integrating disparate tools. If you tied that sort of functionality into some communications software, you’d get a system that can reach you anywhere needed.

You could even activate conversations right at the moment you needed to talk to someone. Through a quick message, or a voice call…ooh, maybe even chat. Microsoft happens to have a product like this…

Microsoft now has LinkedIn, a massive social network with lots of business conversations & employment data, as well. How would they work all this together? What would be the value?

According to the latest speculation—bots!

Fast Company talked about Microsoft’s plan to build bots & agents into its software. For those who don’t know, bots are a semi-autonomous software app which performs a set of tasks at your behest. Agents are similar, but use a deeper access to your personal information to help you organize & perform your work.

With the Wand acquisition, Microsoft has the technology to spread bots & agents across its entire platform. Wand software connects the apps. Skype for Business provides voice and chat functionality. Azure facilitates the bots.

Consider this example: On the Wand Labs website, they show how one person can share access to their home’s Nest thermostat, to another person, from their phone. Now envision that kind of technology within Skype for Business. Instant desktop sharing from any app? Pull a Skype contact into a group text? A lot of possibility here.

4 Predictions for Skype for Business Using Wand in the Future

This is me making predictions, I know. One never truly knows how accurate a prediction will be. But it’s fun to do, and I’ve had a pretty good track record so far!

So here goes. Four predictions on what Skype for Business may move toward, using Wand Labs technology and (maybe) LinkedIn tools.

  1. Cortana entering Skype for Business. She’ll listen for file requests, remind you of meetings, issue notices to Persistent Chat subscribers, etc.
  2. The Wand Labs system bridging Skype for Business’ Instant Messaging and/or Persistent Chat into LinkedIn’s systems.
  3. New bots in Microsoft’s platform using Skype for Business-style communication independent of the full install.
  4. Skype Call functionality appearing in LinkedIn profiles. Great option to connect with someone fast, but still protecting your phone numbers.

Only time will tell just how extensive the integrations will become. I’d rather like #2. But #4 might tread on some LinkedIn users’ privacy. Privacy, in fact, may become the big issue going forward. I’ll keep an eye out for changes related to both Wand and LinkedIn.

What do you think will come out of Microsoft’s latest acquisitions? Please email or comment your thoughts below.  Got a prediction of your own?  Let’s hear it!

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Can’t Add New Users to Persistent Chat Rooms? Approve Them in the Skype for Business Control Panel

My manager asked me to add a new user to one of our Persistent Chat rooms. Since we hadn’t used this particular room yet, I was happy to do so. (It meant starting up a new project!)

However I encountered a minor issue…in the form of an “Invalid Member” message.

Persistent Chat Invalid Member

Now this was curious. I had no trouble adding the new user as a contact, or talking with him on Skype. Why would Persistent Chat have any objections?

Time to investigate (and document along the way)!

Check if Users are Enabled for Persistent Chat

The particular person is a new hire. Is their account set up in Active Directory? Yes.
Are they able to use Skype for Business? Yes.
Am I able to add someone ELSE to the Persistent Chat room? Yes.

So is the problem with the user account, or Persistent Chat itself?

Let’s check to make sure the user account is enabled for Persistent Chat. You can do this via the Control Panel or the Management Shell. I like the Control Panel myself, but if you prefer the Management Shell, this is the command you’ll use:
Set-CsPersistentChatRoom
[This configures the settings for an existing room, and lets you assign users or groups to the room.]

In the Skype for Business Control Panel, click Persistent Chat. You’ll see four menu options: Category, Add-In, Persistent Chat Policy, and Persistent Chat Configuration.

Under Persistent Chat Policy, we have a Global policy and a Pool policy. Both have Persistent Chat set to Enabled. Which means new users should have Persistent Chat access. Hmmm.

Over to the Category section. We have one pool. I open the pool.

Ahh, what’s this? We defined membership by individual users! If your account isn’t on the Allowed Members list, you don’t get to use Persistent Chat.

Persistent Chat Category

Let’s see what happens if I add the new user, using the “Add” button. (When you click it, you see this “Select Allowed Members” screen.)

Select Allowed Members

I enter the user’s first name, click Find, and there he is! A quick OK, and he shows up in the Allowed Members list. Click Commit to save. All done in the Control Panel.

Now let’s see if I can add him to the Chat Room. First, I open the Chat Room from Skype4B. Then go to More Options and click “Manage This Room.” (You must log in again, of course.)

Manage Chat Room

Then I see the “Edit a Room” window. Under “Members,” I enter the new user’s name, and then click the Check Names button on the right.

No “Invalid Member” error!

I click Commit Changes, and voila!

Chat Room Updated!

Unable to Add Users to Persistent Chat? Check Your Allowed Members List

I’ve also come across a similar issue, where admins aren’t able to add users to Persistent Chat rooms. It comes from adding “Domain Users” to the Allowed Members list.

I found the solution on Georg Thomas’ blog: Persistent Chat, Unable to resolve names or add Members and Managers: Invalid members – Georg Thomas on Skype for Business, Lync and Universal Communications

If you did use “Domain Users” in the Allowed Members list, user names won’t resolve when you add them to a chat room. You’ll have to add individual users to the Allowed Members list (like we do), or use an OU.

Good catch there Georg.

How’s your experience with Persistent Chat? Great value-add, or do you forget it’s there? Please comment or email your thoughts.

 

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December Poll Results, and What to Expect for the 2016 Skype4B Insider

First off, I have to say Thank You to everyone who responded on the December poll. Not only did we get a healthy variety of answers, we had several emails from readers sharing how this blog helped them out last year.

Glad to help!

As I promised, let’s go through the poll results. See what we can tease out in terms of Skype for Business 2015’s reception.

December Poll Results: More Stability, Better Performance Needed

We had more than 60 responses to the poll. The #1 improvement request was “a stable, less bloated client”.

While we can all agree that stability is critical, I’m actually not surprised. Consider: Microsoft created Skype for Business 2015 from the merging of two disparate systems: Skype-C and Lync 2013. It was necessary to preserve the Skype-C user base’s expected features, as well as Lync’s broader capabilities.

I pretty much consider Skype for Business as “Version 1” of this new platform. It will, over time – hopefully not too much time! – grow more stable and sharper. (The bloat however, well, anyone’s guess.)

The next most-requested improvements were: RGS, Persistent Chat and Enterprise Voice (in that order).

RGS: I’m guessing performance is the major snag for most of you. If so, you’re not alone. We only use a handful of Response Groups (call flow after-hours, Support team, emergency reporting line, etc.). So far as I know, none have dropped calls or damaged audio clarity.Performance is Slow as...

However, I see both of these occur sometimes for clients. One in particular worked out of a high-rise office building, and shared Internet access with other businesses in the building. As a result their available bandwidth fluctuated. Like you’d expect, this caused some issues with dropped calls or poor audio quality–but only when Response Groups directed the calls. Normal calls were rarely affected. We wound up installing a backup Internet pipe to shore up their bandwidth, and the problem went away.

Persistent Chat: One Persistent Chat issue I have is with its performance. With our on-premise Skype for Business server, IMs are real-time. Same with calls. Video performance is good. But Persistent Chat…it draaaags. Sometimes I can’t even open a chat room. So for this one, I’m right there with you guys!

Enterprise Voice: I’m curious as to the issues readers have encountered here. Enterprise Voice does take some configuration up-front, but it’s one of our most stable Skype for Business services. If you voted for Enterprise Voice needing improvement, please comment or email with your setup details. I’d love to hear what kinds of hardware are used, available bandwidth, what kind of configuration you have, etc.

(As always, we will never share any of your Skype for Business details with anyone else for any reason!)

Along with these, we had several user-submitted responses. Things like IM notifications, Mac client features, and so on. Thanks for these! I’ve made note of all of them. Look for responses, and (hopefully!) some good solutions, in future posts.

Speculations on Skype for Business in 2016

Given all this feedback and Microsoft’s 2015 actions, I shall now speculate on what will happen in the Skype4B field in 2016.

We do have 2 new certification exams coming:
70-333: Deploying Enterprise Voice with Skype for Business 2015 (beta)
70-334: Core Solutions of Microsoft Skype for Business 2015 (beta)

From the descriptions, these exams are quite thorough. One devoted to the ins and outs of Enterprise Voice, and the other to Skype for Business setup & configuration.

Office 365 Services from MSOne thing I note here is a relatively scarce mention of Office 365. It’s referenced twice on 70-333, on configuring integration with ExpressRoute or Edge integration.

This leads me to my first speculation: Microsoft will continue pushing a hybrid or cloud-only Skype for Business solution as a preferred option for businesses. The new features, like Cloud PBX, strengthen Microsoft’s hand in the VoIP marketplace. It makes perfect sense to update their certs…but we know which way they’re headed.

Of course, it doesn’t mean they’ll abandon Skype for Business Server and its clients.  The Skype for Business client for Mac is coming. I believe we’ll also see updates to all other clients. Stability improvements for sure; feature add-ons, I hope. (Deleting voicemails on my iPhone, please?)

Sadly, I don’t think we’ll see a Linux client. At least not an official one. We’ve received comments on this very blog about Pidgin plugins for Lync services. I’m hoping to hear back from Mr. Andersson about his work, so I can test it out!

Which brings me to my final topic.

What to Expect from The Skype4B Insider Blog in 2016

For the past several years we’ve published 1 new post a week, usually on Wednesdays. One never wants a blog to go stagnant–then readers get bored and drift away. Now that it’s 2016, maybe it’s time for a change.

I’m debating a move to fewer posts per month (say 2), in favor of longer, even more technical instructions. Good solid posts, in the vein of Jeff Schertz’s and Matt Landis’ blogs.

Or we can stick with the current schedule. This one I’m leaving up to you, our readers.

What do you think? Would you like fewer and more detailed posts per month? Or are we good to continue on this schedule? Please comment or email your thoughts. If you have other suggestions for the Skype4B Insider, by all means, send those too!

And of course, don’t forget to join us again next week. Until I hear from enough of you (one way or the other), we’ll continue on our regular schedule.

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The Top 7 Reasons to Move from Lync Server to Skype for Business

The end of the year creeps up on us. When it does, I like to look through my list of collected blog post ideas, and see which I should tackle before 2016.

I realized there’s one question I haven’t explicitly answered yet. “Why should we move from Lync Server to Skype for Business?”

With a software application as big & powerful as Skype4B, you’d expect some reticence from buyers. Entirely reasonable—people deserve to know how such a big upgrade will benefit them.

When we talk to Skype4B prospects, the unsure ones tend to fall into one of two camps:

A. “We decided not to use Lync. It was too complicated to set up.”

OR

B. “It took us a lot of effort to get Lync configured to where we want it. Will we really gain from the move?”

Good question. Yes, almost every business running Lync Server would gain from upgrading (especially if you’re still on Lync Server 2010!). But that’s not a sufficient answer. Details, we must have details!

What about Skype for Business 2015 is worth the upgrade effort? What reasons would compel most businesses to move?

Here are seven of those reasons.

1. The New Interface.

Using the Skype interface instead of the Lync UI provides several major benefits…and one issue.

The benefits: It’s easier to navigate than Lync 2013. It’s simple to activate features (adding voice to an IM conversation, for instance). It’s familiar to Skype-C users. And you get emoticons!

April Fool!

The issue: Users may think they’re using Skype-C. As a result they can get confused when they can’t find their favorite feature. Then you hear about it.

2. New/Updated Features.

Conversation History (updated). Call Monitor. Call via Work. Rate My Call. We’ve gone through new features in previous posts already. (Personally, I think Server-Side Conversation History is a major reason to upgrade all by itself!)skype4bvis_thumb

One we haven’t covered much yet is VIS, or Video Interoperability Server. It’s a new server role for video interoperability—”like Mediation Server for video” as a colleague described it. We’ll get to that in future posts (so don’t forget to subscribe!).

3. Skype Directory Search.

While this might seem like a detriment to business communications, there’s a major value in integration between Skype for Business and the Skype Directory: Expanded Reach.

Untold numbers of businesses still use Skype-C for chatting and calls. It’s cheap, simple and does the job. Moving up to Skype for Business gives you access to a far broader range of contacts throughout the business world.

“Do you have Lync?”
“No.”
[Cue scramble for another meeting option.]

“Do you have Skype?”
“Yes.”
“Great! I’ll send you a meeting invite.”

4. Bandwidth Efficiency.

Skype for Business uses about the same amount of bandwidth as Lync Server 2013. However, Skype4B gives you better control over that bandwidth through built-in tools.

Network Bandwidth Requirements for Lync Server 2013
Network Bandwidth Requirements for Skype for Business

Skype for Business uses more codecs and bandwidth allocation for its expanded feature set. This includes the SILK codec from Skype. That means it’s more complex to set up, right? Not so. Microsoft also has a Bandwidth Calculator spreadsheet to help you map out how much bandwidth you’ll need. Skype for Business Bandwidth Calculator – Microsoft Downloads

5. Skype. Secured.

Skype-C is a versatile app, with well-deserved popularity. It’s also infamous among systems administrators, who hate trying to manage it in a corporate environment!

Skype for Business offers a compromise. Employees can use a version of Skype in the office. Administrators have a Microsoft server app they can control & secure. It works for everyone.

(I did a post on this back in June, in case you missed it.)

6. The In-Place Upgrade.

It doesn’t always apply. But having an in-place upgrade option to Skype4B is a big timesaver.

Image courtesy of Matt Landis' Microsoft UC Report Blog

Image courtesy of Matt Landis’ Microsoft UC Report Blog

Not just that, but it represents an easier upgrade path in the future. If we have an In-Place Upgrade option for this version, there’s no reason we won’t get one for the next.

7. Cloud-Friendly.

The Hybrid option with Office 365 means two things for a Lync-to-Skype4B move:

  1. Additional capabilities built in (Office apps, OneDrive cloud storage, Persistent Chat from the on-prem installation)
  2. Two-stage adoption process (Office 365 deployment first, employees have time to adjust, then introduce the Enterprise Voice feature)

I thought about including the new mobile apps here as well. But that’s not a reason to upgrade Lync Server; it’s a reason to update your phone. Still a good reason, but I try to stay consistent!

What’s your reason for upgrading from Lync Server to Skype for Business? Please comment or email. I’d like to hear which reasons compel the most upgrades. Maybe it’s something completely different!

P.S. – We’ve had some great comments come in recently. Our Skype4B team has them—we’ll do what we can, as soon as we can!

 

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