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Is Skype for Business telephony compatible with my desk phones?

Telephony expert Jon Arnold explains how large and small organizations can evaluate the compatibility of their desk phones with a Skype for Business telephony deployment.

Your phones' compatibility depends on the type of phone system you have and why you want to use Skype for Business telephony. Larger businesses have dedicated PBX or IP PBX systems that carry most of the voice traffic separately from other workflow activities. Since most of these workflow activities are driven by Microsoft desktop applications, there is a high degree of voice integration needed with these desktop apps.

With Skype for Business telephony, the situation changes because Microsoft is effectively competing against phone system vendors. Since Microsoft is ubiquitous on the desktop, phone vendors are obliged to interoperate with Microsoft since telephony is now integrated with other applications. Microsoft only recently moved to support full-service telephony, including PSTN connectivity, so it's too early to tell how successful Skype for Business telephony will be.

Skype for Business is not meant to be a PBX replacement. If you're using a PBX, it should remain your primary channel for telephony.

Skype for Business telephony is not meant to be a full PBX replacement. If you're currently using a PBX, it should remain your primary channel for telephony. PBX systems are expensive but reliable, familiar, and feature rich. With Skype for Business, there are desktop and mobile voice options, so you can still do telephony, but that's not ideal for everyday needs.

Options become more interesting for businesses, such as SMBs, that don't have a full-scale switched phone system. Stand-alone IP phones are likely being used and they're actually ideal for Skype for Business telephony. Microsoft supports most leading IP phone vendors, including longtime partner Polycom, so compatibility won't be an issue.

This scenario will apply to many businesses and, in these cases, there won't be a need to replace your phones. Since these are stand-alone phones rather than purpose-built systems, call control now resides within Skype for Business and the end-to-end telephony experience is within the Microsoft environment. This allows Microsoft to provide tighter integration between voice and other workflow applications.

As long as Microsoft can consistently deliver business-grade quality, you may find this a viable approach for fixed-line telephony, thus ruling out the need to consider a costly dedicated switched phone system.

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