Continuing our “Skype for Business VS.” idea, we’re doing a comparison to WhatsApp!
The Basics: Feature Sets
|Skype for Business 2015
|Voice Calls||Voice Calls|
|Video Calls||Video Chats|
|Presence Status||Status Indicator|
|Persistent Chat||Group Chats|
|Runs On-Site (Server)
or SaaS option (Office 365)
Web Service Option
WhatsApp is a messaging app made for iPhones, Android Phones, Blackberries, Windows Phones, and Nokia Phones. It’s owned by Facebook now, but was started separately by some former Yahoo employees.
Like [Google Hangouts last time], Skype for Business and WhatsApp have similar feature sets. The fundamental difference between them is that WhatsApp is entirely mobile-based. Skype for Business focuses on the desktop first, desk phones after, then mobile clients.
The Similarities: Functions, Ease of Use
I find WhatsApp closer to Skype for Business, in terms of function, than Google Hangouts.
Its Chats are very similar to Skype4B’s Instant Messages. You can send images and video within the conversations. You can call others in the system.
Everything is accessible from one central contact-based menu. I found instructions throughout the client, written & styled to look like the iPhone’s own commands. The WhatsApp team kept ease of use in mind while designing, that’s for sure.
All that said, there are notable differences between the two communication systems.
The Differences: Privacy, Security, Mobile vs. All
First off – WhatsApp is mobile-based. There is no desktop client. Skype for Business has mobile capabilities, but it’s desktop-based.
While WhatsApp covers devices Skype4B doesn’t (people still use the Blackberry?), Skype4B has more capabilities due to its server setup.
Conversation History. WhatsApp chats are saved to your phone. It’s possible to email chats in order to save them externally: How do I save my chat history? – WhatsApp FAQ
The WhatsApp app does have a backup option. It allows you to backup chats and videos (optional) to iCloud on the iPhone. This is not enabled by default; you must do so in Settings.
So there is a form of Conversation History within WhatsApp. However, it’s not automatic, or as comprehensive as Skype for Business’ Conversation History function.
“WhatsApp does not collect names, emails, addresses or other contact information from its users’ mobile address book or contact lists other than mobile phone numbers—the WhatsApp mobile application will associate whatever name the WhatsApp user has assigned to the mobile telephone number in his/her mobile address book or contact list…”
Privacy controls are available in WhatsApp Settings. It’s not at the same level as Skype4B though (server edition at least). With Skype4B you have complete control of your data’s storage & logs. With WhatsApp, you do not.
Security. WhatsApp does not use end-to-end encryption. For corporate use where data security is a must, this makes WhatsApp a no-go. In contrast, Skype for Business does employ encryption, precisely to protect your data. (The Skype for Business team confirmed this in a Reddit thread.)
Finally, there is no 911 access on WhatsApp. I don’t think this is a deal-breaker, since you’re using a phone, which by definition has 911 access. Just pointing it out.
Final Words: WhatsApp OK for Personal, Not Great for Business (But Skype4B Is!)
The WhatsApp team deserves credit for their UI. They made a messaging app that’s clean, simple to use, and clearly popular.
I think WhatsApp makes a good casual communication tool, for personal use. However, it’s missing the security & privacy requirements needed to work in a business environment. For that, you’ll need Skype for Business.
Have you ever used WhatsApp in a business context? If so, what was your experience like? Please comment or email. Also, if you have another communications tool you’d like me to compare to Skype for Business, please send that over too!