Office 365 is best known as a cloud-based business productivity suite with gigantic email mailboxes (50GB), Office Apps (Word, Excel, PPT, Lync IM) and Social Communities (Yammer, SharePoint). One thing that most customers I speak with don’t realize is that Office 365 can also be their next phone system. The initial reaction to this statement is a mix of surprise, curiosity and “WOW, I had no idea!” Here are the Cole’s notes on what you need to know about Hosted Lync Voice in order to realize the full potential of Office 365:
Where is the Phone System hiding in Office 365?
The core elements are included in the Office 365 E4 user subscription
– Lync Plus license which is voice-enabled out of the box
– Exchange Online mailbox equipped with unified messaging
– Auto-attendants reside within the exchange mailbox too!
How is Lync Voice activated within Office 365?
Option #1 – Do It Yourself (DIY)
You’ll need to have the resources, expertise (and patience) to deploy / configure / maintain Lync servers, SIP trunks and additional required gateways and infrastructure within your datacenters. Make sure to have plenty of budget because it’s a big upfront investment to get voice off the ground.
Option#2 – Host it with an Office 365 Lync Voice Enablement Partner
The Hosted Lync Voice space has a lot of small local players and a select few large global Microsoft Cloud Service Providers that can support customers of all sizes. The partner of choice will use your existing Lync Plus license (which you’ve already paid for in Office 365, so no cost for this part) and then plug-in a phone number, call plan from a carrier, and telephony features (auto-attendant, response groups, IVRs, unified messaging). All platform hosting, provisioning, configuration and maintenance is covered by the Service Provider and it’s a utility-based model; so you pay per user per month.
Why Voice-Enable Office 365?
More than ever before, employees are working outside the office, from anywhere with an internet connection, and the traditional PBX (and the fixed-location desk phones) are quickly going the way of the Sony Walkman. Millennials are demanding a more connected experience and by turning Office 365 into a phone, users are fully connected anywhere, anytime all within the Office 365 environment. Voice-enabling Lync also drives adoption of Office 365 because it becomes the central portal for all communication and collaboration.
Who can you trust with your Lync phone system?
There are a lot of service providers and technology vendors that provide a flavor of Hosted Lync Voice. Based on customer feedback, the most important factors when evaluating Lync Voice service providers are:
– Proven track record & Customer testimonials (# of customers, users on platform, deployments)
– Microsoft Partner / Certification (ex: Microsoft Cloud Service Providers)
– Global Coverage (local users with e911 access in multiple countries in all regions)
– Customer testimonials
– Support & Adoption Services (ability to drive adoption and interact with end users)
– Enhanced Functionality (ex: native Lync Contact Center, Lync Video Rooms)
– Financially stable (customers want to make sure their provider will be there in 12 months)
Whether you are a current Office 365 customer or just starting to explore options, your organization may be ready to embrace the power of Lync Voice.