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Lessons Learned Deploying MS Lync 2010 and 2013

This is a continuation of my No Jitter article posted on May 5.

Deploying Microsoft Lync is an entirely different experience from deploying traditional TDM and/or VoIP IP-PBX systems. I mean that in a good way because of the great collaboration experience that Lync has to offer its clients.

Four years ago, I would have never felt that MS Lync was ready for prime time or to be deployed as a telephony solution in the enterprise; but over the last 18 months we have been involved in two Enterprise Edition deployments, and I wish to share with you the lessons learned to help you in the future.

The main lesson to be learned is to do your homework ahead of time, before the Microsoft authorized vendor shows up at your door. You need to be aware of the two flavors of Lync you are after. The first is Standard Edition and the next is Enterprise Edition. These two versions can cover anywhere from the very small business to the very large enterprise.

The Enterprise version provides more scalability, high availability and disaster recovery options that are not available in the Standard Edition. And obviously, the Enterprise Edition will require a higher investment, since a dedicated backend SQL server is required, rather than a local installation of SQL express as is used in the Standard Edition.

The other areas that you need to familiarize yourself with (and all were new to me) include:

• Front End Systems, Front End Pool Pairing, Lync Server Roles
• Mediation Server, Monitoring Server, Archiving Server
• PSTN Server gateways to enable Enterprise Voice features
• Persistent Chat Server, Edge Server pool to support external connectivity
• Standard CAL, Enterprise CAL, Plus CAL for 2013 (CAL = Client Access License)

Once you get yourself up to speed on the benefits and the purpose of the above items, it's time to review these Lessons Learned below so you don't hit the bumps that we did initially:

• Ask your Microsoft salesperson who they would recommend to you as the Authorized Microsoft vendor to do the deployment. Also, ask him/her for the vendor that has experience in your vertical industry or number of endpoints to serve.

• On our deployment we implemented the Enterprise Lync version along with an Interactive Intelligence CIC 4.0 Call Center. What we found were some integration issues between the two, such as:
--The Remote Call Control (RCC) was not available yet in the CIC until Service Update 2 from Interactive.
--We could not get the Status Sync, Embedded Client, and Unified Company Directory until Service Update 3 from Interactive.
--We were promised in the RFP stage that integration between the two would not be a problem, but when reality set in, we found that they could integrate, but not at our required installation due date.

It's important to point out that now, 12 months in, all of the issues above have been resolved. Nevertheless, I'm included them here so you can ask all of your questions ahead of time from the vendor and get it in writing from them what can and can't be integrated at this exact moment in time. Just because it is on the horizon or people are talking about it does not mean they can deploy at the time you need it. We found this out the hard way.

Continuing the list of issues to be aware of:

• Do a full, in-depth network discovery. Make sure you have a firm grasp on how and where Lync will be installed, how many servers it will rest on, and what software licenses you will need.

• Keep a log of all changes made, for future reference.

• Make sure to understand fully what you are getting--Does it come with end user Lync licenses if you don't have everyone on Office 2013?

• Do a thorough review of the equipment being used. If you are purchasing wireless desk phones for common areas, does the Wi-Fi work for that particular phone?

• Make sure your storage space is adequate; in our case, adding a new storage drive array was necessary.

• Be sure to analyze any needs in regards to keeping analog lines active: Elevator phones, fax lines, security systems, and paging systems all need to be considered. Make sure your gateway can handle the appropriate amount of analog lines.

• Have a plan for extended or ongoing support from qualified experts. Know up front the costs of this support.

• Make sure the vendor does early discovery, as you might be knee deep in deployment only to find out you need a new physical server installed to support additional virtual machine instances that you'll be taking on.

• In our deployment, another new server setup was required for the PowerPoint rendering.

• We had some Proxy server issues, so be sure to understand its role.

• Make sure your deskphones or headsets selected as the audio source have been tested thoroughly prior to cutover.

In closing, both deployments of MS Lync 2010 and MS Lync 2013 went as well as could be expected--especially since we had never walked down this path before. I hope we have paved the road a little smoother for you, so until next time, I will end with this famous quote by Abraham Lincoln: "The best way to predict your future is to create it". We are all in a very challenging and exciting time in our industry.

Barbara A. Grothe, is CEO and Principal Consultant of Telecom Resources, Inc., an independent IT and Technology Consultant specializing in giving unbiased advice to enterprise clients throughout North America on SIP Trunking, WAN/LAN deployments, Unified Communications applications, VoIP, and Cloud vs Premise. Barbara is a member of the Society of Communications and Technology Consultants International. Her web site is or you may reach her at [email protected].