Introducing the next stage of Cloud based communications: Solar Seamless Connect

Posted by Elliot Dacosta on 09 February, 2018

As a business you have been considering moving to cloud however are fearful that the investment you have made in your current technology prevents you from doing so - Solar Seamless Connect is the bridge into cloud that you have been looking for. SSC is the bridge from your hardware to moving your operations into the cloud and here is why...

Brief history of video-calling

The notion of speaking with another individual face-to-face over long distances is one that has intrigued people for decades. A staple scene in any sci-fi flick from the 1960s onwards has featured the flight deck of a lycra-clad space crew engaging in futile diplomacy across a big screen, with a large foreheaded and surly extra-terrestrial who is curiously fluent in English.

It was the Germans who began experimenting with the concept for real usage in the 1930s, eventually showcasing the Gegensehn-Fernsprechanlagen (visual telephone system). It went on to manage a range of over 600 miles, but was never widely available with users having to operate the system from designated booths.

The Americans picked up the idea, with US firm AT&T developing their own version in the 60s. The Mod1 was made accessible to the public from booths that were set up in New York's Grand Central Terminal, Washington D.C., and Chicago but again, never really took hold.

By the 1980s video-calling finally began to emerge as a commercially available means of communication. However, it has only been in the late 20th century, with the advent of powerful video codecs combined with high-speed Internet broadband and ISDN service, that videotelephony has become a practical technology for regular use.

The arrival of Skype

For videotelephony to make a global impact, it took a plucky pair of Scandinavians (Niklas Zennström, from Sweden, and Janus Friis, from Denmark) who in the August of 2003 released Skype onto an expectant public. To say it went down well would be something of an understatement. Less than ten years after its release, the platform had more than 50 million concurrent online users logging close to a trillion minutes of calls a year.

Skype really took off when it developed into an app people could download onto their smartphones and tablets. Suddenly, the future had arrived and as a species we began happily chatting away to friends and family face-to-face be they down the street, or half way across the world.

Skype for Business

Videotelephony was always going to appeal to the general public, but it was first devised, all those years ago, with professional use in mind, and the clamour for such technology from the professional community had never dissipated. On the contrary, as technology advanced, demand became increasingly noisy and ubiquitous.

Having acquired the Skype brand in 2011, Microsoft responded to these demands three years later with the release of the fully Microsoft Office365 integrated Skype for Business.

Skype for Business in numbers

  • 55% of organisations now use SfB
  • SfB is poised to exceed 100 million enterprise seats by 2018
  • Employees are on twice as many teams as five years ago. The amount of time employees spend engaged in ‘collaborative’ work has increased 50%
  • Within six months of a partner approaching them with a Modern Meetings solution, 39% of SMBs then switch to SfB
  • According to analysts, Forrester, companies (both private and public) who switch to Office365 and SfB’s full capability, stand to make over 163% ROI
  • According to Forrester’s estimates, Office 365 can save about 30 minutes of lost productivity per user per day
  • According to MYOBresearch, businesses that operate in the cloud can expect a revenue growth up to 33%

 Skype for Business (SfB) burst onto the scene boasting an array of features. Much like its consumer predecessor; instant messaging, VoIP, and video-calling were all included in the package but with some compelling additions, the main ones we list here:

  • Integrated with the full suite of Microsoft Office 365 applications – By tapping into the features of the rest of the Office365 suite, the versatility of SfB For example, PowerPoint presentations can be shared with multiple remote participants with high-resolution displays. Advantage can also be taken of other multipurpose PowerPoint features such as embedded videos and slide transitions. Other Office365 files can be uploaded and shared by any user during a meeting for all other participants to view.
  • Schedule meetings in HD – Integrating the Outlook plugin, online meetings can be scheduled with a single click. The presenter can choose a meeting topic and can also determine which participants can join the meeting. Up to 250 participants can be included in meetings with video resolving in HD.
  • Variety of conference tools - SfB provides various web conferencing tools such as a virtual whiteboard on which selected participants can make annotations. The whiteboard allows users to arrange text, ink, drawings, and images on a blank canvas to deliver their message. Annotations can be viewed by all present during the conference.
  • Broadcasting facilityAlthough conferencing is limited to 250 participants, Skype Meeting Broadcast lets users broadcast content to over 10,000 attendees. This is a desirable function for those organisations who host, or want to start hosting webinars.
  • Various presenter controls – Presenters of SfB video conferences retain special privileges such as the ability to mute all or individual attendees, block any person’s video, invite other people, and customize permissions to allow presenters to act as participants.

The above represents some of the main features of SfB that has seen the platform enjoy wide uptake across organisations globally. However, SfB is not without its shortcomings. As users have become more familiar and more competent with its usage, frustrating limitations in its functionality have begun to surface.

The main concerns pertain to the platform’s voice provisions, particularly that SfB doesn’t allow for making or receiving calls outside of other Skype network users. Not only that, unlike a traditional phone system, users are limited with how they manage their inbound and outbound calls. And then there’s the fact that the minutes are expensive, the network resilience immature, and the feature range of network services is restricted.

With traditional, non-video telephony still playing such an enormous part in the day-to-day operations of organisations everywhere, these limitations prevent SfB from being a comprehensive UC platform, and allowing such organisations a wholesale migration to the Cloud.

Enter Solar Seamless Connect

Accruing multiple awards and accreditations along the way, Solar Communications have been busily supplying organisations of all types and sizes with next-generation communications and connectivity for almost 30 years.

Their insatiable appetite for developing new innovations, and building on top of existing ones, has most recently seen them design a flagship product created to provide a unique bridge between enterprise telephony platforms, and the Microsoft user interfaces most employees know and trust.

With Solar Seamless Connect (SSC), users have full access to SfB and its array of features. However, with Solar’s enterprise grade telephony bolted on, the full potential of the platform is fully unleashed.

Still accessed through the SfB interface, SSC users will have the added ability to;

  • Direct inbound calls to Skype for Business
  • Perform native Skype dialling through their existing phone systems
  • Enjoy full call telephone control from within Skype: Dial, answer, hold, transfer
  • Deploy IVR, call groups and call routing
  • Record calls
  • Utilise voicemail functions

Essentially, Solar Seamless Connect brings together the common call features of a traditional phone system and the intuitive, user-friendly interface of Skype. This allows for a degree of scalability, flexibility, and mobility that is truly next-generation.

For those organisations looking to move away from their legacy infrastructures but are unsure of the wider-reaching benefits of SSC migration beyond technological features, the solution allows for the following:

Effortless scalability

A transient workforce coupled with shifting market forces means the contemporary organisation needs the ability to scale up and down its staff numbers. This needs to be achieved without wasting time and money on upgrade projects that lock them into certain bands of user volumes. Most organisations would like the ability to add and remove users as and when needed. SSC allows for this.

Business Resilience

Many businesses still host their core UC services in a single location making them vulnerable to failure, and upgrading to a resilient version of their system is often expensive. The SSC solution provides built-in resilience without the high impact outlay.

A workforce that can deliver from anywhere

Remote workforces require access to the same core services as office based staff. Adding this capability to most on-premise solutions usually requires extra hardware, licenses, integration services, and often requires the use of VPNs, or other services to deliver the capability. This costly minefield is circumnavigated with straightforward SSC implementation.

Budget Management

Many businesses now prefer to migrate to opex pricing models which provide predictable costs, leaving capital investments for other projects more closely related to strategic goals. With SSC, businesses are isolated from the shock of upgrade costs often encountered when expanding their system.

User adoption

Introducing any new system into a business is full of challenges when it comes to getting users to adopt. Without high levels of user adoption any roll-out will fail to deliver its advertised benefits and returns. The SSC system is easy to adopt, minimising the risk of failure.

IT Department ROI

Many IT departments are hampered by maintaining existing systems and infrastructure. This limits their ability to innovate and focus on projects that could have greater benefit to their business. Removing ‘everyday’ challenges by migrating to the Cloud creates opportunity to utilise the IT resources on more effective projects.

SSC: The obvious choice

SfB is a great platform and were it not for its telephony limitations would be the perfect vehicle upon which any business should consider using to migrate fully to the Cloud. However, with these telephony limitations persisting, SfB may not be a comprehensive enough solution for organisations to feel confident utilising as part of a full migration of their business communications and office, to a Cloud environment.

Solar Seamless Connect enables organisations to take a low risk approach this migration, leveraging the many benefits of Cloud technology, the full feature range of SfB, next-generation telephony, all whilst allowing for integration with their existing infrastructure.

There’s a reason SSC is enjoying an unprecedented uptake, maybe it’s time you found out for yourself.

 If you would like to further information on how Solar Seamless Connect could be the solution you looking for in your business, why not check out this ebook "Choosing The Right Solution For Your Business" which looks at SSC and how it can fit into your business most effectively;

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 Or why not take a look at some of the statistics around SSC in "Unifying Your Communications With A Single Solution" which further looks at how the solution is an effective bridge from old and new technology:

SSC Unifying Your Communication eBook