Since the takeover of Skype by Microsoft, there has been speculation as to what their plans are for it. So far it appears there really haven’t been any major changes to the functionality of Skype and its user benefits.
However, there is another VoIP platform MSFT already has in place called MSFT Lync. Lync is similar in concept to Skype in that they both allow users to make calls online, however there are differences when it comes to functionality. Lync is a platform more suited for businesses with features that integrate with other MSFT business apps such as Outlook, PowerPoint, SharePoint and Windows Live to name a few.
This article will discuss some of the overall concepts of Lync explaining what it does and why it is frequently used among many businesses for their business voice system.
1. Unified Communications: When using the Lync phone system, users are not dealing with individually separated standalone software packages. Users do not have to open one app to do an online meeting, use another app for transferring calls and yet another to instant message a fellow employee. Instead, with unified communications – users can communicate with each other within the apps themselves- hence the term, “unified communications”.
For example, if a worker is in Outlook or SharePoint and receives an email from a client, but want to follow up with a call – he/she can make the call direct from Outlook. Lync pulls all these together using their client, appropriately called, Communicator.
2. Mobility: Microsoft Lync has the ability to keep remote or on the go employees and workers connected to the office through IM and various phone features by being tied to the phone system via their computers, internet and cell phones. For example, if a client calls the office desk phone, it can be “bound” to a sales person’s cell phone where the phone will also ring – allowing the sales person to answer the call right away.
3. Efficient Phone Features: This is where applications such as Skype do not meet the “professional” standards of phone functionality that most businesses require. Such examples are the ability to use music on hold, call transfer, and even call parking. Lync does all this with its own system, while Skype does not have this capability.
4. Online Conferencing: With the Lync system, businesses can use built in desktop and application sharing, such as PowerPoint and white boarding. Meetings can be scheduled and started from Outlook using a single click of a button.
The Lync platform is based on .Net language and allows for extended usability through various services and functions. Such services could be translation, call control tools, call recording, or even having your email read out loud.
In addition, because of the .Net platform, developers can use tools such as Visual Studio and other .Net programming applications to extend and modify the communications capabilities.
Who is Lync For?
Lync however is not for everyone and although it does integrate nicely with many other Microsoft products, it isn’t cheap… well, at least as cheap as Skype is. As is normally the case, you get what you pay for and in this case you get a lot more with Lync.
If however, you are a small business owner and all you really need is a phone number, desk and computer to make your business a go, stick to Skype or other VoIP solutions which do not require such an operational overhaul and of course not to mention the added expenses. There are many variations of VoIP services, from basic voice over the internet to actual VoIP with SIP Trunking. If a business wants to use SIP Trunking which provides better bandwidth and call quality, look for a Provider which specializes in this area.
Many unified communication systems can be difficult to set up and navigate. However, Microsoft’s Lync is easy to use and already integrates into many Office applications most businesses use today. Most likely, this ease of use comes from their extensive involvement with user experiences with their other products giving them an edge over the competition.
To what degree of functionality will Microsoft add to Skype so that it can hold its own, yet not compete with Lync is unknown. Will Microsoft turn Skype into a mini version of Lync for smaller businesses? Only time will tell.
This article was contributed by Liz Krause of EtherSpeak, Inc., a company which specializes as a Microsoft Lync SIP Provider which also offers Microsoft Encrypted SIP as optional services to businesses seeking greater security and privacy over their data and voice connections.