When I first started using Skype, it was mainly to keep up with family and friends. But over the years, the over-the-top (OTT) communication platform has become pretty much indispensable for business. In addition to the free personal version, Microsoft also offers Skype for Business, with some advanced features that we’ll discuss shortly. The personal version is also great for staying in constant touch with your colleagues, employees, suppliers and clients. Using it for business can improve communication while cutting down your telephone bills.

What is Skype and What It Does

Skype enables you to make and receive online, phone or video calls, send and receives messages, share files or share desktop screens with your contacts, make group calls, send or receive images, video/audio recordings, and contacts, and use a range of fun emoticons to make your business chats less boring.

Of course, you have to be connected to the Internet before you can use Skype. You can use it on your PC or your Apple, Android or Windows mobile devices. The personal version of Skype is free until you’re calling the other person on their phone, in which case you’ll need Skype credit. The rates are a fraction of those for conventional phone calls. Skype is available in all major languages and can automatically connect to over one million free WiFi hotspots worldwide.

Recently, Microsoft has added Hololens functionality to Skype. Hololense is a latest Microsoft gadget that allows people to communicate via 3D holograms!

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Skype for Business

Skype for Business comes with professional features that make business communication even more effective. It allows you to schedule online meetings and conference calls and secures your communication with industrial-grade security. Skype (free version) allows you to make group calls to a maximum of 25 people. With Skype for Business, you can call, video call or hold meetings or conferences with up to 250 people. Skype for Business also integrates with your Office 365, so you can launch it right from your Word document or PowerPoint slide, etc. Plans start at $2 per user per month.

The Limitations of Skype

Skype has a robust communication offering and it’s hard to find chinks in its armour. However, some clients report quality issues when the number of participants in a meeting or conference exceeds 25. Sometimes there might be synchronization issues when communicating between a desktop and mobile device. Another drawback is that Skype doesn’t integrate with a large number of online work platforms, such as Codeship or Asana. Other than these occasional snags and the lack of integration, Skype is an excellent tool for internal and external business communication, particularly if you’re hooked to the Microsoft ecosystem.

What Can I Use Instead?

Many North American companies prefer Slack to Skype. Slack integrates with a staggering number of business apps, including Skype, and has better search features. However, it is missing the video calling or meeting features. Video, voice, and group calling functionality can be available if you add Skype to Slack and use both the tools together.