April 24, 2014

IT shop replaces phones with hosted Lync

Lync Online

A full PBX replacement.

Lync OnlineLoryan Strant looked at a range of options when his Melbourne-based IT services company, Paradyne, needed a phone system for its new offices.

Strant considered buying a router with an integrated PBX (a dedicated network switch for phones known as a private branch exchange) rather than a standalone PBX box. He decided to try out the conferencing and communications platform Microsoft Lync Server.

Strant installed Lync on a server to provide instant messaging within the business and to make and receive calls to the company’s 1300 phone number. Calls were routed to the public phone network using the internet-based telco Mynetfone.

However, Paradyne had to switch to Microsoft Live Meeting for phone conferencing because the Lync platform required more servers and software licences to run conferencing.

Strant decided to move to a hosted Lync service with PingCo, a Melbourne IT and telecommunications wholesale company. PingCo was founded by Daniel Pearson, CIO of Melbourne IT integrator iComm, and has only been in business for several months.

Demand for the hosted Lync service was so high that “we haven’t had time to build a website yet”, Pearson said.

Pearson added that he knew of only one other company in the world that had a similar service – the US-based Intercall.

Unlike the version included in Office 365 called Lync Online, the hosted Lync service includes enterprise telephony features such as hunt groups and can make and receive calls over the public phone network.

Strant says he is very happy with the service. “Even though we’re an IT company we didn’t want to have to run a server (for our phones). The hosted Lync service is a full PBX replacement,” Strant says.

PingCo charges $30-40 per user per month for the Lync service and works with most telco carriers to connect to the public phone network.

When a customer calls Paradyne’s 1300 number, Lync brings up their contact details in Outlook.

“People are a bit freaked out when I say, ‘Hi Alex’,” Strant says.

The hosted Lync service is integrated with the Microsoft cloud productivity suite Office 365 which allows Paradyne staff to call Office 365 users at other companies free of charge.

Paradyne is a reseller of Office 365 (and the PingCo service) and Strant frequently calls Microsoft employees using Lync.

Lync’s Skype-like graphic interface shows photos of contacts and whether they are available for a call or away from their desk. A user can start an instant messaging session, make a phone or video call, share applications one at a time or share the desktop, and set up conference calls.

Strant says he has used the Lync service to run a webinar for 15 people.

Strant and Paradyne co-founder James Doutsis used the Lync service when they were in the US recently to stay in touch with Australia.

“That was how we kept in contact with customers and family because we were using our hotel WiFi and dialled locally,” Strant says.

Doutsis says he has been able to make calls on his laptop over the 3G data network in Australia using Lync.

Microsoft has announced that the next update to its Windows Phone 7 operating system would include a native Lync client. This would allow Windows Phone 7 users to make and receive calls using Lync over the 3G data network without paying mobile phone call fees.

Strant decided to forgo handsets in the office and instead bought headsets for staff. He uses a Plantronics Voyager Pro unit that connects through Bluetooth to his mobile phone and laptop.

Strant configured the platform so that the Lync application on the laptop and his mobile phone ring simultaneously.

Strant says that once he had activated the quality-of-service settings on his network router the occasional dropouts and interference during phone calls had disappeared. The company had not had to increase their 10Mbit/1Mbit ADSL2+ internet connection since moving to the hosted service.

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