This post was inspired by one of Versature’s awesome employees. You know who you are.
I was at a gathering of fellow tech CEOs this past week and after introducing myself and explaining what Versature does, the conversation turned to Skype and how one CEO was convinced that in a couple of years everyone would be using it as their exclusive business phone. While we have always paid special attention to Skype and the good things that they have done in the past (popularizing the softphone, paying attention to quality and adding video before anyone else), I just don’t buy it. Notwithstanding the technical issues surrounding this peer-to-peer service (which I’ll get into later), there is just no way that Mainstream Business can use Skype as their primary business phone in it’s current state. The opinion expressed by my fellow CEO is prevalent with Startups and micro-businesses looking to save money wherever possible, but as soon as you get to any scale, it makes very little sense.
Let’s start with the technical issues surrounding Skype. Most people don’t know that Skype is a peer-to-peer service, counting on all those computers that are running Skype at any one time to keep the service going. Some of you will remember the big Skype outage in December 2010 that lasted for over 24 hours, caused in part by a cascade failure because the SuperNodes (those of you using Skype who are on high-speed public broadband connections) got out of sync and couldn’t handle the load. Oh, you didn’t realize that when you are using Skype and you’re on a high-speed connection, the program uses the resources of your computer and your internet connection to relay information? Is this a good use of your companies’ precious resources .. relaying information for other Skype users as they video call to their friends and relatives? This is a relatively simplistic explanation of the way Skype’s peer-to-peer technology works, but I did find a more detailed explanation here.
With respect to Skype’s long term plans for Business, after dipping their toes into a couple of different Business offerings, it appears that they are getting out of the business market altogether. If you’re intending on hitching your wagon to this star and expecting them to innovate and add business features like Auto Attendants, Hunt/Ring Groups and Extensions, it appears they are going in exactly the opposite direction. Skype is an excellent consumer service to make free video calls back home when you are at university, but shouldn’t be thought of as something that could run your business. In fact, Skype really hasn’t done anything innovative since they were purchased by eBay way back in 2005. As you may or may not know, Skype is now owned by Microsoft .. and they have their own competing premise-based VoIP offering for Business.
Versature staff are well aware of the things that Skype does well in the consumer market, and we are working hard to capture those things in our own offering for business. For example, we’re continually working on the ease-of-use of our web-based Dashboard application, to make the user experience as clean and simple as possible. Adam, our CTO is working on codec support that will increase the quality of phone calls over questionable internet connections (such as hotels when you’re travelling). If you are a growing business looking to replace your existing PBX or even looking for your first phone system, make sure you choose a solution that is focused on Business that will be there for you as you grow and change.