Skype for Business meetings and voice services in Office 365 are increasing their reach
Skype for Business Cloud PBX, Meeting Broadcast and PSTN services were created to provide complete meeting and voice capabilities in Office 365. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced their first major geographic expansion of the Skype for Business and voice services. Newly added support of hybrid deployments, new modernized meeting room solutions and improved unified reporting, management and analytics.
Microsoft is currently offering PSTN Conferencing in 32 countries
Currently Office 365 customers in 32 countries can streamline their infrastructure using Skype for Business Online. These customers can now take advantage of flat-rates, and per-user, per-month pricing for these conferencing services. Microsoft’s PSTN conferencing service will include local dial-in numbers in more than 60 countries by the end of this March(?) and in nearly 100 countries by the beginning of summer.
Cloud PBX new features and the availability of Microsoft’s Cloud Connector Edition
Microsoft has also announced that the new Cloud Connector Edition of Skype for Business Server will be available in April. All versions of Skype for Business Server allow customers throughout the world to use Office 365 Cloud PBX with their preferred carrier calling services. The Cloud Connector Edition allows customers to quickly connect existing phone lines and phone numbers to Office 365 by delivering their hybrid capabilities as optimized and pre-configured virtual machine images. In April, Microsoft says they will deliver new virtual Organizational Auto Attendant in Cloud PBX, which will enable customers to use Office 365 for automated handling of their business calls and speech recognition.
PSTN Calling Preview for outside the U.S.
In May, Microsoft will start offering a preview of Skype for Business PSTN Calling services in the UK. With the preview, customers in the UK will be able to trial number acquisition and assignment, inbound and outbound calling and voicemail which will all be integrated as part of Office 365. Office 365 customers in the UK can register for this future preview today at the Skype Preview website.
With Project Rigel, Skype for Business brings their Meeting experience to every meeting room
Microsoft recently launched an initiative, named “Project Rigel,” that addresses the need for meeting rooms to not just have traditional projectors and telephone for including remote participants, but to now include video conferencing with features like screen sharing, IM and whiteboard. What Project Rigel does is bring the Skype Meeting experience that was established on the Microsoft Surface Hub to nearly any meeting room that has a display or projector. Project Rigel will use Windows 10 devices for center-of-room touch control and Skype for Business Online meeting technology to simplify connecting remote users.
Hardware partners certifying their portfolios for use with Project Rigel:
Polycom – RealPresence Trio and CX5100
Polycom is working on delivering a portfolio of complete Project Rigel systems. Microsoft is stating that they expect the first systems to be available in the second half of this year.
Logitech – ConferenceCam Connect, ConferenceCam GROUP and PTZ Pro Camera.
Logitech also plans on delivering a purpose-built smart dock for Project Rigel, to be able to seamlessly connect the system elements in a meeting room.
Connecting traditional video teleconferencing systems to the Office 365 Meeting experience
Microsoft is currently working with Polycom on two efforts to extend the Skype Meeting experience to these dedicated video endpoints. Polycom will first provide an update to their RealPresence Group Series of products, which will add both Office 365 integration, and a user interface that is consistent with the Skype Meeting experience. Secondly, Polycom will provide a Cloud Video Interoperability service that will be hosted in the Microsoft cloud, enabling a wide range of existing VTCs, including Cisco and Polycom systems. Microsoft said that they will work closely with Polycom to make sure Office 365 customers can take advantage of this service easily. These offerings are expected to be available in the second half of this year.
Enterprise communications will include unified management, reporting and analytics
Microsoft said they will add powerful management tools to make Skype for Business easier to use for IT professionals. Microsoft is adding powerful management, reporting and analytics tools to their communications cloud within the second half of 2016. IT admin will be able to understand their usage patterns, analyze their call quality and be able to quickly troubleshoot issues on both cloud and hybrid Skype for Business deployments via a single pane of glass within the Office 365 admin portal.
What does this mean for your organization?
Skype for Business and Office 365 can help to improve teamwork, increase collaboration and cut costs for your organization. Your organization could also save on travel costs for meetings that don’t necessarily need attendees to be physically present.
Are you Interested in testing out Skype for Business for your organization? Let us know and we can help get you started with a free 30-day Office 365 E5 trial!