OPINION: The missing Lync - part II

Last week we looked at the core features in Microsoft Lync. Now it’s time to investigate and plan your Lync deployment.

Last week we looked at the core features in Microsoft Lync. Now it’s time to investigate and plan your Lync deployment. So where do you start, and how do you go about it?

First off I always recommend running a pilot or proof of concept. This will allow you to not only prove the technology works in your environment, but it also allows you to gauge the reaction and feedback of users to ensure that any production rollout will actually deliver the business benefits your organisation is expecting.

When running your pilot don’t restrict or lock down the features the users get, and always ensure you have users from disparate geographic locations involved to get some real collaboration going.

A pilot or POC is also a great opportunity to try out a variety of different end user devices. Just because everybody has a physical IP phone on their desk today, do they actually need one, or would they get more benefit out of a headset connected to their PC for voice communications?

User profiling can really help here. I know one organisation who created 5 different user profiles, ranging from users who were desk based all day long, to their Sales team who only spent about 5% of their time in the office. They then evaluated different devices suited to each of the profiles.

The pilot is also a great way to evaluate video to the desktop. For many organisations Video has been mainly restricted to the boardroom prior to looking at Lync, and so for many users it is initially somewhat alien to their normal way of communicating. Make sure you give out webcams and/or enable the pilot user’s smart phones with a lync client so they can really make use of video. Uptake tends to snowball very quickly once the technology is easily available to the user to the point where it becomes the norm.

Now of course your network team will take one look at these shiny new communications and collaboration tools you want to deliver, and turn pale with the prospect of the potential network impact they may have. How much bandwidth do you need? How are you going to ensure the network doesn’t get flooded with everybody making HD video calls? And how will the Wi-fi network and internet connections cope?

Network planning is critical here, both in advance of any deployment project and also post deployment. To do this it’s important to first understand how Lync works on the network. Lync utilises an adaptive media stack to ensure a high quality voice and video experience even on unmanaged networks like the Internet, and effectively flexes up and down based on real time network conditions. Policy controls in Lync around how much bandwidth a user or site can consume, in-conjunction with standards based Quality of Service (QOS), and built in hardware agnostic call admission control allowing administrators to closely manage corporate traffic and control bandwidth and feature capability to meet the needs of the organisation and its network.

There are a number of bandwidth planning tools available on the internet including a free one from Microsoft dedicated entirely to helping with your Lync bandwidth planning. This is one area of deployment you simply cannot afford to skip. If you are engaging a specialist UC partner to deliver your Lync project, ensure they fully understand your current network and ask them how they are going to address any potential impact. Some of them will even offer UC network assessment services which involves deploying software probes at different locations on your network and then measuring the impact of audio, video, and other UC traffic on the network. This is a great way to approach it, instead of reacting to user reported issues after a rollout.

Some of the biggest decisions you will have to with with a Lync deployment is around the best approach to take to replace the existing PBX platforms – How do you migrate users whilst keeping the old PBX’s running? What about existing the dial plan, and direct dial numbers? Should I move to a SIP based PSTN Trunking service – and can or should I centralise all of my PSTN services?

No Lync deployment will ever be the same in this regard, and unless you have very strong in-house telephony and PBX skills, I always recommend involving a specialist Microsoft Communications Partner to carry out voice planning and migration. Voice dial plans can be a complex topic even for a green field site, so when trying to migrate from a bunch of legacy pbx platforms with dial plans that grown over the years it is critical to get this right from the get go.

The final piece of advice I would give relates back to your pilot or proof of concept – Many customers have been caught out with just how quickly a Lync pilot can grow. In fact one customer who architected their Lync platform for 60 user pilot was inundated with requests from the business for other users to be given accounts, and within a month had over 1800 users running on it. So the learning here is always ensure your architecture can be scaled easily and is built as enterprise ready from the start.

Next week in the final article we’ll look at a Lync deployment from the business and end user perspective and cover the challenges and benefits of deploying Lync.

Paul Dolley is a senior communications specialist at Microsoft NZ focussing on unified communications and business productivity solutions. He is also a regular speaker at key Unified Communications and Contact Centre conferences across the world.

Read: OPINION: The missing Lync.

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