Every business requires an effective communications system not just for the efficient management and flow of internal information, but also for dealing with customer service, sales, and support matters. Skype for Business is one tool many companies today use. A rebranded, redesigned Microsoft Lync, Skype for Business is a communications and collaboration platform that integrates instant messaging,voice over IP, file transfer, web conferencing, voicemail and email.
Because Skype for Business has the familiar feel of the freemium instant message and video chat service for consumers, has business features offered by Lync, and works with other Office programs, some companies think it’s a good replacement for their PBX system. While Skype for Business does offer a slew of exciting features for organizations, it also has some limitations and downsides which should make you think twice about choosing it over your PBX system.
- Basic plans require annual commitment
Skype for Business offers two basic online plans. They are available as standalone plans. Plan 1 costs $2.00 user/month. It covers only the basics, and you practically get very little over it. It only includes presence and group IP, file transfer in IM, audio and video calling for Skype for Business subscribers, and Skype connectivity.
Plan 2, meanwhile, is at $5.50 user/month. It can be accessed on any device and adds high-definition group video and audio calling, presence and group IMS, the ability to schedule meetings in Outlook, desktop sharing and remote control, 24/7 phone support, and more.
At first glance, it may seem that the online plans are perfect for small to mid-sized companies with its straightforward features and pricing. However, subscribing to these online plans actually means you’ll be locked up into an annual contract – something that most SMBs usually want to avoid. It’s possible to cancel your service but you would need to pay the necessary fees. This is a far cry from basic plans offered by various virtual PBX providers that don’t tie customers to lengthy contracts.
- Limited number of compatible IP phones
When it was first introduced, Skype for Business didn’t initially support desk phones or IP phones and users were limited to using headsets or their computer’s microphone and speakers. Today, however, Microsoft has started testing and certifying phones to work with the service.
But the thing is, Skype for Business supports only a limited number of phones. These include those from Polycom, Yealink, Audiocodes, Spectralink, HP, and other phones running Lync Phone Edition (LPE). Good for you if your existing desk phones happen to be compatible with the service; otherwise, you would have to stick to your headset in the meantime.
- If you want to call regular phones outside your service, you would need to purchase add-ons
Calls to Skype for Business users are free; but calls to regular phones are a different story. For example, if you’re subscribed to the Online Plan 2, you would have to buy the Cloud PBX add-on license first and a PSTN calling plan in order to make voice calls to other phone numbers (if you don’t already have a PSTN service provider). The Cloud PBX add-on gives users PBX capabilities, such as call forwarding, call transfer, call history, device switching, music on hold, and more.
If you want to avoid the hassle of purchasing add-ons and want to get a complete Unified Communications (UC) feature set (such as presence and IM, peer-to-peer VoIP and video, audio, video and web conferencing, and enterprise voice and PSTN connectivity), you would need the Skype for Business Server. But deploying this solution would mean you need to have and manage your own data centers.
So can Skype for Business replace your corporate PBX system?
The short answer is: no, probably not right now. If you only need a conferencing tool for your video and audio meetings, then Skype is a good solution. But if you want a full-featured, enterprise-level PBX system, then you’re better off looking for other options such as those from established PBX service providers like RingCentral, Vonage, or OnSIP.