How Intune Conditional Access Keeps Your Data Safe

pexels-photo-577210Have you heard about Intune conditional access? Intune is a cloud-offering from Microsoft that allows for secure mobile management. Intune is Microsoft’s solution for IT managers who feel a desperate need to secure mobile devices and apps and their access to email and other corporate data.

Their concern is legitimate; today’s networks have extended beyond a LAN or WAN to include personal smartphones, laptops, or other digital devices, accessing your corporate data from every Starbucks on the planet. These same devices are probably downloading apps for personal use. Microsoft has responded with Intune conditional access as a way to manage these devices in the Azure cloud

A subscription service, Intune is a great addition to the conditional access features already found in the Azure Active Directory. Together, these features give companies the security they need to manage email, data, network access, mobile devices, and more.

This article will help you understand how Intune Conditional Access will create a more secure infrastructure for your organization.

What is Microsoft Intune Conditional Access?

Microsoft Intune provides mobile application, device, and PC management. It’s an Azure cloud service designed to control who accesses corporate data and devices.

The software uses conditional access to allow validated users on their authenticated devices to reach your corporate data. Intune can be programmed to challenge users to authenticate their devices, as well as encourage them to enroll their devices under the security software. The benefit for the company is that it eliminates unrestricted devices and people from accessing the network. These features, ironically, can also be monitored or regulated via your (approved) smartphone.

With the Azure Active Directory, you can also manage conditional access through one system portal. From that hub, you can restrict what applications are downloaded and accessed from any device in your network. You set the rules, and the software helps the entire company follow them.

Intune conditional access in Azure allows the administrator to see every approved device on your network as well as devices attempting to enter, but failing. Also, robust reporting mechanisms allow you to spot trends over time.

Intune conditional access can reinforce corporate compliance policies by:

  • Restricting access to your network by blocking any device that isn’t managed by Intune or that is not IT compliant.
  • Enforcing password rules and multifactor authentication frameworks.
  • Creating and regulating security and compliance rules.
  • Restricting access to SharePoint or other tools that may be accessed remotely.
  • Enforcing application access and completely removing corporate data from the application level – the level that is currently most vulnerable to malware.
  • Encrypting data at rest.
  • Pin-locking devices to protect unauthorized users from accessing company data or email.

These are just some of the ways Intune conditional access can help keep your organization’s data safe. We believe it’s the perfect solutions for some of the biggest challenges that IT network managers are facing today.

Is Microsoft Intune Conditional Access Right for Your Company?

Intune can be purchased separately or as part of the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite. Contact CWPS to find out more about Intune conditional access. We’ve found it has helped eliminate our client’s biggest fears tied to BYOD policies that create a security risk for an organization.

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How to Prepare For an Office 365 Cutover Migration

pexels-photo-935756IT professionals understand the value of planning before the go-live happens. How many disasters have occurred because a lack of planning has stymied a project? In the transition from on-premise applications, to the cloud, what are the key planning metrics that any IT manager must address before making either an Office 365 cutover migration or an Office 365 hybrid migration?

First, the Office 365 Cutover Migration

If we were to break out the actual steps needed before the Office 365 cutover migration it would be something like this:

  1. Communicate go-live dates with users.
  2. Prepare servers by creating emails in Office 365.
  3. Migrate mailboxes.
  4. Complete post-migration activities.
  5. Welcome users.
  6. Re-configure domain to route email to Office 365.

While this seems like a simple six-step process, it certainly touches on the high points of the tasks you must undertake. It’s true that the cutover migration process is actually the easier of the two migration approaches to Office 365. One thing to keep in mind; the maximum for a cutover migration is 2,000 mailboxes. Microsoft suggests you do these in batches of 150. 

The first step for a full-cloud or Office 365 hybrid migration is to verify the domain. Your IT manager will need to verify your corporate domain by proving that you own it. Basically, there’s a TXT record from Microsoft that must be added to the DNS.

You should also check if anyone is running the old Exchange Server 2003; this will need to be updated before the migration. Also, you must also assign individual licenses once their mailbox is migrated. 

These are just some of the things to expect during a cutover migration. Now let’s look at a hybrid migration and the complexities involved. 

How About the Office 365 Hybrid Migration?

The second most common way to migrate to Office 365 is via a hybrid approach. Mixing on-premise Exchange mail with the Office 365 cloud could be the best deployment method for your organization. EdTech points out that while this approach is more complex, it “supports long-term coexistence and the ability to move mailboxes back and forth between Exchange and Exchange online.” EdTech also says there are actually about 200 tasks that are crucial to making this type of migration a seamless process. 

Things to keep in mind include the fact that the hybrid migration can only be configured with Exchange 2007 through 2013. For Exchange 2007 and 2010, you must have, at a minimum, one Exchange 2013 client access/mailbox server running in order to even use the Microsoft’s Hybrid Configuration Wizard. If you don’t have this, you’ll have to upgrade before selecting a hybrid deployment.

The Microsoft Office TechCenter offers assistance around Exchange Server deployment that may be helpful. Microsoft also offers a cool infographic to give you a sense of what happens behind-the-scenes in an Office 365 hybrid migration. TechGenix also has a good article on the steps necessary for a hybrid migration.

Contact CWPS when you’re ready to make the switch. We can help ensure that your deployment is seamless, no matter whether it’s a cutover or a hybrid go-live.

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Why Office 365 is the King of G-Suite Alternatives

pexels-photo-927451Office 365 is still the most widely used productivity software. Find out why Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are still the best G Suite alternatives.

The Google G Suite is here, and it’s trying to compete directly with Microsoft by offering an alternative to software products like Word, Excel, or PowerPoint that most companies have already built into the fabric of their workflows.

While most will probably not consider switching to the G Suite because these workflows are so ingrained, start-up organizations may still be looking lean toward Google’s office products since they typically cost less up-front.

This article will look at the G Suite alternatives and which makes the most sense for SMBs.

G Suite Alternatives

There are still some competitors in the office productivity space. Apple’s iWork productivity suite is probably the first G Suite alternative to come to mind. Pages, Keynote, and Numbers are not really what Apple is currently known for, however, placing this software as an afterthought behind hardware like the iPhone, the Mac, and the Apple watch.

Apache OpenOffice is an open source document tool that has a spreadsheet, word processing, presentation, drawing, and formula editor tools. The problem with OpenOffice is the open source formatting, that lets users add to the programs. In 2015 Apache reported there weren’t enough users to update the code.

Corel’s WordPerfect is another G Suite alternative; it has many of the same functions of the typical office suite, with one addition – there’s a photo-editing platform built in. Interestingly one of WordPerfect’s selling points is that they are Microsoft Office compatible. This irony should not be lost on those selecting an office productivity suite.

When looking at these competitors, it’s clear that Microsoft’s Office 365 is still the King of G Suite alternatives. While there is an element of personal preference, there is a lot of reasons why Office 365 is still preferable to G Suite.

For example, there are a lot more applications tied to Office 365. Also, Microsoft offers both cloud and on-site deployment for Office 365. Overall, Office 365 is simply more flexible than GSuite. 

The software features are what makes Office 365 the best of the G Suite alternatives. Here are some examples: 

  • Google Sheets, which is the G Suite alternative to Excel, now allows common language to be used in the calculation function of their spreadsheet. But Excel is unarguably the winner, here, because it has many more advanced features. That’s why, in a recent study, the majority of CFOs use Excel. Financial bloggers like James Kwak say Excel is “one of the greatest, most powerful, most important software applications of all time.”
  • Ironically, the G Suite allows you to save files as a Word document, which speaks to the pervasiveness of the Office 365 platform of products.
  • Office 365 has Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), an email filter that targets malware and viruses in real time.

The Wired magazine headline spells it out plainly, “Google work apps gain new powers, but Microsoft still rules.”

To find out more about Office 365 and what it can do for your business, contact CWPS.

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Microsoft Azure vs. AWS – How They Stack Up in 2018

141021-OSX7TL-419What’s the “state of the state” for cloud adoption this year? According to Gartner, the "default position has now flipped as businesses consider cloud deployments first for most upgrades or new installations."

It seems like the scales have finally tipped in favor of cloud adoption, after more than a decade of architectural stability, security, and expansion. Gartner says that more than 70% of all businesses will be in the cloud by 2021. Forrester agrees, citing 2018 as the milestone year when more than 50% of all businesses will have significant architectural frameworks in the cloud.

Two of the most dominant players providing those cloud architectures are Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). In a head-to-head comparison of Microsoft Azure vs. AWS, how do they stack up against the influx of traffic heading in their direction? Why would an SMB or even an enterprise organization choose one or the other? What are the nuances that set these providers apart from each other?

AWS – E-Commerce Giant

A comparison of Microsoft Azure vs. AWS by RightScale in their “State of the Cloud Report,” shows AWS leading Microsoft 64% to 57% in cloud adoption by enterprise organizations. The majority of these adoptions include running some sort of application in the cloud:

Adoption Type AWS Microsoft Azure
Actively running apps 68% 58%
Experimenting with apps 15% 22%
Planning to use apps 7% 8%

While AWS is leading on the app side of deployments, they made another market capturing move in late 2017 when AMS and VMware announced an expansion of their hybrid cloud offering with disaster recovery services. VMware developed the strategic relationship with AWS about a year prior to this announcement, but VMware can also be used with Azure services for machine virtualization.

AWS offers these services in the cloud:

  • Compute
  • Storage
  • Databases
  • Analytics
  • Networking
  • Mobile
  • Developer Tools
  • Management Tools
  • Internet of Things
  • Security
  • Enterprise Application

However, from a revenue perspective AWS is the clear leader, with four times the revenue generated from the cloud as Microsoft Azure. AWS got into the cloud game a few years earlier than Azure, as well, so Microsoft has some ground to gain in terms of revenue and new client business. That’s really in every area except one; Computer World UK has suggested that Azure is closing the gap on infrastructure as a service (IaaS), especially for enterprise organizations:

But despite AWS’s dominance, Microsoft has quickly gained ground under the leadership of “cloud first” CEO Satya Nadella, building a huge global network of its own.

The AWS IaaS offering includes:

  • Content delivery and storage
  • Compute
  • Networking
  • Database

For comparison, the Azure IaaS offering includes:

  • Data management and databases
  • Compute
  • Networking
  • Performance

In a feature-by-feature comparison, Microsoft Azure vs. AWS offers similar services for storage and networking. They both have all the benefits of the public cloud, including scalability, security, self-service, and reliability. Both companies have invested big money in their cloud offerings.

Currently, AWS offers the biggest range of services that include database, mobile, developer and management tools, security, applications, IoT, and AI. AWS has a relatively new machine learning service for developers that offers image recognition, text to speech, and access to the same engine behind Alexa.

AWS provides a number of other tools to help developers get the job done:

  • Container Services
  • Elastic Beanstalk
  • Lambda
  • Batch

However, AWS does not have the same volume of tools for app hosting as Microsoft. Azure is the winner for developer tool for cloud-hosted developer apps.

So, while AWS is the market leader, who you should go with depends upon the services you’re searching for. Developers that gravitate toward Microsoft and hybrid applications are going to want to go with Azure.

Microsoft Azure – Trusted Innovation Provider

“Microsoft Azure can hook into all those Windows Server customers in the enterprise data center and stretch into its cloud.”

ZDNet

Some of the reasons that customers choose Microsoft to begin with; they are one of the most trusted and reliable names in IT. Microsoft excels at offering software as a service (SaaS) applications in the public cloud.

But Microsoft Azure has some other offerings that set the provider apart. For example, Azure does seem to lead the pack in compliance, with more than 70 offerings. They were the first to commit to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and have been selected as the leading and most trusted vendor for government organizations

Microsoft Azure offers the following services in the cloud:

  • Compute
  • Networking
  • Storage
  • Web + Mobile
  • Containers
  • Databases
  • Analytics
  • AI + Machine Learning
  • Internet of Things Integration
  • Security + Identity
  • Developer Tools
  • Management Tools

Like their IaaS applications, hybrid models are an area where Azure is gaining ground on AWS. The Microsoft Azure Stack includes a consistent hybrid cloud with open source tools for developers to bridge the gap between cloud and on-premise deployments. It offers a virtual machine architecture, IaaS and PaaS capabilities that make on-premise solutions much more portable.

Azure also has a huge footprint, with services available in 44 regions across the globe.

When it comes to Microsoft Azure vs. AWS in machine learning, Microsoft also offers a comprehensive service that lets developers deploy algorithms and APIs. Azure offers management and security tools like Active Directory and EMS.

For developers, Azure has:

  • App Services
  • Cloud Services
  • Service Fabric
  • Container Service
  • Batch
  • Functions
  • WebJobs

This is just a few of the tools available to developers in the Microsoft Azure cloud. .Net developers have a fairly easy time publishing an application to Azure; the platform does much of the work and the process is intuitive.

Feature Breakdown: Microsoft Azure vs. AWS

One of the difficulties in migrating to the cloud is our use of legacy applications. Often, organizations do not have the resources available to create a new app for the cloud environment, so a hybrid model becomes the best option.

Also, Azure has a seamless integration with Active Directory and Visual Studio. However, AWS has traditionally won the race for open source developers. AWS has always welcomed Linux users and has solutions for open source applications. Staying true to the competition that defines the cloud race, Microsoft recently opened their .NET frameworks to developers and launched the SQL Server on Linux.

Finally, the other big consideration when comparing Microsoft Azure vs. AWS is that Microsoft has developed and is still working on an interconnected universe of interoperable services. It’s now possible to leverage solid Microsoft architectures and apply them in the cloud, in the pipe, and on the ground. End users have been using Microsoft tools for decades; the Office 365 world now includes every office communication and organizational tool imaginable, from good old standbys Word, Excel, and Outlook, to file storage in SharePoint, as well as Skype for Business, an ERP for analytics, and more. Microsoft has developer tools and cloud offerings that include security designed for today’s mobile world with Microsoft Office 365 EMS.

This interoperable universe makes for easier transitions and stakeholder buy-in when seeking to roll out new software. This could be a plus for your team.

But What About Cost? Microsoft Azure vs. AWS?

In the past few years, the competitive nature of the cloud deployment market has ensured that the costs of Microsoft Azure vs. AWS have remained relatively close.

Click here for a cost calculator for AWS.

Click here for a cost calculator for Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft Azure vs. AWS -- Bottom Line?

So the question, at this point, is which to choose: Microsoft Azure vs. AWS. For developer tools, hybrid models, and interoperability between platforms, we choose Microsoft Azure every time. For more information on how the cloud can help your business, contact CWPS.

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How to Get The Most From Office 365's Collaboration Tools

office365 collaboration toolsSometimes it takes a village to get work accomplished. The problem: today’s villages are often spread across different cities, states, and countries (not to mention different departments and organizations). A single project can include someone working from their home office in a New Jersey suburb or a coffee shop in Amsterdam.

Microsoft understands this and has developed a great set of tools across the Office 365 collaboration universe. This article looks at these tools and helps our readers figure out how to optimize their performance.

Microsoft Collaboration Tools That Get the Job Done

Network collective efforts are simply not possible without collaboration tools that span email, instant messaging, conferencing, file sharing, customer service, and project management.

Here’s the lowdown on the Office 365 collaboration package and how you can get the most from each tool:

Email through Microsoft Outlook is the most widely used digital communication tool in the U.S. and around the globe. We don’t need to tell you how to maximize it; most readers have been using this tool for the past decade (at least). In fact, we are increasingly turning to other Microsoft tools because our inboxes are too full.

Skype for Business has been a brilliant addition to the Office 365 collaboration family. That’s because our dispersed teams need a way to see each other through video conferencing where attendees can still whiteboard their ideas in a virtual setting.

OneDrive is a simple, secure place to store files in the cloud. It keeps a desktop uncluttered while creating an accessible paper trail that cannot be destroyed by a spilled cup of coffee on a laptop.
SharePoint takes OneDrive to the next level. It is a Microsoft Collaboration tool that’s most frequently used for team communication and organization. Getting the most from SharePoint can include creating project-specific Intranet sites to store and share documents, setting up calendars that sync with Outlook, instant messaging in real-time during document editing – and more.

Yammer is an instant messaging tool that can pool opinions from a group immediately. For fun, use it to figure out where to go to lunch. Or, talk about a client meeting – or even last nights favorite TV show.

A Connected Universe: Office 365 Collaboration

When Microsoft launched the Office 365 collaboration tools, the entire point was to create an easy-to-access universe of tools where one login could give the user everything they need to make work happen. A few years back, organizations had to use multiple tools with tool-specific sign-on, unique user interfaces – and many of them simply didn’t play well with each other. The result was a lot of busy work between applications involving copy/paste and retyping information that was already entered on one platform.

Microsoft’s collaboration tools were created to provide a seamless and efficient user experience. Each tool is already optimized to get the most from each application under the Office 365 umbrella. To find out how to streamline your communication and collaboration efficiency, contact CWPS to discuss your options.

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Office 365 vs. GSuite - Which Makes Sense for Fast-Growth Companies

Office 365 vs. GSuiteThere are all kinds of productivity applications on the market today. Two of the best ones have been built by Google and Microsoft. Both Google’s GSuite and Microsoft Office 365 offer communications tools and file storage along with office tools. But comparing Office 365 vs. GSuite applications shows some real differences between the two models. For the fast-growing company, which will work best? 

Office 365 vs. GSuite: Feature Comparison

Looking at Office 365 vs. GSuite yields some quick differences that are easy to spot. While both offer cloud-driven services, only Microsoft offers desktop deployments. The first question for any fast-growth company is whether this matters. While Microsoft can handle hybrid solutions, GSuite resides in the cloud. Cloud scalability is likely very important to companies that are expanding quickly.

But many organizations are not comfortable with putting all their corporate eggs in one basket – so a hybrid model, where services are divided between an in-house application and the cloud, are important. If this is the case, Microsoft wins in this area. In fact, Office 365 plans currently also provide the desktop version with the cloud model. This is a huge benefit for growing companies; the more options, the better. Office 365 can be used offline on a desktop or online.

In a direct feature comparison of Office 365 vs. GSuite, here is how things shape up:

Features

Office 365

GSuite

Presentation/Slide Show

PowerPoint

Slides

Data

Excel

Sheets

Word Processing

Word

Docs

File Storage

OneDrive/SharePoint

Drive

Third-Party App Integration

Microsoft Teams

Google Web Store

Email

Outlook

Gmail

IM

Yammer

GChat

Video Conferencing

Skype for Business

Google Hangouts

 

In terms of offerings, Office 365 and GSuite are neck and neck. But an obvious difference is that Google products are free for individual use. But for business applications, both Google and Microsoft have a user agreement for their products. Pricing for these services break out in the following ways:

Looking at pricing for Office 365 vs. GSuite show that there are there are differences between the small, midsize, and enterprise-level plans for both companies. However, the biggest difference may be in the file storage size. The GSuite entry-level plan has a fairly restricted file storage limit at 30 GB. The good news here is that documents created within the Google suite of applications do not count toward this file storage limit. However, emails are counted toward this limit. 

For the entry-plan, Microsoft wins; there is 1 TB of storage compared to Google.

Another problem with Google is the email functions. Gmail doesn’t allow users to group email, which can be unwieldy in a business setting. The truth is that Outlook, like Word and Excel, has cornered the market around that function. There are far more Outlook applications in use today than Gmail, and Microsoft’s office productivity suite has owned market share for decades. One important red flag for Google is that their email products simply do not play well with the Outlook calendar.

One thing to note, when comparing pricing for Office 365 vs. GSuite, is that Microsoft has a more complicated structure. However, there are many more options for building a suite of services for companies that are growing quickly; that scalability and flexibility is a big plus.

Office 365 vs. GSuite: Functionality

Microsoft’s increasingly strong Office 365 performance is coming partly at the expense of Google Apps.
CIO

The GSuite is a great umbrella of low cost, simple services for the small business. But no one beats the Microsoft Office 365 suite for the sheer number of functions within each application. There is no question that Microsoft Excel kills Google Sheets for high-level number crunching and data visualization. Google Docs simply cannot add the layers of graphics and desktop publishing features found in Word. Also, PowerPoint is the most-used presentation software on the planet; most of us have been using it for decades.

This shouldn’t preclude the growing company from considering the Google suite of services. In fact, you can open Microsoft Office docs from Google Docs or save files from the GSuite to a Microsoft format.

However, when comparing Office 365 vs. Gsuite, it is important to consider the functions and goals of most growing companies. One is to track all customer touchpoints in a customer relationship management platform. That’s why Microsoft offers Dynamics, a CRM designed to handle sales, customer service, marketing, or any other service that requires customer contact. CIO says that Microsoft is even beating out Salesforce, the “Cadillac CRM” in growth numbers lately.

Many companies in aggressive growth mode will look at enterprise resource planning (ERP) software as a more sophisticated way to track productivity and profitability. Microsoft has an ERP solution that offers companies advanced analytics and tracking on a familiar Microsoft dashboard. 

Speaking of familiarity, the Microsoft suite of features all have a similar look and feel, along with easy interoperability that makes adoption faster. For growing companies, this may be important, because it could save in training time as well as ease-of-use. CIO says: 

The simplicity of Gmail and Google Docs clearly appeals to some users, but
as one of the most widely used applications in the world, the Office software
is familiar to many.
 

Office 365 vs. GSuite – Final Word for Fast Growth Companies

A comparison of the two platforms should always be undertaken before signing off on any user agreement. For small companies, GSuite may have enough features to help them expand without feeling the constraints posed by a limited number of features. But when purchasing an office productivity suite, consider the learning curve for staff that may be more accustomed to the “standard” Microsoft products. 

Perhaps more importantly, consider not where your company is now – but where you want to be in five years. Would the additions of expanded cloud storage, or the analytical power of an ERP platform help your organization take things to the next level? Would Google inhibit your goals and require a mid-stream switch from the GSuite to a more robust set of interoperable applications?

It’s for these reasons that CWPS recommends Microsoft Office 365 as the suite of productivity applications geared toward businesses seeking growth. Contact us to find out more.

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Webex vs Skype - Which Makes Sense for Your Business?

skype-2.pngWe already know how important web conferencing is to today’s mobile workforce. Two of the best and most popular web conferencing services on the market today are Cisco’s WebEx and Microsoft’s Skype for Business products. Both are cloud-based software products that bring the power of remote conferencing to businesses of all sizes and types. Millions of people all over the globe use both products to stay connected. 

This article looks at WebEx vs. Skype including the features and benefits that may make one or the other best for your business. If you’re trying to decide which service to use, this article will help.

The History: WebEx vs. Skype

Both WebEx and Skype were created as digital disrupters seeking to fulfill the promise of the internet as a global communications tool. The roots of WebEx date back to 1996, and a company called ActiveTouch. An Indian programmer and a Chinese entrepreneur got together and created the video conferencing software, which was later renamed WebEx in 1998. One year later the firm relaunched their original on-premise software as a SaaS product. It was, in fact, one of the first SaaS applications.

Fast forward to 2007 when the Internet really got rolling, and the purchase of WebEx by Cisco for a cool $3.2 billion. Today, the Cisco WebEx site says the platform holds 26.5 million meetings per month.

Skype was released in 2003 by Swedish and Danish developers. In 2005, eBay purchased Skype for $2.6 billion. Four years later, an acquisition occurred headed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. At that time the market value of the platform was around $2.92 billion. But by May 2011, when Microsoft bought it, Skype was worth $8.5 billion. Today, there are more than 300 million active Skype users each month. The Skype mobile app has been downloaded more than one billion times. TechCrunch says that equates to more than two trillion minutes used. 

Side-by-Side Comparison WebEx v. Skype

“As people increasingly embrace video as the de facto method of communicating, ease of access to the call or meeting is crucial. Most attendees are usually online, but there’ll always be some who are out and about – and who need to join remotely by either dialing in or a dial-out option.”
James Porter, Sei mani

Finances Online has a nice side-by-side comparison of the available features in WebEx vs. Skype. In it, they list the overall performance uptime of Cisco WebEx as 8.9 and Microsoft Skype at 9.0. That places both companies in a neck and neck performance race. Skype edges out WebEx in user satisfaction, though, at 98% to 96%.

Cost-wise, Skype has a “freemium” payment model; the basic service is still free. Businesses typically use Skype as part of their Office 365 subscription and the two services are increasingly integrated – more on that in a moment. At this time Cisco does not have a free option for individual users.

Both services offer some similar features, specifically:

> Web and video conferencing for 200 people or more (Skype offers the most at up to 300).

> Secure unlimited meetings under the monthly SaaS fee.

> Screen sharing.

> File sharing.

> Chat and brainstorming tools like whiteboarding.

> The ability to record meetings.

> Live support.

> Administrative controls.

But that may be where the similarities end. One big difference between the two platforms is that WebEx does not have a feature-driven instant-messaging framework like Skype does. With the addition of WebEx Spark, Cisco sought to stay competitive with Skype but adding IM and file storage. Traditionally, WebEx has been the platform for just pre-planned calls or events. An article in sei mani points out that:

The linking of WebEx and Spark does not provide a feature- rich messaging and presence environment and in the same way that an Android mobile can call an iPhone – Cisco’s interoperability play means every endpoint will connect with any other standards-based endpoint from any other vendor, hard or soft.

TechTarget reminds readers that comparing WebEx vs. Skype is not apples-to-apples, “The biggest differentiator is the breadth of the applications.” TechTarget suggests that Skype (see their comparison chart here) has many more features than WebEx, including: 

1. The ability to toggle between full window and a compact screen in admin view.

2. Add participants at any time to a video session in progress.

3. Interoperability with other Microsoft products – including the ability to make calls from Word.

4. The ability to switch devices during a conference session.

5. Telephonic features like call forwarding, holding, and muting.

6. Manage simultaneous IM conversations.

7. IM history automatically archived.

8. Syncs with Outlook calendar.

9. The ability to hand your desktop to other participants so they can make changes to documents.

10. Permission-based file sharing.

11. Handles up to 300 people in meetings and has a broadcasting/webinar function that handles up to 10,000 participants.

In October 2017, Microsoft released a new version of Skype that gave the platform a more youthful feel. Whether this is appropriate for business remains to be seen; TechCrunch suggests, “It’s the kind of feature that makes Skype seem like it’s aiming for a more youthful demographic, rather than one that serves its professional use cases.” 

The new Skype seems to be distancing itself from the slightly-more-stodgy WebEx; there are now personalization features that let users organize contacts in a number of ways in a more flexible dashboard interface. There’s a media gallery tied to each IM chat, which makes it a lot simpler to sort through conversations. Unlike WebEx, Skype allows for add-ins like Expedia or StubHub. Other IM platforms such as Slack could benefit from Microsoft’s ideas in this area. 

It should be noted, too, that Skype for Business is about one-half as expensive as WebEx. Dial-out calling is included in the price, plus users can now search for any global user just like a PTSN landline call.

Pros and Cons WebEx vs. Skype

PC Magazine reviewed the two competitors WebEx vs. Skype. They found similarities and differences, strengths and weaknesses. 

Their look at WebEx revealed an easy to use service that they call “not inexpensive.” In fact, it’s about double the price of Skype. However, all the paid plans include up to eight simultaneous video conference lines, screen sharing, the ability to record meetings, free mobile apps, and more. 

“Cisco WebEx Meeting Center’s user interface (UI) has a modern look compared to other services.”
PC Magazine

WebEx meeting hosts can share their files or desktop, and control attendees from a dashboard. There’s a virtual whiteboard for sketching ideas. Cisco WebEx does not offer phone conferencing. However, the service is compatible with multiple phone conferencing providers. It has all the features necessary for web conferencing. The service has a callme feature that calls to invite you to a webinar. However, it’s a pricey option with a subscription and a per-minute rate.

“If your business is interested in this kind of group collaboration, then you’ll want to skip Cisco WebEx Meeting Center and just get a Cisco spark meetings account.”
PC Magazine

PC Magazine suggests that Skype for Business “hits that sweet spot for small businesses that need more than the consumer Skype.” They suggest that the service has grown up since Microsoft has taken it over. Instead of a piecemeal series of application integration, Skype is the communications hub within the Microsoft office function.

One of the biggest pros of Skype for Business is that it is becoming more and more integrated with Office 365 tools. Businesses can use SharePoint for file storage, for example, and set up Skype calls straight from that portal. Or, integrate Skype meetings easily right into the Outlook calendar. 

There is a “meet now” feature that works well for impromptu communications as well as the traditional web-based video conferencing that most of us have used. It’s easy to run a side conversation alongside your Outlook email and calendar.

Skype for Business generally makes it easy to complete a conference call. It’s a click and invite process via the Microsoft Surface Hub – just tap the phone icon. There are four views to choose from as well, that really puts the meeting organizer in the driver’s seat.

Which is Better for Your Business: WebEx vs. Skype

The online message boards and feature comparison links show a pretty close feature-rich experience between both WebEx vs. Skype. The best way to approach the decision-making process is to lay out the features and benefits you’re searching for in a web-based video conference service. Are you already using other Microsoft products, like Office 365? Could WebEx be a better option if you need a more robust VoIP service? The truth is that both of these services are excellent. 

To learn more about the differences between WebEx and Skype for Business, contact us today.

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Get to Know Skype for Business Basic

business-skype-meeting.jpegOne of the benefits – and drawbacks – of Microsoft products are all the subscription and feature options. Any casual user of Excel or PowerPoint understands the fact that Microsoft software applications are known for offering multiple shortcuts and ways to conduct tasks.

Microsoft subscriptions are just as complex, and they’re adjusted for marketplace demands and feedback from customers. Microsoft listens closely to what customers want which drives them to focus on building a better product constantly. This means you have a lot of subscription options under the Office 365 packaging but also under Skype, which is now owned by Microsoft.

This article will help you understand Skype for Business Basic, including some of the software’s best features included in this subscription service.

Skype for Business Basic vs. Skype

The free Skype app was designed for individual users. It’s also sometimes called Skype Meetings. It doesn’t fall under the Office 365 suite of productivity tools, nor does it offer some of the features of Skype for Business Basic. Skype allows you to call any other Skype user for free by using the instant messaging feature. It has screen sharing and conference calling for up to 10 users. (After your first month, that drops to three.) You can also get a Skype phone number and pay for calls by the minute. The application is really best for individuals or perhaps small businesses or startup companies.

Skype for Business includes a lot of the same features, including voice and video calls, IM, and screen sharing. But there are a lot more features under the hood of this version of Skype. For example, advanced call routing is a particularly important tool for the typical business, and the more advanced version of Skype offers it. Even better, you can video conference up to 250 people simultaneously. The consumer version of Skype lacks this functionality. 

Skype for Business is offered as part of the Microsoft Office 365 online subscription service that includes all of the productivity tools you’re probably already using.

Skype for Business Basic lacks the connection to Microsoft Office. As a stand-alone service, it offers video and audio conferencing along with some call functionality and screen sharing. It does not offer the advanced Skype Meeting Broadcast that is standard with the Office 365 functionality. Skype Meeting Broadcast lets users broadcast to up to 10,000 people! Skype for Business Basic also lacks some of the fun features – like Facebook integration and whiteboarding. Skype for Business Basis is basically more like GoToMeeting in terms of functionality.

So, which do you choose? Here’s the rub – there are at least nine different versions of Skype available for download. If you’re currently using the Microsoft Office suite of products, it will probably make the most sense to subscribe to Office 365, which will unlock all of the features of Skype for Business. Or, if you have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint already installed on your devices, Skype for Business Basic would unlock important business functions that you’ll probably appreciate.

Contact CWPS if you’d like to find out more about Skype and the Microsoft suite of products.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Skype

pexels-photo-288477 (3).jpegIt's important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of Skype before eliminating your traditional business landline. Skype for Business can bring together remote teams and allow them to participate in meetings just as if they were in the same room together. But Skype for Business also has some drawbacks tied to the technology it uses, which may not be a good fit for your business. This article looks candidly at the advantages and disadvantages of Skype to determine if it might be a good fit for your business.

Skype Pros

Video conferencing is hot, according to a recent Business 2 Community article. Some of the biggest advantages of Skype revolve around the ability to make video conferencing an accessible, affordable service for even the smallest of businesses. Meetings can be scheduled quickly and with just a few mouse clicks no matter if participants are working in an airport, from home, or in the office. Skype for Business is now integrated right into the online Office 365 platform, so if you’re already in Outlook, it’s simple to hover over a contact and click to Skype them.

One great Skype feature is its instant messaging tool, which is perfect for collaboration on documents. For example, if you’re working on a document in the office, you could IM a co-worker to get their input and attach a copy of the document. Starting a dialogue in real-time helps keep teams connected and offices productive. 

The same idea holds true for video conferencing. Say you’ve started a video conference and you want to add participants on the fly. Just click on their IM profile and ask them to join in. Video conferencing is great because it gives you the opportunity to read facial expressions and body language which helps develop a stronger sense of trust between remote co-workers.

There’s no reason to fly back and meet in person because a Skype for Business video discussion is exactly like having a real person in the room. In fact, reduced travel costs are another advantage of Skype for Business. It’s an especially useful tool for small to mid-sized businesses that require employees to be on the road but need to follow a tight budget.

Skype Cons

When weighing the advantages and disadvantages of Skype, it’s important to state the obvious; you must have your computer or cell phone on in order to receive Skype calls. The good news is if you subscribe to the voicemail feature you won’t miss the call.

Another obvious disadvantage is because Skype is a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) provider, your video or audio connection will only be as good as your Internet connectivity. If your connection is slow or intermittent, you might have trouble placing or staying connected to a call.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Skype – Weighing Your Options

The best way to determine if Skype for Business is right for your organization is to simply take it for a test drive. You can download the free Skype app designed for individuals to get a taste for how it generally works. Or, if you have an Office 365 subscription, Skype is already included.

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Why Use Skype for Business?

pexels-photo-515166.jpegSkype for Business gives even the smallest of companies an affordable way to manage teams that are on the road. Microsoft has integrated this flexible and easy-to-use video and audio conferencing service directly into the Office 365 suite of products. The benefits are outstanding – now one click lets you communicate freely via instant messaging, audio, video, and email all in one place. You won’t have to manage multiple applications; everything you need is under one umbrella. This article looks more closely at some of the benefits of using Skype for Business as a one-stop communications tool. 

Skype for Business Benefits

One of the first benefits of Skype for Business is that it helps limit the amount a company will spend on their phone bills. This is particularly helpful for start-ups or small businesses that run a tighter margin – but every size business can benefit from phone calls generated over the Internet. Skype has around 30 million users around the world that are taking advantage of this multi-purpose communications hub.

Skype for Business is also very user-friendly, allowing Office 365 users can leverage the platform in all kinds of ways. You can integrate Outlook contacts easily and then just hover over names and select the call or IM button. You’ll be able to set your status so co-workers can immediately see if you’re busy. If you’re in a meeting and you want to bring in colleagues in an impromptu video call, it takes less than a minute and a couple of clicks to facilitate.

Another benefit of Skype for Business is its portability. You can use it on your cell phone or any digital device as long as you have a Wi-Fi signal. This lets you work from anywhere at any time. This is a huge boon for the small to mid-size company that wants to improve productivity. Enterprise organizations that have a traveling sales team won’t have to worry about staying in touch.

Skype for Business also offers a meeting broadcast feature suitable for thousands. If your company wants to offer its own version of a Ted talk every quarter or offer a worldwide training for dispersed teams – Skype for Business can handle it.

By far, one of the most utilized features of this platform is the video conferencing feature. Setting up a phone or video meeting is simple; you can schedule or set up an impromptu meeting with anyone, anywhere. Video conferencing as a tool is particularly important to improve the connections between teams who are spread out or on-the-go. You can record these meetings in HD and archive them. You can also copy attendees into OneNote and add tasks or comments. There’s even a whiteboard feature that allows you to capture brainstorming notes and project it to attendees. 

Microsoft’s Skype for Business offering is an enterprise-level product that is now affordable for all sized businesses. It offers some of best tools for improving communications with clients and internal teams, making it the right choice for on-the-go businesses with dispersed teams.

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