Skype Cloud PBX Not Ready for Small Business Yet
by Adam Arnold
Keystone has been looking for a great cloud-based PBX system for some time. We know that many exist already, but we wanted to wait for a complete system from Microsoft to complement our existing Office 365 Exchange system and integrate our Skype communications. When Microsoft announced its Skype Cloud PBX system, we thought we had found the solution. We purchased the necessary licenses and phone hardware and got the system up and running. Here’s a review of what we loved and what we found lacking in Skype Cloud PBX:
Skype Cloud PBX Pros
The tech behind Office 365 Voice is great. Much like any Cloud PBX system, the phone works where the internet works. You can easily forward calls to your cell phone or use the Skype app to answer and make phones – all while using the telephone phone number provided by Microsoft. If I need to place a call but don’t want to use my cell number, I can fire up the Skype app and call from the office line. It offers good call quality, and I get the convenience of using an office line even when away from the office.
Ease of Setup
Once we sorted out the licensing (it’s Microsoft, so the licensing is usually overly complicated), the setup on the phone was a piece of cake. You can easily administer lines and users from the cloud using the Office 365 console. Configuring the phone is just a matter of entering an email address and password, and it is are up and running.
This is a pro and a con. The pro aspect is that there is nothing to configure to integrate voicemail to email – it just works. And it works well. Within 30 minutes of setting everything up, the 365 system had a voicemail greeting using my name, and the voicemail came immediately via MP3 to my email.
Skype Cloud PBX Cons
No auto-attendant is available yet. No call groups are available yet. No hunt groups are available yet. The worst part is that they don’t have an ETA for those services yet. If you are a small business, it would be difficult to implement this solution without these features. The existing solution is slick but would only work well for offices that don’t need to have a team number that rings multiple phones or an auto-attendant that allows for extension finding or multiple prompts. So, for small businesses this new system is virtually unusable. Seems ridiculous to roll out a Cloud PBX system that doesn’t include grouping yet.
The $35 E5 Microsoft Office license doesn’t include the PTSN (public switched telephone network) calling option, which is another $12 per user per month. So, for $47 you can get their premium license and receive the inadequate phone system they provide. Ultimately, you can piecemeal it by buying separate licenses for each feature to get to around $30 per user including an exchange mailbox. However, you would need a nap after navigating all the additional licensing add-ons, etc. to get there. It is just too confusing for everyday users, and there isn’t enough meat in the system to warrant the price yet.
Skype Cloud PBX Review
Overall, we love the tech behind this Skype Cloud PBX and PTSN Calling. The admin console for the voice options is very user-friendly. The phone configuration process was a snap. The Skype app integration with the new voice options was cake. The call quality was surprisingly really good considering we had no quality of management or traffic shaping in place. It looks very promising, but it is ultimately useless for a small business until they roll out some additional features. They also need to clean up the licensing to make it easier for users to understand what they need to purchase to have the voice calling options.
If you need a cloud-based phone system right away, I would not go with Microsoft just yet. They just aren’t ready to provide this service to small businesses. There are several vendors that integrate with Microsoft now that can provide this service. We will report back once we get an ETA from Microsoft on the necessary features.