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Is it time to look at Skype for Business and Cloud PBX?

Microsoft | Posted on June 9, 2017

It may be time to cut the figurative strings tying you to your traditional PBX. Is it also time to cut your legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN) provider?

Strong communications capabilities are as essential to business success as the people using them.

To be competitive, people must connect faster and more seamlessly than ever before. At the same time, those capabilities must be made simpler to use (and deliver) than ever.

The backdrop against which IT must meet these needs is often rife with difficulties. Teams need a 24×7 connection from anywhere. People need to reach out and be reachable regardless of device. And arguably the biggest challenge of them all: the multiple complex and expensive legacy systems IT is trying to enrich with newer and more user-centric communications features.

Putting progress on hold

The industry has moved and standardized on Voice-over-IP as the basis of unified communications solutions, yet many companies are running their business critical communications on out-of-date phone systems.

“Voice-over-IP has been in place for 12 years now,” noted Palwinder Singh, Softchoice Senior Systems Engineer, during our recent webinar on Skype for Business and Cloud PBX. “The fact is many PBX systems are outdated. Most legacy systems have been out of support for more than five years.”

This, of course, puts the enterprise at risk of downtime around one of its most critical assets: its ability to communicate in real time.

Singh and his co-presenter Steve Campbell, Softchoice’s Microsoft Practice Lead, looked at these risks and challenges and how features unique to Skype for Business solve them.

Why Skype for Business and Cloud PBX?

Cloud PBX is Microsoft’s technology for enabling call control and PBX capabilities in the Office 365 cloud using Skype for Business Online. It provides voice calling mainstays such as call hold, transfer, voicemail, call forwarding and more.

Cloud PBX offers organizations a few key advantages over a traditional PBX:

  • A powerful, collaborative user experience that takes advantage of the business productivity tools you already use every day: Microsoft Office, OneDrive, SharePoint and many third-party solutions.
  • The opportunity to reduce costs. In fact, Office 365 customers with an E5 license are automatically entitled to Cloud PBX at no extra cost, for even greater savings.
  • Reduced complexity. The more communications capabilities moved to the cloud, the more the organizations can take advantage of centralized management, an integrated directory and eliminate redundant systems. Once fully in the cloud, you no longer have to manage servers, maintain patching, maintain data centers, ensure disaster recovery, etc.
  • Added security and compliance. By integrating with Office 365, it offers better protection than in-house teams can. It also provides compliance advantages through archiving capabilities.
  • Access to rich communications features on any device, anywhere and at any time. Users have full features whether they are on a PC, mobile or smartphone, room system, or traditional phone and still be accessible.
  • For companies with a presence in multiple locations, Cloud PBX provides a single solution to connect all users, whether across the street or around the globe. In addition, it’s designed with business continuity in mind, allowing for datacenter failovers within the Microsoft network, as well as the ingress points to the Microsoft network.

It’s not only within the organization that these benefits accrue. Skype for Business has been deployed in many organizations across the world. This allows effective inter-organizational collaboration through secure and straight-forward federation capabilities.

Cloud PBX myth busting

There’s a common myth that Cloud PBX is only available in the U.S. Not true. In fact, Cloud PBX is available globally. Unfortunately, particularly for Canadian organizations, two add-ons — PSTN Calling and PSTN Conferencing — are currently available in select countries, and Canada isn’t one of them. Canada is expected to be included this year, but Microsoft has not yet made a formal announcement.

Those two allow organizations to use Microsoft and Office 365 in place of their existing phone and conferencing calling providers, respectively.

PSTN Calling provides fast enabling of phone numbers and lines through Office 365. It simplifies and centralizes management and leads to more predictable pricing. You can assign new numbers or re-use existing ones, and sign users up for national or international calling plans.

PSTN Conferencing gives organizations a dial-in number to join Skype meetings from any device. Equally important, PSTN also gives the ability to dial-out to bring participants into meetings, providing another cost-saving opportunity for businesses.

No forklift required

Given that it may not be available (or even appropriate) for organizations to replace all of their on-premise telephony equipment right now, most will opt for a hybrid approach, at least for the short to mid-term. Fortunately, there’s good news on that front. Cloud PBX integrates closely with your current PBX and analog telephone and fax lines through a single Cloud Connector Edition appliance (such as the Sonus Cloud Link). That way the enterprise can move at its own pace towards a full online solution that will further reduce capex and overhead, while giving users and customers the rich voice experience they’re demanding to stay competitive.

Watch webinar and download deck


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