Skype for Business Voice and PSTN Calling

With Microsoft’s announcement of the new E5 plans, Micah Linehan, Now Micros’ Cloud Sherpa evaluates what this gives us.

I have had the pleasure over the past several of months to be a part of the Skype for Business closed preview, and there are a few things that I am excited to share about the experience I have had so far. There are a bunch of great features but more importantly the refresh of Skype Voice in the office environment.

Ease of Management

When I received my invitation to configure my Skype for Business VoIP and PSTN in our Office 365, and I was thinking great this is going to take me a day to figure how to set it up. It took me about a half an hour and I had spun the features in our tenant and was making calls. So its setup and I think to myself that it I must be missing something. After you have licensed the users you simply need to assign them a phone number from a pool and they are setup for voice calling. After that you can go into the PSTN conferencing and give them their conference bridge and setup their pin. After all of that I was Done. This is some of the easiest management I have seen from a PBX or Unified Messaging system.

Feature Rich

The VoIP and voice environment hasn’t changed that much. I still remember my first cellphone having voicemail call waiting and everything that we would ever expect from a phone nowadays. That being said the ability to access all of these features and more from my desktop without having to pullout my cellphone is great.

Simultaneous Ring is a great feature that is included with our cloud PBX. With a very simple setup, which can be managed by the end user, within minutes whether I am at my desk, I am out and about, or on the golf course.  If someone calls me it calls my cellphone or a number you have programmed into it.

PSTN Conference Call integration is imbedded into Outlook and Lync and with the voice features as a part of that truly becomes a great cohesive experience. As far as I see it, this will be available as an add-on to your current licensing so that you would be able to replace your conference calling system with relative ease. This is something that can be implemented without the need of the full voice experience. Having the ability to simply schedule a skype meeting and have it correctly populate all of your call-in information as well as creating a static virtual meeting space is fantastic.

Having a meeting call me is one of the coolest and most often talked about features I have been asked about. Well it’s here, by changing 2 settings on your Skype settings when it’s time to join a meeting you just need to answer the phone. So for those conference calls where you are always trying to track down that one user that you need to get ahold of, let the meeting call them.

Unified Messaging is something that I absolutely loathe as an Exchange engineer. Having to integrate someone’s 10 year old PBX into Office 365 or having to tell them that sorry you are going to lose that feature when you move exclusively to the cloud. This mindset of everything in the cloud is become a reality now as more and more features just work when together on the same platform and UM is one of them. While a lot of people are apprehensive to add a new PBX or change PBX’s in their environment by having them all on the same platform that will always be up to date with current features and compatibility. As administrators this makes all of our lives better.

Overall Evaluation

Office 365 paints a fantastic picture of an all-encompassing solution for a modern day organization, and with the addition of VoIP and PSTN calling it raises that bar. I have done several presentations that demonstrate this ecosystem of integration, that starts with Skype for Business and travels through all of the Office 365 suite. The concept of PBX and voice is nothing new, but in my opinion this latest advancement helps create a greater focus on collaboration and integration of technology. Especially with these great new features coming to Office 365 with Skype for Business.