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How does Skype for Business telephony stack up as a PBX replacement?

Learn the benefits and tradeoffs of deploying Skype for Business as a cloud-based telephony service instead of a traditional, on-premises PBX service.

Examining how Skype for Business telephony stacks up as a cloud-based service raises the question: What exactly...

is enterprise telephony these days?

In the past, the answer to this question would have been a telephony system like a PBX or IP PBX. While these services may still dominate the landscape, they're in terminal decline, as telephony moves to the cloud. This new and fundamental shift has spawned cloud-based telephony services, such as Microsoft's Skype for Business Online.

Telephony has long been the missing link for Microsoft to become the hub for all communications and workflows. As telephony hardware becomes less important, cloud-based Skype for Business telephony can fill Microsoft's missing link.

Since the concept of enterprise telephony is so fluid now, IT decision-makers must understand the spectrum of products available. A feature-rich IP PBX is one option, for example, while cloud-based telephony is another option with many variants.

In terms of stacking up, it's not fair to compare Skype for Business -- or any cloud-based telephony service -- directly against an IP PBX. One is a system and one is a hosted service, and tradeoffs certainly exist.

Microsoft integration strong, telephony features limited

Skype for Business telephony definitely has strong selling points. As a cloud-based service, the economics are attractive. Ease of use and ease of provisioning are also appealing for end users and IT.

Skype for Business telephony can address basic needs, but it's not really a viable replacement for an IP PBX.

Full integration with the Skype for Business unified communications suite and Office 365 makes telephony a native application for all forms of collaboration. As long as end users are comfortable without their desk phones, the familiarity of Microsoft on the desktop should make Skype for Business easy to use.

However, the features are limited, compared with other telephony services. The most glaring missing pieces are hunt groups and auto attendant, which make managing groups somewhat difficult. And if you need technical support for a workaround, it won't be easy outside of online resources. Skype has never had live customer support, and that hasn't changed since becoming part of Microsoft.

Additionally, as a web-based service, E911 support is limited. While the lack of E911 support applies to all forms of voice over IP, it can be a bigger issue for enterprises considering a full-scale Skype for Business deployment.

In short, Skype for Business telephony can address basic needs, but it's not really a viable replacement for an IP PBX. Microsoft would like to shift call control to the desktop, but IT decision-makers may be better off considering Skype for Business telephony as a complement to what they have in place now.

Do you have a question for Jon Arnold or any other experts? Ask your enterprise-specific questions today! (All questions are treated anonymously.)

Next Steps

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This was last published in November 2016

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How do you think Skype for Business stacks up as an enterprise cloud-based telephony service?
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Who did the background and research for this article?

The information contained within has very little or no background research done.  Skype for Business was rebranded from Lync 2013/2010 which evolved from OCS2007R2 and various others in the past.  Skype for Business did come across with the acquisition of Skype.  Furthermore, features like Auto Attendant and hunt groups are definitely part of the product, so is basic call centre type functionality to mention just a few.  This article is completely wrong.

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Thanks for your comment, SkypeforBusinessGuy. Skype for Business did in fact emerge from consumer Skype, Lync and OCS, but that really wasn't the focus of the article. When the article was originally written, auto attendant and hunt groups features were in preview mode. Those features were just made generally available last month (March 2017). I wouldn't say the article is "completely wrong" – perhaps it needs some updates, which is generally the case when writing about tech products that have occasional feature updates.
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