Frequently Asked Questions
What is it?
Skype for Business (SfB) voice over IP telephone system includes telephony and unified communication services, such as voice mail to email, video calls, instant messaging, presence information, as well as PC and smartphone integration. Microsoft purchased Skype several years ago. SfB, though technologically different than consumer Skype, easily integrates with it. Contacts can be brought over from Skype to Skype for Business, etc.
Why a trial?
Our current PBX telephone system is 19 years old, and we are continuing our search for a replacement. Some of you were involved in last year’s extensive search for possible replacements, but as you know, in the end the solutions did not meet the college’s needs. Since then, there have been developments in Skype for Business’ licensing costs that make this solution worth a serious review.
Does this mean ITS has chosen this as the new system already?
No. Although the licensing costs for the Skype for Business solution are financially attractive, our priority is to invest in a system that meets the needs of our users, has proper levels of redundancy, adds new functionality, and is fiscally responsible. One of the main purposes of this trial is to fully vet its features and functionality utilized by users on our current system, as well as to try out new features that focus on expanding collaboration. Your participation will help us complete a plan for the eventual replacement of our existing system regardless of the final solution chosen.
What are the details of the trial?
For 60 days between April and June, 2016, approximately 35 users will use new handsets, personal smartphones, and computer-based softphone integration with SfB. For those of you who are part of the trial, your telephone number will be moved to the new system after you have been trained to use it. Please see “expectations” later in this letter for additional details.
This seems like a big project... are you utilizing any outside help?
We are working with a professional services firm to assist us with this trial of SfB. They are experienced with large installations of the system, will loan us the hardware needed to complete the trial, and will provide training. As an added bonus, they have in house expertise in other areas of infrastructure needed for a VOIP deployment that matches Middlebury’s switching and wireless gear.
What are the expectations of the pilot group?
Your feedback is critical to our success! During (and at the conclusion of the trial) it is expected you will provide ITS with feedback on the new system. We will want to hear the good and the bad. Obviously since the system will be new for you and us, your patience will be required as we work together on feature differences, problems with the new system, and other challenges that accompany new endeavors. Some things to expect during the trial:
- You will be given a new desk phone for the duration of the trial, which will have your current telephone extension.
- Your old set will not work and will be stored for after the trial, when your extension will return to it.
- You will be given access to specific ITS staff to assist and troubleshoot.
- Applicable software will be installed on your computer and/or smartphone.
- You will continue to be able to receive and make calls.
- You will be able to Instant Message (chat) with other trial participants only.
- You will have voice mail delivered to your email inbox and you will be able to review voicemail using your phone.
- You will have the option to test soft/PC and/or mobile based devices.
- You will be able to video call with other trial participants if your computer has a camera.
- You will have the ability for Single Number Reach, which is the simultaneous ringing of more than one device.
- If you have Multiple Line Appearances (aka Busy Lamp Fields) for coworkers’ extensions on your current phone - only those co-workers that are part of the trial will have appearances on your new phone. You will not have visual indication of status of users on the current system.
- You will need to setup a new voice mailbox on the new system. (Your old voice mailbox on the current system will be retained for reuse after the trial.)
Tell me more about Unified Communications?
“Unified Communications” or “UC” is the integration of communication services such as telephony, instant messaging (chat), presence information (computer screen information tied to the phone showing who is/is not on the phone, available for calls, or away), and video conferencing. call control, and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). The UC capabilities most applicable to higher education are:
- Unified Messaging – delivering voicemails as emails or email notifications. This is currently provided to some staff through our present voice mail system, as it would be on SfB.
- Mobility - having a college phone number that will simultaneously ring the desk phone, a mobile phone, a lab phone, etc. Calls made from any device (including mobile phone app) will display on the receiving end as the college’s caller ID, not a mobile phone caller ID.
- Softphones using a computer or laptop with a headset in lieu of a dedicated hard phone.
- Personal smartphone using an application that enables it to mirror your college phone but not interfering with personal smartphone use.
In a nutshell, Unified Communications uses technology to communicate independent of location and medium, allowing a user to send a message on one medium and receive a response on another.