Microsoft Office 365 is getting better and better.
Skype for Business might just be the most exciting product for enterprise communications to come around in years. The potential of O365 E5 to be a complete hosted unified communications service that also integrates with Word, Outlook and all the other programs everyone uses all the time—well, that’s a big deal.
We’ve been Microsoft partners for a decade at this point, and we’ve never been prouder of that certification. Microsoft is doing something amazing.
But let’s back up and explain clearly why we’re so excited.
What is Microsoft Office 365?
Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud-based version of the Microsoft Office suite. It’s called 365 because of what the cloud enables Microsoft to do with its product.
O365 is not simply a monolithic piece of software that you purchase and patch until the next edition comes out. Rather, O365 is hosted in the cloud, meaning Microsoft can improve the product for you. Updates come regularly and everyone gets them on time. It’s what techies would call agile. They’d also call it a service, meaning you’re not paying for product itself, but subscribing for access to it.
What’s included in Microsoft Office 365?
O365 includes all of Microsoft’s heavy hitters—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher—as well as other programs of more specialized use.
All of these programs now work together ever more closely and across every platform, from mobile phone to desktop PC. There are many combinations of these programs based on how much you’re willing to pay, so what you get will depend on your subscription level.
But they’re not the real reason to get excited about O365.
What is Skype for Business?
Skype for Business is essentially a combination and expansion of Microsoft Lync and Skype. It’s a full unified communications platform that Microsoft is building into a hosted PBX solution. If you want to see everything, here’s Microsoft’s incredibly detailed chart of everything that’s included in Skype for Business.
You get Skype, of course, that platform that lets you communicate in whatever way is best: video, voice, chat. At the O365 E5 level, you also get access to three products that really stand out to us: Skype Meeting Broadcast, PSTN Conferencing, and Cloud PBX.
Broadcast allows you to, well, broadcast a meeting to up to 10,000 people on any device over the internet. PSTN Conferencing enables dial-in or dial-out connectivity to Skype for Business from any phone.
Cloud PBX, on the other hand, while still in the early stages of its development (it only recently came out of beta), is where the real potential lies.
What is Microsoft Cloud PBX?
Cloud PBX is precisely what it sounds like: it’s Microsoft’s take on a hosted VoIP server solution. Rather than companies having their own IP-PBX on-premise, with Cloud PBX they’d receive (along with everything else O365 has to offer) a complete IP phone system housed on Microsoft’s cloud servers to control their PBX functions.
You don’t have to worry about maintaining your own IP-PBX or integrating it with various systems. Microsoft will do all the hard work for you. And you know that Microsoft can maintain more cutting-edge technology than almost anyone on Earth.
The primary advantage, as we see it, is that all your VoIP phones would be perfectly integrated into Microsoft’s ecosystem. While many features are still yet-to-come, you can easily imagine an email in Outlook becoming a phone call on your VVX 500 with a single click, then you escalating it to a video conference with one more click, taking the results of this collaboration down in Word, saving to OneDrive so everyone has it, etc. etc. etc.
This could happen from any device, anywhere you have internet access.
We’re not joking here: Skype for Business has massive potential.
To give you a taste, here’s a preview video from Microsoft Mechanics that goes into the basics of how Cloud PBX works:
How does Skype for Business integrate with VoIP?
Skype for Business has the potential to revolutionize VoIP, and manufacturers have seen this. They’re responding by designing technology that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft’s platform.
The thing is, people still want to use their deskphones. We like our deskphones. You probably like your deskphone. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a familiar device that does its job excellently.
So people want deskphones. And they want the excellent sound quality, simple interface and high-quality features that IP phones offer. And they want everything to work together.
That’s why IP Phone Warehouse has a category devoted to VoIP phones that are designed to work with Microsoft Skype for Business and Microsoft Lync. Check it out, if you want VoIP technology that you know will work with your Microsoft UC platform.