Microsoft Connects Skype for Business to More Office 365 Customers

The previews of Skype for Business services in Office 365 go globetrotting, gaining voicemail and improved IP phone support along the way.


Microsoft is working on tightly integrating its Skype for Business (formerly Lync) enterprise communications platform with its Office 365 productivity software and cloud services suite. In July, the company announced a trio of technical previews—Skype Meeting Broadcast, PSTN (public switched telephone network) support and Cloud PBX (private branch exchange) with PSTN Calling—for the U.S. with features that expand an Office 365 Enterprise customer's communications options.

So far, thousands of organizations are putting the services through their paces, reported Microsoft's Skype for Business group in an Oct. 7 blog post. "More than 4,000 companies are currently previewing the new services, with usage growing at an average of 20 percent every week," wrote Ali Rohani, principal program manager lead, and Jamie Stark, senior product manager for Microsoft Skype for Business, in the joint post.

Now, Microsoft is adding new capabilities and opening up the previews to more regions.

In the U.S., the company is enabling number portability in the PSTN Calling preview. The feature "allows customers to use their existing phone numbers with our new PSTN calling service, ultimately simplifying adoption," said the Microsoft staffers.

The PSTN Conferencing, meanwhile, is venturing beyond U.S. shores to 14 other countries. The service, also currently in beta, is being made available to Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom this month. Finland, Norway and South Africa will join the list in November.

"The new PSTN Conferencing services enable customers to add dial-in and dial-out capabilities to existing audio, video and web meetings in Skype for Business Online, all provided by Microsoft," stated Rohani and Stark. "The preview will be localized for these countries to include their native languages and local phone numbers for meetings."

Similarly, Microsoft is making the Cloud PBX in Office 365 preview available to customers worldwide, enabling them to incorporate landline calling into their Skype for Business setups.

"Using this on-premises PSTN connectivity, customers worldwide can use Cloud PBX to eliminate separate PBX systems for users but still take advantage of their existing carrier contracts and circuits," explained Rohani and Stark. "In this hybrid configuration, Office 365 customers use on-premises Skype for Business Server software and their own existing IP-PBX or carrier connection to make and receive calls to landlines and mobile phones."

Voicemail support also is being added to Cloud PBX. Hardware options for Cloud PBX are improving with the availability of several IP phones that contain the latest firmware, including Polycom's VVX series devices. "Over the next several months, the list of supported devices will expand to include additional models and manufacturers," said Rohani and Stark.

Finally, Microsoft is introducing the Skype for Business Call Quality Dashboard later this month. "This dashboard offers IT admins quick and easy access to aggregated quality information for both meetings and calls. It will include daily and monthly views of call volumes along with the ability for customers to assess call quality as a function of IP network type and user location," they said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...