Can a telco “give voice” to your hosted lync solution?
Microsoft Lync is a market leading Unified Communications (UC) solution that offers many features, including Instant Messaging, Web/Audio/Video Conferencing, Corporate Telephony and Mobility capabilities in a single product. Lync also extends the communications modalities into applications that customers use today — such as e-mail (Exchange), collaboration (SharePoint,) Microsoft Office and existing business applications.
When a Lync 2013 installation is used for telephony, or as a PBX (or public branch exchange – the gear that most companies own to support desktop phones and connect them to the public telephone network), it is said to be a Voice implementation, or as the official Lync product feature is called: “Enterprise Voice.” However the planning, deploying, and supporting activities to have a successful Lync voice project go far beyond what is typically required for a data processing application that just runs on a server, uses storage and databases, and/or, supports some type of user access, reporting, or electronic transactions.
A very different skill set is required from the skills IT (Information Technology) teams usually deal with. The IT staff can benefit from partnering with their telecomm support teams in order to gain all the skills needed to handle a software based IP-PBX. One solution to consider: work with a major telephone company service provider (or “telco”) that also offers server hosting and application management, for all of your hosted Lync needs. Example telcos include AT&T, Verizon, and British Telecom. Unlike other system integrator partners, telcos are uniquely positioned to provide a true end-to-end implementation, management, and support solution. They have years of experience in analyzing, configuring, and deploying networks to support demanding network-sensitive applications, such as voice and video, as well as providing the last mile to connect to traditional telephony services and the Internet.
These organizations typically have carrier-grade hosting facilities to bring the application into their cloud, experience with the latest UC solutions, including Lync 2013. They also will have deep voice experience and consulting organizations that design and transform the voice service to utilize Lync for an enhanced experience while reducing costs (e.g., by saving toll charges, consolidating voice onto data networks and eliminating voice circuits, and reducing PBX equipment investment/maintenance charges).
Lync can be purchased by customers in a number of ways that cater for on-premises or cloud deployment. Many firms are drawn to the low price points of Microsoft Office 365 (also known as O365) for productivity and collaboration services that can include hosted Lync. There are several levels of subscriptions available for Enterprise customers (e.g., E1, E3, & E4). Many O365 customers take advantage of the E4 plan, which provides a license for use of full Enterprise Voice features. However within Microsoft hosted O365, services allow only basic dial in / dial out functionality, which meets the needs of some types of users but is not intended to handle all aspects of PBX replacement. In other words, it is not the full Lync Enterprise Voice experience.
In recognition of this challenge, Microsoft allows the customer to apply their E4 licensing to access Lync Enterprise Voice services from a telco’s hosted solution. Thus, some firms are looking to hybrid models for their enterprise voice strategy, whereby some users who only need basic Lync services are hosted at O365 and others are hosted in the telco’s hosting facilities. The Exchange (email and unified messaging) and SharePoint (collaboration) workloads can remain hosted by Microsoft.
Some telcos can also offer a complete package that includes the O365 Lync services, with voice enablement via Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunking and required support services. This is one good way to ensure that all of the telco’s resources are brought to bear to ensure a successful implementation. When there are hybrid solutions that involve some services at the telco’s hosting center and other services at O365, there can be integration that make the experience seamless for all users. In addition, in some cases, the charges for some of the hosting services can be paid via the firm’s telco bill.
Other related topics and products that most telcos will be able to offer include the following:
- Support of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy via enhanced smartphone functionality that allows Lync to operate in a secure partition of the phone.
- Related hosted applications that provide Mobile Device Management (MDM) services. These also can work to secure the device, managing what features it enables and services it can access based on compliance with IT policies.
- Development of Communication Enabled Business Process (CEBP) applications that can enhance and extend the capabilities of Lync.
- Contact Center services and/or integrated solutions. These solutions typically have a standard interface for Lync and are enabled for presence and conferencing by Lync, adding additional access paths to call centers.
- Integration with E911 (Emergency 911) services by connecting Lync to an Emergency Routing Service, which routes emergency calls to PSAPs (public safety answering points).
In summary, a successful Lync implementation requires advanced technical skill sets, familiarity with regulations, and experience with interpretation of the Microsoft Online plans and architectures. It is important to “do it right the first time,” since user adoption will suffer if the experience is not optimal. So consider working with a telco that has a mature Microsoft application hosting and consulting practice to reduce implementation time and possible missteps.