What’s your Lync address?

Lync video call screenshot with Terry Bowers and Trefor DaviesThis good looking boy in the screenshot is Terry Bowers, Head of Professional Services at Timico Technology Group business Redwood Telecommunications. We are obviously engaged in serious conversation as neither of us is smiling.

The client itself is a feature of Microsoft’s Lync, something we decided to play with at Redwood following the UC Expo (UC = Unified Communications) trade show earlier this year. Redwood now have it installed at a number of their customers and it is regularly used in communications between these companies and also with suppliers.

We are using an all in one Lync box from Active Communications, This is a lovely appliance that removes the need to deploy the complexity of servers1 that has been Lync (note innovative & brand new collective noun). ACS have not only integrated Lync but have done it using virtualisation which means you can deploy it within your own virtual infrastructure. Also it scales very nicely.

I use a number of multimedia clients such as the one shown in the screenshot. There’s Timico’s own Genband based Outlook client, Google and Skype. All are used to talk to different communities and whilst there are some differences they typically all work well.

A few observations arise:

One of my first actions on getting Lync was to add a pal who is also a customer to my friends list and send him an Instant Message. He was surprised to get the IM because he was just piloting the technology and thought they had locked all communications down to internal users only.

You can either set Lync to “Open Federation” which allows everyone and anyone to contact you or restrict access to white listed domains only. Open Federation does mean that anyone could send call you or send IMs simply by using your work email address. Locking down Lync makes it harder to access the people in your business.

A business needs to think carefully about how it wants to work here. In the old fashioned world of the plain old telephone system anyone can call anyone else. In your company you may have a receptionist who can screen calls but most people these days have their own direct number.

These new Unified Communications tools offer far more powerful features than POTS. Features that allow quick and efficient transfer of information. In my mind why would you want to constrain your staff and not give them full control over their comms. After all every transaction is logged so if you want to know who was talking to who, for example for disciplinary purposes with a rogue staff member, you can do.

Skype and Google offer similar UC features to Lync but not the desktop sharing where you can hand over control of your machine to the remote person. IT managers might want to think hard about who is allowed this feature for talking to outsiders.

I remember in the early days of using Skype /I would often turn down very suspicious requests to talk from all sorts of weird people (hi I’m Carlos from Columbia!). I don’t seem to these days, either because this problem has gone away, there are too many people using Skype for me to be noticed or  I don’t use it often enough. I typically only switch on Skype for prearranged conversations – people’s status messages rarely seem to change.

Access management generally could be left to employees themselves. I carefully screen Google+ and Twitter followers for follow backs – there are some pretty dodgy looking accounts out there. I could do the same for Lync. I’m sure all of us block emails from certain people – in my case mostly recruitment consultants who seem to delight in spamming me with CVs of “very interesting looking candidates” that are available to start immediately.

The power of UC can be illustrated with this nice little anecdote from one of our Biz Dev guys Greg Easton. Greg had set up a prospect with a trial Lync client. He was pitching a PBX, connectivity etc and had also introduced Lync into the conversation. The customer was based in Rotterdam and had placed an order for a new Mitel PBX from a Netherlands based reseller. They let him down badly on delivering and he was desperate for a solution, saw Greg was available on Lync, got chatting, shared his problem and within 2 hours Greg had an order for £60K on his desk. Impressivo. My kind of sale!

Much manoeuvring is going on in the UC space. The market is big and I think you would have to bet that Microsoft will be one of the winners. In the meantime I have to play with all of them!

If you want to hook up with me my Lync address for the moment is [email protected]. I don’t pick up emails to that account. No spammers though. Networking only otherwise you’ll get blocked.

1 In a normal Lync deployment you need the following servers:

Front End Server

  • Inbound Routing
  • Outbound Routing
  • Voicemail Routing
  • IM/Presence Server

Backend SQL Server

  • User information
  • System Configuration

QOE Monitoring & Archiving CDR

  • Reporting Server

Edge Server (Located in the DMZ_

  • Allows access to mobile devices (Tablets/Smart Phones)
  • Allows access for federation to other businesses
  • Allows access for federation to Public IM Clouds (AOL/Yahoo/MSN)
  • Remote Users
  • Audio/Wed/Video collaboration with external parties

Mediation Server

  • Provide connectivity to SIP/PSTN Gateways or 3rd party phone systems

Exchange 2007/2010 UM

  • Voicemail to Lync

Active Directory

  • Lync integrates to AD for some admin functions
    • Note in a traditional Lync deployment you can only have one AD environment.

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  1. Tacitus

    Out of curiosity does this work with the Mac version of Messenger allowing me to videocall Windows users back at base from my MacBook via Lync? Alternatively is it compatible with Apple’s Facetime (eg on an iPad)? I would guess the former is possible, the latter probably not.

  2. Mike Ward

    We have Lync installed in our network as does our parent company, whilst it’s still in testing (until other projects are complete) we have noticed it’s potential could be quite large (especially since we run a Mitel system and can fully integrate with it), but also care has to be taken to not let users abuse the IM side of it considering the default option when Lync is installed is to save ALL conversation history into a folder in your exchange account (something which could land people in hot bother if someone looks after your mailbox when you’re on annual leave!)

    Tacitus, there is a seperate client for Macs, and with regards to Facetime, I’m sure there is a way to get it running as you can enable Lync to work with not only Windows Live accounts but also Google accounts (of which run on Jabber/XMPP)

  3. Trefor Davies tref

    Thanks Mike. I was getting an answer on the mac question but you beat me to it.if I can add to what you have said I will.

  4. Tacitus

    Thanks guys. Interesting what MS are doing with unified comms. It does make me wonder whether they intend the Lync client to replace Messenger for consumers, leaving Lync as the one client to rule them all.

    I notice that Lync clients are available for iPhone and iPad (not sure about Android) as well as desktop Macs, which begs the obvious question of where Apple intend to go with FaceTime and, whether they (or MS) see it operating via Lync server at some point.

  5. Trefor Davies tref

    btw Mike are you able to hook up with me via Lync?

  6. Hi Tacitus, Mike is correct in that there is a MAC version of Lync. If you have purhcased Office for Mac Standard 2011 on or after October 1, 2011 you will have an Office suite that includes Lync for 2011 instead of Communicator for Mac 2011. Customers with active Software Assurance coverage for Office for Mac Standard 2011 on or after October 1, 2011 can use either Communicator for Mac 2011 or upgrade to Lync for Mac 2011.

    You can’t make video calls between Lync and facetime at the moment, but this might come down the road or a Dev Partner might write some 3rd party software to allow this.

    With regards the mobile clients, you can download a Lync app for iPad, iPhone or a Android device however today there is no video on these clients but is something MS are working on.

  7. Tacitus

    Thanks Terry. I should be getting the new version under our site license so I’ve no idea why it’s not happened yet. The upgrades are being rolled out but my part of the outfit has only moved to Win7 over the summer, so I imagine the (few) Macs we have will be done with the next Office rollout.

    Academia is notoriously slow at times….. 🙂

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