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

Google Hangouts Opening Screen

Skype for Business 2015 Google Hangouts
Instant Messaging Instant Messaging
Voice Calls Voice Calls
Video Calls Video Calls
Conferences/Online Meetings Conferencing
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.

Start a Hangouts Video Call

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.

Presence. Skype for Business beats Google Hangouts here, in my opinion. Hangouts’ presence indicators are good for seeing who’s available/not available at a glance. Particularly on Android devices.

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.

Skype for Business vs. Google Hangouts
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5 thoughts on “Skype for Business vs. Google Hangouts

  • September 10, 2015 at 6:43 am
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    Yes, both products have features they can tick on the side of the box, but this really isn’t even a comparison when you consider the entire 365 suite vs Google. Google apps is lacking and dysfunctional in so so so many areas when it comes to Enterprise collaboration – encryption isn’t even on the first page of deficiencies. Don’t get me wrong, Office365 is not perfect but it is years more mature than Google – especially when it comes to integration into existing toolsets like Active Directory, your legacy Cisco phones, etc..

    Reply
    • September 16, 2015 at 8:44 am
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      Hey, thanks for the comment. In an overall Office 365 vs. Google Apps sense you’re right; neither solution is perfect. In enterprise terms, I’d honestly skip both and go with on-prem Skype for Business. Much better for security, compliance, and capability. For some small businesses though, Google Apps gets what they need done.

      Reply
  • September 24, 2015 at 4:08 am
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    I came across this blog when trying to decide whether to buy skype4B to run weekly video conference meetings. Our group (of 5) has been using Google hangouts for 2 years, all of us using ipad2’s. It has worked remarkably well for us until last May/June, I think when we all updated to iOS8. Now it’s so buggy that it’s barely usable, with especially the audio cutting in and out so bad that we can’t follow the conversation.
    Now I’m thinking of buying Skype4B and then downloading Lync2013 but I’m wondering if we’ll have the same problems and maybe it’s an outdated Apple device issue, not an app issue.
    Also, we’re not a business, just individuals, and don’t need Microsoft 365 or any of the other business functionality so it would be a bit of overkill.
    Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • September 30, 2015 at 10:25 am
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      Alicia,

      Thanks for commenting. It is possible that your devices are the source of the problem – we had trouble with the Lync 2013 app on older iPhones, even though the server worked fine everywhere else. You might try the new Skype for Business Online service: https://products.office.com/en-us/skype-for-business/online
      Just the Skype for Business basic feature set, nothing more. Please update us if this does the job for you.

      Reply
  • May 29, 2016 at 12:18 am
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    In our small advertising company (12 people) in The Netherlands we started with Google Apps for Business last year. We use Google Hangouts for meetings with clients and status updates on projects. It suits us perfectly. Before we switched to Google Apps we used Microsofts Office range. In my opinion Google Docs, Sheets and Presentation is less fancy with limited tools, but offers far better value for money. Hangouts equals Skype just as Google Drive is simular to Microsofts OneNote. With Google offering a superior value deal. On privacy there is no real difference between Apple, Microsoft and Google. All companies have the intention to build profiles for commercial use. Encription is an issue Google has to offer soon, but Google does have quite good dashboard to manage privacy settings. Big plus for me is that Google works fine on any operating system and device, wether it is Windows or Apple, iOS or Android.

    Reply

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