Browsing the archives for the Unified Communications tag.

2 Articles You Need to Read about Lync

Lync Online, Lync Server 2013, Voice over IP

It’s been a little while since I did a “Lync Love” post. I do like offering commentary on great Lync-related articles. I had one ready last week. And since then, a second one has popped up.

These are articles everyone interested in Lync Server (and its related technologies) should read. Let me explain the reasons why, below.

1. How PSTN voice in Lync Online will bring unified VoIP to the masses – BetaNews

Written by Derrick Wlodarz, this article raises some urgent questions about VoIP’s future.1279599_13140278a

Short Synopsis: Voice over IP, in its current form, can’t provide easy access to the PSTN. As a result, its services exist as a sort of ‘bubble’ next to the PSTN, trying to wiggle itself in. Adding full PSTN connectivity into Lync Online (part of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering) would go a long way toward improving VoIP’s standing.

There’s a lot of truth in what the author says. Lync Online is near-crippled without the PSTN. Skype’s proprietary network, while immense and well-used, does tend to wall its users in a little.

Where I disagree in part is the position that running your own Lync Server system is pretty much reserved for the Fortune 500. Not the case at all. Our own client experiences don’t match up. In fact, most of our Lync implementations were for businesses under 200 people.

Lync Online does have its limitations when it comes to making calls out. I happily support Microsoft adding such functionality.
The PSTN has been around for more than a century. VoIP has only seen notable use in the past decade or so. We will see unification…just give it time.

2. Law Firm CIO Makes the Case for Microsoft Lync – CIO.com

This is a detailed case study of a Lync Server implementation.  It’s terrific work; thorough explanations of the law firm’s situation, the decisions made, the steps involved in transition & so on.

I have to quote the section about achieving a successful deployment:
“We find most often that if a project fails, it’s because people aren’t addressing the user and change management issues,” he [Dean Leung, Holland & Knight CIO] says. “If you just deploy it and hope that they’ll adopt it, they may or they may not. If you focus on change management and really help build the business case as to how it’s going to help their workflow and their practice, that always leads to a successful deployment.”

Indeed!

Interconnectivity of services was the driver behind the law firm’s Lync move. They wanted more efficiency out of current communications. Especially when talking with clients.

Deploying Lync Server got them what they wanted – including the extras like changing call types or adding a whiteboard. Leung called these features “Phone+”. I rather like that. Might use it in future posts.

If you’re on the fence about using Lync Server, go read this article. Holland & Knight took their time and addressed potential issues with careful deployment planning. Very smart approach for any software change–particularly Lync.

Question for Readers: What would hold you back from switching to Lync Server? Please comment or email with your answers!

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Using Skype and Lync for Work – A Reader’s Experience

Unified Communications, Voice over IP

I was planning on testing some Lync plugins from GitHub today. But that will have to wait.

The other day I asked you, our readers, for a little help. Would someone who uses both Skype and Lync answer a couple questions about your experiences with the two systems?

And someone did! Peter from Psquared.net has come forward. His office uses both Lync and Skype (along with a couple other add-ons, as you’ll see). He was kind enough to answer my questions with great detail.

From my questions and Peter’s answers, I hope you’re able to get a good clear example of how businesses can use Skype and Lync in concert. CAN, mind you, not MUST. There are many different ways for Skype and Lync to interoperate…this is just one (albeit one that appears to serve Peter quite well)!

So let’s see what Peter has to say. The following is from his own words.

Q&A – One Company’s Skype/Lync Experience

1) What’s your Lync Server setup like?

We have a single Sangoma Lync Express appliance which hosts our FE [Front End Server], as well as VMs that host the Web Apps server and the Edge Server. It also has a special Sangoma software SBC VM image.

We still use a TMG2010 server for our Reverse proxy. I keep meaning to switch to a new VM running IIS ARR etc. but just haven’t gotten round to it – after all, it currently ain’t broke!

We actually use an Asterisk based IP-PBX for our main office PBX (Sark from Aelintra), but this has bidirectional links to Lync so our employees can use either Lync or legacy SIP for their calls – the phones are all Snom 820/821 phones with accounts for Lync (7xx extension numbers) and for the Asterisk extensions (all 2xx extension numbers)

The reason for still having the Asterisk box is that although we have Enterprise Voice, the built in Response Group Application is just too slow at connecting calls when used with the Snom handsets, so we have stuck with the Asterisk for the majority of calls.

Our biggest use for Lync is internal IM, but it’s also key for our disaster management plans – in the event that the office cannot be reached due to bad weather etc. then staff will remote desktop into the building and use the Lync client for all calls in and out of the building. We would change our call routing so all calls will go straight through the Asterisk box direct to the RGS service on Lync – as these are then Lync Client then the call connect delay is minimal. This is all much easier to handle than achieving the same with our Asterisk box which would require everyone setting up soft Sip clients and all sorts of other tricky bits, not least due to the lack of multi-endpoint registration to a single account.

2) Can you tell me a little about the people who use Skype? Just customers, or maybe partners?
man-talking-on-phone-md
We use Skype to connect primarily to customers, though a few partners as well. Primarily we use it for doing initial web based meetings and demonstrations of our products with new customers. However, we have quite a few customers in India and in East Africa and Skype is ideal for them to save a fortune on international calls!

Because of the relatively high cost of a Lync deployment for small sites, we actually don’t have any active Lync federation with any customers, so Skype is what gets used for “free” calls to us and vice versa.

3) What kinds of errors do you come up against, user-related or otherwise?

The biggest issues we have are to do with initially getting Skype based contacts into our Lync Contacts List. If you add the user, but they haven’t requested to contact you first, then the Skype user doesn’t always seem to get the Contact Request. If they do, but then discard it by accident then you end up with a real problem as it doesn’t seem that you can re-send the request – even deleting the contact from Lync and trying again doesn’t seem to resend the request.

The opposite is also true – even with your Lync Permissions set to allow anyone to contact request you, some requests just don’t seem to come in from Skype users, and if they do but you accidentally reject it, you’re stuck again. After a lot of removing from both ends and re-trying you sometimes get the requests come through and then you can connect without any problem.

The main issue is that it’s obviously great for IM and voice, but with video not supported, we often end up getting the person to join a straight Lync Web Conference instead. Being honest, most of the time we just go straight to this anyway as it obviously works without any Skype client install so is good for locked down users like education sites, but also means we can do multi-person conferences. Skype can do these, but at a cost!

When we get Video to Skype with the next release of Lync that will be a big improvement, but we’re really comfortable with web meetings now, so not so critical.

4) From your site, you work with radio software. Do you find Skype is more conducive to good-quality recordings? Or is Lync better? How do they compare?

The Skype audio codec is excellent so when we do Skype-Skype it’s always good. However, we have a full broadcast studio here with professional quality microphones and hi-def Microsoft webcams, which means that when we do Lync Web Conferences we always get comments on how amazing the quality is and how clearly the end user can hear us – important when we’re aiming to sell audio equipment and software to them!

We know that a lot of our customers are using Skype for doing Outside Broadcasts to get high quality audio back to the studios, so they obviously like the Silk codec, so when we get to see that in the next release of Lync it will be quite interesting to see how that sounds!

5) Do you use any add-on services for either Skype or Lync?

We use Skype Connect to actually give us “real world” phone numbers in Eire and the US which are routed directly into our Asterisk phone exchange – this is not ideal as there is quite a connection delay with 2 or 3 rings before Skype forwards the calls on. We have looked at using 3rd parties to provide us real world numbers on TLS streams that could be fed into Lync, but these are expensive and complicated to setup compared to Skype.

We also looked at using WorkAnywhere, but as this is licensed by the number of queues, not by the number of end users, it’s much too expensive to justify.

6) What’s the most common cross-platform communication you do for both systems? Chat, voice calls, conferences?

Chat is easily the biggest – even while typing this email I’ve handled 3 or 4 Lync IM conversations with people here in the office, and also with a supplier who open federates so we can do nice quick IM checks with them as to how they get on.

For Skype, we primarily use it for voice, but we do do some IM as well.

In terms of sales, we use Lync Web Conferences a lot – these have saved us a huge amount of travelling to show customers (and potential customers) new features and “how-tos” for existing deployments. We’ve never actually done a Lync to Lync conference as we just don’t seem to have any customers on it! But because the Web client can work for anyone with a modern browser, it’s ideal for use for demos and training sessions.

Some Observations to Add

  • It seems that the strongest services for each – IM and Conferencing for Lync, Voice Calls for Skype – are Psquared.net’s focus. They’re using the service which makes the most sense for the communication medium.
  • I’ve heard good things about the Sangoma Lync Express Appliance, but never had the chance to work with one. I’ll have to look into it more.
  • Curious doubling effect with the Asterisk PBX. Sounds like they have VoIP partially overlapping. Though it does make for an excellent disaster recovery setup!
  • Introducing the Silk codec into Lync may in fact be the driver for broader Enterprise Voice adoption.
  • The contacts error in #3 seems very similar to the Contact Removal trouble I had a while back: How to Remove Old Federated Contacts from Your Lync Contacts List

Thanks very much Peter! This is excellent insight into Skype/Lync interaction. Again, you’ll find his business at Psquared.net.

 

Is your Skype/Lync experience different? Have you experienced problems using either Skype or Lync? Please comment or email…I’d love to talk about it!

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Lync Love: March 2014

Exchange Server 2013, Lync 2013 Client, Lync Online, Lync Server 2013, Unified Communications, Voice over IP

Need to stay head-down this week. I was planning to continue my exploration of Lync plugins from last time…but, no rest for the busy!

So for today’s post, let’s take a look out in the Lyncosphere and see what we find.

Exchange Server 2013 SP1: What’s New – WindowsITPro.com
Discussion of Exchange 2013′s Service Pack 1, released last month. A very thorough article on it too. It covers SP1′s intended purpose, what to watch out for, the new features, and background on the Exchange service model (Cumulative Updates similar to Lync). If you haven’t already installed SP1, read this for a useful reference.

Lync-Skype-Office 365 Goes Off-Hook – TelecomReseller
This article covers some of the same points I made in Exchanging Protocols: The Latest on Lync and Skype Integration.
Not sure I fully agree with this line: “MSFT will finally smash them together a new UI will emerge probably in 1-2 years to simplify their product offering.”
But, the reason I included it in Lync Love is the images. There’s a big diagram outlining the Lync-Skype-Office 365 architecture (interactive), and a chart of codecs used. Good for a visual reference on both.PosterCutout

Announcing the Release of the Lync Server 2013 On-Premises Architectures Poster – NextHop
Speaking of visual reference! NextHop recently posted an architectural guide for running Lync Server 2013 on-premises. As with previous posters, this one’s extremely detailed and required reading for any Lync administrator.

Microsoft Warns of Looming Exchange Server 2003 Support Deadline – Redmond Channel Partner
Most of us are aware of the looming Windows XP deadline. (Only 3 weeks away!) At the same time, Office 2003 and Exchange Server 2003 will meet their end.
Hopefully everyone is off of Exchange 2003 by now! But just in case, here’s a reminder. And a nice punctual list of the available upgrade & support options for Exchange 2003 holdouts.

I also came across a long article on VoIP and Lync Online. It deserves its own post as a response. You’ll see that one soon.

Next week, I’ll take a stroll through GitHub for some more Lync plugins to test. See you then!

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Exchanging Protocols: The Latest on Lync and Skype Integration

Lync 2013 Client

Last week, we had the Lync Conference in Las Vegas. (I was not able to go. Sad.)

One big thing to come out of that conference was news about more cooperation between Lync and Skype.

If you’ve read this blog a while, then you know I like to follow the Lync-Skype integration.
Lync-to-Skype Connectivity is Here. But Don’t Forget the Provisioning! (June 12, 2013)

So this was definitely welcome news. Especially when I read through the changes announced.

What’s Coming: Lync 2013 gets HD Audio, Skype gets video calls peer-to-peer

Essentially, the changes involve an exchange of capabilities. Lync will gain access to Skype’s SILK codec for HD audio. And the Lync Server architecture will allow peer-to-peer media connections – granting Skype more direct access to establish video calls with Lync users.

Simon Bisson has an excellent rundown on this at ZDNet: Lync and Skype together – here’s how it will work

Both Skype and Lync are gaining new protocols too – STUN, TURN and ICE. The big value on this is that both systems will be more friendly to newer mobile devices.

Which side is harder to update – Skype or Lync?

Since Microsoft has control of both Skype and Lync Server, this whole “capabilities exchange” might seem silly. Why don’t they just rewrite one to fit into the other? Or both?

I don’t think that would be smart. In fact, I think Microsoft is taking the smarter road by playing it safe.

Skype is a unique communications system. Built to be consumer-grade, and possessed of a huge worldwide following. Lync is made within the Microsoft architectural standard; popular, but designed as an interconnected system working with other Microsoft platforms.

Merging the two – or even modifying both to seamlessly work together – will take a LOT of programming changes. Introducing those changes one step at a time, allowing users to adapt and measuring the real-world usage, makes the most sense.

Which is exactly what they’re doing.

I suspect it’s actually harder to update Skype, since it has its own protocol structure and prides itself on peer-to-peer communication. Which might be why Microsoft opted to allow peer-to-peer for video calls to Lync users.

Plus, it takes advantage of PIC (Public IM Connectivity), which already exists in Lync Server. Saves time, less hassle.

Where are Skype and Lync going next?

I made four predictions last year, in a January post – Messenger Users Moved to Skype By March. Lync Users are NOT Next.

These new protocol exchanges between Lync and Skype figure into Prediction #4 – “Lync and Skype stay separate, but interoperate.”

Allowing Skype to run video calls peer-to-peer – something it’s already famous for doing – indicates that Microsoft wants to keep the functionality (mostly) as-is. Building Lync connectivity and security around it means the user’s experience is pretty much the same…just better on the backend.

Plus, with the interoperability and friendliness on mobile, we could see #3 coming about in the next couple years too. (That would be “A new Lync-Skype hybrid app replaces both platforms,” by the way.)

Call to Readers!  Do you use Skype and Lync for work?

Okay, let me ask you for a little help. I’d like to talk with a reader who uses both Skype and Lync. (Must be at least one of you out there!)

If this is you, and you want to help out, I’d appreciate asking you a couple questions about your experiences between the two systems. You get a link and a spotlight here on the blog, when I write it up!

Please contact me at chris.williams@planetmagpie.com, or leave a comment on this post.

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Examining Lync's Connection Tools: OCSUMUtil

Exchange Server 2013, Lync Server 2013

Apologies for the late post this week, readers! We’re engaged in some server moves & updating. I don’t have a whole lot of time available. But the blog must go on!

We’re continuing our “Examining Lync’s Connection Tools” series this week with OCSUMUtil.exe.

What Does OCSUMUtil Mean?

It stands for ‘OCS Unified Messaging Utility’, which I believe is its original name. However its official name – at least according to TechNet – is “Exchange UM Integration Utility”.

Many people refer to it as just ‘OCSUMUtil’, so we’ll do that here.

What Does OCSUMUtil Do?

Its primary purpose, as you might guess, is aiding in Lync/Exchange Unified Messaging integration. It does this in two ways:

  • Creating Active Directory contact objects for Auto Attendant and Subscriber Access numbers used in Enterprise Voice.
  • Verifying that each Enterprise Voice dial plan matches its corresponding Unified Messaging dial plan. (According to TechNet, this is only necessary if you’re using an Exchange Server earlier than Exchange 2010 SP1.)

This has been its purpose since OCS 2007 days. In fact, I think it’s the longest-used connection tool in our series.

(If I’m wrong, please comment and set us all straight!)

How Do You Use OCSUMUtil?

Instructions for its use in a Lync Server 2013 deployment: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg398193.aspx

When you implement Unified Messaging, you’re essentially connecting Lync Server and Exchange Server together. They will coordinate communications data like voicemail, Auto Attendant activity, etc. The PluralSight blog has a good listing of the features involved in Unified Messaging. I’ll give more detail on this topic later.

By using the OCSUmUtil tool, you’re facilitating the creation of connections between Lync Server and Exchange Server. It’s not the central component of integration, but it’s very important to Subscriber Access (which allows people to access their voicemails) and Auto Attendant (which answers & redirects certain calls for you).

You’ll run OCSUMUtil from the /Support/ subfolder on the computer where you installed Lync Server. When the tool is open, you’ll click ‘Load Data’ to find your Exchange forest.

OCSUMUtil.exe
See Blog.Schertz.name for the full image.

  1. In the SIP Dial Plans list, select the UM dial plan for which you want to create contact objects. Click Add.
  2. In the Contact box, either use the default organizational unit, or click Browse to search for another one with the OU Picker. I’ll presume you want to use the default, since most admins will.
  3. In the Name box, either accept the default dial plan name or enter a new one. (For example, if you’re creating the Subscriber Access contact object, name it “Subscriber Access”.)
  4. Enter a new SIP address for the contact object in the SIP Address box (or accept the default).
  5. In the server list, select the server where you want to place the contact object (either Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition’s Front End pool).
  6. In the Phone Number list, select “Enter phone number” and enter a standardized phone number.
  7. Select the type of object you want in the Contact Type list.
  8. Click OK to finish creating the object. Repeat these steps for any more contact objects you need to make.

For another perspective, see the Lync and Exchange UM Integration post by Jeff Schertz. As is his usual, he talks in good step-by-step detail about using OCSUmUtil in the course of a Lync Server 2010/Exchange Server 2010 integration.

Potential for Error

While you can encounter an error just about anywhere, I noted in my research that OCSUMUtil has a higher-than-average potential for error. If either Lync or Exchange UM are not properly configured prior to using OCSUMUtil, it will give an error. Also, if you configure OCSUMUtil incorrectly, it will error out.

Handy for troubleshooting, but it does mean you have to go back & fix things. I haven’t personally encountered an OCSUMUtil error, but searches have told me of a couple types:

  • If you select the Director (or the Director is selected by default) in Step 5 above. It must be a front end server.
  • If there is no number (or an incorrectly-created number) in Exchange for Auto Attendant or Subscriber Access.

Next time, I’ll blog either about our last connection tool, Online Directory Synchronization…or some hands-on updating work. Check back here next week to find out!

Have you encountered an error while using OCSUmUtil? Or did it go smoothly? Either way, share the experience with us!

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Lync Updates for January 2014: Server 2013, Phone Edition and Lync for iPhone All Updated

Lync Server 2013

We interrupt our “Connection Tools” post series for a special announcement!

I went through the month of January, and (almost) didn’t mention the latest Lync Server updates from Microsoft.

There are two: One for Lync Server 2013, and one for Lync Phone Edition.
Lync Server 2013 Update – January 2014
Lync Phone Edition Update – January 2014

Can’t let January finish without calling these out, now can we?

Sign-On Troubles, Stability Improvements – What These Updates Do

I went through all of the listed updates (all 15 of them!). You’ll find an assortment of reliability/stability updates, fixes for issues either new or mentioned in previous CUs, and a couple new feature additions.

Most of the updates included in the Lync Server 2013 Update are:

  • Front End Service cannot restart if someone has a special character (such as @ or &) in their user address
  • The RTCSrv.exe Process crashes on Edge Server
  • Unified Communications API tries to access Exchange Server 2010 when a user signs on to Lync Mobile, causing multiple events to appear in Event Viewer
  • Can’t dial out or share a video in a Lync Web App meeting on Lync Server 2013
  • Enables support for “Operator Assistance” from the PSTN during a conference
  • Stability Updates for Web Conferencing Server, Conferencing Server, Core Components
  • Mediation Server can’t forward a call’s history-info header or the referred-by header to the PSTN gateway
  • The Response Group Service redirects calls to the queue overflow call action improperly
  • Users in Distribution Groups don’t receive Persistent Chat invitations
  • Fixes Listed in Prior Cumulative Updates: October, July, etc.

Updates made by the Lync Phone Edition Update are:

  • Voice distortion when you resume a call on hold by using Lync Phone Edition for Aries phones
  • Exchange integration fails, when an Exchange mailbox is enabled for Exchange Online
  • Multiple updates from previous Cumulative Updates governing Polycom phone usage

Even if you do not have any of these problems, I encourage you to apply these updates ASAP. We all know how valuable it is to stay up-to-date. Minimizing the chance problems may occur.

Bonus Update – Lync 2013 for iPhone

There’s more! According to iClarified.com, Lync for iPhone has been updated as well.

It now has full iOS 7 Support. As well as the added ability to view PowerPoint presentations during a Lync Meeting (a notable feature it previously lacked). Lync for iPhone is not quite as full-featured as Lync 2013 for desktops–but it comes close. IM, meetings, calls, all covered by Lync Server’s security.

If you already use Lync on your iPhone or iPad (like me), you’ll have received the update by now. If not, search for “Lync” in the App Store.

Now, you have a few updates to make, right?

We’ll be back next week with the Lync Connection Tools series. Will it discuss Online Directory Synchronization, or OCSUMUtil? You’ll have to join us back here to find out.

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Visual Aids for Lync Server 2013 Ins and Outs

Reference

Some exciting new releases in the Lync world!

We have two training/education resources for Lync Server 2013, released this week. Both are new versions of previous training aids, issued for Lync Server 2010.

They’re great for training, mapping out your own Lync architecture, or just brushing up on the ins and outs of Lync Server. Let’s see what we have.

Poster from NextHop Illustrates How Messages Flow Through Protocols

NextHop has released the new 2013 version of their Protocol Workloads poster.

Poster includes several visual representations of server setup, traffic routes and protocols used for specific Lync services. You can see how Conferencing clients connect through the Edge Server, which locations an Instant Message hits on its way to you, and more.

In my humble opinion, this version is much clearer than the 2010 version. A listing of required certificates and DNS entries helps make administration clearer.

“Test Drive” Lync on a Virtual Machine

John Policelli has pointed out a group of VHDs (Virtual Hard Disks) Microsoft added to its Downloads Center. These VHDs contain pre-configured virtual machines for Lync Server 2013, Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, and some UC developer APIs.

Microsoft is calling them a “Test Drive” platform. Use these to evaluate a full version of Lync Server 2013, with all capabilities, before installing it live in your network.

John has linked to all three downloads on his blog: Pre-Configured VHDs to Test Drive Lync 2013 Available – John Policelli’s Blog
Part 1 has full details on system requirements and installation process.

I’d consider these two resources absolutely essential for anyone who is:

  • Studying Lync Server for implementation in their office
  • Still on Lync Server 2010 or an alternate VoIP solution
  • Prepping for the new Lync Server 2013 Certifications (like me!)

Both downloads are free. The poster is a simple PDF (or VSD file), though you’ll need a server-grade computer with Hyper-V installed for the “Test Drive”.

If you’ve created a new resource for Lync training, please let me know! I love to collect & showcase Lync Server training aids.

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How to Encourage Lync Users to Use More Than Just IM

Lync 2013 Client, lync server 2010, Lync Server 2013, Microsoft Lync, Unified Communications

The other day I was talking to some friends. The discussion turned to blogs. I mentioned this blog; one of my friends said her office used Lync (still on 2010 though).

I asked her what she liked about it, thinking there might be a good post or case study in the making here.

She said, “I don’t really use much of it. Just the IM.”

Questioning further, I found that her office used Lync Instant Messaging for most inter-department conversations. Presence was secondary in terms of use, and making phone calls out was a distant third. I’m not even sure if they knew Group Chat existed!

Naturally, this got me thinking. If Lync Server is set up with all these great communications tools, and nobody uses them, what good are they?

4 ways to encourage users toward using Lync for communication

If you’re a sysadmin or IT manager, it’s your job to make sure users are educated about what tools are available to them. Allow me to assist!

If you need to encourage further Lync adoption, here are 4 ideas to help. You can use any or all of these, depending on your office environment.

Educate your users with a visual display of Lync’s full capabilities. The key here is ‘visual.’ Hold a conference call and give a short presentation on Lync’s services. Send an email around once a month “highlighting” one Lync tool at a time. Maybe hold a contest to see who can use all the services in one day. Be creative!

Use them yourself to contact co-workers. I know, many of us prefer to do our day-to-day work via email (I’m guilty too!). Set an example (at least temporarily) by making use of other Lync tools. For instance, loop a manager and an employee into a conference call, and add in a whiteboard as a “creative space.” If talking with someone via IM, suggest opening a Group Chat/Persistent Chat so you can show the log to someone else later.

The more users are exposed to Lync tools this way, the more curious they’ll be.

Collect blog posts & reference guides, and give out the URLs anytime someone asks about Lync. If you’re stirring curiosity, people will ask questions. This way, you’ll have reading material for anyone asking questions about what Lync can do for them.

Here’s a modest sampling of links you can start with:

Make sure all mobile workers have Lync Mobile installed & working. You can always call them through Lync this way to build awareness. Plus they’ll have a new app on their phone – curiosity will get them eventually!

Successfully encouraged users into Lync? Tell us!

Have you successfully incorporated Lync communications tools into daily operations? Let’s hear about how you did it!

I’d like to showcase some administrators who rolled out successful adoptions. Please leave your stories in the comments, or email me.

(No last names will be shared, and your company will not be mentioned if you don’t want me to.)

Future Lync Insider posts will have whatever insights we have to share. Until then, see you next time!

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Is the Unified Communications Market Crowded?

Unified Communications

The other day I came across this article:
Microsoft pushes into crowded Unified Communications market – ComputerWorld

It says that Lync Server 2013 is pushing into an already-crowded Unified Communications market. And that it doesn’t really stand out from its competitors…or show any real innovation.

Are these valid concerns? Is the UC market really crowded?

All due respect to the article’s author (it’s still a good read)…but I don’t think it is. And I think Lync Server is well-suited for the future of communications. Let’s explore the market a little, and see what we find.

The Current Providers

As mentioned in the article, the major Unified Communications providers right now are:

  • Cisco
  • IBM
  • Avaya
  • Siemens
  • Alcatel-Lucent
  • Mitel
  • ShoreTel
  • Microsoft Lync

8 major IT players. Definitely some healthy competition going on here.

That by itself doesn’t mean the market is crowded. Crowded implies the market is glutted, or the current providers are offering solutions the market doesn’t want.

Not even close. In fact, businesses are moving to more UC technology, not less.

The Current State of UC: 51% and Growing

According to a 2012 IDG Enterprise report, Unified Communications adoption is at 51%. Half the organizations out there.

Plenty more room for UC expansion. And in fact, 90% of organizations DO plan to invest more into Unified Communications & Collaboration solutions over the next 3 years, starting in 2013.

The most popular UC solution in use? Web conferencing (76% of organizations). Followed by IM (72%). VoIP is at 52%. (“The State of Unified Communications Adoption”, Osterman Research 2010) Again, plenty of room for more service adoption.

The BYOD trend is helping to accelerate adoption too. The enterprise is accelerating UC investment due to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets.

Because employees are buying such equipment themselves, they’re essentially giving enterprise businesses ready-to-use UC endpoints. (Just be careful of security!)

Finally, consider that the market is not universal. We do have the enterprise, mid-market and small business segments. Are the current providers focusing equally on all three?

No. According to their websites’ UC content, they’re concentrated mostly on enterprise-level:

  1. Cisco – Enterprise, Mid-Market
  2. IBM – Enterprise, Mid-Market
  3. Avaya – Enterprise
  4. Siemens – Enterprise
  5. Alcatel – Enterprise
  6. Mitel – Enterprise, Mid-Market, Small Business
  7. ShoreTel – Enterprise, Mid-Market
  8. Microsoft Lync – Enterprise, Mid-Market, Small Business

Clearly, there’s plenty of room in the small business and mid-market space. And this is where the ComputerWorld article slipped – it appears to characterize Lync Server as an enterprise product only, like the other providers’ offerings.

Lync is more adaptable than that. In fact, far from “not showing innovation,” Lync Server is one of the very few which can provide Unified Communications to ALL market segments!

Unified Communications is Spreading Out, Responding to Market Demands

BYOD, almost half of the market still open, UC expansion continuing, most providers concentrated on the enterprise…I don’t think the Unified Communications field is crowded at all. I think it’s undergoing metamorphosis.

One final statistic: Right now, there are more cellphones than people in the U.S. (327 million phones, for 310 million people). And they’re still buying more!

In light of continuing phone & tablet proliferation, some of these providers will change their offerings. Some may drop out of the space, or be bought out. As mobile access speeds improve and business adapts to changing information flow, Unified Communications will provide necessary channels.

Perhaps that’s a little optimistic. But we’ll see, very soon!

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Addendum: How to Connect Lync Server to Exchange Online (Additional Step)

Exchange Server 2013, Lync Server 2013, Unified Communications

Yes, we’re still hard at work on this client site deployment. But I do have something for Lync Insider readers to chew on!

Never let it be said I’m not willing to admit when I missed something. And miss something I did, on this post:
How to Connect Lync Server to Exchange Online: Part 1

A reader, Patrick, asked for clarification.

Where you said, “Where I’ve inserted “ExchangeOnline.com” – for the Identity and ProxyFQDN parameters – enter the URLs for your Exchange Online setup” in the article, where do I get those values from, the Identity and ProxyFQDN parameters?

For reference, the point he’s referring to is under Point C) Configure the Edge Server for integration.

Here’s the additional step, for Lync Server 2013 users.

How to Locate the Identity and ProxyFQDN Values in Office 365′s Server Setup

(Information is partially taken from this page: Manually Configure Outlook to Connect to Office 365 – Spiceworks.com)

In order to connect to Exchange Online, you must acquire the primary Exchange 365 host address from your Office 365 setup. Finding them is not difficult:

  1. Go to https://www.testexchangeconnectivity.com/ and click the Office 365 tab.
  2. Select “Outlook Anywhere (RPC over HTTP)” in the Microsoft Office Outlook Connectivity Tests. (The “Exchange ActiveSync Autodiscover” test may also work for you.)
  3. Fill in your credentials (email address, password) and perform the connectivity test. Use the Autodiscover option.
  4. You should see a line like, “Attempting to ping RPC endpoint 6001 (Exchange Information Store) on server (LongURL.microsoft.com)” in the test results. This long URL is your primary host address, usable for the Identity parameter.

For the ProxyFQDN parameter, use “outlook.office365.com“.

I’ve updated my original post with a link here. Should be everything you need (now) to connect Lync to Exchange Online.

Patrick, thanks for the conversation. Glad we were able to help!

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    The Lync Insider is a blog about the technology we use to communicate in business today. Here we talk about Microsoft Lync Server 2013, its predecessor Lync Server 2010, Unified Communications, Voice over IP and related technologies like Exchange Server. Written by Chris W., Tech Writer & SEO Engineer for PlanetMagpie IT Consulting.
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