So, you’ve decided to ditch your old PBX phone system and enter the world of Unified Communications. Good for you. Now, here’s what you should know to keep your Skype data safe from cyber pirates and more … because it’s not just your fingerprints you leave on your tablet.

Whether you made your decision to go UC based on employee productivity gains, time savings or converging networks, you may still have questions on which UC solution is best for you. This may be an easier decision than you realize, as you likely already own the leading solution and not even know it.

Skype for Business:
The Unified Communications Tool You Already Own

Skype for Business is a leading UCS solution and is bundled in the licensing programs offered by Microsoft in many popular iterations of Office, most notably Office 365. That’s right; there is a good chance you already own one of the leading UCS solutions available today. And you are not alone.

According to Microsoft, over 75% of customers surveyed have budget for Unified Comms. In fact, 3 out of 4 Citrix customers adopting UCS have already chosen Skype for Business as their preferred solution. Skype has such a dominant footprint that 90 of the top Fortune 100 companies use Skype for Business and another 79% of U.S Enterprise customers use or are planning to use Skype for Business

In fact, you may already have experience using the consumer Skype for instant messaging with family and friends. But when we look at Skype for Business, we need to look beyond just text messaging. More than 90% of those using Skype for Business are using the voice – video feature. I, myself, am a Skype for Business “heavy” user. I start my day with Outlook, this is true. And of course Skype is integrated into Outlook. But I also always have a Skype window visible somewhere on my screen.

To me, it’s like sitting in the virtual lobby or the coffee break room. I see people as they start their day when they change their status from yellow (away) to green (available).

“Good morning, Bill. How was your weekend?” I say to myself in my home office. I know, it sounds sad. #WompWomp

When I want to ask someone a question, I know immediately if they are available, in a meeting or have stepped away. For those I want to stalk–MUAHAHAHA–I can even tag them, so I get notified when they become available (c’mon, you know you do it, too … right?) I get a sense of intrigue when one of my contacts goes into “do not disturb.” (cue ominous music) What is so important that they block everyone?

A typical Skype for Business conversation

My usual Skype interaction goes something like this:

I need to ask or update my friend, Penny, about something. I look at Skype, as it’s always visible. I see Penny is “yellow” and her status is away for 11 hours. “Okay,” I think. “Penny is in Central time, so she’s not online yet.” I grab a coffee and check Facebook. I see Penny change to green, but I am not going to pounce right away. I give her a few minutes so she doesn’t know I’ve been waiting for her to get online. Again, back to the physical office, it’s like me waiting for her to get into her desk and settled in before I stand in her doorway.

I open an IM window with Penny, “Good morning.” We IM back and forth for a little and as the conversation gets deeper and more detailed, we decide that typing is not efficient any longer.

::RING!:: We open a Skype call. I use my headset and Penny uses her Polycom USB desk phone. But, the conversation gets deeper and more involved. So, we decide to get on a video call using our integrated desktop cameras.

“Hi, Penny. You straightened your hair. It looks great.”

But the problem we are tackling is bigger and more involved now, so Penny and I decide we need Lynda to help us out.

“G’morning, Lynda!”

And because Lynda always has something good to add (she’s a smart cookie, that one), I open the recording manager and record the meeting. Now, everything we say and do will be available for my review and notes for later.

Good news! Lynda has the answer we’re looking for. She shares her screen as the presenter and shows Penny and me a spreadsheet with all the answers to what we were discussing. Brilliant! Lynda drags and drops the file she showed on her screen into the Skype chat with the data that answered our question. Penny and I both download the file from Skype. Now that’s efficient!

“I think we covered it. Have a great day everybody.”

We end the call. Cameras shut off and I go back to listening to Pandora.

And now the downside …

Now, that’s a pretty standard Skype for Business interaction and it leverages a lot of the capabilities of a Unified Comm system.

But all of this ease of communication and collaboration can come at significant risk.

You see, everything we discussed, wrote and said aloud is stored locally on my laptop through the Skype client’s recording and logging options. That file that was full of confidential information was automatically downloaded to my end point. All of my Skype contacts, including their address, phone number and e-mail are automatically stored on my computer. That’s a lot of highly sensitive information. Kinda scary, right?

And should I leave my laptop in the back of a cab in New Orleans during a Microsoft conference, or it gets “misplaced” at the airport? Yup, all that data is now vulnerable. Breached. And as you can see, it’s not just simple texting of “How was your weekend?”

I hear what you’re saying:

How can I make sure that my employees have the productivity gains with Skype for Business but my intellectual property stays safe and secure? I don’t want to be the lead story on the nightly news!

(cue ominous music–dun dun dunnnnnnnnn):

Citrix has published a dedicated Skype for Business page with all things Skype in one central location. See also: w00t. And? Did you happen to see the alert on T9000 Malware for Skype?

Find out how Citrix solves these issues in Part 2 “Securing Skype for Business in a Mobile World” (coming soon to the Citrix Blogs) …