Recently I’ve been thinking quite a lot about how Lync can function as a PBX replacement. It’s clear that Microsoft have put a lot of time and effort into making sure that Lync can function “stand alone” as the sole voice solution in an enterprise, but is it really a true PBX replacement? There are undoubtedly situations where Lync will more than meet a businesses requirements and then others where it would fall significantly short (without lots of custom development). Anyway I wanted to just share something that I have previously written for work.

Lync is the latest generation of Microsoft’s real-time communication server. It picks up where Office Communication Server 2007 R2 left off with massive improvements in several key areas including voice, deployment and administration. Lync also provides deep integration across the rest of Microsoft’s product suite including Office, SharePoint and Exchange. A lot of the improvements made in Lync have been around voice.

The key to understanding Microsoft’s approach with voice is not to look at things as you are used to, but requires a paradigm shift. Consider not the need to call numbers or extensions but rather having the ability to communicate with people. Lync seamlessly allows you to interact with people in the way you deem most appropriate or convenient. It does this by letting you see in advance if the person you need is available and where they are. If they aren’t free you can immediately see if they are in a meeting, how long it lasts and when they are likely to be back.

That isn’t to say of course that Lync can’t handle communications the traditional way with extensions and numbers instead of people and presence, there will always be situations where this is required e.g. external callers, but to help with this Microsoft has bought a lot of new tools to the table that are more “traditional PBX” features such as:

  • Response groups / Call workflows
  • Call parking
  • Private line support
  • Simple call forward or diversion management
  • Hold music / information messages

Response groups provide incoming call management and allow the creation of powerful call workflows, including voice recognition and automated prompts.

Call parking allows incoming calls to be held and retrieved from any other extension.

Private line assigns a separate DDI to a user that will bypass any call delegation configured on the user’s main line.

Lync’s server topology is very modular and easily scalable allowing it to support many different business scenarios. Lync also introduces full virtualisation support for all server roles, including voice – traditionally an area that has required physical servers.

The key to a Lync voice deployment is how you choose to “breakout” calls into the traditional voice network, and again Lync provides many different options. This can either be done using pre-existing compatible phone systems such as Mitel or Cisco, with hosted SIP providers, or even with custom voice gateways that “bridge” between Lync and any existing PBX.

So there we go, while I’m not calling Lync a PBX replacement I certainly believe that it is a more than viable “communication platform” replacement, is that how you would think about Lync for voice? Can you see more scenarios where “communicating with people” is more appropriate that “communicating with numbers” and vice versa? Or have I just got the wrong end of the stick? If you’ve got this far & have heard about Lync then please drop me a comment I’m interested in gathering opinions about this stuff…