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Skype for Business OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

Skype for Business is #6 ranked solution in top Virtual Meetings tools. IT Central Station users give Skype for Business an average rating of 8 out of 10. Skype for Business is most commonly compared to Webex: Skype for Business vs Webex. The top industry researching this solution is Comms Service Provider, accounting for 22% of all views.
What is Skype for Business?
Skype for Business offers features including presence, IM, voice and video calls, online meetings, conferencing, and telephony solutions that support enterprise-level collaboration requirements. Skype for Business Record meetings, share your screen, and annotate PowerPoint for real-time collaboration with up to 250 people and use whiteboard, polls, Q&A, and built-in IM during your business meetings to make them more productive. Skype for Business provides new client experience, Skype for Business Server provides several new features to improve manageability of on-premises servers and hybrid solutions. Skype for Business also supports the Lync client experience so that you can choose a phased upgrade approach to the new client experience for users. Skype for Business is also an integral part of Microsoft Office 365, providing PSTN Conferencing, Cloud PBX, PSTN Calling, and Skype Meeting Broadcast capabilities to Office 365 users.

Skype for Business is also known as Skype for Business Plan 1, Skype for Business Plan 2, Lync Server.

Skype for Business Buyer's Guide

Download the Skype for Business Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: October 2021

Skype for Business Customers

EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services,LA Fitness, MedcoEnergi International, Tampa General Hospital, and HopewellHoldings Limited.

Skype for Business Video

Archived Skype for Business Reviews (more than two years old)

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Balbino
Analyst at Leripe Construtora
Real User
Reduces costs and increases comfort for employees that would normally travel to meetings

Pros and Cons

  • "Video conferencing to hold virtual meetings helps to prevent employee displacement, where everyone can now enjoy the comfort of their own offices."
  • "If one of the users has a poor internet connection, this failure will compromise the meeting, causing delays and distortions in the communications."

What is our primary use case?

The use of Skype Business has several purposes within our organization, each determined by the specific situation. Its use of instant messages and chats has helped a lot in short conversations, avoiding much of the need to use email for a certain action.

Audio calls help a lot in terms of reducing costs for long discussions, and takes advantage of the maximum gratuity between users of the same program.

Video conferencing to hold virtual meetings helps to prevent employee displacement, where everyone can now enjoy the comfort of their own offices.

How has it helped my organization?

Communication is the main way to reduce delays and work better. By facilitating access to a more effective means of communication, we have better clarification between departments and employees when it comes to finding solutions to their problems.

What is most valuable?

The use of video conferencing is an excellent tool to avoid the expenses associated with displacements of professionals who need to be in a meeting with other members. With this function, all guests can be in their own offices, homes, or elsewhere. At the time of the call, everyone will be in a virtual room.

What needs improvement?

The use of multiple users making calls from both audio conferencing and video conferencing requires a good connection to the internet. If one of the users has a poor internet connection, this failure will compromise the meeting, causing delays and distortions in the communications.

For how long have I used the solution?

Between one and three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The product has good stability, but it depends on the speed of internet bandwidth. A good connection is required for smooth operation.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It has excellent scalability since it integrates with all sectors of the company. All of our needs are met.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is very good. The procedures and services performed by them are very clear and objective.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not use another solution prior to this one.

How was the initial setup?

The implementation was very easy, as the program installer itself is very intuitive.

What about the implementation team?

We have an internal IT team that performs all of the implementation procedures.

What was our ROI?

In less than six months we were able to achieve the ROI with clearance.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

To realize value from the purchase of Skype Business, you need to take advantage of all the important functions of the program. These features include audio conferencing and video conferencing calls. Otherwise, the cost becomes high.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We had already known about the quality of this tool before joining the service, so we did not evaluate other options.

What other advice do I have?

Skype Business is the best program that performs this type of service, and it is a benchmark in the market.

For communication needs among users who are in the habit of doing work on the road, it is necessary to have a good connection to the internet for the satisfactory functioning of mobile devices such as phones and tablets.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
User at TechnipFMC
Real User
Cut long distance costs while connecting with clients anywhere in the world

Pros and Cons

  • "Using this solution has helped us to cut long distance calls, as well as video services from third parties."
  • "Skype for Business is good for the PCs with higher bandwidth, but an improvement is required for low bandwidth usage."

What is our primary use case?

We use this solution for meetings and scheduling. Our meetings involve audio or video. These take place with outside clients at any place in the world.

How has it helped my organization?

Using this solution has helped us to cut long distance calls, as well as video services from third parties. We have the option to use this solution even for local calls.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features include video meetings with clients, scheduling multi-party meetings, and keeping track of meetings with each client.

What needs improvement?

Skype for Business is good for the PCs with higher bandwidth, but an improvement is required for low bandwidth usage.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I feel that the stability of this solution is very good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

My impression is that the scalability is very good.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support for this product is very good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Previously, we used Lotus Notes Chat, but it is not as powerful as Skype for Business.

How was the initial setup?

It was a little bit complex to setup, but the usage is not.

What about the implementation team?

Our implementation was done thought the vendor's team, and they were knowledgeable.

What was our ROI?

Our return of investment was over a two year period.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It may be slightly costly, but the features are awesome.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did not evaluate other products before choosing Skype for Business.

What other advice do I have?

I do not have any specific advice, other than improvement in the app is required.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Learn what your peers think about Skype for Business. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: October 2021.
543,936 professionals have used our research since 2012.
reviewer1065756
User
Real User
Easy setup, easy to use and can be configured on any device

What is our primary use case?

I have used this software since 2014. You can do meetings with your employees, and employees outside of your company. It has a very easy setup, it's easy to use and can be configured on any device. Everything gets recorded on an exchange server, so you don't have to worry about recording meetings and conversations.

How has it helped my organization?

It improves travel time for our employees and cost. It can be used on your 4G LTE connection easily. It has also improved manpower productivity.

What is most valuable?

You can do meetings of up to two hundred people in a single conversation. You can share your desktop with all meeting attendees at the same instant.

What needs improvement?

There is normal interface of software,it should be user…

What is our primary use case?

I have used this software since 2014. You can do meetings with your employees, and employees outside of your company.

It has a very easy setup, it's easy to use and can be configured on any device. Everything gets recorded on an exchange server, so you don't have to worry about recording meetings and conversations.

How has it helped my organization?

It improves travel time for our employees and cost. It can be used on your 4G LTE connection easily. It has also improved manpower productivity.

What is most valuable?

You can do meetings of up to two hundred people in a single conversation. You can share your desktop with all meeting attendees at the same instant.

What needs improvement?

There is normal interface of software,it should be user friendly and eye catchy.Nothing esle and i cannot explain much.

For how long have I used the solution?

Three to five years.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
	 PunitThakkar
CEO at Shivaami Cloud Services Pvt. Ltd.
Real User
It is a user-friendly solution that enables us to manage international meetings with ease.

Pros and Cons

  • "We chose Skype for Business after other colleagues suggested that we give it a try. It has served us well."
  • "We really like the screen sharing tool. The user experience is smooth, and user-friendly."
  • "I venture to say that 30% of the people using this solution at our company have had issues with stability, due to the volatility and crashes."
  • "Sometimes the connection crashes, which is understandable if you are traveling. But, it would be nice if this could be stabilized somehow."

What is our primary use case?

My primary use case for this solution is for internal meetings and meetings with customers.

What is most valuable?

I find the international dialing is the best feature.

What needs improvement?

Skype for Business needs to improve their support for Android cellphones. Sometimes the connection crashes, which is understandable if you are traveling. But, it would be nice if this could be stabilized somehow.

Additionally, I think there is a need to improve the chat-for-groups feature. It is not perfected yet.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I venture to say that 30% of the people using this solution at our company have had issues with stability, due to the volatility and crashes.

How are customer service and technical support?

I do not have experience with tech support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We used to use G Suite Hangout as a similar solution. But, prior to that, we were not using anything else in this domain. We chose Skype for Business after other colleagues suggested that we give it a try. It has served us well.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It may be considered costly for certain markets, such as in India.

What other advice do I have?

We really like the screen sharing tool. The user experience is smooth, and user-friendly.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
John ONeill
Principle consultant at Active Data Consulting Services Pty Ltd
Real User
It helps me connect with clients via conference calls, video conferencing and desktop sharing.

Pros and Cons

  • "The Microsoft tech support are very good. They get back to you. I log a support call, and I usually have someone on the phone within a half an hour, so it is pretty good."
  • "There are some issues with stability during phone calls. Sometimes the connectivity drops, and it is frustrating."

What is our primary use case?

I use this solution primarily for my consulting business. It enables me to keep in touch with clients via conference calls, video conferencing, desktop sharing and more.

What is most valuable?

The audio and the screenshot sharing is quite strong.

What needs improvement?

I think sometimes the connectivity needs improvement. Sometimes people have connectivity issues. Once you are running, it's terrific. But, there are unexpected dropouts occasionally. The reliability is not 100%. For example, we had a call today which started great, and then suddenly there were several participants that dropped out of the call due to connectivity.

I also think that it would be great to have a drag-and-drop feature during a call. 

Additionally, the screen sharing is really good. It would be nice to draw notes for screen sharing. This would especially be nice with Touch Pros.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There are some issues with stability during phone calls. Sometimes the connectivity drops, and it is frustrating.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We are small scale, with a small number of users. I do not know how it would handle very large numbers of users.

How is customer service and technical support?

The Microsoft tech support are very good. They get back to you. I log a support call, and I usually have someone on the phone within a half an hour, so it is pretty good. 

How was the initial setup?

Implementation and setup were pretty straightforward. It took us a half an hour. We did not need any expertise to get it running at all.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The pricing is really good. It is quite affordable because it came with our Office 365. It is on a per-user license, which is nice. I quite like that they have made it very granular with all of their licensing.  I get a feeling that smaller organizations can interact with bigger organizations in a more global way by using this service. It is leveling the playing field.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I looked at GoToMeetings. It is a good solution, and it has a few nice features. Skype for Business has better video and audio quality.

What other advice do I have?

If you have Office 365, you should give it a "go" and try it!

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Rajeev Jha
Database Manager at Wartsila India Ltd
Real User
Our employees use this solution for a communal space to collaborate for organizational decision making.

Pros and Cons

  • "It saves trouble, and it saves us time."
  • "Our employees use this solution for a communal space to collaborate for organizational decision making."
  • "Sometimes Skype is slow, and we cannot use other elements of our devices while using the Skype solution."

What is our primary use case?

My primary use case is for our employees to connect to anyone from any of their devices. In our version, we are primarily using from a laptop or a mobile phone. So, they can connect trhough Skype from anywhere. It is a firm requirement so we can connect from any remote location to anywhere.

How has it helped my organization?

Our employees use this solution for a communal space for decision making. We can gather a meeting online, and make global decisions. It saves trouble, and it saves us time.

What is most valuable?

I really like the meeting feature. It is the feature that is used the most in our case. It is really helpful because it reduces our company's travel expenses.

What needs improvement?

Sometimes Skype is slow, and we cannot use other elements of our devices while using the Skype solution. 

In addition, we would love to implement a whiteboard to the solution. It would be very helpful if you could draw a diagram while in a meeting on Skype. We do use other tools like Zoom and GoToMeeting for these types of features, but it would be nice for Skype to implement these tools, as well.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Sometimes it is unstable and slow.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is very scalable. We have had no problems.

How is customer service and technical support?

Technical support is OK.

How was the initial setup?

It took us three months to implement the solution to our team of employees. 

What was our ROI?

It is a business solution that helps our company connect globally to others in our sphere.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We negotiated a fair price with Microsoft. It is definitely worthwhile to negotiate with them for the best price for your solution.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We were aware of Cisco Webex, and other similar solutions. But, we had Skype with the Microsoft Suite of products. We find that the Microsoft agility will be better, the support is better, and based on the business demand, it matches our criteria, and we prefer it.

What other advice do I have?

It is a really good tool, with almost of the the features on the level of expertise that we need. We would love to see upgrades with whiteboards, architecture diagrams, and such. Apart from that, it would be great to have a interlink or integration with companies that are not on Microsoft Skype.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Rosmer Bustamante
Computer Maintenance Technician at GTP Sistemas S.L at GTP Sistemas S.L
Real User
Although seemingly obvious, I would note that the call quality is excellent.

What is our primary use case?

  • Firstly, it is an innovative and even more profitable way of communicating. Also, the product offers a very professional image, which is very useful to the organization. Thanks to the interface, quality, design and easy handling, it allows for establishing a better relationship.
  • Secondly, in terms of conversations whether via voice or video call, Skype for Bussiness meets the necessary criteria and with respect to the costs, it is profitable, plus it can be used in various equipment and operating systems which is another advantage.

How has it helped my organization?

Skype for Business has improved the communication system in my organization. It is not just a mere implementation; it is something that will undoubtedly influence the productive system likewise, especially in a company where operations are relatively small. 

Despite having few members, the use of this product strengthens the communication links and not only internally, it has also been used with some suppliers, partners, and friends, which has been a pleasant experience.

What is most valuable?

One of the most useful functions has been its use for calls. Although seeming obvious, it should be noted that the quality I would say is excellent, and the plans offered by the product are superb, also, the image represents the product strength of my organization and without a doubt, it is something innovative.

What needs improvement?

Specifically in the service area: Since my organization is in charge of repair and maintenance service of computer equipment, and also works internally in communication with members who bring about growth in the company, to include any functionality would be a service that transmits data stored in the cloud, in the form that can be saved, and also to send and receive useful files.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user846273
Senior Voice and Network Manager
User
While it makes troubleshooting a little easier, our users have struggle with product adoption

Pros and Cons

  • "We like the easy provisioning of Skype for Business Conferencing."
  • "We like the tools our administrator can use to identify which calls had quality issues and why. This makes troubleshooting our user experience somewhat easier."
  • "We would like to better customize our instructions within the Outlook plugin/invite, but we are unable to do so."
  • "We overcame the audio quality issues by asking users to use the 'Call Me' feature with their desk phone."

What is our primary use case?

Skype for Business and PSTN Conferencing. Our users are using this add-on license to perform internal and external web and audio conferences for between two and 200 users.

What is most valuable?

We like the easy provisioning of Skype for Business Conferencing. Also, we like the tools our administrator can use to identify which calls had quality issues and why. This makes troubleshooting our user experience somewhat easier.

What needs improvement?

  • We overcame the audio quality issues by asking users to use the 'Call Me' feature with their desk phone. 
  • We would like to better customize our instructions within the Outlook plugin/invite, but we are unable to do so. 
  • Our user base has struggled for adoption, as using Skype audio is not a very consistent experience due to the diverse networks that they are on (home office, corporate office, and branch office networks).

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What was our ROI?

We have been able to save money by moving our conferencing solution to Skype for Business Conferencing. 

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Consultant at Unify Square
Real User
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…

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 http://lyncuc.blogspot.it/2014/01/lync-server-2013-lync-backend-sql.html

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 https://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/virtualization.aspx ) 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 (http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/office/Lync-Server-2013-Basic-0a86824d )

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.

Summarizing

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.
ITCS user
Head of Strategic Portfolio Management team at a comms service provider with 11-50 employees
Real User
It's great being able to share files and documentation anywhere around the world

Pros and Cons

  • "File sharing and email invitations for a conference. I can have a meeting with people at the opposite end of the Earth, sharing documentation; it is quite easy."
  • "I should be able to make a desktop phone call when I click a member of my Lync directory."

How has it helped my organization?

Voice quality improvement, especially when used for over 40 minutes.

What is most valuable?

File sharing and email invitations for a conference. I can have a meeting with  people at the opposite end of the Earth, sharing documentation; it is quite easy.

What needs improvement?

Click to call: I should be able to make a desktop phone call when I click a member of my directory. There are other applications that enable making calls by clicking in the Lync directory.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Rarely, a chat message is sent very slowly.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

No scalability issues.

How is customer service and technical support?

Good.

How was the initial setup?

I didn't set it up.

What other advice do I have?

I rate it eight out of 10. It is generally very good to work with using chat or web meetings. It would be a 10 if I could make a call by clicking in the directory in Lync.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Consultant at Unify Square
Real User
Lync 2013 High Availability
High availability is something that companies do not take for granted, they take it as given (especially when we talk about telephony). While Lync 2010 did a good work on this critical aspect there were still some weak points on the architecture when there was the need for a really continuous service. For example the mechanism behind the “backup registrar” implementation was really a limit and, for the Enterprise Front End deployments, the need for a clustered SQL server Back End was a restriction and did not match with the requirements related (also) to some kind of disaster recovery plan.   Front End Pairing and new rules on licensing Lync 2013 makes a step forward, building on what was valid in the previous logics and using whole new solutions were they are necessary. The first huge…

High availability is something that companies do not take for granted, they take it as given (especially when we talk about telephony). While Lync 2010 did a good work on this critical aspect there were still some weak points on the architecture when there was the need for a really continuous service. For example the mechanism behind the “backup registrar” implementation was really a limit and, for the Enterprise Front End deployments, the need for a clustered SQL server Back End was a restriction and did not match with the requirements related (also) to some kind of disaster recovery plan.  

Front End Pairing and new rules on licensing

Lync 2013 makes a step forward, building on what was valid in the previous logics and using whole new solutions were they are necessary. The first huge improvement is related to the so called “Front End pairing”. I have created a presentation about this solution some time ago (http://bit.ly/XKCBzd) anyway what you need to know is that now your Standard Edition Front Ends (or your Enterprise Edition pools) can be tied and you are able to failover and failback users completely from one Front End to the other one with a simple Shell command. Some limits apply (pairing is supported only on similar Front Ends, so Enterprise Edition and Standard Edition mixes are not supported) but the result is really what you wish you had some years ago. The licensing has changed accordingly so that now there is no difference in the costs of a Standard or Enterprise edition of Lync. Obviously we are not talking about a “free lunch” because an Enterprise Edition deployment has a suggested minimum of three servers and you have to add the cost of at least one SQL server license to the amount. Talking about the Lync databases, we have another hot topic

Back End mirroring

The Lync Back End server (basically a SQL database hosting some of the Lync configurations and data) is really less important than it was in the past (and that’s why we are able to pair the Front Ends) but it is still mandatory for an Enterprise configuration of Lync. The high availability for Lync 2013 Back End supports:

  • SQL database mirroring 
  • SQL database clustering (starting with the August 2013 update

Mirroring is interesting because it allows for geographically dispersed deployments and requiring no shared storage between the different SQL “nodes”.

There is no support fo SQL AlwaysOn, at the moment.

Pools

As I said, solutions used in Lync 2010 that were effective have been used also in Lync 2013. This is the case of the Lync roles “pools” that are still used to grant the availability of features such as Lync Edge, Mediation and Director (the last one being now more optional than ever). However something has changed also in Lync pools implementation. Monitoring and Archiving are no longer independent roles but are collocated with the Front Ends, so you do not need to create dedicated pools. Persistent Chat Server (a new role, interesting in scenarios where you need to create persistent “rooms” for users IM conversations) must be pooled too if you want to grant its continuous accessibility.

Mediation Server Supporting Multiple Trunk and Inter-Trunk Routing

This last topic is not strictly related to the high availability but the aforementioned features (multiple trunks and inter-trunk routing) add a series of possibilities when planning an Enterprise Voice solution and the additional elasticity can be turned in a resiliency instrument. For example multiple trunks can be defined between a Mediation Server and a voice gateway or multiple Mediation Servers can route calls to the same gateway. Applying the right voice routing policies you will be able to create a series of solutions to use existing connections to the PSTN network or SIP trunks for continuity. Inter-Trunk routing enables the interconnection of two or more IP-PBX systems and this could be used as a way to add voice resiliency too.

Drawing a conclusion

The new features and possibilities we have seen here have a deep impact on the design of a Lync solution and on the perception of Lync as an enterprise ready solution. With the right design (and investment) every piece of the deployment can be made highly available and affordable, with a logic that is no more bound to a single site but can include also branch offices, disaster recovery sites and Cloud features too (hybrid deployments are part of the game now). You can stay assured that people will look with a growing interest to Lync now that the aforementioned possibilities are no longer only in the wish list. 

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user776832
Unified Messaging Consultant at a engineering company with 10,001+ employees
Vendor
The public telephony feature reduces hard phone costs

What is most valuable?

  • IM
  • Audio/video
  • Federation
  • Public telephony
  • RGS 

The public telephony feature reduces hard phone costs and RGS is like a call centre feature.

How has it helped my organization?

Reduced the capital cost on the hard phone.

What needs improvement?

End user enhancement: There are few codes in the back-end from the vendor which need to improve, be enhanced, like application sharing for remote party to access the machine, and can be easily accessed by tools, such as CAD design. This is one of the examples.

For how long have I used the solution?

Nine years starting from its 2005 version.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There have been a few issues working with vendor.

How are customer service and technical support?

An eight out of 10.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

No.

How was the initial setup?

It will depend on the B2B setup.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It is okay for a large environment.

What other advice do I have?

Think about other parameters, such as monitoring, if you invest in a Microsoft-based monitoring solution.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
DJ
Global Service Leader - Unified Communications and Collaboration at a manufacturing company with 10,001+ employees
Vendor
P2P audio video calls and conferencing add value

What is most valuable?

IM, Presence, P2P audio video calls, Conferencing.

How has it helped my organization?

Optimizes our network, encourages adoption, standardizes optimized headsets, strong change management, mobility.

What needs improvement?

Make the Skype applications work with unified end user computing. For example, so that Apple headsets can be used. Instead of optimizing some headsets, it would be helpful to get into OS to optimize the application.

For how long have I used the solution?

Five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Yes.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Yes.

How are customer service and technical support?

Five out of 10.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

No.

How was the initial setup?

Complex.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It depends on your infrastructure. There is value in using Skype only when your organization is Microsoft shop.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Cisco.

What other advice do I have?

Look at your end users and computing needs and find a suitable solution for them.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Specialist Unified Communications at a comms service provider with 10,001+ employees
Vendor
RDS, Conferencing, VoIP and IM are the most valuable features

What is most valuable?

RDS, Conferencing, VoIP and IM are the most valuable features.

The Remote Desktop Sharing (RDS): It allows the users to share the desktop during a collaboration session. This feature gained popularity with our users whilst assisting others or working on a document together.

Conferencing: The ability to host conference calls with multiple users and bring in mobile users or other participants on the click of a button proved superior. All the users, now, have conferencing space which is readily available on a moments notice. Scheduled meetings which are tightly integrated with Microsoft Outlook means the users spend less time organizing meetings; where the users needed to call the support team to book boardrooms or book conferencing resources, this is all now integrated with Outlook. Anyone can now do this easily without engaging with support desks or engaging conferencing of the support teams.

VoIP: The ability to call any user without incurring any charges. Since introducing Microsoft Lync, our users can now call other Lync users in other organizations. Our system is equipped with PSTN calling, which has allowed the users to make calls to PSTN from anywhere in the world. It has introduced flexibility in the way we work. We, now, have our users working on the road all the time and they can call/be called on their Skype number anytime-anywhere.

How has it helped my organization?

We have used Microsoft products and this product is tightly integrated in the Microsoft ecosystem. Everyone in the company uses some aspect of this product.

What needs improvement?

Conferencing and interoperability need to be improved.

The biggest challenge has been seen in terms of interoperability with the other vendors. Microsoft chose standards which are freely available to minimize their costs. This decision means other vendors cannot integrate with Skype because they are using licensed technologies. Conferences on Microsoft cannot be joined to conferences from other vendors; no collaboration across technologies. That means gateways that allow Skype to communicate with other conferencing systems are required. These gateways usually come with limitations on what you can/can't do during a conference. Adding gateways means spending more money without a guarantee that everything will work as intended. It, also, complicates the solution to provide all services.

Luckily, there are vendors who have risen to fill this gap, vendors such as Pexip and Acano. Fortunately or unfortunately, Acano was acquired by Cisco. These gateways allow Microsoft Skype to communicate with any conferencing systems without losing any functionality.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used this solution for eight years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It has been stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is good so far. We just added more servers to meet our needs.

How is customer service and technical support?

I would rate the technical support an eight out of 10.

How was the initial setup?

The setup was straightforward.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Business Enterprise Voice provides the most pain for pricing.

What other advice do I have?

QoS and ample bandwidth are a must. Virtualization can be a source of pain, i.e., if it is not implemented as per the requirements from Microsoft.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Aimee White
Info Sec Consultant at Size 41 Digital
Real User
Top 5Leaderboard
In one of two companies, I was introduced to it as, "problematic." Now, having used it for months, multiple times a day for video, voice and chat, I never had a problem with it.
Enterprise voice in the cloud I've used Skype Business (name change from Lync) in two companies. In one of them I was introduced to it as, "problematic." Now, having used it for months, multiple times a day for video, voice and chat, I never had a problem with it.  Voice calls - great quality if it was with someone in the same building or half way across the globe. No fuzzing or dropping.  Video calls - same. Great quality. No big drain on the computer so I could do other things. Again, good quality for the same building or globally.  Chat - what to say here apart from, it worked. Chat is a nice feature if you want to keep a history of messages.  (source: Skype.com) Meetings - we managed to get +10 people, all from various locations, on different systems, using varying…

Enterprise voice in the cloud

I've used Skype Business (name change from Lync) in two companies. In one of them I was introduced to it as, "problematic." Now, having used it for months, multiple times a day for video, voice and chat, I never had a problem with it. 

Voice calls - great quality if it was with someone in the same building or half way across the globe. No fuzzing or dropping. 

Video calls - same. Great quality. No big drain on the computer so I could do other things. Again, good quality for the same building or globally. 

Chat - what to say here apart from, it worked. Chat is a nice feature if you want to keep a history of messages. 

(source: Skype.com)

Meetings - we managed to get +10 people, all from various locations, on different systems, using varying bandwidths, some connecting via Skype/Skype for business/mobiles, landlines. Only 1 person had a problem and that was due to their AD FS set up. We had video, audio, and chat. We transferred files. Some of us switched to muted mics just to listen.... 

Some people have had sign on issues but I think that may be more to do with internal set up because my experience hasn't included this. 

Security and features that I used/like: 

Skype For Business traffic is encrypted using TLS

You get archiving of messages

P2P file transfers

IM and conferencing 

HD 1080p available depending on plan

Ability to have a presenter for training or to chair meetings

You can record content

Meetings can be scheduled via Outlook


The thing I want from any app is this: it needs to deliver. For me, Skype Business did. Does it take a bit of work to integrate into systems? Well, I've yet to meet a bit of kit with more than three features that doesn't. Is it worth it? I believe so. Skype for business is convenient. It's one of those things that's there, you use it, you forget about it - we're all happy. (or, at least, I was)

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Consultant at Unify Square
Real User
Having CCE integrated with local gateways is a big help in making the Cloud adoption straightforward
Intro and Scenario Some months ago, Microsoft added to its Office 365/Skype Online offer Cloud PBX with PSTN calling (Public Switched Telephone Network is the aggregate of the world's circuit-switched telephone networks).  Cloud PBX gives the capability to connect Skype for Business (S4B) Online users to the PSTN with no existing on-premises deployment. Your telco, in such a scenario, could be Microsoft itself but this kind of solution involves some interesting downsides. Microsoft should be able to offer phone numbers in many different countries that have dissimilar regulations and that will have different carriers and providers, each one trying to offer something more interesting than competitors. The alternative to the aforementioned…

Intro and Scenario

Some months ago, Microsoft added to its Office 365/Skype Online offer Cloud PBX with PSTN calling (Public Switched Telephone Network is the aggregate of the world's circuit-switched telephone networks). 

Cloud PBX gives the capability to connect Skype for Business (S4B) Online users to the PSTN with no existing on-premises deployment.

Your telco, in such a scenario, could be Microsoft itself but this kind of solution involves some interesting downsides.

Microsoft should be able to offer phone numbers in many different countries that have dissimilar regulations and that will have different carriers and providers, each one trying to offer something more interesting than competitors.

The alternative to the aforementioned scenario (and a more down-to-earth solution) is having all Skype for Business workload in the Cloud with minimum footprint on-premises, just to connect S4B users to local PSTN services (using SIP or ISDN).
This is what Microsoft calls Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition (previously, you may have heard names like MinTop or Minimal Topology).

While I will not deep dive the specifications of this solution, the implications it has must be understood from any customer that is evaluating a Cloud based VOIP system like this one

CCE Overview

CCE is a downloadable package from Microsoft.  Inside the package, you will have four virtual machines running on Hyper-V that you will have to deploy in your DMZ. 
As you can see in the following schema (from the TechNet post Plan for Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition ( https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt605227.aspx) CCE acts as a bridge between your local telco provider and the Microsoft Cloud.

Deploying more than a single CCE on a site will add resiliency and increase the number of supported calls.

Note that, in this kind of scenario, you have purchase PSTN conferencing from Microsoft or from audio conferencing provider (ACP) partner if you want to add dial-in conferencing.

In addition, from a security point of view, the Directory Services inside the CCE have no communication with your production Domain Controllers.

Is CCE useful for My Company?

In the TechNet post Plan your Cloud PBX solution in Skype for Business 2015 or Lync Server 2013 ( https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt612869.aspx) Microsoft offers an interesting "block diagram” to help customers selecting the right solution.

CCE is seen as something fit for greenfield deployments, while existing Skype for Business infrastructures are suitable to work with Cloud PBX directly.

Vendors like Audiocodes are already offering support to the CCE onboard of their Gateways and Session Border Controllers (SBCs).

That is interesting because to talk with the local PSTN you usually already have the requirement for a gateway/SBC.

Therefore, CCE will probably add small or no cost to what you already had to spend anyway.

Takeaways

CCE is an interesting proposal to realize an hybrid voice deployment (Cloud services and local telco) with little effort.

Removing the Skype for Business (on-premises) deployment from the requirements to use Cloud PBX with PSTN calling simplifies the whole process of moving Enterprise Voice (VOIP) to the Cloud.

Having CCE integrated with gateways is another help in making the aforementioned Cloud adoption straightforward.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Consultant at Unify Square
Real User
Why Lync Server 2013 is Interesting
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,…

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.  

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Infrastructure Expert at a comms service provider with 51-200 employees
Real User
It is easy to integrate with Call Centers and doesn’t need separate appliances or hardware but several aspects have room for improvement
For how long have you used this product? - 2 years Which features of this product are most valuable to you? - VoIP, IM Chat, Conferencing, Mobility Can you give an example of how this product has improved the way your organization functions? - Make it easy to communicate between colleagues, partners and even other companies. It is easy to integrate with Call Centers and doesn’t need separate appliances or hardware. It all can be virtualized. It also allows you to call anytime and anywhere from within your PC or Mobile phone. What areas of this product have room for improvement? - IM and file transfer, Conferencing, Persistent Chat, Monitoring and Archiving, Quality of voice and video and Mobility. Did you encounter any issues with deployment, stability or scalability?…

For how long have you used this product?
- 2 years

Which features of this product are most valuable to you?
- VoIP, IM Chat, Conferencing, Mobility

Can you give an example of how this product has improved the way your organization functions?
- Make it easy to communicate between colleagues, partners and even other companies. It is easy to integrate with Call Centers and doesn’t need separate appliances or hardware. It all can be virtualized. It also allows you to call anytime and anywhere from within your PC or Mobile phone.

What areas of this product have room for improvement?
- IM and file transfer, Conferencing, Persistent Chat, Monitoring and Archiving, Quality of voice and video and Mobility.

Did you encounter any issues with deployment, stability or scalability?
- Integration with Office 365 can be difficult sometimes if migrating users from Lync on cloud to Lync on premise.

Did you previously use a different solution and if so, why did you switch?
- We used to have Openfire, but since we are partners of Microsoft and Lync was a unified communication solution for enterprises which gather everything in it. Then we decided to migrate and deployed our first Lync in 2010.

Before choosing this product, did you evaluate other options? If so, which ones?
- No, we have just choose to go for Microsoft Lync and so as many of our enterprise customers who previously had OCS deployed on their premise.

How would you rate the level of customer service and technical support?
- Overall the level of customer service for Lync is good however, for Microsoft Office 365 it has been improved from getting support on forums to exchanging e-mails and even following up on issues by phone calls.

Was the initial setup straightforward or complex? In what ways?
- Initial setup was some how complicated with the edge part as you have to understand the trick of getting two NICs working and routing the traffic on internal NIC to Lync front end while the other NIC which is external has to face the Firewall DMZ lan.

Did you implement through a vendor team or an in-house one? If through a vendor team, how would you rate their level of expertise?
- We have deployed an in-house server and it’s currently still up and running, also we have evaluated the Office 365 and support was extremely good.

What is your ROI on this product?
- Lync has many features that would save your enterprise money, time and effort. Starting with the money, it lessens the cost of communication by using less PSTN lines for VoIP calls when using the Enterprise Voice feature for Lync, It saves you time since you can have conference calls with your clients on Lync using Multiple Conferencing capability along with Multi-Video as well saving the time of going to the customer’s main office for the meeting. Also it can be integrated with other various application servers providing you features which you probably don’t know about yet.

What was your original setup cost for this product and what is your day-to-day cost of using this product?
- Total cost of the project may vary depending on the requirements of the setup, The number of clients who will be using it and what kind of features would they require on it. It may start from $5000 up to $50,000.

What advice would you give to others looking into implementing this product?
- I have recommended Microsoft Lync to one of the customers who had Asterisk and used to have lot of voice quality issue even though they are using the generic audio codecs that are used by majority of VoIP applications. Microsoft Lync uses a different Codec which makes it unique and has better quality in this case.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Engineer at a tech vendor with 10,001+ employees
Vendor
Very effective communication tool

Valuable Features:

Integration with other MS products such as outlook, OWA, SharePoint Support for various client devices, gateways etc. Support for federation with third party.Lync Client allows users access to presence, instant messaging, voice, audio, video, and Web conferencing

Room for Improvement:

Voice telephony and video calls utilize lots of bandwidth.

Other Advice:

It's is a very good product to have -- a solution for IM, voice telephony and video communication bundled into one.

Valuable Features:

Integration with other MS products such as outlook, OWA, SharePoint Support for various client devices, gateways etc. Support for federation with third party.Lync Client allows users access to presence, instant messaging, voice, audio, video, and Web conferencing

Room for Improvement:

Voice telephony and video calls utilize lots of bandwidth.

Other Advice:

It's is a very good product to have -- a solution for IM, voice telephony and video communication bundled into one.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user1020
Head of Data Center at a university with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
Question regarding Microsoft's Lync server
Hi, I have been tasked to prepare a plan to upgrade our analogue telephone system into a full-IP unified communications system. Since we have a subscription-based licensing deal with Microsoft, Microsoft's Lync server offers a compelling product for this purpose. For those of you who have experience using this as your IP communications system, I would like to know your experiences with using this product. Any comment or suggestion would be highly appreciated. Francis

Hi,

I have been tasked to prepare a plan to upgrade our analogue telephone system into a full-IP unified communications system. Since we have a subscription-based licensing deal with Microsoft, Microsoft's Lync server offers a compelling product for this purpose.

For those of you who have experience using this as your IP communications system, I would like to know your experiences with using this product. Any comment or suggestion would be highly appreciated.

Francis

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