Why your business cannot rely on consumer-grade collaboration

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The verdict is in: Skype just won’t cut it for your business collaboration needs anymore. Or is this being too simplistic?

Last month, the video call provider suffered a debilitating outage, with the UK bearing the majority of downtime alongside other parts of Europe, Japan, and Australia. Recent research on employees’ collaboration habits has revealed a few interesting, if not entirely surprising trends. As generation mobile increasingly pervades the workplace, company-issued collab tools aren’t in favour, with employees moving to consumer-grade tools and, increasingly, going over their employers’ heads.

The market for enterprise-grade collaboration, increasing productivity while protecting data and, naturally, not falling over, is therefore a burgeoning one. Speak to the players within that space and the viewpoint is obvious.

“There’s definitely an element of businesses relying too much on consumer solutions like Skype,” explains James Campanini, VP and general manager EMEA at video conferencing provider Blue Jeans Networks. “While it may seem simpler to continue to use collaboration tools that have worked in the past, to ensure objectives are met organisations should adopt the ‘new normal’ of distance working and remote collaboration with solutions that better suit their business needs.”

James Henigan, chief operating officer at Outsourcery, agrees. “It is common to see employees using their own personal Skype accounts to make business calls [but] by doing so, they are not only restricted in functionality but also put data security at risk,” he says. “The outage of Skype has also demonstrated that service reliability, while fine for a free personal-use app, just isn’t of a high enough standard in the business world.”

Shan Sinha, co-founder at conference software provider Highfive, argues: “There are many other solutions that have been built from the ground up specifically for the office, but Skype is not one of them. It’s great for personal use, but when it comes to business communications you’d be better served going with something that was developed with the workplace in mind.”

Like Skype, for instance? In March, Microsoft announced Skype for Business, which was essentially a rebranding of instant messaging client Lync. The service has been generally available since April, with a few interesting benefits; administrator roles with different permission levels, allowing up to 250 people on a single conference call, as well as deeper integration with Outlook and Office 365.

The latter point is an important one. Microsoft’s arsenal of collaboration tools, from Outlook, to Office 365, and including SharePoint, Yammer, and Skype for Business among others, covers practically the entire gamut of business productivity needs. Yet according to recent figures from Synergy Research, Cisco still holds the overall lead in market share for collaboration ahead of Microsoft, although take away the on-premise figures and it’s a different story.

With an uptime of 99.99%, Henigan notes: “The fact is that enterprise-grade applications are needed for a reason. Skype is great for consumers but it should not be confused with the far superior capabilities and functionality of Skype for Business.” Referring specifically to the downtime last month, he adds: “Organisational productivity and data security have both suffered and IT leaders should use the Skype outage to highlight and tackle the issue of consumer-based applications in the workplace.”

Naturally, Highfive and Blue Jeans would not be advocating customers to choose a rival, but the overall fears of leaving your business in the hands of consumer-grade equipment are evident. Sinha notes: “It’s important to consider questions such as who will be the primary user, how easy is it to set up, what do you hope to get out of it, and finally what are the most important features? Answering these questions will help ensure the best communications solution for your business.”

“On a very basic level, Skype and other similar tools work," explains Campanini. "But without the security, support and functionality an enterprise focused solution would have, it’s not the most appropriate choice for the workplace. It is also unlikely that the future of these products will meet the changing needs of the business.”

 

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