Skype for Business Review

How Much do I Have to Spend to Bring Microsoft Lync to My Company?

Disclaimer: the new version of Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business (SfB) Server 2015, has been released a few weeks ago. Licensing model is the same you had for Lync Server, with companies paying only Front End servers (i.e. the ones hosting user accounts and the core services for your infrastructure).  SfB contains some new features, including support for Back End availability based on AlwaysOn groups. I will write a dedicated post asap.     

The costs related to Microsoft Lync are something that I have talked about more than once but this is the first time I try to summarize information in a single document. I will limit my reflections to on-premises organizations, because as I am writing, Lync Online has no serious support for Enterprise Voice (i.e. VOIP) and this makes the Cloud version of Lync less flexible (and somewhat less interesting) than the more traditional, corporate deployment.

Your House, Your Rules

A starting point for all cost-related considerations is to understand which kind of service we need. Lync Server 2013 supports solutions ranging from a single, all-in-one box (with a mandatory Office Web Apps server required to share PowerPoint presentations) to hundreds of servers geographically dispersed. Let us list some parameters.

1. Number of Users

The first parameter you have to establish is the number of users that will require Lync services. Lync 2013 Standard Edition (S.E.), the aforementioned single box, is tested to support up to 5,000 users. Obviously, before you reach the 4,999th Lync enabled account, it could be a good idea to add a second Front End (the server that delivers core services to the users) or consider a Lync Enterprise Edition (E.E.) solution (more details on the two editions of Lync Server 2013 are explained in the next paragraph)

2. Required Availability

Second parameter will be the required level of availability. If we deem service continuity as required for any of the Lync features (especially if we are going to use Lync as our VOIP system), it should be in a high availability deployment. Lync pools support a feature called Pool Pairing, if we have at least a couple of Lync 2013 S.E. Front End servers in our infrastructure.

It is not an H.A. solution, but adds resiliency to the solution and it grants some degree of survivability to the voice users. In a paired pool, using a series of scripts, we are also able to fail-over and fail-back Lync users, restoring full functionality for them. A highly available solution requires the E.E. of Lync Server 2013.

Although there is no difference in the cost of licenses between S.E and E.E., to use Enterprise Edition you must have at least pool of three Front Ends connected to a separate SQL Server database (whereas S.E. uses a collocated SQL Server express at no additional cost).

A dedicated SQL infrastructure would also require a continuity solution, like clustering or mirroring. A well-known rule of thumb is if we need to provide high availability, then we need to remove any potential Single Point of Failure in the design.

Small, remote offices might also require (at least) voice survivability. For such a scenario, we have a dedicated implementation of Lync Server 2013, the Survivable Branch Appliances (SBA); these are less expensive than a full-blown Lync front-end server.

Note: SQL licensing for Lync Server 2013 has been deep dived in a good post from fellow MVP Thomas Poett in his blog Lync Server 2013: Lync Backend SQL Server Licensing

Availability requirements have an impact also on point 3 and 5 of this list.

3. Additional Servers

Lync requires some additional servers that have no additional cost from the Lync server licensing point of view but that add costs to acquire the base Operating System, hardware and so on.

  • At least a Lync 2013 Edge server and a reverse proxy are required to make our services available to users outside our corporate network
  • The only Lync role that requires a Lync server license is the Front End. All other additional roles like Mediation, Director and the aforementioned Edge are not subject to additional Lync server licensing
  • At least an Office Web Apps server is required (as I said before) if PowerPoint sharing is required
  • If we have high-availability requirements, the aforementioned services should be redundant through an edge pool, a highly-available reverse proxy and an Office Web Apps farm
  • Lync integrate with Exchange Unified Messaging (UM) for services like voice mail. Exchange will have its own requirements and costs, but we have to keep them in mind if we require UM-related services
  • A Lync 2013 E.E. pool requires a dedicated load balancer to balance certain type of traffic from the pool. This may be provided in the form of a physical or virtual appliance. Remembering SPoF, load balancer should also require an additional standby device for resiliency.

Note: Every Lync, Office Web Apps, SQL database and reverse proxy (if you are going to use a solution based on Windows Server) will require a license for the Operating System. You could use virtualization rights (Licensing for Virtual Environments ) to keep costs down, but this aspect is to be included in the list

4. Client Licenses

For the following point, I will quote my free e-book Microsoft Lync Server 2013: Basic Administration ( )

Lync requires a CAL (Client Access License) for each user or machine that logs on to the server. CALs are of three types and each one is entitled to the use of a part of the features. Access to premium functionality is determined by adoption of the Standard CAL and then you have to add supplemental CALS, an Enterprise CAL and, for some additional features, a third license called Plus CAL (you may think to Enterprise CAL and Plus CAL as supplemental to the Standard CAL).

  • Standard CAL: offers IM (Instant Messaging) and Presence, as well as PC-PC audio and video communication
  • Enterprise CAL: the user can use multi-party Lync meetings (including Gallery View, a feature allowing up to five active video streams to be displayed at once)
  • Plus CAL: enables enterprise voice capabilities

5. Infrastructure costs

There are a couple of entries in the bill of materials not directly related to Lync, but that we have to consider anyway:

  • If we are going to use Lync Server 2013 as our telephony infrastructure, we will require access to the public telephony system. There are a lot of offers and solutions from hundreds of providers worldwide, so an exact cost estimation is tough to outline here. Granting high availability will raise the costs here too, adding mandatory backup lines in case of a failure on our provider’s side
  • Lync Server 2013 has a high level of security by default and requires digital certificates to function. While our internal infrastructure can work with a corporate Certification Authority (C.A.), if we plan to make our Lync services available to Internet users (and to federate them with external Unified Communication systems) we have to use commercial certificates from a well-known, third party C.A. The cost here is not something to underestimate, because digital certificates will have to be SAN with many alternative names inside. In addition, the more SIP domains we will manage with our Lync deployment, the more names we will need in the certificates, and certificate fees are likely to ramp-up further.


Now, as it is easy to understand from the previous list, there is no right answer to the starting question. I will try to focus a few points:

    1.High Availability will raise the costs, as usual

    2.Using Lync Enterprise Voice will add license and infrastructure costs (as well as making H.A. almost mandatory)

    3.The number of users and their level of access to Lync’s features will impact budget both for the deployment sizing and for the needed client licenses

    4.The bulk part of the expenditure items related to a Lync deployment are not related to Lync server licensing, but to the other voices we have seen

Alessio Giombini contributed to this review. 

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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