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Can the integration of Lync and Skype cut video conferencing costs?

Skype and Lync integration provides new flexibility, but is it the right platform for all organizations?

Now that Microsoft Lync and Skype are integrated, would my company be able to save on video conferencing costs?

Microsoft has improved the integration of Lync and Skype so that the two clients can communicate over video, as well as via audio or instant messenger. This gives businesses some additional options, but won’t necessarily be the optimal choice for every video service. This will depend on the company size, the scope of the video deployment and their video use cases.

Many people across the globe are already Skype users. Skype is often used as a default means of communication when other services are not available, such as in disaster scenarios when phone and broadcast services may be down. Skype is easy to install and the client and basic services are free. Skype is famous -- if not notorious -- for navigating firewalls. Attempts to block Skype have frustrated network managers and security engineers for years.

Skype is an ideal platform for initial job interviews. It can be used for contractors, consultants, suppliers, customers and other third parties who may not have Lync clients. Remote employees and road warriors may find it very convenient to use, and employees can stay in touch with family members.

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Skype users will have to sign in with a Microsoft account to connect with Lync. It’s fairly simple to merge an existing Skype account with a Microsoft account. While it is reasonable to ask contractors and employees to merge with a Microsoft account, this may not be the preferred direction for customers and interview candidates. In such cases, a company can use an external service such as Blue Jeans Network, which provides seamless integration with multiple platforms including Lync, Skype and room-based systems from major video conferencing manufacturers.

Lync and Skype generally won’t be the right platform for room-based video. Purpose-built video endpoints from manufacturers such as Polycom, Cisco and LifeSize provide a high-quality experience, are easy to use and come with high-end cameras that can accommodate a group better than a webcam. Connecting room-based systems is best done over an MPLS network configured with QoS to provide a high-quality experience. Video conferencing with individual users over the Internet is an acceptable practice, but trying to run an extensive video infrastructure between meeting rooms over the Internet is likely to bring complaints, often from high-level executives.

Skype integration brings new flexibility to organizations that are using Lync. It is not likely to offer significant cost reductions, but will allow Skype users to join calls with video when in the past they would have been relegated to being audio callers to a video conference.

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