- It is possible to deploy Microsoft Lync in a one- or two-server configuration for SMBs.
- Microsoft is not yet delivering Lync solutions specific to SMBs, but it should be.
Microsoft marketed Office Communications Server 2007 to large-sized enterprises with thousands of users. This focus on the enterprise remained unchanged when the company released Lync, Microsoft’s latest and greatest unified communications software. The software is in fact highly scalable, capable of delivering instant messaging, Web conferencing, and telephony services to businesses with thousands of end users. However, such a large deployment can require a considerable number of servers to run the various software components – at least enough to put Lync out of the price range of SMBs that might consider it as an alternative to traditional PBX systems.
Microsoft has made some noticeable but (in my opinion) rather halfhearted moves to make Lync more palatable to SMB buyers. It is in fact possible to run the various Lync software components on as little as two servers – or one if you use virtualization software such as Microsoft Hyper-V. Granted, you lose some of Lync’s redundancy and reliability features in such a scenario, but this also is the case with traditional all-in-one business communications systems. Microsoft has also released a “multitenant pack” that lets service providers and systems integrators deploy Lync as the basis of a hosted service for SMBs and mid-market enterprises.
However, Microsoft mainly has its partners to thank for SMB-centric configurations for Lync, rather than its own R&D and marketing initiatives. Resellers such as Landis Computer have been actively exploring how best to make Lync a cost-effective communications solution, drafting blogs on the topic and submitting how-to contributions to Microsoft’s TechNet site. Microsoft, meanwhile, has not even certified Lync on Small Business Server 2008, Microsoft’s “all-in-one network solution” designed to run a range of business applications on a single hardware platform.
IT buyers considering Lync as the basis for their SMB’s communications requirements should either (1) contract with a local Microsoft reseller with proven experience deploying and supporting Lync for businesses with 200 or fewer employees, or (2) remove Lync from their list of telephony systems under consideration. Several years ago, when Microsoft was serious about selling telephony systems to small businesses, the company introduced Response Point. This product was subsequently discontinued, in part because Microsoft was unable to offer it at a competitive enough price point. If Microsoft is again serious about selling telephony systems to small businesses, it needs to introduce a Lync appliance that its channel can easily order, source, and receive support for, rather than cobbling together Lync-based SMB-class solutions on their own. Until then, it is caveat emptor for SMBs’ IT buyers considering Lync.