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Microsoft's Lync 2013 is a unified communications application that enables users to talk to each other in a variety of ways, using instant messaging, voice, or video. With Lync, users can share their desktops and calendars and do live audio and video conferencing. Lync also integrates with Microsoft Exchange, Office 2013, and SharePoint, and can incorporate an entire organizational phone system.

Microsoft has been developing this astonishing communication hub for some years, and it is particularly useful for telecommuters or remote workers. It is easy to use for end users, though it requires professional IT expertise to set up.Lync logo

What Lync 2013 Does

The best thing I've seen on what Lync 2013 can really do is Jason Perlow's recent ZDnet piece, Why I Love Lync 2013: A Telecommuter's Dream Come True. He is on a distributed work team with members located in several different states. Lync is the tool that allows everyone to work together as effectively as they might if they were in the same location.

Perlow explains, "The software is fully integrated into Exchange, so whenever you set up a conference call, you click a button for 'New Lync Meeting,' which sets up a virtual conference line and the appointment blocked out in your Outlook calendar, along with the meeting invites to the folks that need to join. When it comes time to call in, you just click on 'Join Lync Meeting' in the meeting entry and everyone gets connected to the conference."

That's just one thing it does. The software essentially addresses the problem of busy people struggling to get a hold of each other whenever they need to. The software offers several ways to get in touch – office phone, mobile phone, tablet, instant message, email, collaborative calendar, video conference, audio conference, and so on.

For Which Organizations Is Lync 2013 Best Suited?

Lync 2013 is essentially enterprise software, which means that it is designed for larger organizations or ones with a professional IT staff or consultants able to set it up. The on-premises version of Lync requires server licensing for the back-end infrastructure, client licensing that goes on the individual PCs, and different types of CALs (client access licenses) depending on the number of functions the Lync 2013 architecture has. Lync Server fits on top of Windows Server environments. Before placing donation requests for Lync 2013 licensing, it is advisable for you to work with IT staff or IT consultants to devise an architecture plan for deployment. 

Other Lync Options

Lync is a new centerpiece of the new 2013 versions of Microsoft Office. Client licensing is included in Office Professional Plus 2013 and also Office 365 has an online version. There is also a Lync Web App, which is the browser-based version of Lync 2010 that allows people on either PC or Mac who don't have a Lync account or the Lync client software to participate in Lync meetings. It's a free, light version of the application that takes up very little hard drive space. It's a great way to see what Lync can do. It includes instant messaging, phone-based audio, file distribution, PowerPoint sharing, and desktop sharing.

We're so impressed with Lync at TechSoup Global that we'll be deploying it across our four offices (two of them in Europe) and for our teleworkers this year. We're going with a full-featured architecture, so our back-end Lync system will use fully a dozen virtual servers.

Additional Resources

We'd love to hear about your experience with Lync, so feel free to share them in the comments.