Microsoft is rolling out a series of enterprise capabilities for Office 365, including new collaboration, security, and analytics tools. Starting today, customers can purchase Office 365 E5, a new enterprise suite offering that includes additional features across Skype for Business, analytics and security.
The Office 365 E5 suite costs $35 per user per month, or $420 for the year.
Collaboration is a priority with this update, which expands the communications services in Office 365 to include an enterprise phone system, dial tone, and PSTN audio and video conferencing.
Among consumers, Skype is often used as synonymous with video chats, explained Zig Serafin, CVP of Skype for Business, in a phone briefing with InformationWeek. Business communications have lagged in comparison, which prompted Microsoft to bring Skype capabilities to Office 365.
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Now that it can be used for meetings, video chats, calling, and information sharing, Microsoft's cloud-based productivity suite is giving businesses the option to replace their phone and meeting systems with a single service. It has the potential to significantly simplify infrastructure and cut hefty costs associated with multiple phone and conferencing systems.
PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Calling, two services now generally available in Office 365, enable users to join meetings and make calls from their desktop phones, PCs, or mobile devices. Users' numbers run through Microsoft via Skype for Business to make the connection, an ability that could cut costs for businesses using traditional video conferencing services.
PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Calling will be available in 15 countries on Dec. 1. Both will roll out to international markets in 2016.
On a larger scale, Skype for Meeting Broadcast (available worldwide Dec. 1) supports virtual meetings of up to 10,000 participants, who can join from nearly any browser or device, said Serafin. It's worth noting this feature is built into Skype for Business and not a separate feature.
Also available is Cloud PBX, which allows companies to get rid of antiquated PBX systems and move to the cloud. Office 365 now serves as a central location to manage all call routing functionality in Skype for Business. Cloud PBX will be globally available starting Dec. 1.
"People spend nearly a third of their time at work in meetings, yet only 18% of information workers actively use conference tools that enable rich experiences like video and content sharing," wrote Serafin in a blog post.
Nonverbal signals account for almost 90% of the messages we receive during interpersonal communications, he continued, which indicates improved communication tools can have a marked difference on productivity.
We first saw the Skype for Business voice and meeting tools within Office 365 when the service debuted in July. Microsoft expanded the preview in October to add new features and support a greater amount of countries.
During the months it was in preview, more than 4,000 organizations tested Skype for Business within Office 365. Microsoft tested the service among 30,000 employees internally and is on track for a company-wide rollout.
The latest updates to Office 365 also include new analytics and security capabilities, which are generally available Dec. 1.
Subscribers now have access to Delve Analytics, which displays dashboards to provide insights on connections among employees and teams. Managers can see which teams have most frequent interactions and determine where greater communication is needed.
Office 365 now includes business analytics service Power BI, which enables greater understanding of information through dashboards, data visualizations, and interactive reports. Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery capabilities help manage large quantities of data with machine learning and text analytics.
A security boost comes from Customer Lockbox, which gives customers new transparency, approval rights, and data control in the cloud. Advanced Threat Protection leverages behavioral analysis to shield against unknown viruses and malware.
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