Dec 08 2011

Review: Microsoft Lync Online

Microsoft Lync Online delivers enterprise-level communications capabilities.

Want a flexible, enterprise-ready unified messaging solution that fits with your plans to migrate to cloud applications? Microsoft Lync Online could fill the bill.

Lync Online is one of several components in Microsoft’s pay-per-seat hosted Office 365 service. Other Office 365 components include SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Outlook Online and Office Web Apps. Lync Online provides instant messaging, video and audio conferencing for online meetings, screen sharing and virtual whiteboard capabilities.

End-User Advantages

Microsoft Lync Online integrates with Office Outlook 2010 to show connected users’ presence and availability status. Because the Microsoft Office Outlook installed base is so ubiquitous, users will appreciate the simplicity and productivity of using that client to communicate.

Lync Online can also reduce travel, giving end users more time in the office and less time away from their families — all without sacrificing the benefit of personal interaction that they gain from face time.

End users can also connect to Windows Live Messenger contacts using instant messaging or by making video and audio calls directly from Lync Online. They will also be able to collaborate from within SharePoint and with outside organizations that have deployed Lync Online.

Lync Online supports versatile communications. Users can choose to vary their type of response to an incoming message. For example, a worker might receive an IM from a colleague and decide to respond with an e-mail or audio call, or migrate from an IM conversation to an ad hoc online meeting where screen sharing may be appropriate.

Why It Works for IT

With Lync Online, IT staff can deliver more flexibility and boost organizational productivity while maintaining tight control of end-user policies, permissions and service licenses. It’s fairly simple for administrators to install Office 365 with Lync Online on each client.

Microsoft requires that a set of components and updates be installed on each system that uses rich clients such as Office 2010. To accomplish that task, the software maker provides Office Desktop Setup, which configures Outlook and Lync. To use single sign-on authentication for Office 365, IT managers can configure on-premises Active Directory Federation Services to federate with the Microsoft Federation Gateway. Administrative management is centralized and straightforward with options clearly laid out in logical hierarchy.

Lync Online supports combinations of recent versions of Windows operating systems and browsers, including Firefox v.3 and up, Chrome v.6 and up and Internet Explorer v.7 and higher.


Lync Online can be purchased either as a stand-alone service from Office 365 or in conjunction with an enterprise Office 365 suite. However, organizations must have Office 2010 or 2007 with SP2 for Office 365 to function, which could significantly increase the cost depending on what is currently installed on desktops. On top of the potential cost add-on, the Office 365 and Lync trial period is a mere 30 days with minimal deployment support.

There are also technical points for IT managers to keep in mind. If they delete a user they also delete that user’s client licenses and usage history. In certain situations this could be problematic. Microsoft notes that federated connections are not covered by the service level agreements in Office 365 subscriptions.

The company also discloses that while peer-to-peer file transfer is supported, file transfer is not available with federated connections.


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