There are many unified communications (UC) solutions for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and larger enterprises out there currently. But Microsoft’s (News - Alert) UC solution, formerly known as Office Communications Server and now with the slightly more sexy Lync 2013 moniker, has several advantages that make it a strong contender.
Lync, for those not intimately familiar with the UC space, is a communications server that ties real-time presence information with instant messaging, video conferencing and voice communication. Being a Microsoft product, Lync also seamlessly integrates with Exchange e-mail and Microsoft Office applications. It actually comes bundled with Office 365 business subscriptions.
There are at least five reasons why Lync has an edge. And the most compelling of those five might be its Office 365 integration.
“There are other video conferencing solutions, like Cisco (News - Alert) Webex or Citrix GoToMeeting, but they can be costly and only provide the video conferencing piece,” noted Tony Bradley in PCWorld. “Office 365 makes sense for most business customers, and the addition of Lync, Exchange, and SharePoint for only $50 per user per year more make it an even greater value.”
Lync does not come with the standard Office 365 Home Premium service, but for $150 per user per year the Office 365 Small Business Premium offering includes Lync, Exchange and SharePoint hosted and supported by Microsoft. This is a boon for SMBs who do not want to devote resources to managing such an infrastructure, preferring to let Microsoft take care of the work.
Video quality is another reason why Lync is a credible UC option. Lync delivers 1080p HD resolution for video conferencing, giving meeting participants a clear, sharp picture.
Unlike in days of yore, when Microsoft eschewed standards for its own proprietary standards, Lync also uses standard video codecs such as H.264 SVC. This provides broad compatibility and greater video delivery flexibility. This newfound interest in playing well with others extends into all areas of Lync 2013.
Another benefit of Lync is its cross-platform support of all major smartphone platforms. It has a Windows Phone app, of course, but it also offers iOS and Android (News - Alert) apps so everyone can utilize its UC platform.
“Microsoft is wise to provide tools that make sure customers continue to rely on Microsoft software no matter what platform they choose,” Bradley added. “The cross-platform approach is a trend with Microsoft, and it's an important one.”
A fourth reason why Lync shines is that it does not even need a client app. With Lync 2013, noted Bradley, Microsoft has released a Web app that lets users take advantage of the platform from any web browser. This makes Lync almost universally accessible.
“Users can join a Lync Meeting from Windows or Mac OS X using a Web browser, and still have access to all of the features of Lync, including HD video, VoIP (Voice over IP), instant messaging, and desktop sharing,” he commented.
Finally, Lync 2013 leverages its larger cousin, Microsoft’s almost ubiquitous Skype (News - Alert) service. Lync has always provided the option of integrating with Windows Live Messenger, but now it also is federated to work with Skype. Lync 2013 extends communications to Skype with presence, instant messaging, and voice capabilities, and gives businesses an upgrade path if they want something a little more robust than what they get with Skype.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein