Experiences with Cloud PBX (Skype for Business Online)

Over my years at Paradyne I had run Lync in a variety of environments – on-premises, in a datacentre, and with a couple of different hosted service providers.

Being acquired by ████████████ just over a year ago allowed us to bring the Paradyne cloud skills together with the ████████████ unified communications skills – specifically with Skype for Business.

For the past year we’ve been running in an on-premises environment, and have held off moving our users to Cloud PBX in Skype for Business Online for a couple of major reasons:

  • No Response Groups (aka Hunt Groups)
  • No PSTN calling

In fact PSTN Conferencing was only made available in Australia on the 1st of September 2016.

When I visited the Hyperfish office in Kirkland WA late last year I was jealous of their use of full Cloud PBX functionality – something we couldn’t have in Australia.

So the only choices available in Australia (and most other parts of the world that aren’t USA, UK or France) for organisations that have Skype for Business on-premises infrastructure is to utilise a hybrid deployment where all calls are still routed via the on-premises infrastructure but users live in Cloud PBX. A simplified version utilises the “Cloud Connector Edition” which requires less on-premises infrastructure. Anyway, I digress.

To get Cloud PBX working with on-premises infrastructure is somewhat straight-forward and available in this article: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt455217.aspx

The experience

As an end user I haven’t really noticed any difference. The only thing that threw me is that instead of having a localised dial-in conferencing number assigned based on user location policy, in Australia we only have a single number with a Sydney prefix (02). How I was thrown was when I dialled in a customer they asked me if I was Sydney-based (I am actually based in Melbourne).

However you can assign numbers from various capital cities to individual users by following the process on this support page: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Getting-Skype-for-Business-service-phone-numbers-e434aeb2-af99-40e7-981e-a474f0383734?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

(I have since done that for myself and now have an 03 Melbourne prefix for my dial-in number.)

I don’t really do much international conferencing with parties that don’t already have Skype for Business – but if that were to arise I can easily enable PSTN conference dial-in numbers for other countries:

The only loss of functionality is the Unified Messaging functionality. As we were using Exchange Online there was no Australian language pack available which meant we never had voicemail preview (speech to text conversion), so all I’ve lost is the embedded media player:

And now instead receive the voicemail as MP3 file attachment:

Apart from that the experience is no different than on-premises. The call quality both when on a PSTN call or conference call is superb, and we can now see the usage details in the Skype for Business Online admin centre:

As well as the ability to see call quality in the Skype Call Quality Dashboard:

My migration experience: barely noticeable.

My usage experience: same as before.

Also published on Medium.

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