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Lync Mobile and BYOD

This article was co-written by Dino Caputo of enableUC.

Microsoft Lync is the upgrade to Microsoft Office Communicator that was released a year ago. In its most basic deployment, Lync provides instant messaging and presence. In its fully deployed role, Lync can act as a complete PBX replacement, supporting both softphones and IP sets from multiple manufactures including Polycom, Aastra, HP and Snom. Beyond simply replacing a PBX, Lync also provides audio, video and web conferencing and offers great support for remote workers.

Lync can be implemented as an on-premise solution and is also part of the cloud-based Office 365 (O365) product set. Currently the cloud version of Lync does not allow calls to or from the PSTN; that is to say, with O365 Lync you can only call other Lync (and federated users).

While Lync is a very powerful solution and one that has been adopted by many organizations, up until last week, Lync was correctly criticized as providing no mobile clients. As of this week, this is no longer a valid criticism.

Starting this week, Lync mobile clients for the Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android devices are being made available. As of Thursday evening we are still waiting on the iPhone mobile Lync client.

We at enableUC installed the required server upgrades and had the Lync Mobile client working on a Windows Phone device by late Sunday night, a few hours after the Windows Phone client was released.

From our perspective, we found the server upgrade process and setup for Lync Mobile straightforward. There are several documents that do a good job of detailing the technical setup required and provide an overview of features provided in the mobile clients.

What we wanted to focus on in this article is the "call via work" feature of Lync Mobile that we believe further enables a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy.

Call via work does two important things for organizations, like enableUC, which allow its users to make use of their own personal devices:

1. Long distance calls are now billed to the company instead of to the individual cell plan.
2. Colleagues always see a user's work phone number, even when the call is being initiated from a personal device. That means, no work contact needs to know my personal cell number. And because Lync simultaneously rings my cell phone whenever someone calls my work number, I can answer calls on my personal device if convenient for me.

How this works is as follows. Instead of directly calling a contact, when you click to call a contact or enter a phone number to dial from within the Lync client:

a. Lync first calls you on your mobile device.
b. Once you answer the inbound call from Lync, Lync then dials out to the destination number and connects the two calls together.

The result is the callee sees a call from your work number (you never need to "share" or "show" your personal device’s cell number).

Also because Lync is making both calls, if the destination party can be reached via a "free" VOIP call over your network then no long distance is incurred. This includes the ability to place voice calls to any Lync users in your organization, any federated contacts and any federated Live Messenger contacts. If the destination party can only be reached via the PSTN then Lync calls the destination party and any long distance charges are billed to the company and the individual's (personal) cell phone plan. Of course the call still incurs inbound airtime minutes unless the user selects a plan that allows for unlimited inbound minutes--often by designating the Lync calling number as one of their "friends".

Others have accurately pointed out that Lync Mobile does not yet support video or web conferencing, and Lync Mobile also does not support VOIP calls over WIFI. Hopefully these features will be coming in subsequent versions; however, despite these shortcomings, Lync Mobile is an exciting enabler for organizations who would like to welcome iPhones, Android phones or Windows Phones as part of their BYOD strategies.

Dino Caputo is a partner with enableUC, a company that helps organizations get the most out of their UC investments. You can follow Dino on twitter at @dinocaputo.

Kevin Kieller is also a partner with enableUC and a regular contributor to No Jitter. You can follow Kevin on twitter @kkieller.

Kevin Kieller is also a partner with enableUC and a regular contributor to No Jitter. You can follow Kevin on twitter @kkieller.