Understanding the evolution of Skype for business

Enterprises have long endured the headaches involved with managing different levels of access for a multitude of users’ devices, from simple web browser based interfaces, all the way to remote desktop and mobile application support. Supporting all these devices can be complicated and time consuming, often revolving around different security profiling for users based around device type, and often restricting access instead of enabling it.

Of course these rules apply more than ever to voice and video communications – many users having experienced consumer products such as Facetime or Skype, and having expectations that these applications are made available in a professional environment. Giving users a ubiquity of experience can prove challenging, because these consumer applications do not always interoperate with professional apps.

One exception to this rule has emerged from Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype in 2011. Microsoft recently announced the next version of its Unified Communications platform will be called ‘Skype for Business’ – a mainly strategic initiative that sees Lync overhauled into a more Skype – centric interface, and the unification between Lync and Skype allows video, voice and collaboration between the two. Because of the accessible nature of Skype, as well as Skype already including cloud based telephone calls (which Lync online does not), this forms a very compelling proposition, and opens the door for a truly connected enterprise between both staff and customers alike.

Skype federation with Lync 2013 is already available for voice, chat and video communications via secure (TLS) based connectivity. Skype for Business packages this functionality, using the same reference architectures as those already seen (so customers can upgrade to Skype for Business from Lync 2013 without replacing server hardware).

However what is going to become even more important, is how this all this fits into the enterprise security provisioning mentioned earlier. As with previous iterations of Microsoft’s federation capability within its Unified Communications suite, access can be allowed or restricted based on user and communication types. Skype therefore needs to be handled carefully, understanding that it is being used as a professional communications tool, in a more controlled way (ideally) than that of a consumer environment.

RedVeu provide design consultancy and engineering for Microsoft and many other Unified Communications platforms. Part of our consultancy offering recognises corporate security policies and ports these into the UC domain, enabling the best balance between security and accessibility.