The new pricing plan launched by Skype for Business has caught the attention of its competitors and its costumers.
Attention AV & IT professionals!
Skype recently released an improved pricing package for Skype for Business! This news may have you wondering how this change in the online video conferencing industry will affect your own business? Skype for Business is a widely used online video conferencing service for professionals invested in video communication. We will evaluate the newest features and weigh them against competing third party meeting providers such as GoToMeeting, Cisco WebExand Zoom.
Cisco WebEx has the upper hand in the production of video conferencing hardware in addition to producing the software (WebEx) for an efficient video conferencing experience. Similar to Microsoft, Cisco also produces a professional grade unified communications product, Cisco Jabber, which provides similar server level plans that can be applied in conjunction with WebEx. GoToMeeting presents a minimalist design and holds a great deal of "business user" appeal for users who need a system that simply just works. Citrix provides a vast selection of quality online cloud based systems however, they do not compete on the same level with Microsoft & Cisco's unified communications platforms. To mention a few: GoToMeeting, ShareFile, GoToWebinar, Podio, OpenVoice and Grasshopper. Lastly, Zoom is the most affordable service package and offers specialized features such as iPhone/iPad screen sharing, H.323 room system compatibility and Zoom Rooms for instant video conferencing. While each substitute to Skype for Business offers various different features, Skype remains the most appealing option for both affordability and user flexibility. Most pricing options are separated into 10, 25 and 100 user cutoffs while Skype for Business accommodates up to 250 people in a single business plan. Provided is a comprehensive feature breakdown of the 4 providers click here (composed prior to Skype for Business release).
The new Skype for Business pricing plan:
New Skype for Business Pricing Breakdown
Comparison with third party meeting providers (GoToMeeting, WebEx & Zoom)
Cisco is a distinguished company in the networking and video conferencing world. WebEx is a secondary brand of Cisco which optimizes its video conferencing systems with cloud based software for users not interested in investing in hardware. Many companies use hardware based technology in their offices for international conferencing but it comes with a large price tag.WebEx provides many similar features offered by Skype for Business but differs greatly in its pricing plan. Enterprises with a significant need for high performance video communication may require hardware based codec ( LifeSize, Polycom and Cisco), however, Microsoft is proving that the incentive to secure cloud video conferencing is steadily on the rise. Polycom has even begun to develop Skype based video appliances such as the RoundTable Camera which is certified "Lync Optimized".
As the figure above clearly indicates, WebEx is comes at a greater price than Skype for Business. The single defining difference between their services is that WebEx is backed by Cisco and its dependable security. This does not signify that Skype for Business is vulnerable to threats, it is backed by its own very effective security systems developed and implemented by Microsoft. We anticipate Cisco's pricing model may soon evolve to complete with Skype for Business and other inexpensive providers like Zoom.US. The price per user account used to be $50 for both GoToMeeting and WebEX licenses under a 1 year ago. The premium today has increased five-fold beyond what Skype for Business charges per user and may be the selling point for business who do not already use free Microsoft services such as Office 365 or Lync.
GoToMeeting is a well-known competitor of Skype for Business and remains the runner up to Skype in the online meeting market. GoToMeeting sports a sleek UI design (it's new if you haven't used GoToMeeting in a while) and overall, provides a positive experience. Citrix, the parent company of GoToMeeting provides a collection of products and upgrades such as GoToWebinar and ShareFile that enhance efficiency and functionality. Personally my favorite is Podio, it offers a "Basecamp"collaboration spot for teams communicate their thoughts. Citrix is steering heavily into the cloud while they also provide on-site server installation solutions aiding the small businesses and enterprise markets. Skype for Business requests you obtain a partner for its on-site server solutions and offers the ability to choose from several reliable partners. Skype for Business Server 2015 partners include: AT&T, HP, Avanade, BT, Dell, Dimension Data, Modality Systems, Orange and Unify Square. Users can find the most suitable partner which meets their requirements and provides equal cost and performance. A full partner list can be found here.
GoToMeeting offers the following pricing plans:
Zoom US is the highest quality substitute for Skype for Business and provides more features at a lower cost in comparison with WebEx and GoToMeeting. Zoom.US is the first service to offer a legitimate "Microsoft Lync Plug-In" which enables Skype for Business (Formerly known as Lync) to launch zoom video conferencing calls directly from your contacts. So it is likely that business clients already using Microsoft Lync (now Skype for Business) would show interest in using Zoom.US licenses for their conference rooms to enhance its functionality. One simple use would be to increase the functionality of interoperability with legacy H.323 hardware. The standard services are unchanging for all 3 alternatives but Zoom.US offers a tad more in my opinion when comparing features (Full feature list here). The company also offers Video Webinars, join by Call Me, Toll-Free dialing and SIP room systems however these features are not included and require an additional subscription. These added features result in a higher price when compared to Skype for Business but offers extra functionality. I don't think Zoom.US will be flexible on pricing unless the incentive is very large. Their product comes out superior for the 1-25 attendee host license market.
The only disadvantage of Skype for Business online plans is that it does not have the capability to support VoIP calling and needs an additional Server 2015 to provide this service. However the various options available for Server 2015 which varies by prices and features, one can find the right fit for his/her business. The new pricing plan for Skype for Business will most definitely effect third party meeting providers due to Skype's established brand name and its reputation for reliability.
Supporting Skype for Business in The Conference Room
When dealing with the conference room itself many times installing and starting up these cloud based technologies can be difficult, and the user has control multiple applications as well as the conference room schedule. UnifiedCT has launched a Meeting Room Control Software specifically developed for both on-site and office 365 deployments of Skype for Business (formerly Lync). This software was made to integrate both the meeting room schedule (a Microsoft exchange or Google calendar) and the native Skype for Business controls any end user would like access to. The interface is comparable to a "Lync Room System" now known as a "Skype Room System" but in place of only supporting Skype for Business meetings, our software combines GoToMeeting, WebEX and Zoom.US for businesses that need flexibility in their meeting spaces. When the software detects a GoToMeeting invite from the conference room calendar it automatically uses the GoToMeeting API to launch the video call. As goes for WebEX and Zoom.US. To view a detailed list of features click here.
If you are interested in testing this software for your business we offer free 30 day trials here. It must be installed on a Windows PC with Skype for Business (Microsoft Lync 2010 or 2013) previously installed and running.