Skype for Business is the name of the next version of Lync. Lync Server becomes Skype for Business Server. Lync Online becomes Skype for Business Online. Both Skype and Lync have been around for more than a decade and both are extremely successful. Lync is getting a new name and a fresh look and feel – familiar to millions. Still, the core of the communications platform is the Lync we know and love with even more enterprise grade capability. So the answer to the question is: Lync — Lync puts the Business in Skype for Business. 

The distinction is especially important when deploying Skype for Business as a replacement for a legacy phone system. Any phone system, including Lync, delivers a consistently great call experience because it operates on a managed network. The consumer service of Skype, on the other hand, connects over the public Internet and cannot guarantee the call quality that businesses demand. It is true that Lync lets users connect from anywhere and therefore users know what to expect if that connection happens to be over the public Internet. But it’s an apples to oranges comparison because a traditional phone system can’t do that anyway (how many payphones would your favorite coffee shop have to have?) Both Lync and Skype give the best possible call quality that a given connection can support, even over the public Internet. What makes Skype for Business different from Skype is the emphasis on a managed network to deliver consistent enterprise grade communications.

But what about Skype for Business Online? Surely the word ‘Online’ implies the Internet. How can Skype for Business Online ensure enterprise grade communications? First, Microsoft only just recently announced that Skype for Business Online will support phone calling features from Office 365, so more details are forthcoming.

The announcement explains that the Office 365 Skype for Business service will begin rolling out phone calling service later this year. The critical architecture component is the managed network connection extending between the Office 365 data centers and the Skype for Business customer’s corporate network. The direct connection will be delivered via carrier networks including AT&T and Level 3 Communications. The connection service will be part of Microsoft’s Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365.

Once again, Microsoft has placed the decision of how and when to move to the cloud in the hands of business customers instead of forcing a cloud-only flash cut. Hybrid configurations will be possible in order to support a smooth transition as well as for scenarios with unique business requirements. Aging phone systems can be replaced with Skype for Business Server on premises using the proven Lync architecture or moved to Office 365 using Azure’s enterprise grade connection with its 99.9 percent availability guarantee.

Most college graduates entering the job market today don’t use a traditional phone. Many come from households without any landline phone. In fact, some graduates have never used a traditional phone. Skype for Business can provide a traditional hard phone experience for those users that need it or want it, but it also provides modalities for communication that are effortless and fully integrated — communication that “simply appears” in the applications and devices used by today’s seasoned professionals, and meets the default expectation of skilled workers now entering the market.

The Skype for Business client rollout to Office 365 customers begins April 14, 2015. The Skype for Business Server will be available for download on May 1, 2015. Lastly, the public preview for Office 16 includes the new Skype for Business client. So, there’s no reason to wait.

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