Disclaimer - Time flies, and I received a message from IT Central Station to update my past reviews, including the one I wrote some months ago about Lync Server 2013. Honestly, it would have been easy to just update a few lines here and there and keeping the contents (that were still good) online. However, I have tried to use wisely the aforementioned period of time and my knowledge of Lync and of his potential is now deeper. So, I decided to throw away the previous review (including a good number of views it had) and to write a completely new post.
What is Lync Server 2013
Lync is a
Unified Communications (U.C.) product. It means that in a single product you have a native integration between many different communication tools (IM, conferencing, telephony, e-mail). Lync adds to the standard U.C. capabilities the integration with other Microsoft solutions (SharePoint, Exchange and Active Directory). The aforementioned integration uses information already available in your corporate software to give a better and more complete communication experience to the users. A remarkable example of the aforementioned capability, that I often use as an example, is the so called Skill Search. Skill search is a feature included in the user search of the Lync client that enables the use of working skills information coming from SharePoint as a filter.
Why Lync is Interesting
Lync Server 2013, from a certain point of view, is like two different solutions in a single product (also if a strong point of Lync is that you can move seamlessly inside the different available features). I will try to explain my point of view:
- First “aspect” of Lync is the part dedicated to communication tools like IM and conferencing. From this point of view you could find similarities (and important dissimilarities) with other U.C. products. Lync is able to federate different companies and (also) external networks like Skype adds a flexibility that gives value for Lync enabled companies. User experience is really good, with great clients/apps available for almost any existing platform and device. Again, integration with other Microsoft services, adds communication tools, like scheduling a Lync meeting from the Outlook calendar or seeing presence and launching a Lync IM from the Exchange Outlook Web Access (OWA) interface.
- Second “aspect” of Lync is the Enterprise Voice, a modern VOIP system that is able to replace the existing Private Branch Exchange (PBX) telephony and to overtake it with many additional features.
- Lync has many mechanisms dedicated to grant high availability (see my Lync 2013 High Availability post here on IT Central Station, http://www.itcentralstation.com/product_reviews/lync-server-review-by-fabrizio-volpe) so that your telephony system will never let you down.
- The client is really easy to use and it is powerful, giving users access to features like Call Via Work (enabling outgoing calls from any Lync client, including the apps for mobile devices, always showing your work phone number and not the real one) or Call Parking (put a call on hold from one telephone and then retrieve the call later, also from another phone, dialing an internal number).
- Last (but not least) there are many voice routing mechanisms inside Lync, so that you are able to select the path that has the lower cost for a call or the one that is compliant with your company policy with a lot of flexibility
Both the aforementioned points are different faces of the same product, but also looking at them as separate solutions, we have a Lync is great competitor in the U.C. field.
Weak Points of Lync Server 2013
- Lync on-premises is costly (you have to pay both user and server licenses).
- A deployment of Lync is never trivial and, if we include the Enterprise Voice features, it requires real experts to obtain the best results.
- The Office 365 version of Lync (Lync Online), less costly and complex than the on-premises solution, at the moment is not a viable solution, if you require telephony features.
- Lync hybrid (on-premises and Cloud mixing) is constrained by the aforementioned limits in Lync Online
- Large meetings on-premises require an infrastructure sizing that many companies could not be able to deploy
What Will Change for Lync in the Future
If you look at the list of the weak points, you can easily imagine that a solution for the pain points in the list is something that Microsoft is working on. The new “Mobile-First, Cloud-First” strategy that Microsoft has embraced involves all its products and it will have for sure an impact on
VNext, the temporary name experts use for the forthcoming release of Lync.