Browsing Posts in Office 365

What is Office 365?

Click here to RSVP for the webinar on this topic on Thursday August 13th from 11-noon (eastern)

Office 365 is a subscription based service to the Office programs you know and love. It’s kept up to date automatically, so there’s no software for you to purchase and install. Your subscription gives you access from up to 5 devices, so you can work from your computer, tablet, smartphone, whatever you need.

 

Office applications
There are a couple different ways to use the Office products with Office 365. You have Office Web Apps, which are basically web based versions of the familiar Office products, as well as the full versions. Office Web Apps have a lot of the same functionality, although not all. And of course you will still have the full versions of the Office products available to install on your computer.

 

Email
Office 365 keeps all your emails in sync across all your devices. It’s also easy to share calendars and view scheduling information for people within your organizations.

 

Instant Messaging
Office 365 comes with Skype for Business (Or Skype depending on the subscription you choose). You’ll have individual and group Instant Messaging capabilities, availability indicators, and calling information. Check out our webinar on Skype for Business for more information on these capabilities.

 

Video Conferencing
Skype for Business also offers individual or group video conferencing. It’s fully integrated with Outlook, so creating meetings with links to Skype calls can be done right from your Outlook client. And Skype for Business isn’t limited to people within your organization, you can also communicate with people outside your organization.

 

Collaboration
Share files and collaborate in real time from any device. Working on a presentation or document with a team? With Office 365 you can edit and track other edits easily in one shared file. Version control is easy because everything is in real time.

 

So which subscription do you need? That depends on if you need email, Office, or both. Below is a more detailed table of the subscriptions:

 

 

 

 

Interested in Office 365? Join us for August Office webinar where we’ll demonstrate some of the basic functionalities and discuss the various subscriptions available.

 

MicrosoftDeals on various Microsoft products expire on June 30th!

Microsoft’s fiscal year ends on June 30th.  Because of this, Microsoft always has promotions and deals for their licensing that expires on June 30th.  This year is no exception.

Offers on:

  • Office 365
  • Project Online
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Licensing
  • Migration Costs
  • Open Value Subscription
  • Software Assurance

These offers differ from product line to product line, but they usually end up somewhere between 10-30% off what you would pay throughout the rest of the year.  And many of these offers are limited to only if you purchase the product through a Microsoft Partner (that would be someone like us).

Also, Microsoft has quietly announced that some products will actually see a price increase after June 30th.

So…act now, save money.  Wait until after, price increase.

Interested?

Click us at Sales@Simplex-IT.com, or call us at 234.380.1277.  And you know we don’t do the whole high-pressure approach.  We’ll help you determine the product and licensing plan that’s best for you and your organization (even if it’s not with us).

Skype for Business logo

 

Lync is now Skype for Business!

If you’re a Lync user, you may have noticed a change already – Lync is now Skype for Business! Join us on June 11th (see below to RSVP) for our monthly webinar where we’ll talk about Skype for Business and demonstrate some of the collaboration capabilities. We’ll be giving away a free copy of Office 2013 to one lucky winner too!

Skype for Business can be used to increase communication and collaboration in a number of different ways:

Voice Calling (VoIP) – Audio calls are easy in Skype, and you don’t pay for long distance or airtime. And Skype for Business integrates with your previous contacts from Skype, so you’ll have one tool for your business and personal calls.

Video Calls – One-on-one video calls can be much more personal when you can talk face to face, even if it is virtually. With Skype for Business, you can have those discussions and be able to see facial expressions and body language, or just check out your colleague’s new haircut.

Video Conferencing – Similar to the one-on-one video calls, but with more than two people. This is great for bringing teams together with a more personal feel. Who’s wouldn’t prefer to look at their colleague’s instead of staring at a conference speakerphone the whole time?

Screen Sharing – It’s easy to share your screen during a call. Whether you are working on a project with a co-worker and need to share your screen on the fly, or leading a scheduled presentation, Skype for Business makes it easy to share your screen with your participants.  You’ll see Simplex-IT using Skype for Business for our webinars too!

Online Meetings – Integration with Microsoft Office makes creating online meetings easy! In Outlook, instead of creating a “New Meeting” just select “Skype Meeting” instead. A link to the Skype meeting will be created for you in the body of the meeting invitation. From there, it’s the same as creating a meeting. Your recipients can then use the link provided to join the meeting.

Skype for Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instant Messaging – For a quick message, who has time for email? The instant messaging capability in Skype for Business makes it easy to send a message to your contacts. It’s also great for back and forth conversation type communication, rather than the one-sided email that’s easy to lose in your Inbox. Conversations are saved in Outlook, so you can go back and reference them at any point, with no email clutter. You can also see your contacts availability, and let other’s know yours. Leaving for the afternoon or on an important assignment and can’t be bothered? Change your status to Off Work or Do Not Disturb to let everyone know. You can create groups, favorites, and much more.

Skype for Business Instant Messaging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to learn more about Skype for Business and see it in action? Join us for our monthly Office Webinar!

What: Skype for Business
When: Thursday, June 11th 11am – noon EST
Where: Online
Click here to Register!

 

Project Management for the small to mid-sized businesses

Project Management used to be something you found only in large organizations – they had the budget and resources to implement such a thing. But not anymore… With Microsoft Project Online, it’s affordable for everyone, and user friendly too.

During the lunchinar, we’ll discuss the basics of project management, and demonstrate some of the capabilities of Microsoft Project and Project Online. We’ll show how managers and executives, project managers, and the folks working on the individual tasks can use these tools. You’ll see how you can easily create and track your project work, and how to create reports to show future projections. We’ll also touch on Project Sites, the SharePoint component that provides and extra workspace for things like Risks, Issues, Documents, Calendar, General Discussions, and much more.

So join us if your find yourself wanting quick, easy, answers to questions like:

  • What’s going on right now?
  • What project are running late or over budget?
  • When will I have the time and resources to start another project?
  • Why, when, and how did this project get so off track??

Bob Coppedge and Patti Smerk (who heads up our new simplex-PM practice) and will be demonstrating these tools and techniques to show they can be used to help you gain better insight and manage your projects more effectively.

When:  Wednesday May 20th, from 11:30am-1pm (Eastern)

Where:  Stow Hampton Inn and Online

Cost:  Free!

RSVP:  Click here!

We’ve been saying for the past couple of years that Microsoft Lync Online was ultimately going to be a game changer when fully implemented.  And we pointed at Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype as a critical component of that strategy.

And we waited.

And then…we waited some more.  Until now.  The rebranding of Lync (to Skype for Business) finally gives some meat to the process.  It’s not fully in place yet (as this article explains), but I think the changes are on the way, and undeniable.

This article excerpt, by Brian Riggs, originally appeared here: http://ubm.io/1PIMzOH

Skype for Business Online promises to be a game changer — not only for Microsoft, but also its partners, customers, and competitors.

As Microsoft begins to upgrade Lync Online users to Skype for Business Online this week, it is taking the first step in delivering a full-featured hosted UC service. And, make no mistake about it, this will be a game changer — for Microsoft and its partners, customers, and competitors.

You see, by not adding PSTN connectivity and Enterprise Voice directly into Lync Online, Microsoft had hobbled the service from the get-go, creating a walled garden around it. Users can message one another, as well as set up PC-to-PC calls with other Lync Online users and, quite recently, Skype users. But without PSTN connectivity, Lync Online users can’t connect to the larger world which — like it or not — still relies heavily on the PSTN for voice calls. And without Enterprise Voice, businesses can’t lean on Lync Online as an alternative to traditional PBXs or telephony services.

But Skype for Business Online (the hosted UC service that replaces Lync Online) will change all this… eventually. So let’s take a look at some of the new terminology and capabilities that have never before been associated with Lync Online and that will in time transform what Microsoft can deliver in terms of cloud-based UC services.

Cloud PSTN Connectivity - As mentioned, today Lync Online lets users set up voice calls only from PC to PC. If you want to let users dial out to and receive calls from the PSTN — that is, if you want to use Lync Online as your business telephony service — you’re more or less out of luck. I say “more or less” because you can make this happen via workarounds. These come in the form of Microsoft partner services that either connect Office 365 to a hosted Lync Server (like Arkadin Voice for Office 365 and ThinkTel’s Think 365) or connect Lync Online to a telephony service (from AT&T, Vodafone, and others, as I wrote recently).

These partners’ services should remain viable options as Skype for Business Online rolls out. But the Cloud PSTN Connectivity feature will cut out the middleman for businesses that don’t want to deal with partners. Microsoft will itself issue new phone numbers to Office 365 customers and/or port the phone numbers a business has from its current provider to Skype for Business Online. Microsoft will provide calling plans with per-minute rates. At least I assume it will… Microsoft hasn’t confirmed this yet. And Skype for Business Online will have a native dial pad to call standard phone numbers.

On-premises PSTN Connectivity - Cloud PSTN Connectivity is for businesses that want to get telephony services directly from Microsoft. For those that want to use an existing telephony service, On-premises PSTN Connectivity lets a company connect its Office 365 tenant to Skype for Business Server deployed onsite. Skype for Business Server then connects to a gateway or PBX, providing PSTN services for Office 365 users. So a user will be getting the Office apps from the cloud, but the ability to connect to the PSTN will come from an on-prem server.

Like me, you might be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t that the same as the short-lived hybrid voice capability for Lync?” Microsoft says the two are absolutely not the same, but even after a discussion with company insiders about it I’m at a loss to explain the difference.

In chucking out the hybrid voice capability, Microsoft cited architectural complications as the main reason. So hybrid voice and On-premises PSTN Connectivity, I’m told, are based on entirely different architectures. But I don’t know enough about how hybrid voice was architected, what architectural problems it had, how On-premises PSTN Connectivity is architected, how it’s architecture is an improvement, and how the improvement is meaningful to businesses subscribing to Skype for Business Online. If you find out, please let me know.

What I do know is that hybrid voice provided Lync Online with the ability to connect to the PSTN via a Lync Server deployed on-prem, and On-premises PSTN Connectivity will do the same for Skype for Business Online. Hybrid voice also provided Lync Online users with a range of telephony features delivered by a premises-based Lync Server. On-premises PSTN Connectivity won’t do this, but another new Skype for Business Online feature (described below) will.

Cloud PSTN Conferencing - Just as Lync Online lacks native PSTN connectivity, it also lacks native dial-in audio conferencing. And just as Microsoft partners like AT&T and Vodafone stepped in to provide PSTN connectivity options for Lync Online customers, Microsoft partners like Intercall, PGI, and BT stepped in to provide dial-in audio conferencing.

And just like Cloud PSTN Connectivity provides a native, Microsoft-delivered option for connecting Skype for Business Online to the telephone network without requiring customers to deal with a third-party provider, Cloud PSTN Conferencing will provide Skype for Business Online native, Microsoft-delivered dial-in audio conferencing capabilities. Office 365 users currently getting dial-in audio from a third-party Microsoft partner will still be able to do so. But they will be able to cut out the middleman and get this directly from Microsoft if they so choose.

Enterprise Voice in Skype for Business Online

Cloud Enterprise Voice - Enterprise Voice is that magic set of call features whose inclusion in Lync Server means it’s a viable PBX alternative and whose absence in Lync Online means it ain’t. However, Microsoft is set to bake Enterprise Voice into Skype for Business Online.

Enterprise Voice plus PSTN calling will equal a hosted UC service from Microsoft that should make a lot of customers quite happy — no more integrating different services from different providers, and no more separate contracts, bills, and technical support teams. Instead, for businesses that want it, there will be one provider (Microsoft) delivering one service (Skype for Business Online) that should provide most everything needed in terms of calling, conferencing, and other UC functionality.

But Enterprise Voice has had a rocky ride toward its inclusion in Microsoft’s cloud-based UC service. In 2013 the company said Enterprise Voice would be native to Lync Online. Then a year later it said that wouldn’t be the case. More specifically, folks at Microsoft described Enterprise Voice in Lync Online as “aspirational,” something that they really wanted to do but that wasn’t on the immediate roadmap. But now it is.

So seeing, as the cliché goes, will be believing. Is this the plan on which Microsoft is really going to execute? Or a year from now will I be writing about some new approach to all of this? Time, as the other cliché says, will tell.

Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365 – Now this is pretty interesting, particularly for large enterprises subscribing to Office 365. ExpressRoute is an option Azure customers have had for a while now. Rather than connecting to the Azure data centers over the public Internet, businesses can connect to Azure from within the data center itself or through their existing wide-area network. Compared to standard Internet connections, ExpressRoute is somewhat more secure and loads faster. For Azure customers, this means faster access to storage and faster data backups.

Now Office 365 and Skype for Business customers will get the same deal: the option for a direct MPLS connection between their offices and the data centers hosting the Office 365 software. The advantage? Higher quality, more reliable voice and video connections compared with real-time traffic just going over the Internet. The pricing? As with all this new Skype for Business Online stuff: TBD.

Cloud First

Scenario Parity - Microsoft’s end goal with Skype for Business Online is “scenario parity” with Skype for Business Server. Note, this is not feature parity, where platforms have an identical set of features regardless of whether they’re deployed on premises or in a cloud-based model. Rather, users should be able to accomplish the same set of communications tasks even if in some cases the precise features that enable said tasks are somewhat different depending how a company has adopted Skype for Business.

Cloud First – Also part and parcel to the Skype for Business endgame (and I’m reading into things a bit here) is a cloud-based UC service that’s not just indistinguishable from its prem-based counterpart, but that’s preferable to it. At this point (once again, this is my interpretation) Microsoft will lead with Skype for Business Online, positioning it as the better alternative to businesses weighing their prem-or-cloud options when it comes to UC. Or at least the prem-based deployment option is something for which only the most obstinate, most backwards, oldest of old-fashioned CIOs would ever opt.

There are, of course, lots of unanswered questions. How much will Cloud PBX Connectivity, Cloud Enterprise Voice, Cloud PSTN Conferencing, ExpressRoute for Office 365, and the rest actually cost? What changes will Microsoft make to the Office 365 licensing model? How easily will enterprises be able to migrate existing dial plans? How nicely will Skype for Business Online play with existing PBXs and hosted voice services? Will Microsoft really execute on this strategy or will it be presenting a yet another one this time next year?

Hopefully we’ll have the answers before very long.

*Update*  The correct date for this event is Thursday May 14th!

In this free session, we will look at creating Vlookup formulas – since most tables are created vertically, you can look up values from a table to populate another worksheet, then when you update the main table, it updates the other worksheets.   We will create name ranges to use in formulas and when selecting large areas of a worksheet, work with IF statement functions, the Sumif and Sumifs formulas, and the DGET function (grabs one record from a large database).

We will also look at working with comments and tracking a workbook so you can send and then review changes and accept or decline those changes to update workbook. Learn how to protect a workbook and worksheet so others can only change cells you choose.

Will also look at creating a simple macro in Excel and learn more about the Personal workbook which is a hidden workbook that stores macros.

We look forward to you participating in our next Office webcast.

One attendee will win a copy of Microsoft Office Pro 2013, thanks to Microsoft!

At Simplex-IT, we specialize in sharing our knowledge with several free webinar and Lunchinar events each month on topics such as Microsoft Office, Project Management and Data Practices. Contact us at Info@Simplex-IT.com, Twitter (Simplex_IT), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/company/simplex-it) or FaceBook: (http://www.facebook.com/simplex.it).  Also, watch any of our over 100 videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/simplexITBob.

Questions?  Email us at Events@Simplex-IT.com.

Heads up: beginning April 14, Lync Online will become Skype for Business— so they can “combine the natural, collaborative way Skype enables people to speak face-to-face with the security and control of Lync.”  Also because Microsoft can’t go a month without renaming or rebranding something.

Why are they doing this?  Remember how Microsoft bought Skype a few years back?  One of the reasons (ok, maybe the reason) was that Skype offered a way to bring their Unified Communication model to fruition as a service as opposed to requiring everybody to buy servers (they could actually see the cloud model coming several years ago).  Fast forward to today, it’s a logical extension to bind the services offered by Skype and Lync.

Look for future offerings from MS and other partners to solidify this offering.  My suspicion is within a couple of years they’ll be fully competing for the entire small business phone business market without necessarily offering phones.

Anywho…back to the hype…I mean Skype…back to the Skype (all kidding aside, this is pretty cool).  After the organization has transitioned to Skype for Business, you will benefit from:

Skype design – Skype for Business uses the same interface as Skype—if you’ve used Skype, you’re already familiar with Skype for Business.

Global reach – Voice and video connectivity to the entire Skype network.

Full Lync feature set – Because Skype for Business builds on existing Lync features, no features or functionality will be lost.

Schedule an online meeting. Make a video call. Add a new emoticon to your next IM chat. Skype for Business makes communication easy and makes you more productive. Not sure how you’ll best use it? Have a look at this video for some ideas.

Not sure about Office 365, or Lync, or Skype, or life in general?  Contact us at Simplex-IT or just call 234.380.1277 and we’ll help you out.

Microsoft has been pretty busy over the past few months with Windows 10. A major new version was released for preview, including their version of Apple Siri (“Cortana,” from the xBox Halo).

But less fanfare has been generated for some of the decisions behind the scenes, including rather liberal upgrade paths from previous versions of Windows (including Windows phone). Also how Microsoft is going to handle software updates to Windows 10 once it’s released.

And let’s not forget about Microsoft Office. Apparently it’s also going to be released in the same timeframe (no surprise there). Also apparently it’s going to be called “Office 2016,” in spite of my ongoing belief will be getting rid of the version number sooner rather than later.

So at our next luncheon are were going to review all of these changes that Microsoft is going to be implementing over the next 9 to 12 months. We’ll also take a look (a high-altitude one) at some of the other changes that Microsoft is rolling out, including significant changes to Microsoft’s Azure(cloud-based server and infrastructure), and Microsoft rebranding of their Lync product into Microsoft Skype for Business.

As always our lunchinars are free and open to the public.  We’ll be giving away a copy of Windows 8.1 and Office Professional 2013 (courtesy of Microsoft).

When:  Wednesday, March 18, 2015 from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM (Eastern)

Where:  Stow Hampton Inn (or online from noon to 1pm)

Click here to RSVP!

Free Webinar:  ”Project Scheduling Best Practices”

When creating project schedules Microsoft Project/Project Online, there are a few things that work well, and some things we’ve learned to avoid. Here are a few of my favorites:

Tasks should be a reasonable duration based on the size of the project overall – Typically between 8-40 hours works for most. Anything smaller is too granular and larger is too big to manage. If you find yourself with a 5 month task, try to think about how to break it up. Use the large task as a Summary Task, with the more detailed tasks underneath it.

Assign tasks to named resources when possible – Assigning a task to “Paul Brown” provides a lot more visibility and accountability than assigning it to “Accountant” or “Sales Team.” Especially when using Project Online and/or Project Server and task status reporting is used.

True task dependencies – A lot of times we create a project schedule by entering the tasks in sequential order, and then linking them all together in finish to start relationships without much thought given. Rather than just arbitrarily linking tasks for cosmetic purposes, really think about which tasks are dependent on other tasks. Are they dependent on other tasks to start or finish before they can start or finish? If you don’t know, these are great questions to ask your resources or subject matter experts as you are creating the schedule.

Good realistic estimates – Inaccurate estimates can be the quickest way to project delays. Plan on about 6-6.5 hours of work on a task per day. Chances are, your resources are attending meetings, answering phone calls, sending emails, any number of things. You need to plan for that. Also, if you don’t know how long something will take to complete, ask the resources doing the work. Explain work and duration to them and be sure you understand how they are answering you. There are some great estimating techniques out there, but a simple best case/worse case provides you with a starting point.

Use constraints sparingly – When there’s a change in the project schedule, Microsoft Project (and most other tools) will automatically update the schedule for you. For example, if a task is scheduled to finish on April 25, but (in a shocking turn of events) it finished early on April 1, theoretically any task dependent on the completion of that task could start earlier as well. By using constraints to force a task to be scheduled on a certain date(s) reduces the fluidity of the schedule. Project wants to schedule your tasks to start as soon as possible (that’s the default) and entering constraints to force the contrary often leads in reduced functionality and frustration.

Don’t enter Start and/or Finish Dates – Create task dependencies as mentioned previously and let the software determine the start dates based on the durations and links of the earlier tasks. When a Start or Finish date is entered manually, MS Project creates a constraint (see constraint concerns above).

Don’t repeat nested task names – Maybe this is more of a pet peeve than a best practice, but repeated task names drives me bonkers. Let’s say you have a project of writing a book. If you have a Summary task named “Chapter 4” There’s no need to name the subtasks “Write Chapter 4 Text, Create Chapter 4 Graphics, Chapter 4 Proofreading” etc. If you must repeat, consider an abbreviated form, or put the repeated words at the end of the task. “Create Graphics – Chapter 4” or “Write text for Chapter 4.” These task names are displayed in various reports and views, and often times get cutoff if they are too long.

Good use of Milestone tasks makes for great reporting and status tracking. Milestones typically indicate when a large portion of the project is complete, and they are great reminders that it’s time to do a pulse check. Using the previous example, you may consider creating Milestones such as “Chapters 1-3 complete” or “Proofreading complete.” They are great way to show completion of a phase or group of tasks.

Keep it updates – an outdated project schedule is pretty useless. Pick a regular updating schedule and try to stick with it. It will depend on your project, but weekly seems to be a good starting point. If that seems too often then try every other week. Just make it priority to keep updated so you can do some forecasting as identify issues before they become problems.

Let your schedule determine your completion dates – too many time we come up with deadlines (or deadlines are demanded of us) without a full understanding of the work involved. Until the work is fully analyzed, it’s difficult to determine how long it will take. Throwing an arbitrary date out too early in the planning often leads to trouble meeting that deadline down the road. Take time to figure out what needs to be done and break it up in to manageable pieces. “Chunk it out” is a fun phrase that’s often used J Smaller pieces of the project will be easier to estimate (and more accurate) as well as easier to track and manage as the project progresses.

Use these best practices as a starting point, and add to it as you run across what works and what doesn’t work for you.

Be sure to join us on March 19th for the monthly Project Management webinar, where we will take a deeper dive into these best practices with additional discussions and demonstrations.

When:  Thursday, March 19th, 2-2:30pm (Eastern)

Where:  Online

Click here to RSVP:  (it’s Free!)

Bob here.  I’ve had several discussions with companies about how Microsoft is looking to use Lync, along with Skype, to muscle into the telephony world, actually replacing old phone systems (ie, PBX’s and the like).

This is a good (somewhat techie) article discussing that very process.  However, most of the discussion is centered on the on site Lync implementations.  I think we’re going to see additional movement in late 2015-2016 timeframe where smaller organizations (

This article excerpt, by Kevin Kieller, originally appeared here: http://ubm.io/1AZQH5S


Microsoft Lync has had a good year in 2014, with a reported 5 million Lync voice seats now deployed and an ecosystem expanding around the tool. This isn’t to say there aren’t challenges ahead, though, especially as Microsoft moves ahead on its Skype for Business rebranding initiative. Let’s take a closer look at this year’s highlights and next year’s intentions.

As noted, Microsoft has reported deployment of some 5 million Lync voice seats in 2014. Other voice-related Lync highlights include:

  • Lync ranks third among IP PBX vendors in North America in organizations with more than 100 extensions, as noted by Peter Hale, an enterprise consultant with UK-based telecom and IT analyst firm MZA, at Enterprise Connect 2014 in March.
  • In October, for the first time ever, Gartner placed Microsoft in the Leaders section of the Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony.
  • As part of its report, Gartner rated Microsoft as the seventh-largest global corporate telephony vendor with significant annual growth––of 106%––in 2013.

Along with these rating and deployment successes, the Lync software, hardware and services ecosystem continued to grow:

  • An increasing number of IP phone set device vendors, including Polycom, Aastra, HP, snom, AudioCodes, Logitech and Spectralink, now support Lync.
  • A growing variety of USB audio and video devices support Lync: 34 wired headsets, 34 wireless headsets, 14 webcams and 11 USB speakerphones.
  • 55 SIP trunking service providers are qualified to connect with Lync 2013 (and 57 qualified with Lync 2010).
  • The number of Lync-compatible choices for gateways, survivable branch appliances and session border controllers is growing.
  • Lync Room Systems are now available from Crestron, Polycom and Smart.
  • Microsoft now has 81 certified Lync support partners, including 16 global support partners.
  • Lync functionality is expanding via a growing catalog of add-in applications for contact center, reporting, attendant console, recording, knowledge reinforcement and more (see the Office TechCenter for the most up-to-date list of qualified Lync infrastructure components).

And yet with all of the success in 2014, many enterprise communications managers still aren’t convinced that Lync alone can act as a PBX replacement. Consider these results from an attendee quick poll taken during my keynote for the recent Enterprise Connect/No Jitter virtual event, “Microsoft Lync: What Is the Impact for Your Enterprise?” (available on demand). When asked, “What do you think about Lync as a PBX replacement?,” respondents said:

  • Lync can be a PBX replacement: 38%
  • I would combine Lync and a traditional PBX: 40%
  • I would never trust Lync as my PBX: 7%
  • I am using Lync as my PBX: 15%

In 2014 the challenges associated with implementing Lync successfully remain much the same as over the past several years. These are:

  • Convincing naysayers that Lync absolutely can serve as a PBX replacement.
  • Realizing that implementing quality of service/class of service to prioritize real-time traffic on the network is a must.
  • Assembling a team with network, telecom, application and change management skills.
  • Recognizing that after you build your Lync environment you need the tools and skills to manage it (ongoing support often requires very different skills than design and implementation).
  • Committing to monitoring and driving quality, usage and adoption.

Looking Ahead


On Nov. 11, Microsoft announced that the next version of Lync will be called Skype for Business and is expected for release during the first half of 2015.

While much of the focus has been on the new name for Lync, the transition to Skype for Business is much more than a simple rebranding.

The next version of Lync brings together the development teams and technologies associated with Lync and Skype and in doing so provides unique business-to-consumer opportunities as Lync plugs into the massive scale that Skype has achieved: more than 60 million concurrent users, more than 550 million registered users, and 2 billion minutes of communications per day.

Specifically, Skype for Business will let corporate users directly connect to external parties using their Skype ID … no more complex and confusing process whereby Skype users need to sign in with a Microsoft ID in order to connect. Already we are seeing improved video interoperability between Lync for Windows desktop and Skype.

Skype for Business will provide an improved and streamlined user interface. Blind and consultative transfers will take fewer clicks, a small item but one that has been a top user requested feature. Interestingly, the new Skype for Business client will include both the classic Lync interface and the new Skype UI. IT shops will be able to flip the UI for specific user groups through a central policy. This is one of the ways that Microsoft is trying to help smooth the transition to Skype for Business. The promised in-place server upgrades is a second feature designed to accelerate adoption.

Moving Forward


Looking to another poll from the Dec. 10 Lync virtual event, we see that organizations are at many different points in their UC journeys:

  • We are piloting/deploying UC from our incumbent PBX vendor: 22%
  • We are trying to decide which vendor’s UC platform to select: 15%
  • We have not begun piloting/deploying, and don’t expect to in 2015: 10%
  • We have not begun piloting/deploying, but plan to in 2015: 16%
  • We are piloting/deploying UC from a vendor other than our incumbent PBX vendor: 37%

I suspect that most of the 37% who responded that they are piloting a solution not from their incumbent PBX vendor may be piloting Lync. If you are in the process of piloting or upgrading to Lync 2013, then I would recommend that you move ahead. Being on the Lync 2013 platform will make transitioning to Skype for Business easier when you decide to do this.

Lync continued its upward trajectory in 2014 and so far 2015 is looking good for the Skype for Business nee Lync team.