Unified communications experts generally see Skype (news, site) as more a consumer service than an enterprise-level solution, yet Skype continues to court the world of business with a number of professional features and the recent partnership with Avaya. In case you've been sleeping on the news, here's a quick look at how the platform can help out at the work place:
Group Video Calling
The crème de la crème of version 5.0 is most certainly group video calling. Announced last spring, Skype makes room for up to 10 users to video chat with each other on a single call. Obviously this is great for SMBs as it can connect colleagues no matter where they're located:
“With Group Video Calling, we can offer business people an easy way to stay connected and collaborate face-to-face with multiple colleagues, partners or customers around the world,” said David Gurlé, General Manager and Vice President of Skype’s Enterprise business unit.
A day pass is priced at US$ 4.99, and a monthly subscription is US$ 8.99. You can also take the feature for a free 7-day trial run here.
Skype boasts the ability to send files of any size over the platform. This comes in handy when it's time to collaborate with colleagues, partners or suppliers over business presentations and other such documents-- especially when they're too large to send over e-mail:
Skype Manager aims to keep you organized. The web-based management tool enables users to centrally manage Skype across businesses of any size. Simply create accounts for your colleagues, allocate them credit, and the platform helps you keep track of what everyoneʼs spending:
You can test drive the feature here.
Other Skype 5.0 features include a call control bar, searchable chat content, integration with the OS X Address Book, and a smaller floating contacts monitor.
Is Skype Right for Your Business?
Business-y perks aside, many continue to wonder whether or not Skype's platform is truly ready for the enterprise. Considering the limited administration tools and number of recent outages, perhaps not. But representatives keep a cool outlook:
"From an enterprise perspective, we are looking into providing greater reliability for our customers and ensuring their mission-critical needs are met against the service we can provide," said Gurlé. "Voice over IP gets more and more reliable every day … so we feel that on a best effort network, it gets better and better."
Further, Gurlé has noted that Skype isn't about going up against the heaviest hitters in the UC game (Cisco, Microsoft). At least not yet.
"We are not in the substitution market. We are in the complementary market. It's kind of an overlay across other communications infrastructure and application that people have deployed."
In any case, Skype is a great solution for smaller businesses looking to save a ton of money in communication tools. As for going beyond that, we'll see. Skype's consumer edge is definitely going to be a real test case of enterprise consumerization.