Tackle These Implementation Challenges to Reduce the Costs of Skype for Business
by Lea Rabinowitz on

 It’s conventional wisdom that nothing worthwhile in life comes cheap and easy. With regards to unified communications and collaboration, that’s pretty true. One frequent promise of SaaS applications has been cost savings compared to on-premises tools. But that only happens when IT is vigilant about SaaS pricing, and savvy about which apps cost more and why.

This is a common challenge for IT with the ever-popular Microsoft Skype for Business. Compared to other platforms, higher operational expenses plague deployments. Despite the price tag, Microsoft’s Skype for Business is dominating the market as incumbent voice equipment and platform vendors struggle to compete. Which leads us to wonder: why?

Is it the deployment methods, poor management or lack of education surrounding successful operations? As with many things in the SaaS and cloud world, it can be hard to tell, but some combination of the three is likely. IT teams using Skype for Business should get ahead of higher costs by knowing what they’re getting into.

3 Skype Issues That Can Waste Opex Money

There are two popular deployment approaches for Skype for Business: on-premises and hosted. With on-premises, companies have full control of their environments, since they must build and deploy the solution themselves. This, however, requires substantial capex and opex budget, along with in-house expertise. To lower the total cost of ownership (TCO), companies can choose a hosted method that relies on a third-party provider to deliver a subscription-based Skype for Business service. This SaaS choice means that IT teams are spending operating expense (opex) budget rather than the capital expense (capex) budget previously used on IT purchases.

Cost, control and governance largely drive the choice of whether to own the platform. And now, with Skype for Business adding cloud PBX and PSTN calling, and expanded support for hybrid deployments, organizations may find themselves with too many features that if mismanaged could drive up costs. Any migration that entrusts a single application with all communications requires a significant level of analysis to avoid expensive performance issues.

As businesses decide which Skype for Business deployment method is best, IT teams must evaluate if their network architecture can support cloud and hybrid worlds. With the real-time nature of cloud PBX and PSTN calling, the wrong design could mean degraded performance, capacity issues and higher operational costs.

How can businesses using Skype avoid wasting money during deployment?

Before launching any migration or deployment plans, it’s important to consider the following three common implementation challenges, or risk the dreaded opex drain:

1. Routing Policies

When implementing Skype for Business, a company can choose to run the platform independently from what already exists using SIP trunks that enable calls to traverse the system. However, this “simplistic” approach is anything but. It most likely won’t support extension dialing and makes it more complicated to transition users from the old system.

Instead, consider using session management to create an abstraction layer where the company can manage dial plans, calls between systems, security and performance management.

With this layer sitting above existing telephony platforms and Skype for Business, moving users becomes as easy as making a configuration change in the session manager to implement new policies.

2. End-User Experience

When companies are entangled in integration and migration strategies with existing telephony environments, shifting to an end-user mindset can be challenging. Yet, once the complicated effort is over, the success of the Skype for Business deployment is largely due to how users embrace the solution.

While Microsoft pushes customers to trade in the old standalone desktop appliance for their computer-based calling system, that isn’t always what is best. For callers that prefer to use speaker phone, have computers that are rebooting or otherwise unavailable, or are just plain used to a hardware phone, the transition could be frustrating and inconvenient.

Companies should consider how their employees behave in order to choose the phone solution that will facilitate a cost-considerate operation.

3. Call Quality

In the vein of handset vs. softphone, call quality is also a consideration. Generally, handsets provide better audio quality than PCs and laptops, especially if it’s been a while since the last hardware refresh. If users are struggling to hear the person at the other end of the line, productivity will suffer.

Call quality can also deteriorate from bandwidth-hungry trends like video proliferation. The change in network demands means that completing a network assessment is an absolute must. Companies that are using an on-premises deployment should pay attention to the local area and WiFi networks, while those using cloud-based Office 365 should assess the WAN and internet connections.

What’s Dragging Down Your Opex?

As unified communications and collaborations iterations become increasingly sophisticated, how can companies ensure that the solutions are making the most of their budgets? Even with the best planning, insufficient network capacity, latency issues across locations, poor call quality, and ISP connection problems can all plague the solution and lead to higher support costs.

Instead, companies should consider using a monitoring solution that can keep pace with today’s real-time communications. Going beyond capturing network data, performance analysis should include:

  • Monitoring between a location and Microsoft Azure or other public cloud instances.
  • Real-time view of end-user experiences tracked against industry-standard mean opinion scores.
  • Thresholds and real-time alerts for quality of service issues.
  • Proactive root cause analysis for performance issues.

With AppNeta, organizations managing Skype for Business can avoid wasting those precious opex dollars. With continuous and proactive monitoring of all Skype connections on the network, underlying issues are no longer a mystery.

To learn more about optimizing Microsoft offerings, download our white paper 7 Steps to User Experience Success When Moving Microsoft Office to the Cloud. 

Filed Under: cloud computing, Performance Monitoring

Tags: application monitoring , SaaS applications , Skype for Business