Microsoft Lync 2010: Unified communications comes of age

Microsoft's seamlessly integrated IM, VoIP, and videoconferencing put users in touch and in control

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The Lync client monitors and dynamically optimizes the user experience in the background, using a set of end-to-end tests similar to the traditional MOS (Mean Opinion Score) or R-value tools. It's a much nicer approach than using the expensive VoIP probes provided by some of the VoIP PBX vendors, but still allows for both active call monitoring and unattended off-hours testing with configurable synthetic traffic.

I've been using traditional H.320/H.323 videoconferencing for a good long time, and I'm continuously frustrated by the number of hoops I need to jump through to get it working behind firewalls. After all, it was designed for direct calls using ISDN (broadband dial-up), then subject to tinkering before it would work on the Internet.

Considering how fast Skype is eating the traditional videoconferencing business, it made sense to throw away the H.320/H.323 rulebook and design something specifically for the high-jitter and variable-bandwidth world of the public Internet. Microsoft has clearly done its homework here. Although the video of Drago Totev paused once in a while, it never exploded into the mosaic of colored blocks I've learned to live with on traditional videoconferencing systems.

Lync 2010 is a product that has been a long time coming, and it finally fulfills a promise I've been tracking for nearly a decade. Lync gives me more control over voice communications than my PBX, and it handles video better than my break-the-bank videoconferencing system. It pays attention to privacy, provides ways to separate my private life from work, and reduces the requirement to work from a real office. For companies that no longer provision offices on a one-to-one basis, but make use of "hot desks," Lync is a natural fit.

Don't even think about shopping for a new enterprise phone system without adding Lync to the list of candidates. Take a good hard look, and encourage your organization to download the trial and take it for a ride. This is the first UC system I've worked with that feels like UC should.

Microsoft Lync 2010

PlatformsProsCons
Lync Server: Windows Server 2008; Lync Client: Windows, Mac OS X; Lync Web App: Silverlight-capable browsers on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
  • Much richer communications than traditional hard telephones
  • Audio and videoconferencing at a fraction of the cost of traditional conferencing bridges
  • Gateways to third-party IM, voice, and videoconferencing systems including legacy phone systems
  • Interoperability with Windows Live Messenger, AOL, and Yahoo public IM systems
  • Advanced codecs don't require superclean networks
  • Federation with other organizations running Lync, OCS, or LCS
  • Failover capability built into the system
  • Rich API and SDK with features far exceeding TAPI toolsets of legacy systems
  • No clients for Windows Phone 7, iPhone/iPad, or Android devices
  • Web App requires Silverlight

This article, "Microsoft Lync 2010: Unified communications comes of age," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in Windows and applications at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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