Skype for Business sounds the all-clear on legal pitfalls

Settled lawsuits remove the barrier to using the inexpensive IP service, company says

Businesses that were scared of saving money by using Skype because lawsuits might take away its essential VoIP technology may not have to worry anymore.

Ownership of the company will shift from eBay to include others, but the company will finally own rights to essential code, meaning it won't fall victim to having that code stripped away by a judge and stranding customers.

That lifts the main barrier to business use of the VoIP service that has expanded over the years from a peer-to-peer phone application to include services specially crafted for corporate use. "I would be a lot more interested in Skype than I was a week ago," says Irwin Lazar, an analyst with Nemertes Research.

Just last month, in the midst of litigation that has since been settled, he was advising businesses to stay away, but now it's safe to try to reap the cost savings Skype can afford, he says.

Any of Skype's 521 million users can call Skype-enabled businesses and customers for free, helping to control costs for contact centers or remote corporate employees. Corporate 800-number bills can drop if Skype customers use a corporation's Skype rather than commercial toll-free number. The service can also complete calls to non-Skype numbers using the Internet as a long-distance backbone and then dropping calls off at local public phone exchanges for completion.

Businesses can buy Skype minutes to make outbound calls from phones attached to call servers certified to work with Skype's implementation of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). Via a service called Skype for SIP, calls are carried between callers' local Skype points of presence to Skype POPs close to the called parties, eliminating long-distance charges.

Lazar says he knows of one college using Skype when administrators need to call student cell phones because it cuts down on International wireless roaming fees that can cost $7 per minute, depending on the home country of the phone. The fees are a real problem for colleges with large populations of international students, he says. Calling through the Skype network drops costs to pennies per minute.

But the picture isn't all rosy, Lazar says. Skype doesn't have a dial-up help desk for when things go wrong, so time to fix problems can drag on. And provisioning tools are still very manual, especially for dividing up how many dial-out Skype minutes each employee is allotted, he says.

He expects Skype to address the support shortcomings by teaming up with value-added resellers and integrators who sell IP PBX gear that is compatible with Skype. These providers could escalate the calls to Skype itself if they cannot handle them, he says.

Smaller businesses that are technology-aggressive are the most likely to embrace SIP as a business service, Lazar says. But the steps Skype has taken to certify IP PBX vendors' gear with its Skype for SIP service can go a long way to simplifying its use. "It's a game changer," he says. "The level of frustration trying to get SIP to work can be enormous."

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