Is your network ready for Skype for Business?

Microsoft Skype for Business is well positioned in itself as a voice, conferencing and video platform, but we mustn’t forget that to benefit from it, enterprises need to plot a careful migration path. Here's some advice on how to get there. 

Becoming Skype for Business ready

People have become accustomed to good voice quality on applications such as IP telephony and expect the same from any new solution.  It is therefore essential to ensure the readiness of the network and customer environment, and this is where providers come into their own in working out any issues and complexities.

It is important to run a network readiness assessment to gain a full understanding of the state of the network before Skype for Business is deployed.  The quality of service can be determined to ensure that voice can be accommodated as desired.

If required,  a real time class of service can be implemented that can distinguish between voice and video, for example.  WAN optimization and acceleration can be implemented to provide a far more granular quality and visibility of application behaviour.

Monitoring performance

For a long time, providers have been able to monitor network latency and jitter via state-of-the-art indicators, providing a proactive monitoring alert if there is an issue.

In an end-to-end LAN and WAN solution it is worth looking at deploying mean opinion score measurement (MOS) to better understand call quality.  This can also be used to enable better trouble shooting.

A full end-to-end offering can be aligned to a single service level agreement (SLA) with call completion. This is an enterprise fixed voice solution designed to carry calls between enterprise sites and off-net access to other global destinations.

Preparing the data center

It is key to consider data center readiness and monitoring in the Skype for Business equation, as well as carefully looking at the provision of monitoring and capacity management.

Let us take the data center location. Microsoft Online Services reside in a limited number of data centers.  It is key to look for a provider that can can adapt to specific regional requirements with data centers in several locations, which may be required to comply with data sovereignty, for example.  Regulations in some countries, such as India, demand that data be stored locally.  Some providers have the capabilities to adapt to these requirements, whereas Microsoft’s public cloud offering cannot always provision for this.  In addition, it can provide geographic location for real-time apps, which Microsoft as a single tenant is unable to offer.  

Keeping it all safe

Security is top of the enterprise agenda today. Enterprises need to look for a partner that has  a comprehensive security strategy through managed and integrated security solutions across territories.  By delivering the inherent expectations of security requirements in private cloud it can alleviate the risks in public cloud.

The hybrid approach

With the current migration path, enterprises just can’t go and switch off their current systems and move to Skype for Business. They need a solid transition path.  They all have various contracts for gateways, video and call centers, for example, that are impractical to change overnight.

For enterprises, it’s difficult to make a wholesale migration to Skype for Business. The reality is enterprises can’t move to a Skype for Business public cloud solution right now and expect to have the same level of features/solution availability as more established voice solutions provide. There are options such as Skype for Business on premises server hosted as an Orange private cloud for example which do give feature parity. However, with a hybrid approach you can make a scalable migration path. The hybrid route links Microsoft and  the provider in a world where Skype for Business On Premise Server and Online can co-exist.

Hybrid enables enterprises to hold onto their existing PBX solutions and legacy systems. They can run with Skype for Business and continue to use their call centers, head sets and fax machines they have today, for example, and link them into a hybrid solution.  This just isn’t possible heading down the public cloud road. Call management can be managed in the cloud or via Microsoft online cloud, which means they can access some of the exciting new features of Skype for Business such as Skype Meeting Broadcast which enables enterprises to produce, host and broadcast to up to 10,000 attendees.

One point of contact

Orange can make what seems a complex change over into a very simple one, providing the end-to-end accountability and SLA.  The Orange ecosystem can provide all the hybrid elements such as voice, video, call recording and gateways under one contract.  Everything can be looked after in the cloud, hosted in data center or on premises. This leaves enterprise users free to utilize Skype for Business’s many features to collaborate with anyone, anywhere and on any device.

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Ann Strachan

Ann Strachan is a Senior Product Manager at Orange Business, where she is responsible for Unified Communication and Collaboration solutions in the international domain.

Ann has over 19 years of international business and marketing communications experience in the IT industry. She is passionate about the power of collaboration and product and service innovation covering business, technology and user experience for the digital enterprise.