Monday, October 25, 2010

Lync Server 2010 Audio Test Service

An exciting new feature in Microsoft Lync Server 2010 is the Audio Test Service.  This built-in tool allows you to place a test call prior to making a real call, to ensure there aren’t any severe network or other issues that might affect the quality of your call.

Easy to Use

There are tools available for OCS 2007 R2, such as the Deployment Validation Tool and the VoIP Test Set, that can also help to monitor and evaluate call quality.  But these tools are unfortunately hard to deploy and manage, and so their usefulness has been diminished.

But now you can place a test call directly from the Phone tab in Lync 2010, simply by clicking on Check


This places a call into the Audio Test Service in Lync Server 2010…


You are prompted to speak a few words, and then what you said is played back to you as it was heard by the Audio Test Service.

Call with Confidence

Laptop chugging away?  Unclear how good your wireless connection really is at the hotel?  This tool can help you ensure the best possible call quality before you make that all-important customer, or otherwise, call!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Top 5 New Features in Microsoft Lync 2010

There are so many new features in Lync 2010 it seems almost cruel to list just 5, but alas, here are the five I am most excited about.

1.  No more Live Meeting client

I have nothing against the Live Meeting client – I think it’s intuitive and powerful, and being able to use the single client for both on-premise OCS conferences and Live Meeting hosted conferences is fantastic.

Having to switch between two applications that were obviously not built with the other in mind is troublesome, however.  Users have to remember and understand which application should be used for what purpose.  And managing the different ports and protocols is non-trivial.

Alas with Lync we have one unified client – Microsoft Lync 2010.  Escalating from an Instant Message conversation, to a Video Call, and to Desktop Sharing is not new, but being able to also upload and share PowerPoint presentations, whiteboards, and polling pages with annotation tools is and very easy to use and understand.

Scheduling a conference?  Easier than ever, and no need to decide between a Conference Call or a Live Meeting – everything is an Online Meeting with various modalities available to participants.

I can’t keep the smile off my face!  :-)


2.  New cost-effective IP phones

One of the biggest barriers to adoption of OCS for telephony has been people’s hesitation in linking their phone availability to that of the PC.  “My phone must be available, even when I’m not signed in to my PC,” is often heard. Also, “my phone is unavailable if my PC crashes.”

While I can argue that you’d be hard-pressed to find any information worker who sits at a desk without being signed in to a PC, and also count on 1 hand the number of times my PC has crashed in the past 3 years, the solution to this dilemma is a dedicated IP phone.  Unfortunately with OCS there is only one supported device, codenamed Tanjay.  This device is $600+ and thus the uptake has been minimal.

Enter new IP phones from Aastra and Polycom at the $200-300 price point, including servicing new scenarios such as conference phones and common-area phones.

The Information Worker models (Aastra 6725ip and Polycom CX600, cx600_NoLogospictured here) are always-on phones that also include the ability to connect to your PC via a USB cable to enable features such as click-to-call.  It really is the best possible UC phone experience, and at a price that organizations can more than justify.

3.  Branch survivability

Another barrier to adoption of OCS for telephony has been the lack of branch survivability – branch offices are reliant on the core OCS pool in the head office or datacenter; if the WAN link goes down the branch office loses phone service.

With Lync 2010 comes the introduction of the Survivable Branch  imageAppliance which enables phone service to continue in branch offices in cases where the WAN link is unavailable.  Calls between users in the branch still stay on the local LAN; calls to other company locations and external parties use the PSTN.

This simplifies multi-site architectures and provides a more robust telephony solution with Lync 2010.

4.  Virtualization and Fewer Servers

“Too many servers!”  This is a very common complaint with OCS.  There is not enough support for collocation and adding resilience to your deployment is a very costly endeavor.  Similarly, minimal support for virtualization in OCS (only IM and Presence is supported, effectively rendering this support useless) has gone against the grain for organizations implementing virtualization strategies.

Now with Lync 2010 all workloads are supported for virtualizimageation  including voice and video.  There are many topology choices for what is physical and what is virtual, which should give organizations the flexibility they have been looking for.

And more server roles are supported for collocation, including the Mediation Server being collocated on the Front End server.

5.  Enhanced Office and SharePoint integration

Integration of presence and related features within the Office suite of products and SharePoint has been a big reason why OCS has gained the market share it has thus far.  No other UC applications can claim as tight an integration with the business applications used by most organizations – namely, Office.

Lync 2010 adds Quick Contacts to Outlook 2010 (pictured here), Office imageBackstage integration, shared contacts, and SharePoint skills search.

A redesigned and more powerful Contact Card, coupled with contact photos which come from SharePoint My Sites, all add to the experience and enable users to find the right person at the right time.

I have been a strong advocate for OCS since the beginning, and there are many amazing stories to tell where organizations have reduced costs and improved productivity.  Microsoft has caused a massive shift in the UC market, and Lync will surely help keep them planted firmly in the leader position!