The top 7 new features in Microsoft's Lync Server 2013

Persistent chat, greater client compatibility, new conferencing features, and topology changes star in the new version

Microsoft is at it again, preparing to roll out new versions of its suite of business servers. Last week, I detailed eight great new features in the forthcoming Exchange 2013. This week, I turn my attention to what's new in Lync Server 2013, Microsoft's collaboration and conferencing server.

Topology changes: Rather than having separate server roles for monitoring and archiving (as Lync 2010 did), Microsoft has moved both roles into the Front End Server role as optional features. The A/V Conferencing Server is always located with the Front End role as well, and the Director role is no longer "recommended" but optional; Microsoft says you can "safely exclude the Director with confidence that the Front End Servers will provide the same services in their place."

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Persistent chat: Formerly known as group chat, this new server role has several components: PresistentChatService, PersistentChatStore, and PersistentChatComplianceStore. "Persistent" means a history of the chat session is retained, so users can jump into a chat room and get up to speed with the conversation that has already taken place. Some people suspect this could be a replacement for email distribution lists by providing a constant, updated message repository (like a wiki). The administration tools are integrated with the Lync Server control panel and include PowerShell cmdlets.

Lync Web app: A new version of Lync Web app has full conference support. Stephen McCassey, a Lync instructor at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, says this is one of his favorite features because it makes it easier for users without the Lync client to join meetings via their browsers, with support for both audio and video. As a result, the Lync Attendee client is gone, which means there's one fewer client for IT to manage.

RBAC additions: The role-based administrator console adds the Persistent Chat Manager role to support the new persistent chat capability. RBAC also reintroduces the Response Group Manager role for managing response group queues -- a feature found in Office Communication Server 2007 R2 but dropped in Lync 2010.

Enterprise voice features: Lync Server 2013 has many new routing features designed to improve enterprise voice, such as support for multiple trunks between mediation servers and gateways, as well as intertrunk routing to let Lync Server act as a go-between among different phone systems, such as to connect an IP-PBX and a PSTN gateway. Other enterprise voice features include manager/delegate simultaneous ringing (multiple designated phones ring at the same time), voicemail escape (which lets business calls on personal lines pass through to corporate voicemail), and caller ID presentation.

Disaster recovery and high-availability improvements: Server pools with redundant roles running are still the primary method for providing high availability of Lync services, just as in Lync 2010. However, you can now pair front-end pools in  different data centers; if one pool goes down, the administrator can fail over to the other pool. Likewise, you can provide back-end server availability through SQL mirroring for the Lync databases.

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