Love, marry, avoid: What’s the best option for Skype For Business users?
What does Microsoft have in store for S4B? Will Teams complement it? Or replace it? And can Microsoft ever be any good at UC? Here’s our verdict (clue: we like our own cloud option).
To E5 or not to E5?
Shakespeare didn’t say it. Not exactly. But then the Bard never had to wrestle with the issue of video conferencing, collaboration and unified communications in the workplace.
Today’s enterprises do. And they’re trying to decide on the best strategy to prepare for the future.
For many of them, the question comes down to this: should I buy a premium Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E5 licence?
E5 comprises a fully-featured versions of Teams – Microsoft’s newish collaboration software – and Skype For Business. It can, in theory, answer a lot of communications needs.
So why are we advising caution?
Why do say ‘not’ to the question asked above.
Well, to answer that, we need to give a bit of background.
Microsoft launched Teams in 2016 as a chat-based real-time collaboration tool that sits inside existing Office 365 subscriptions.
The company said Teams would integrate S4B seamlessly. But soon people started to wonder.
They also began to worry that Microsoft was preparing to kill S4B altogether. After all, Teams is a communications tool. It does a lot of the same things as S4B such as voice over IP, conference calling, call transfers and connectivity to phone networks.
And Microsoft does have a track record of phasing out products just when people are getting used to them. S4B itself replaced Lync. Is the same thing happening now with Teams?
Well, the truth is: nobody knows. To be honest, Microsoft has not communicated its strategy well. So for every article claiming to defuse alarmist myths about Teams and S4B (like this one), there are others that expose the lack of clarity.
Look at the comments section on this forum to see how messy the situation is.
Now, as we know very well at Formation, there are millions of people out there who love S4B. They trust its features. They know how it works. They want to keep using it.
And we, in contrast to many UC vendors, have been happy to accommodate them. S4B is a perfectly good product, particularly for IM and basic desktop communications. However, it’s weak when it comes to more complex UC and CC functions. That’s why, as part of our cloud offering, we embrace S4B. We integrate it with our best-of-breed UC and CC features to help customers get more out of it.
Then there’s the hardware issue. People want to use S4B on their desk phones. But Microsoft doesn’t do desk phones. In fact, it has a miserable track record in devices. Who remembers the Zune? Or the Kin?
Instead, Microsoft often teams up with third parties to get the best from its software. In video, it works very closely with Polycom. Here at Formation, we find users love this combo, which effectively lets them start a video conference with a button press.
Finally, there’s the simple issue of cost. Once an enterprise decides to use S4B for external calls, the fee shoots up (though it’s unclear how much since Microsoft’s license agreements can be horribly complicated).
All these flaws have convinced us of this: the best option for our S4B-loving customers is a service that lets them keep S4B but also enjoy the benefits of Avaya’s UC products.
Even better, with the recent launch of Equinox, Avaya finally has a tool that does workplace collaboration as well as Teams.
What does all this mean for you?
Well, it gives you two excellent options:
1. You can have an S4B experience enhanced with the best possible UC functions.
2 You can do real-time collaboration with S4B – without having to buy Teams.
Both options are included for the same price. And it goes without saying that we deliver all this with the inherent benefits of cloud: no hardware headaches, 24 hour support, fixed knowable fees and more.
You’ll be insulated from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Another thing Shakespeare almost said.