What You Need to Know about Skype for Business

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Looking for the best hosted phone number service for your business? Let's review on common option, Skype. Skype for Business has attracted the interest of many small business owners and IT admins looking for an affordable communications platform. Over the last few years, the platform has built up its feature set to one comparable with VoIP telephony service. The demand for hosted VoIP platforms has also exploded in as the cost savings and business benefits with these services have become well-known.

Can Skype for Business Replace an On-Premise Phone System?

One reason Skype for Business has gained so much attention is because potential customers perceive it as an affordable option with an attractive price tag. However, you may be surprised to find that Microsoft’s communication platform is a bit more complicated than it seems at first glance.

What Does Skype for Business Have to Offer?

For a long time, businesses used Skype as an internal business communication application with features like chat, video conferencing, voicemail and email. As a standalone application it serves the same purpose today.

Its most basic offering, Business Essentials, offers those features as well as online versions of Microsoft Office, Power Point Collaboration for video conferencing, email with 50 GB of storage per user and is offered for only $6 per month (monthly subscription). For $15 a month (monthly subscription), you can upgrade to Business Premium and receive the fully installed versions of Office for your Windows or Mac. While this is not an unimpressive bundle of services, these features are confined to internal communications. Local and international calling are not included in this price range, and neither are features like call queues, advanced routing, music-on-hold, etc.

However, Skype for Business is not limited to an internal communications application today.  Now, it also acts as a base for multiple add-on applications that have been launched in recent years. These add-ons, specifically Skype Cloud PBX and Skype PSTN, have made Skype for Business a viable option for many companies to use as a business communication platform.

What is Skype PSTN?

Skype PSTN is the key component to connecting your business up to the outside world. Purchasing Skype PSTN allows you to make and receive domestic and international calls. Their domestic plan is offered for $12 a month and includes 3,000 minutes of monthly call time per agent. The international plan is offered for $24 and allows up to 600 minutes per agent on top of the domestic minutes. After your allotted monthly minutes have been used, your calls are charged at Skype’s international rates for your additional talk time.

What is Skype Cloud PBX?

If you want the call features that are standard with most hosted communication providers, you’ll need to purchase Skype’s other primary add-on, Skype Cloud PBX. Most businesses that require domestic or international calling also require features offered with Skype’s PBX to operate efficiently. So, almost any business can assume they will be buying this service in addition to Skype PSTN.

Is Skype Right for Your Business?

The answer, as the platform is now, is maybe - but not for the low price you might think. While Skype for Business is offered for a low monthly fee of $6 a month, this does not include fully installed office applications, domestic or international phone service, or any standard call features. It is only when paired with these add-ons that the platform begins to resemble a comprehensive hosted cloud communication service.

Skype Cloud PBX, which is required for domestic or international calling, is offered as an $8 add-on for most versions of Office 365 (which Skype for Business is part of). It is also included with Office 365 Enterprise E5, offered at a monthly price of $35 per user. From there, it is an additional $12 for a domestic calling plan and $24 for a plan that includes international calls.

If you subscribe to Office 365 E5 and want international calling, you’re looking at $59 per month per user. If you are satisfied with Office 365 E3 and only need domestic calling, your monthly cost will be closer to $40 per user. That’s still competitive in the VoIP market, but higher than the pricing many potential customers expect when they inquire about Skype’s services.

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Please note: all pricing cited in this article is current as of October 2016.