Hybrid Skype for Business creates new network demands

The addition of cloud telephony to Skype for Business and growing interest in hybrid deployments means organizations must ensure their networks can support new requirements.

With the addition of cloud PBX and PSTN calling in Skype for Business, as well as Microsoft's expanded support...

for hybrid deployments, organizations are facing new network performance requirements. But before launching a hybrid Skype for Business deployment or migrating to cloud PBX, organizations must evaluate their network architecture to determine how to support cloud and hybrid worlds.

Microsoft's cloud telephony options could help organizations lighten the load on their networks, said Frost & Sullivan analyst Michael Brandenburg. For example, a geographically dispersed business could put remote sites in the cloud, which lowers WAN traffic. But a centralized organization could see increased network traffic.

However, if cloud-based offerings are not designed correctly, they could have a negative effect on performance and network capacity, Brandenburg said.

With the real-time nature of cloud PBX and PSTN calling, organizations depend on network architecture to support increased bandwidth usage, said Ron Markezich, Microsoft Office 365's corporate vice president of marketing.

Analytics help address telephony problems

At Enterprise Connect 2017, Microsoft announced previews of a Skype for Business Online analytics dashboard that lets IT administrators view and address network issues associated with cloud telephony. The dashboard provides real-time data on end-user calls to help IT troubleshoot issues as they arise.

To address network concerns, Markezich said, organizations may choose a hybrid Skype for Business deployment. Organizations could deploy the cloud-based Skype for Business Online for new offices and keep offices with established infrastructure on premises.

Any significant migration ... should only happen after a lot of analysis of the infrastructure and environment.
Michael Brandenburganalyst, Frost & Sullivan

However, most organizations opt for hybrid Skype for Business because of timing reasons, he said. Organizations may have a cloud-first Skype for Business roadmap, but have investments in equipment, like PBXs, that must run to end-of-life.

"Hybrid deployments in Skype for Business leave many of the existing telecommunications services in place while moving control function to the Microsoft cloud," Brandenburg said, which can give organizations "the best of both worlds."

Partners extend support for cloud telephony, hybrid Skype

At Enterprise Connect, Microsoft partners said they could help organizations prepare their networks for a migration to hybrid Skype for Business or a cloud telephony deployment.

Nectar Services Corp. announced its Perspective network assessment service was certified for Microsoft's Skype Operations Framework, which includes a predeployment network assessment before migrating to Skype for Business Online. The service is also certified for on-premises Skype for Business deployments.

Tom Tuttle, senior vice president of UC strategy and global alliances at Nectar, said the service is marketed as a pre-assessment tool, but can be used as an ongoing monitoring tool. Organizations can use the service to test calls throughout the day to look for issues before they affect users.

Tuttle said larger organizations are choosing hybrid deployments by putting smaller locations and home offices in the cloud. He said organizations could use the assessment tool to test cloud-based remote environments or run assessments alongside larger on-premises locations.

Test any potential deployments

IR has updated its Prognosis for UC service to support Skype for Business Online to provide better visibility into call and meeting quality issues. The update allows organizations to monitor Skype for Business quality for on premises and cloud users from a single tool.

"Hybrid deployments are complex," said Skip Chilcott, head of product marketing at IR. "If an organization is on premises and going to start moving users to the cloud, how do you look at quality for all calls and meetings for all users?"

Organizations can also use IR's UC Assessor tool before migrating to hybrid Skype for Business to pilot potential deployments and identify network issues that need correcting before they affect performance and quality of service.

"Any significant migration, particularly when talking about real-time communications, should only happen after a lot of analysis of the infrastructure and environment," Brandenburg said. 

Next Steps

How Skype for Business cloud telephony compares to legacy telephony

How to prepare for a Skype for Business deployment

How to maintain Skype for Business voice quality

Dig Deeper on Unified Communications Architecture and Service Models