Using Skype in a corporate environment

Skype is used by many private persons and since some time there also is a Business version available. The company behind it has been founded in 2003 and sold to Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5 billion.

With the normal Skype version you get a lot of features:

  • Video chats for two persons
  • Voice chats for up to 25 persons
  • Chats with single persons or groups
  • Sharing of the Desktop during conversations (not for conference calls)
  • Sending files
  • Versions for Windows, Mac and Linux (though not every platform gets the same features)
  • Apps for almost any mobile platform
  • Communicating with the “outer world”, you can call someone on his phone or he could call you on Skype
  • Extendable through Plugins
    • Integrate MS Outlook
    • Shareable Whiteboard

There also is a premium version which costs around $5 dollars per month if you subscribe for a year. This version extends the above features:

  • Video chats for up to 10 persons (depends on the bandwith and OS you’re using)
  • Sharing the Desktop in conference calls
  • No advertising

The Business package adds some more tools:

  • Integration into an existing telephone systems
  • Centralized management of Skype accounts (Create Accounts, Manage Credit, …)
How does Skype fulfill the Requirements

Security – Data is owned by the company, no thirdparty should have insight into internal communication

Skype uses a centralized server-system owned by Skype itself. This means that account information and textual messages are being processed outside the company using it. There are articles stating that this information is stored and will be made accessible to the government if needed. The connection itself is encrypted and thus is secured against man-in-the-middle attacks, but having internal details stored outside of the company could be a big blocker for using this software.

Portability – Using the software on different platforms like Windows and Linux

Skype is available for Windows, Linux and Mac. Additionally it is possible to use it on almost every mobile platform. Different versions do not have the same features, especially the Linux version seems to be lacking support.

Acceptance Factor – Avoiding tricky installation and usage, let others see the advantages of the system

As said before, different versions (Linux) have bigger hurdles than others. The Windows variant is quite easy to install and to use. You just need to create your account, log in and start using it. Bringing hardware like a cam or a mic into action is easy too. So if you are planning to use Skype in a 100% Windows environment, you’ll probably have no problems using it. As soon as there are other operating system involved, it will get tricky. The lack of features for these systems means also that Skype itself is a lot less useful.

Logging/Backup – Storing the data, let the user access it easily

Again, different versions handle this issue different. In the best case the user is able to record and log everything that is done. If not with the vanilla version of Skype then with plugins. One big point is that these information will not only be stored on the local computer or a company-owned server, but the central Skype server. As mentioned under ‘Security’ this could be a big issue.

Mobile Access – Using the software from mobile platforms via internal Wifi or mobile internet connection

As Skype is available on almost every mobile platform, you could easily access the network from mobile devices. The user can also be connected with his phone and desktop at the same time, incoming calls will ring on both devices and he can choose in which platform he wants to answer the call. All data will be transferred through mobile internet, so using a company internal wifi would be of no use here.

Grouping – Communicate with multiple persons at the same time

This is perfectly possible with text and audio conversations. If there is a Skype Premium subscription, it will also be possible to do this with video calls. There is a limit of 25 audio and 10 video participants. I can’t imagine that it would be practical to have even more persons involved.

Conclusion

Skype promises a bunch of nice features, but they are mostly limited to the Windows version. Lack of support for the Linux variant and some major blockers in terms of security making this software unusable for certain companies. If however you’re not affected by these points, Skype could be a useful tool for replacing features that were served by email and telephone in the past.

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