Skype

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.

How to set up Lync to Skype Federation

Hi,

Microsoft Lync can now federate to Skype! This means that users can communicate between each system, which is awesome. This was launched 29th May 2013 as per this post http://blogs.skype.com/2013/05/29/skype-and-lync-connecting-the-living-room-to-the-board-room/#fbid=WXSmsIxTDGt

It’s a fairly easy process to request, assuming that you’ve already got standard federation up and running with edge servers. It doesn’t just magically work though, the Lync administrator needs to apply with Microsoft for the Skype to Lync federation to occur. I’d recommend starting with the “Provisioning Guide for Lync-Skype Connectivity: Lync Server 2013 and Lync Online” (which also works for Lync 2010) Microsoft have made available here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-sg/download/details.aspx?id=39071

This guide mentions that you need to go to https://pic.lync.com to sign up, which I did, but going through the process resulted in the error at the bottom of this post*. @ScottBreen on twitter directed me to send an email to lcsvlsup@microsoft.com asking for Lync to Skype federation.

The information they require are your Enterprise Name, Agreement Number. Access Proxy, Domain, Public IM Networks,  and Main Contact (Name, Email Address, Phone #).

After sending this off, overnight they had quoted 3-5 days to make it happen, but had set it up in less than 6 hours. There was nothing else at my end, I was able to immediately add my own Skype contact to my Lync contact, and communicate between the two.

I then tested with @nickstugr but couldn’t add him (no errors, just appeared as ‘presence unknown’ and he didn’t receive any request). After getting him to add my Lync email address it worked, I set out to find out why (i.e. I googled it).

I found this KB article http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2566829 which matched exactly. He was using a non Hotmail/Outlook/MSN email address for his Microsoft account which Microsft call an EASI (email as sign in)domain, and annoyingly you can’t just add those via Lync. You can add them by using this format: skypeguy(customdomain.com)@hotmail.com which is rather confusing for an end user, so my recommendation is to get the Skype user to add the Lync user.

lync

After you’ve added a Skype user to Lync, you’ll see the little Skype logo next to their name in an active chat window. Skype users will see the word ‘Lync’ below the Lync contact’s name.

The last caveat is that you can’t add a pure skype user. Yes, this is a big one, the user at the Skype end needs to be signed in to Skype using their Microsoft account rather than their Skype account.

Apart from that, it does seem to work quite well. Functions such as pasting pictures into chat or video are currently not available, and the video part will be mid 2014,  according to Microsoft http://www.zdnet.com/microsoft-delivers-first-phase-of-lync-skype-integration-7000016045/

Good luck!
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