Hosted Lync: Can You Do This?
Lync compares favorably with other hosted services, and excels in areas like online help
In my last post, Hosted Voice: Lync Better Than Most, there are three attributes (Proprietary, Integration,Value) of Lync that stand out above competing hosted voice services. The mindset of saving money isn't exactly happening unless customers view only CAPEX and completely ignore OPEX. The basic question customers fail to address is payback. How many months of paying for hosted does it take to buy your own solution? But there's a second question to ponder and that is if you do buy/lease your own solution, then how long will it last? This leads to the third question, what will it cost to maintain the solution to the degree that it makes sense?
Lync thinking is definitely different. Because licensing, acquisition and the TCO for Microsoft Exchange remains costly, SMBs may see an attraction to combine forces using voice and email on a hosted platform. For $25 per user per month, hosted Lync delivers voice and the UC components of Lync, and another $10 per user per month tacks on hosted Exchange mail service that gives you that glowing presence of other Lync users hosted by the same company. There are other options and these prices are from one Lync hosted solution provider.
The hosted Lync provider agreed to let me test their service and since I already have Google, Windows Live Messenger and our internal IP-PBX client Communications Assistant Pro on my virtual desktop, I decided to do a comparative review just to illustrate how the features are placed in each solution.
Here's what I think:
Presence--We in the voice world have done this for years. Only we call it DSS/BLF (Direct Station Selection/Busy Lamp Fields) and these are coded buttons on your physical phone. Presence from Microsoft’s Lync integrates into Microsoft applications, so all my users on hosted Lync with hosted Exchange will see the presence of one another while reading email messages in Outlook or by viewing their status on their desktop. Presence now includes virtually the entire company and you don't needs thousands of DSS/BLF buttons to accomplish this. This is my opportunity once again to state that every IP-PBX should ship UC clients for every phone--then, with this in mind, does everyone really need a multi-line phone? It can be argued a few ways and when it gets down to the customer level either in the SMB or large enterprise space, I think the key concerns are and should remain focused on:
* Are users willing to change or will changes get in the way of users accomplishing their work?
* What is the best method of standardizing for your company?
* If the PC or network fails, can users still perform call handling?
The other thing about presence is it remains un-federated across the many platforms used by consumers and businesses.
Here's what I learned:
Most IT concerns do justice to onboard help. Panasonic and many other manufacturers do not and have not for years. While it may not seem like a big deal to some folks, it is for many others. Online help reduces service calls and lag times to getting users doing whatever it is they want to do. The availability of online help is just as crucial as the material and this is an area where everyone needs improvement. As the software changes and is updated, patched or upgraded, so should online help materials.
Hosted Lync provided me with the answers I needed. But here's what’s cool. When I first established my Microsoft Lync client, a tutorial popped up and led me through some customization and familiarity of Lync. Most telephony systems have a one time tutorial on voice mail when a user first accesses the mailbox. Lync goes beyond voice mail tutorials. Why is this important? This reduces time, speeds up implementation and reduces support calls. I think every IP-PBX manufacturer needs to consider adding a similar tool. IF they would ship UC with the phones then they could easily add the tool to the UC client residing on the customer desktop.
Just in case I'm not being emphatic enough--I am suggesting that one license include phone and UC, period. Within that client software, include onboard help and resources to videos; Microsoft has done well, so follow their lead.