At Lync Conference 2014 Microsoft announced that Office 365 will soon be available with enterprise voice. Since then the words ‘game changer’ have been used to describe this development. While the headline implication of this change is clear, does it mean that Lync via Office 365 will be a viable PBX replacement for organisations of all sizes?
Microsoft has had an on off relationship with cloud based enterprise voice deployments. Back in 2010 BPOS was expanded globally and introduced enterprise voice for OCS. The following year when BPOS had become Office 365 and OCS became Lync, enterprise voice had been removed from the service. Low customer adoption cited as the reason at the time, this prompted questions regarding the direction Microsoft would take Lync in the future. Shortly after this a hybrid model was introduced only to be deprecated and removed a short time after. During this time integrators have been providing customers enterprise voice calls via their own hosted environments. Such services have gained traction as PBX replacements. This is due in part due to the apparent fractious relationship Microsoft has had with online enterprise voice and tailored, localised user and call routing.
Previous hosted Lync solutions did have their limitations, response groups and interactive voice response (IVR) call flows were either not available or only available with significantly reduced functionality. Other considerations around compliance and call quality also needed to be considered. For example UK financial institutions are subject to rules defined by the Financial Conduct Authority. Compliance regarding data security and communication archival means that there are legal requirements around where data is stored and the archiving of all communications for seven years. While not impossible to comply with these requirements they could represent potential ‘show stopping’ complications for 365 voice. It will also be interesting to see the detail regarding service level agreements, specifically regarding call quality issues.
Office 365 with Lync will be the correct choice for a number organisations. However for a range of reasons an on premise solution will remain the correct choice for many. These include:
Some organisations will benefit from and be a perfect fit for Enterprise Voice via Office 365. However identifying and addressing issues/reasons specific to the organisation is an important stage in the decision process. Systems integrators continue to play a significant role by helping organisations identify factors that will influence the direction in which an organisation should take.