Skype for Business excels most in affordability. If you're looking for a quality service with the most important features but don't want to spend a lot on a video conference system, Skype for Business delivers, making it our best pick for inexpensive video conference software.
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Despite the low cost of the system, you'll have access to the most important collaborative tools video conferencing offers. Among the key features are the integration of Microsoft Office applications, meeting notes, webinar recordings, polls and surveys, screen sharing, and whiteboards.
It's worth noting that Skype for Business will soon transition into the unified collaboration suite Microsoft Teams. Microsoft announced the move last year, but it hasn't yet determined a final date for when Skype for Business will enter the Teams ecosystem. It is unclear what the rollover will mean for service level and pricing, but for the moment, Skype for Business remains an inexpensive solution that provides an easy-to-use video conference platform.
Ease of Use
Skype for Business maintains all the essential features of a video conference platform, including chat messaging, quality audio and video, screen sharing, and the ability to give control to other presenters. Skype for Business lacks some of the bells and whistles that other services offer, but for a company that just wants a barebones solution, this is a good thing.
Skype for Business is simple to set up and use and doesn't have much of a learning curve for first-time users. With a built-in chat bar and intuitive display that allows you to mute or unmute your audio, turn your camera on and off, and see who else is participating in a meeting, Skype for Business enables users to jump right in and get started with a few clicks of the mouse.
One of the nice things about Skype for Business is that it comes along with access to Microsoft Office 365. Not only is Skype less expensive than many of the other video conference platforms we reviewed, you also gain access to other leading Microsoft products, like Word and Excel, when you sign up. This makes it a cost-effective way to bundle video conference software with other essential software your office might need. Skype for Business also offers a 30-day free trial, so you can kick the tires before you commit to a subscription.
Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials
- $5 per user per month
- Group IM, audio and video calling
- Web-only access to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint
- 1TB of data storage
Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium
- $12.50 per user per month
- Includes group HD video, desktop and app sharing, and meeting recording
- Allows scheduling via Outlook, remote desktop control and pre-meeting lobby
- Access to all Microsoft Office applications
Both plans support up to 250 participants, which is a large number compared to many of the other video conference platforms we reviewed. Skype for Business is also included in some of the Microsoft Office 365 enterprise plans, but the video conferencing application is not the primary focus of those offerings. You can take a look at the more comprehensive packages here.
Last year, Microsoft announced it would replace Skype for Business with Microsoft Teams, though no timeline for the transition has yet been released. Currently, it's clear that Skype for Business' functionality will remain even once the transition takes place, and it might even be upgraded, but it's unclear what this will mean for pricing in the future.
Microsoft has remained vague and flexible as to how and when the systems will be consolidated. However, it has provided a loose transition roadmap, which can give you an idea of how the change will progress.
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