While much of the attention related to "work from anywhere" corporate initiatives is focused on mobile apps, the majority of employees still work in an office. Even with the ever-growing number of Millennials in the workplace preferring to use their personal smartphones over a desk phone, most businesses still need a phone system to take and make business calls for their customers and partners. Today, voice-only phone systems are too limited because email, instant messaging, and video conferencing are now must-have business communication tools.
Integration is key
At Amaxra, we've been using a voice over IP (VoIP) phone system that leverages the Internet for voice calls almost since our company's inception. But we recently switched our VoIP over to Microsoft Skype for Business Online and instantly benefitted from a truly integrated communications solution. It's given us a fully-functioning business phone system that also has video conferencing, desktop sharing for online collaboration, and secure instant messaging functions. This has changed the way that we work for the better significantly.
For example, Amaxra employees used to have desk phones you see in just about every office. The phones could put calls on hold, transfer them to co-workers' lines, and other generic features provided by our VoIP service. But with Skype For Business, our phones are fully integrated with our Microsoft Office 365 Outlook and Skype instant messaging apps. This integration means when someone calls me at the office, it rings my cell phone, pops up a visual alert on my computer, and rings my desk phone simultaneously. I can pick up that call on my desk phone or computer (the call quality on my Surface Book is very good) then seamlessly move the call to any of my mobile devices like the iPhone or iPad when I'm on the way to a meeting.
The Outlook integration with Skype For Business also enables better collaboration for everyone in our office. We've had times when an Amaxra consultant or partner called in with a question and we used Skype For Business to share our computer desktops. These desktop sharing sessions can be ad hoc or can be scheduled using Outlook Calendar invitations to external users. Most importantly, these collaboration sessions are browser based so the collaborators do not need to have any Office 365, Skype For Business, or any other Microsoft apps installed on their device to participate.
The one killer feature we needed
We wanted to switch to Skype For Business for a while but the one feature that kept us from moving our phones to Skype was our policy of always having someone answering the phone during regular working hours. Previous iterations of Skype For Business did not have a good solution for Amaxra to make the switch and turn off our old VoIP system. Microsoft added new Auto Attendant features to Skype For Business in early 2017 that enabled the capability we needed. Auto Attendant allows us to create custom greetings and voice menus that use either their phone's keypad or (surprisingly good) voice recognition. Callers use the Auto Attendant search our corporate directory, directly dial an extension, and other tasks a live office administrator would handle during working hours—and outside of those hours, too. We can still handle answering of our phone during business hour but then let the Skype for Business Auto Attendant handle outside of business hours.
Lower TCO and smaller carbon footprint
Another advantage we found moving to Skype for Business Online is that it is cloud based, so there are no clunky servers or boxes to keep in your office. When your phone system is hosted in the cloud, you don't have the burden of maintaining a closet full of power-hungry electronic equipment. We see that not only lowering our total cost of ownership for phone service by reducing the amount of electricity required to keep an onsite PBX running, but it also lessens our carbon footprint.
Pricing for Skype For Business is reasonable but note the telephony will only work if you are using an Enterprise version of Office 365. You cannot add the telephony capabilities (currently) to the Office 365 Business versions. The easiest is the Enterprise E5 offer as all you need in addition to this license is the domestic or international calling whereas if you have E3 or E1 you will need to other options such as the phone capabilities. Overall, we're pleased with Skype For Business because of our improved productivity via tight integration with our Office 365 and no separate phone system to manage.
So, if you are looking for ways to make your employees more product and lower your business communications expenses, migrating your phone system to Skype
For Business is a great option. It's especially good for companies who are nearing the end of a business VoIP contract with a big telco or other service
provider. To learn more about how Amaxra migrated our phone system to the cloud using Skype For Business and how we can help you with your transition,
contact the Amaxra Solutions Team.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 425 749 7471 if you have any questions or comments on this blog.