Skype for Business isn’t the only voice/video option out there. But how does it stack up compared to others?
A reader emailed me the other day, asking about Google Hangouts. They were curious if there was a business case to make for using Hangouts over Skype for Business.
Good question! I made note of it for later. Today qualifies as ‘later’, so let’s do a little head-to-head.
Note: This post is longer than most; I didn’t want to go into exhaustive detail, but I did want a thorough comparison. It’s worth the read, trust me!
The Basics: Feature Sets
|Skype for Business||2015 Google Hangouts|
|Instant Messaging||Instant Messaging|
|Voice Calls||Voice Calls|
|Video Calls||Video Calls|
|Presence Status||Presence Indicator|
|Persistent Chat||Group Conversations|
|Runs On-Site (Server)
or SaaS option (Office 365)
|Runs as Web service
and Mobile Apps
From this match-up, the two look almost identical in terms of feature set. Even their branding is similar:
- Google Hangouts bills itself as “Messaging, Voice and Video Calls.”
- Skype for Business bills itself as “Secure Unified Communications.”
I do want to point out one notable difference right away. Google Hangouts reflects more of a consumer-friendly branding approach, while Skype for Business focuses just on business use. This becomes more important as we go along.
The Similarities: Features, Goals, Quality
Features. Obviously, these two systems keep up-to-date on their features. One thing I particularly liked was the fact that Hangouts does sync its chat logs between devices. Lync Server 2013 didn’t have this feature–but Skype for Business does now.
Goals. Hangouts and Skype for Business essentially accomplish the same goal: enabling conversations between everyone, anywhere they are.
Voice Quality. I made a couple calls from the Hangouts Web Service (on a Lenovo Ultrabook) to colleagues. Then I made the same calls to the same people on Skype for Business. My stock audio-receptor devices (commonly called “ears”) detected no difference in voice quality. Both times people sounded as clear as your typical phone call.
Video Quality. Likewise, I tested Video Calls through Hangouts and Skype4B. I can see why people like Hangouts for video calls – you can’t get much simpler than clicking “Video Call” and having the call start up.
Video quality appears just as good as my usual Skype4B video calls. Curiously, one person’s voice actually sounded better while video was enabled! Perhaps that meant more bandwidth allocated automatically.
The Differences: Price, Privacy, Presence
Price. Hangouts is free, but it has limits. Video calls are limited to 10 people. (I don’t know why you’d want to have more than 10 people talking at once, but hey, if you need to!)
Skype for Business is, of course, not free. You’re paying for the software and the hosting, either on-site or Office 365. In return you get every feature you want, with limits you set. Classic Free vs. Paid tradeoff.
User Interface. Google Hangouts is very visual, lots of emoji, avatars, chat bubbles…it’s “fun”. Again, consumer branding. Skype for Business is less “fun”, but it’s clean and works in a business context.
No big deal here. Your preference will dictate which interface type you like more.
Privacy. With Hangouts, all conversation logs are stored on Google’s servers. This, quite frankly, is a huge concern to me. It means Google has access to every conversation, ever. And it doesn’t use end-to-end encryption.
We’re VERY privacy-conscious here at PlanetMagpie. We’re even leery of customers using Skype for Business 2015 Online, Microsoft’s Office 365 service. For the same reason.
Of course, with Skype for Business Server 2015, your conversation history is stored on the on-site server. Much better for privacy.
Hangouts uses a green circle to identify Available contacts (example on right). Very much like Skype for Business does. Custom status messages are available too.
However, you don’t have options for other status types, such as Away or Busy. This is where Skype for Business’ Presence functionality pulls ahead. It has more options: Available, Busy, Do Not Disturb, Away, In a Call, etc. We’ve also covered creating custom Presence status options in the past.
Apps. The Hangouts Extension only works in Chrome. I think that’s a “feature not a bug” from Google, but I prefer using Firefox. I can still use the Web-based Hangouts platform, of course. Minor difference.
In terms of app quality, I’d have to give an edge to Google Hangouts. Their iPhone app is clean and fast. I didn’t try out the Android app, but according to Twitter it’s just as good, if not better.
Final Words: Very Close, Use What Works Best For You
Hangouts is a great quick-and-easy choice for video calls and group chats. I’d say it’s a viable choice for small outfits like startups, local nonprofits or communities. Free, lets you communicate the way you want, and doesn’t get in your way.
In larger business environments however, I’d stick with Skype for Business. It’s better suited for the privacy requirements and enterprise voice/video capability needs.
I know some businesses do use Google Hangouts and like it. That’s great–it does work with Google Apps for Business, so you’ve got plenty of tools at your fingertips. It all comes down to which interface you like & where your privacy settings are.
If you have a Google account, you can access Google Hangouts at: https://hangouts.google.com/
Which do you prefer using – Google Hangouts or Skype for Business? Are there situations where you prefer one over the other? Please comment or email me what you think.