Array | January 17, 2011 |


Microsoft Lync: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Microsoft Lync: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?
Two No Jitter bloggers square off on the question of whether Lync is the right foundation for your enterprise communications future.

Two No Jitter bloggers square off on the question of whether Lync is the right foundation for your enterprise communications future.

Is Microsoft Lync the future of your enterprise communications system--or is it not ready for prime time? Two No Jitter bloggers, Dave Michels and Matt Brunk, have different answers to these questions, and so we asked them to debate the central question about Lync: Is it right for the enterprise? So that you can better compare and judge the two positions, each blogger used the same structure for his article, breaking the question down into four sections: TCO, Intuitiveness of Interface, Hardware Compatibility, and High Availability.

Lync: Yes

By Dave Michels

Microsoft Lync is redefining enterprise communications. The product was released last November to a market devoid of intuitive communications. Lync offers a broad solution that can (optionally) eliminate the PBX stranglehold, and offers communication and capabilities that allow people to communicate on their own terms; when, where, and how they work best. Lync offers a robust set of tools that delivers real time unified communications solutions in an impressive and thorough way. It isn’t about phones or even voice, it's about unified communications; integrated into the tools and environment of the modern enterprise.

The following four key arguments will make it clear how Microsoft Lync revolutionizes enterprise communications.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
The cost of communications technologies has never been trivial. All three cost buckets--equipment, usage, and administration--realize cost reductions with Microsoft Lync. Lyncs approach to hardware is different than traditional telephony that requires proprietary devices connected with dedicated wiring to proprietary servers using dedicated proprietary hardware with specialized interfaces to the carriers. Lync lets users migrate to SIP trunks and realize significant savings on long distance, usage, and capacity planning.

It also reduces administrative costs because it blends right into existing infrastructure unlike any other communications solution. Administrative changes, such as adding a new user, can be done in Active Directory, updating all the systems (email, voice mail, voice/phone) in just a few clicks. Users too will find the Lync client intuitive with reduced user training. Employees will feel liberated and confident when performing previously esoteric procedures such as initiating three- (or more)-participant conference calls.

Imagine using the same infrastructure that provides security (Active Directory), messaging (Exchange), and clients (Windows), seamlessly (optionally) integrated with collaboration (SharePoint) and productivity tools (Office). A single strategy for servers (Server 2008 R2) over a single network. Even the licensing of Lync can be bundled with other Microsoft solutions (many organizations already have Lync licensing available to them).

The implications are profound--no more unique skill combinations to recruit and retain. A single strategy for operations and disaster recovery, and consistent interfaces and tools for management (Microsoft System Center Operations Manager or SCOM). Every bucket that contributes to overall TCO declines; initial purchase, ongoing maintenance, and ongoing skill costs. Factor in improved productivity through intuitive conferencing and collaboration tools including video conferencing which can reduce travel, and the ROI becomes even more compelling.

But most importantly, Lync challenges numerous long held assumptions about telecommunications--such as the need for an expensive phone on every desk. Replace that phone with a feature-rich client that includes IM, presence, video, and yes, voice. Network costs also typically decrease, as most customers deploying Lync replace existing traditional carrier services with SIP services offering lower costs, improved quality, and additional capabilities for increased capacity and availability.

Intuitive Interface
Here's a notion: how about a phone that knows your contacts? How about a conference system that knows your number and either calls you or knows who is calling--eliminating those antiquated PIN codes. Lync understands work flow--it understands that conferences get set up in the calendar, so not only does it book the conference resources from the calendar, but appends a unique click-able link directly into the email invitation.

The power behind the Lync solution is the Lync client, which makes powerful communications available via an intuitive integrated desktop application. One simple productivity tip to avoid voice mail is to only call colleagues that are available. This becomes intuitive as availability is indicated in Lync and throughout the applications in Office--including the directory. Perhaps you have a question about a recent email; if the sender isn't available, an email reply may be appropriate--but if the sender is available (indicated right on the From line), then perhaps a quick Instant Message. An IM conversation can easily escalate to voice or video and back as the conversation dictates. Lync makes it all simple and keeps track of all communications in a single log. And it isn't just the desktop applet either; contacts, appointments, logs are all accessible from the desktop phone too--even calls made from other locations.

Presence, IM, chat, video, voice, collaboration, calendaring, and messaging--all simplified with a consistent user interface. Not sure who to call in a given situation? Try a keyword search in the directory. The system can provide location information, which is important because people work in different places, and knowing both availability and location can really improve productivity.

Next: Michels on Hardware Compatibility and High Availability


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