How Do I Integrate Skype for Business With My Existing Video Endpoints?
By Tim Kefford, Technical Director
Like many businesses today, there’s a good chance that you’ve already invested a lot of time, and money into hardware video endpoints for your office meeting rooms. As the popularity of Lync and Skype for Business has grown among companies in search of an effective meeting solution, you may now find yourself at something of a technology crossroad.
It seems that both systems exist in their own siloed spaces. That leaves you in an awkward position. You don’t want to retire your expensive hardware systems, as your staff have grown familiar with how to use them. However, the Skype for Business platform can be an incredibly useful business tool when it comes to chat and collaboration.
What Are My Options?
The good news is that there is an opportunity to engage with a technology that mixes both the benefits of Skype for Business, with your existing endpoints. As long-term partners with Microsoft, Polycom have created a solution for you – if you were lucky enough to invest in Polycom hardware in the first place. Depending on which models you bought, you can register your endpoint solutions onto the Skype for Business platform, and make the most of countless in-built features naturally provided by SfB.
The only slight issue is that unless you bought your Polycom systems quite recently, the older solutions in the market simply won’t adhere to this solution. It’s also worth keeping in mind that when you register your endpoints into the Skype for Business platform, you could be making your more-expensive video platform redundant.
The Gateway Skype Solutions
Perhaps you’re using an existing investment in on-premise video infrastructure. If that’s the case, then there’s a chance that your OEM also offers a Skype for Business gateway solution that enables access to new technology. Basically, this is a kind of software license, and it acts as an additional investment into hardware for your current platform. You can add extra features to this hardware to allow for the transcoding to take place between typical video endpoints, and Skype for Business.
Unfortunately, there’s another problem with this option, as the downside of integration is that you’re going to need to invest in considerable amounts of extra resources, software, hardware, and additional specialist skills. These various systems will mean that you need to build your own Skype for Business platform, almost from scratch. Obviously, this isn’t much of an appealing investment if you’re already using Office 365, and want to reduce your expenditure.
A Solution That Meets in the Middle
If you’re not among the few people who purchased Polycom (approximately 75% of the current marketplace), and you don’t want to invest more cash, you’re not alone. Plenty of people want to avoid the cost of additional software, hardware, and staff for their business infrastructure. Fortunately, there are still a lot of options available to you.
Perhaps the easiest solution for getting “the best of both worlds”, is to access a solution that meets in the middle. These services manage the protocol transcoding involved in managing the systems, and allows both H.323 and SIP endpoints to cooperate seamlessly with Skype for Business. By accessing this approach, both platforms can run naturally as independent systems, and work together when required.
These versatile solutions are often provided by cloud-based companies. However, the software that’s available to run the options can be purchased for an on-premise scenario too. This means that it’s quite similar to the Skype Gateway solution mentioned above. Of course, your decision of which step to take will depend on your appetite for working in the cloud, and your business requirements.
What Should You Do?
Ultimately, the answer of which solution is best for you depends on your budget, and your requirements as a business. Regardless of your choice, there are solutions out there that can help you to get the best of both worlds.
As the technical director of UCi2i, I personally believe in the robust and versatile nature that cloud solutions have to offer when it comes to making the most out of end-points and online software. Using the meet-in-the-middle solution above, you could simplify the steps that you take from on-premise, to the cloud, with a more hybrid solution.