Do Skype for Business features and benefits outweigh its drawbacks?

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A Skype for Business deployment requires plenty of planning

Here's some advice for a Skype for Business deployment: Plan, plan, plan. Doing your homework upfront and allotting enough network capacity should alleviate headaches later.

Microsoft's Skype for Business has been touted for its great potential as a collaboration service. Users can message,...

video conference and conduct voice calls in the familiar Microsoft user interface. But potential is one thing; getting results is another. And according to one IT insider, enterprises need to have a clear blueprint in place if they want to maximize their use of the product.

A Skype for Business deployment -- just like other technological implementations -- can be difficult. For suppliers and users alike, deploying Skype for Business is "not like rolling out of bed," said Mark Ricca, an analyst at IntelliCom Analytics LLC, a consulting firm in Morristown, N.J.

Enterprises encounter several flavors of Skype for Business, such as cloud, on premises or hybrid. As a result, users need to examine their collaboration needs and match them with the appropriate Skype for Business option.

"We're impressed with the potential for Skype for Business," Ricca said, "but some users are not getting the full benefit. In many cases, it's because they've failed to do a good job planning, training and implementing."

Don't underestimate your service needs

At the outset of a Skype for Business deployment, enterprises need to heed the basics, Ricca said. Users need to ask themselves a number of questions, ranging from what they expect from a Skype for Business deployment to determining how the service will be used.

Enterprises also need to assess who will use the service, and perhaps most importantly, examine their network capacity, making sure they can accommodate a Skype for Business deployment. In his experience, Ricca said users typically underestimate their overall service needs.

"You just don't say, 'Here it is, use it.' That's asking for trouble," Ricca said. "Doing the right homework upfront pays dividends on an ongoing basis."

Users and vendors face off

With any technological deployment, users and vendors might engage in some handwringing and finger-pointing if a rollout goes awry. So, in the case of deploying Skype for Business, who's right?

"In several situations," Ricca said, "both sides are correct." While enterprises need to vet their networks before a Skype for Business deployment and implement proper employee training, Microsoft needs to do its part.

"On the Microsoft side, at times, we've been in situations where they can be aloof," Ricca said. "It's a company that has great capabilities, but sometimes, it's difficult to get the right person to address a problem."

Recognize the security implications

Ricca highlighted security as a top technical issue for Skype for Business and other collaboration services. Organizations of all sizes, he said, need to examine their security provisions, their ability to handle proprietary data and what kinds of information will be shared in collaborative sessions.

That means companies need to investigate the security capabilities and vulnerabilities of Skype for Business, and get security specialists involved in a deployment, if needed. Users often take product security for granted, he said.

Enterprise communication security is a key topic Ricca said he plans to highlight on three panel discussions he's moderating at ITEXPO, a business communications conference next month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Ricca is moderating panel discussions on Skype for Business, digital transformation collaboration and mobile productivity. He said he also plans to emphasize customizing deployments for different end users.

Next Steps

Gauge Skype for Business cloud-based telephony.

Third-party support enhances Skype for Business video.

Maintain high-quality voice service in Skype for Business.

Dig Deeper on Collaborative Applications