Skype for Business is a hot topic within the unified communication space. It’s the #1 PBX for enterprises of over 400 lines and at least 90 of the Fortune 100 use it. Microsoft definitely has a winner in this offering, as companies everywhere are looking to replace costly, aging, proprietary telephony systems with this cost-effective, modern solution that is flexible and supports a broad range of handsets and communication hardware from vendors.

Challenges with Skype for Business

Perhaps your company has already made the move to Skype for Business or is considering doing so. Great! You could deploy Skype for Business in a traditional distributed fashion with native clients for Windows, Mac and mobile, but there are some inherent challenges with this approach:

  • Security. This may be the biggest challenge any organization faces these days. While Skype for Business does use advanced encryption standards and other methods to safeguard data both in transit and at rest, the simple fact of the message data, chat logs, etc. residing on hundreds or thousands of endpoints that can easily be lost, stolen or otherwise compromised is a security concern.
  • Support. Maintaining Skype for Business client software on devices, whether managed or unmanaged, can be a time-consuming process. There’s the potential for issues with software updates on endpoints, conflicting settings or other anomalies given all the requirements, capabilities and interactions of the Skype for Business client. This can add up to a lot of help desk calls.
  • Consistent user experience. The UI and features of Skype for Business clients differ between platforms. Users will not have a consistent experience as they roam from one type of device to another. Additional user education may be needed.

While server-based and VDI delivery of Skype for Business may help to solve these challenges, it will typically introduce new issues related to subpar voice and video quality and scalability of the backend delivery infrastructure. It’s not really a viable option when running un-optimized. So, how can we solve this challenge?

The best of both worlds

Enter the Citrix HDX RealTime Optimization Pack! An optimized solution for centrally and securely delivering Skype for Business that gives you the best of both worlds – a great user experience while maintaining server scalability. Media processing is handled by the endpoint device which results in a near-native experience thanks to some clever software. You can see the difference the HDX RTOP makes compared to other solutions in the following video

Let’s take a look at the above challenges again but this time with the Citrix HDX RealTime Optimization Pack:

  • Security. The Skype for Business client resides in the data center on your OS images. Users securely connect to it and only screen updates and mouse movements are sent across the network. All the actual data remains safe and secure within your network.
  • Support. Simply install the Citrix Receiver and Citrix RealTime Media Engine component and you’re all set! Manage the Skype for Business client version within your corporate OS images.
  • Consistent user experience. Deliver the same version of the Skype for Business client to Windows, Mac and Linux. The UI and features are consistent resulting in a familiar experience for end users across a wide array of platforms and devices.

The only solution endorsed by Microsoft

The Citrix HDX RealTime Optimization Pack is a unique solution in the marketplace and one on which we’ve worked very closely with Microsoft. Don’t just take our word for it though. Brad Anderson, Microsoft Corporate VP, has publicly stated that “The Skype for Business team actually has engineered Skype for Business to be optimized in Citrix environments” and “This [Citrix] is the only VDI solution that Skype for Business has been optimized for.”

The Citrix HDX RealTime Optimization Pack v2.1 is “Skype for Business 2016 Ready,” includes audio and video enhancements, endpoint location identification and more. See Derek Thorslund’s blog Are you ready for Skype for Business 2016 for additional details.

Customers are already taking advantage of the latest HDX RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business at scale. Here at Citrix, we’re customers ourselves and use this solution everyday through our own IT infrastructure. It’s seamless and intuitive to spin up a voice or video call with someone using the device of my choice from .

You probably already have the tools you need

I’ve given many presentations and demos about the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack and one thing I’ve noticed is that many customers just don’t realize that they likely already have the two key components for the solution – Skype for Business and a Citrix infrastructure. Today we support Skype for Business 2015, Skype for Business Online and even Lync 2013 server. Skype for Business is available in most Enterprise Office licenses as well as most Office 365 subscriptions. Most XenApp 6.x and XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x environments are supported, as outlined in HDX RealTime Optimization Pack System Requirements.

Join us at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference to learn more

I hope by now the value of secure, optimized delivery of Skype for Business is apparent. If you’re a partner, this is a great opportunity to have a discussion with your customers around their unified communication strategy. In fact, we’ll be doing just that at the 2016 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto from July 10th-14th.

Here are some additional videos to help get started.

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