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From Lync to Skype for Business: Here’s how to transition your end-users

(At the bottom of this article is an email you can send to help users transition from Lync to Skype for Business. Feel free to use it, even if you’re not an Intermedia customer!)

Our office has been abuzz with excitement for the release of Skype for Business. We’ve been hosting this terrific collaboration software since even before it was called “Lync”. (When we first started hosting it in 2007, it was called Office Communications Server.) Intermedia is  a leading provider of Lync/Skype for Business.

But we recognize that not everyone in your office will be so excited about this change. According to a recent article in TechTarget, some analysts believe that the transition to Skype for Business will be challenging for end users who are accustomed to Lync and/or perceive Skype to be a consumer-only brand:

“Nemertes Research Analyst Irwin Lazar said the rebrand especially triggered major concerns in regulated industries like finance and healthcare, and IT managers are struggling to explain the rebrand to employees. Even though Skype for Business has the same architecture as Lync, the confusion sets in when users think their organization has switched to the less secure consumer Skype model.

‘Imagine going to work at a bank and finding your communication application is Skype,’ Lazar said. ‘The perception is now you’re on public, consumer Skype running over the Internet.’”

Lazar’s conclusion—which we fully agree with—is that communication will be your secret to a smooth transition. We’ve written this post to help you communicate to users  what they need to know about Skype for Business.

What will change for users?

One of the first things users will notice about Skype for Business is the Skype-inspired user interface. While the back-end platform retains the enterprise-grade security and control of Lync, the front-end is different. This means users may get frustrated simply because it’s unfamiliar.

Users need to know that the feature set is basically the same. Users can still use text chat, video chat, screen sharing, group meetings, and all the other essential Lync tools that make collaboration so much easier. It only takes a few moments to learn the new UI.

(We’re considering creating a video that shows the Lync vs. Skype for Business interfaces side-by-side. If you think it would be valuable, let us know on Twitter.)

As you can see, the client layout for Skype for Business has been given a face-lift.  The color palette now matches Skype’s traditional blue and grey, and the contact icons have been rounded.

The tab menus have also been updated slightly.  But perhaps the biggest change that users will notice is the new Skype icon tagged to toolbars, rather than the Lync icon that they are normally accustomed to.

New feature: Skype consumer directory search

One new feature your users should definitely know about is the integration of the Skype consumer directory search. This feature, labeled “Skype Directory”, allows users to communicate with Skype consumer accounts.

The integration of Skype consumer directory search makes  it far easier for users to collaborate with customers, partners and suppliers.

Users can add consumer Skype contacts to their directory and connect with them once the contact request is accepted.

(Two notes for IT admins. First, technically, Lync could also federate with consumer Skype accounts, but the feature was never as front-and-center as it is today. Second, your Intermedia account will have federation DISABLED by default to avoid inadvertently violating your security policies. We will activate it for you for free, upon your request.)

New feature: File transfer preview

File transfer preview adds additional functionality to Skype for Business.  With file transfer preview, users can easily download, forward, preview or delete files sent during an IM session. Users can use the content menu or drag and drop directly into the chat area.

A user can right-click or tap and hold to preview file details  including file title, type and size, before downloading files. This makes it much easier to see what is being transferred.

Other than that, there are a small number of new features, including the ability to paste unformatted text into the chat box and a new set of emojis.

What about security?

Prior to the introduction of Skype for Business, most of your users probably considered Skype as a consumer tool—perfect for video chats with Grandma, but not necessarily suited for executive video conferencing.

If those concerns should arise, it’s important to point out that, underneath the hood, Skype for Business is nearly identical to Lync. This isn’t to underplay the change in UI—which is a big leap forward. Rather it assures your users that Skype for Business retains the same enterprise-grade security that it has always had.

From Intermedia’s perspective, both are effectively the same software. They are hosted in the same datacenters, running on the same best-of-breed equipment, and backed by the same protection and controls as it always has been.

(The one security-related argument that could be made is that federation makes Skype for Business less secure. This is just as true as it was for Lync: federation with public networks is inherently less secure. That’s one of the reasons we disable federation by default. The benefits of federation are considerable, but it isn’t without its risks.)

Prepare your users to transition from Lync to Skype for Business

From a technical user’s perspective, the transition is fairly straightforward. Intermedia customers on Microsoft Lync can upgrade to the new Skype for Business client by installing the latest Lync updates.

However, from a user perspective, Skype for Business is a brand new app. It will come with the same headaches and confusion that some users experience with ANY IT-related change.

That’s why we strongly recommend sharing this update with others to help aid in the transition with users.  Below you will find a sample email template you can send to users within your organization to help get them started.

Dear <Company name>,

On <fill in date>, we’ll be rolling out Skype for Business, which will replace Microsoft Lync on your computer.

Skype for Business is effectively the exact same software as Lync, but with an interface similar to consumer-style Skype.

As with Lync, Skype for Business lets you connect with the people you need to reach to get your job done. It continues to offer text chat, video chat, screen sharing, group meetings, and all the other essential Lync tools that make collaboration so much easier.

Here are some more details about what’s new in Skype for Business.

I’m confident that you’ll find the new interface easy to learn. However, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Thanks!

How is Skype for Business different with Intermedia?

As we mentioned earlier, we’re approaching our first decade of experience hosting versions of this software and we’re one of the leading providers.

With this experience, we proudly offer a 99.999% uptime service level agreement for Skype for Business. We also have many certified experts on staff, and our technical support teams are here 24/7 to answer your questions with typical hold times of less than 60 seconds.

Learn more about Skype for Business

About Michelle Couture

Michelle Couture is the Sr. Product Marketing Manager for business email and security products at Intermedia.