Why Bother With Lync if Skype Is Free?

Skype is free to use. Microsoft Lync costs lots of licensing money. They do the same things, so why would anyone pay for Lync?

This is the sort of question I’ve been asked more than once, from end users to high class Linux Engineers who are used to using the best fit free solution to their problem. As with most things, the choice between the two is dependent on what you want out of it.

They’re both owned by Microsoft now, and MS has started to integrate the two together. Some of the lines are starting to blur – but again, what does Lync offer that Skype doesn’t?

First, Skype is a consumer product. Lync is an enterprise product. Skype will update it’s desktop software whenever Microsoft’s severs say they’re ready. Lync will update when you tell your WSUS Server that it’s time to, after sufficient testing has been carried out. That’s the same reason nobody likes iTunes in an enterprise environment.

Lync will use your internal usernames and email addresses, while Skype needs an external Skype or Microsoft account. An I.T. Department can’t do as much to help someone who’s forgotten their username, had their account hijacked, blocked, eaten by a grue etc, while the Lync account is dependent on your Active Directory account and fully controllable (there is Skype Manager for businesses, where business accounts can be created from a CSV and some management overhead – but this is at a very basic level. See https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA10519/what-is-skype-manager-and-how-does-it-work for further details).

Lync with Enterprise voice (with a compatible gateway) will allow you to use your existing company number range, and have Lync as your full PBX solution. Skype you have to buy a new phone number, and will be completely locked in to using Skype or losing the number. Vendor lockin is never a good thing.

Lync will fully integrate with your Exchange environment, with useful functions such as using Unified Messaging with Voicemail and sending the message back via email, conversation and call history saved back to each user’s mailbox, and fully reportable usage details via Lync’s SQL Reporting Services. Response groups for centralised numbers, simultaneous rings to multiple staff and other advanced voice functions make Lync a much fuller business product when compared to Skype.

Collaboration is much stronger in Lync too. Just being able to see if fellow staff members are available, on the phone, in a meeting, away for an hour or 24 hours automatically by their status saves everyone time. Screen sharing, whiteboards are incredibly useful extras. Both products have easily creatable multi participant calls and video chats, but at the Skype end you need to be a premium user for that function.

Lync can also host online meetings with external third parties, who only need a web browser and not a full Lync client or even a Lync account.

If you’re a complete control freak (as you should be in I.T.), you can have Lync on-premise with absolute control of your servers and the data they hold, or trade off some of the control with Office 365. Skype is a black box of mystery in regards to the server side. Redundancy, uptime and protection of data is a cross of the fingers since there’s not much else to do. If Skype ever goes down and your customers can’t contact you, you’ll have to hope someone at the Skype factory finds the right switch to flick.

There are probably other things I haven’t covered in this overview, but Microsoft Lync is an enterprise grade solution with everything you’d expect to get with that caliber of product, including the price tag.

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