Skype For Business: 5 Things You Need To Know

Lync Is Dead, Long Live Skype For Business

Microsoft announced general availability of Skype for Business Tuesday which replaces its instant messaging client Lync. It's a move that some Microsoft partners have eagerly anticipated allowing them to crack open new voice and video services opportunities.

Skype for Business will offer the same core functionality that Lync offered and includes a bevy of new enterprise features coupled with a refreshed user interface. The current version of Lync 2013 will be updated to Skype for Business and will require those companies that rely on Lync backend servers to update their software.

"Skype is a more flexible and mobile voice solution than Lync," said Larry Velez, CTO and founder of Sinu, a New York-based MSP and Microsoft partner. "Our increasingly mobile customers don't want to be tied to a physical phone. Skype for Business and its integration with Office allows us to get into mobile and voice services offered via Office without having become a traditional telecom reseller."

Basic Features And Functions

Skype for Business offers IM, presence, voice and video calls and meetings, just like Lync did.

Skype for Business integrates directly into Office and brings several advanced features improving on Lync. Microsoft says Skype for Business allows for users to initiate calls from Outlook, brings "enterprise-grade security" and controls for business compliance and integration to companies and also supports a variety of third-party enterprise video and voice services.

Skype for Business is also available on the mobile platforms Windows Phone, iOS for iPhone and iPad, and Android.

Three Tiers Of Pricing For Skype For Business

Online Plan 1: Basic $2.00 a month per user with an annual commitment. Plan includes presence and group IM, file transfers via IM, and audio and HD video calling to Skype for Business users and consumer Skype service.

Online Plan 2: Premium $5.50 a month per user with an annual commitment. This tier of service is in parity with basic plan, but adds many more features such as HD group video calling, integration with Outlook for scheduling meetings, the ability to record meetings and remote desktop sharing and whiteboard support.

Find A Partner: Via its Skype for Business product page, Microsoft links people interested in its top level of Skype for Business offering to its "find a partner" website. This premium tier of service offers all of the above plus dial-in audio conferencing, interoperability with video teleconferencing systems, and enterprise voice functionality (E911, Call Park, etc.).

Microsoft's Office 365 Business Premium now includes Skype For Business.

Existing Office Lync Customer Migration Timeline

Microsoft businesses currently using Lync 2013 will be updated to Skype for Business and the Lync Online service will be automatically updated to Skype for Business Online.

Office 2013 will be able to update to Skype for Business starting this week, replacing the Lync 2013. Office 360 customers can expect that the new client will rollout starting now with the final cloud migration date set for the end of May.

Microsoft said the mobile client for Skype for Business is available for the Windows Phone, but that iOS and Android users would have to wait for a few "months" before the client would receive an update.

How To Make The Switch

Customers who have an on-premises Lync Server can switch users to the Skype for Business client starting this week via Group Policy.

Microsoft says admin can use the Remote PowerShell in Office 365 to initiate the migration to Skype for Business on the backend as well as migrate users to use the Skype for Business client or a Skype for Business (Lync) client user interface. Microsoft also offers a downloadable PowerShell script to make it easier for those that don't want to configure the switch manually.

The default setting is for users to use the Skype for Business client user interface. If you'd prefer to use the Lync client experience, you can manage the first launch client behavior to display the Lync user interface following the steps later in this topic.

Lync Love: No Upgrade & Roll Back Options

For those businesses not ready to update to the new Skype for Business client, Microsoft said, IT administrators can either switch back or keep their existing Lync interface. Microsoft has posted instructions on how IT shops with a Lync Server can roll back to the most recent Lync client. Microsoft has also posted online instruction on how Lync Online customers can keep or rollback to the Lync client.

For businesses that want to prevent the rollout of Skype for Business, Microsoft says they can block the update via the Group Policy settings for Lync. Microsoft also has detailed step-by-step instructions on how admin or end-users can control the client experience for users on its TechNet website.