Today Microsoft announced the next version of Lync, but it’s not Lync 2015. Microsoft acquired Skype back in 2011 and, building on that, has renamed Lync to Skype for Business.
For those not familiar with the product, Lync (or now, Skype for Business) is an Enterprise communications platform that features instant messaging, presence, web conferencing, audio conferencing, video conferencing, and telephony functionality. Lync enables a total unified communications experience across handsets, desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.
Many will be wondering how this affects their current Lync implementations. The great news is that if you already have Lync 2013 deployed, Skype for Business is an in-place upgrade.
The hardware requirements of Skype for Business are the same as those for Lync 2013. If you are running a previous version of Lync or Office Communication Server (OCS), you will need to do a side-by-side migration as with previous upgrades.
Office 365 customers will automatically get the upgrade without having to do anything.
Why would you want to upgrade to Skype for Business? Even though Microsoft announced video capabilities between Skype and Lync at Lync Conference 2014 in Las Vegas, NV, these features will be available through Skype to Skype for Business federation.
Skype for Business offers an easier-to-use interface, which makes telephony features friendlier, such as one-click call transfer rather than the current three-click in Lync. The call monitor feature is also going to be introduced, which keeps the call controls visible when the application is not in focus, such as when you’re working in another window.
Content sharing between Skype and Skype for Business will also be introduced, creating a richer experience and more possibilities for how people from all around the world communicate.
Microsoft also announced some other new features at Lync Conference 2014, such as the Video Interoperability server, to integrate primarily with Tandberg video conferencing systems, and JLync, a tool to integrate audio and video easily into websites. These features haven’t made an appearance yet, but hopefully they will be part of the next release.
What will I notice? The interface has had an overhaul too. It has been made to look more like Skype. However, during the transition, the classic Lync 2013 style interface will also be available.
When will Skype for Business be available? Release is slated for the first half of 2015.
Are there any points of concern? Judging from what Microsoft has said, the update process is fairly straight forward, as long as it’s planned and executed properly there shouldn’t be any major issues. There may be some confusion in device App Stores, given that there will now be two Skype clients, however it should be obvious which one is Skype and which one is Skype for Business.
The name change clearly brings the corporate environment closer to the personal environment. No doubt there will be an increase in requests for the enablement of integration between the two.
While this can be a great tool for collaborating and keeping in touch, there are also some implications that need to be considered. If the previous versions of the product are anything to go by, federation has typically been an all-or-nothing approach (either you can contact everyone in the Skype realm, or nobody). It may be worth taking into account whether a more granular policy approach is required and also whether notices/disclaimers and auditing will be required.
There’s no doubt that today’s announcement is exciting. Whether you’re looking for advice on how to tackle a unified communications strategy, or are interested in Skype for Business to replace your current phone system, Kraft Kennedy can help.