Features between on-premises and online are very similar, with a few exceptions.  Enabling can help assess what you use and explain what will work and what may not.

Exchange Online:

From a feature/functionality perspective, the same features enjoyed on premises are available in Exchange Online.  Even voicemail and email archiving capabilities can be enjoyed.

One Exchange Server feature that doesn’t work in the cloud is Speech-Enabled Auto-Attendants within Exchange Unified Messaging.  Speech Enabled Attendants enable callers to speak the name of the person they’re trying to call.  This is done in two situations:

  1. When callers dial the main number and are offered to call someone out of the directory.  Instead of being able to speak the name, as they’d be able to if Exchange were on premises, they will need to spell the name of the called party using their keypad.
  2. When enterprise users are dialed in and checking messages through Outlook Voice Access they can forward emails, forward messages, and call other coworkers through the directory.  Instead of being able to speak the names of their colleagues or contact, they will need to use their keypad.

On rare occasions, some 3rd party applications won’t properly work with Exchange Online.  Most applications like fax servers and help desk ticket automation software that use SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol) work without issue, but those that are tightly tied to Exchange using older protocols like MAPI, likely will not.

Skype for Business Online:

Lync/Skype is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant leader for Unified Communications, and the world’s fastest growing voice systemThere are a few differences between the on-premises Skype for Business server and the online version to consider:                      

  1. Skype4Bus Online has no enterprise dial tone capabilities.  The only ways for Skype4Bus to replace or integrate with a PBX are to deploy on premises or acquire Lync service from an authorized third-party hosting company.
  2. Microsoft offers no PSTN dial-in-audio conferencing capability.  There are separately contracted third party audio conferencing services that enable Lync Online users to invite external PSTN users to their meetings. 
  3. Skype4Bus Online offers no APIs for end customers to customize the behavior of Skype4Bus server.  The desktop APIs can still be used but server APIs to control workflows are not possible.
  4. All employees will be registered to one Microsoft Office 365 data center.  International users would traverse the Internet back to the data center, causing delay and performance impairments.  Some users may find that experience inadequate.
  5. Subtle features such as persistent chat are only available in the on-premises version.  Other details are at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/lync-online-service-description.aspx

Microsoft’s  Skype4Bus hybrid model allows some users to be in the cloud, using the limited cloud features, and others on premises, using all functionality of Skype4Bus.  All of these users can be licensed via Office 365 (with on-prem voice users on the E4 plan).

Microsoft has stated their direction to add voice features to Office 365.  In the meantime, Enabling has options for private cloud hosted Skype4Bus voice and audio conferencing services that bridge some of the gaps above.  Moreover, we are experts at recommending an unbiased, sensible path for customers.  We are also tracking Microsoft’s published Office 365 roadmap and NDA discussions about the future of voice in the cloud.

Check out the Roadmap:

Enabling is tracking Microsoft’s published Office 365 roadmap and is privy to NDA discussions about the future of Office 365 due to our membership in Microsoft’s Office 365 Partner Advisory Council.  We meet in Redmond with other top partners and Microsoft product managers to give feedback and get updates.  We can engage Microsoft product experts to provide NDA look-ins.