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Feature Overview of Microsoft Lync Server 2010 : Dial-In Conferencing & Enterprise Voice

7/24/2011 4:40:04 PM

Audio and Video Conferencing

Organizations can leverage Lync Server to provide audio and video (A/V) conferencing services to their users without deploying additional clients or software. Deploying A/V conferencing enables users to perform peer-to-peer or multiparty conferences using high-fidelity audio and video conducted across the IP network. Users have a consistent experience because they can make and receive A/V calls through the same Lync client used for presence, IM, and web conferencing. Although A/V conferencing is sometimes linked to Enterprise Voice features, it can be deployed separately from any kind of telephony integration.

Note

It is important to note that although the term A/V is used, video is not a required component of these conversations. Users can conduct audio-only conversations using the Lync endpoint instead of a traditional phone call. These audio conversations are performed at a higher level of audio quality than a traditional PSTN call and are not be subject to any long distance or international charges like a regular call.


With video conversations, peer-to-peer endpoints can negotiate to use high-definition video quality, and in a multiparty scenario where the server hosts the conference, VGA quality video can be provided.

Organizations have a wide variety of webcams to select what is compatible with Lync Server and Microsoft provides a continuously updated list of certified devices. In Lync Server, video endpoints such as the Microsoft RoundTable or Polycom CX5000 can be used in Lync to provide a full 360-degree panoramic view of the room.

Lastly, Lync Server video endpoints can be integrated with video conferencing systems from vendors such as HP, Polycom, and Tandberg.

Dial-In Conferencing

In addition to web or A/V conferencing, Lync Server can act as a conferencing bridge service for users. This enables individuals to schedule or launch an audio conference using a mix of Lync Server users and endpoints with users dialing in to a conference using traditional phone lines. Local numbers can be provided by region or organizations can provide a toll-free number associated to one or many regions to external participants.

Tip

Instead of purchasing a third party on the premise or hosted, subscription-based audio conferencing service, Lync Server can be used to give each user in the organization a unique conference bridge through the existing infrastructure.


The dial-in conferencing service can be used as a standalone system or in conjunction with the web conferencing components of Lync Server to enable users to bridge PSTN audio with any web conference being conducted.

Tip

There isn’t a dependency to deploy web conferencing or dial-in conferencing one before the other, but they offer the most beneficial feature set when deployed together.


Dial-in conferencing also has no dependency on Enterprise Voice services for users, meaning users do not need to be enabled for Enterprise Voice to use the audio conferencing service. A user can be enabled simply for IM and presence, but also to schedule and join dial-in conferences through the Lync client or PSTN. Enterprise Voice users can also use the conferencing service, but being enabled for Enterprise Voice does not provide additional audio conferencing features from a user perspective.

The Lync Server conference bridge has a number of added benefits over a traditional conferencing service:

Permissions

Users can adjust the permissions for each conference to control specific types of attendees from participating. This gives end users the option to prevent meetings from being forwarded or from being accessed by anonymous participants on a per-meeting basis.

Flexible Conference IDs

When enabled for Lync Server, users are assigned a static, unique conference ID that is used for all of their meetings. A user’s conference ID is persistent by default, but if a user has back-to-back meetings, it is beneficial to schedule the second meeting with a unique ID. End users can do this easily when creating a conference and it helps to prevent attendees from the second meeting joining the first meeting if it runs to the end of the time slot.

Lobby

The Lync Server lobby feature can be considered a type of waiting room where meeting attendees can be held before the meeting begins. As a presenter, the meeting can be configured to automatically admit all attendees from the lobby, admit only authenticated corporate users from the lobby, admit only authenticated corporate users invited specifically by the organizer, or to admit no user from the lobby without manual acceptance. Attendees are allowed to join the meeting, but when held in the lobby, they are unable to hear the presenter or other users. The meeting organizer has the ability to allow or not allow attendees waiting in the lobby to attend the meeting.

As the organizer, participants are listed in the visual roster. Authenticated users show a display name and users joining from the PSTN can display the phone number they dialed in from. Lync Attendee or Lync Web App users have the ability to enter a display name, which is shown in the roster, too.

Announcements

Typical conferencing services prompt a user to record his name, business name, or possibly location when dialing in to a meeting from the PSTN, and then the user can play that recorded greeting as he enters or leaves the conference. In Lync Server, where a visual roster is available to all participants, the need for this service is greatly diminished and can actually become a distraction to the actual meeting as attendees enter and leave.

Organizers can enable or disable the announcement service per-meeting basis, and it is actually disabled by default. Attendees who dial in from a PSTN telephone and want to hear a roster might use dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) tones to request a roll call, which is played only to the attendee. Additionally, the conferencing service aggregates announcements when batches of users enter or leave at the same time and make an announcement such as “Eight users are leaving” instead of announcing each user individually.

Languages

Administrators can define regions, and dial-in numbers for the regions can be associated with specific language support. If multiple languages are associated with the region, users are presented with the option to select a language when joining via the PSTN. This enables users who speak different primary languages to participate in a single audio conference and hear menu or announcement recordings conducted in their selected language.

Enterprise Voice

Enabling a user for Enterprise Voice in Lync Server is a matter of associating a telephone number with the user’s account, merging a user’s audio conversations with the many functions Lync Server already provides. When telephony integration is in place, any calls to the user’s telephone number ring at any Lync Server endpoints the user is signed into, and a user can place calls to the PSTN from a Lync Server endpoint.

Enterprise Voice users have a flexibility not found in most traditional PBX systems because the user has control over many functions that typically require a PBX administrator to configure such as forwarding and simultaneous ringing. Enterprise Voice users also see visual call controls when in a call where they can mute, transfer, or end calls all with the click of a button, which can be an improvement over traditional key sequences on a phone to perform the same operations.

Note

An Enterprise Voice user has a wide array of endpoint choices from vendors that Microsoft has certified to use with Lync such as USB and Bluetooth handsets or headsets. These devices, which are designed to be plug and play, require no drivers and provide a high-quality experience to the end user. Some vendors also provide standalone IP phones that can log in to Lync Server directly through the Lync Phone Edition application.


Voice services are a large component of Lync Server and include some of the features mentioned in the following sections.

Call Forwarding

Call forwarding settings are available to Enterprise Voice users, which gives some flexibility not found in traditional PBX systems. Enterprise Voice users can control exactly what actions occur when an incoming phone call is received, such as ringing for a specified amount of time before being forwarded to an alternate number or to voice mail.

When an incoming call is received, users can have it ring their work number, mobile number, home number, or simultaneously ring a combination of any of them. Furthermore, if the user doesn’t answer any of these options, the call can be forwarded after a user-specified timeout either to voice mail such as Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging or until it rings an additional number.

Endpoints automatically use phone numbers published to Active Directory as options for the users, but individuals can add additional mobile or home phone numbers if necessary.

Tip

If a user works remotely—even for just a day—at a phone number not published in Active Directory, the user can configure Lync Server to forward calls to or simultaneously ring that number. These settings can also be configured based on working hours defined in Microsoft Office Outlook so that forwarding or simultaneous ringing occurs only during business hours.


The flexibility is the key component here because each user can configure settings individually to meet his own needs, and unlike a traditional PBX, the changes require no effort from the administrator because the controls are part of Lync. Figure 1 displays just how easy it is for users to configure call forwarding settings.

Figure 1. Enterprise Voice Call Forwarding Settings

Team Call

An Enterprise Voice user has the ability to define a team-call group in her Lync client, which is a list of contacts who can answer calls on behalf of the user. When an incoming phone call is received for the individual, any users in the team call group can also receive the incoming call notification, but with an indication of who the caller originally attempted to contact.

Tip

Enterprise Voice users can configure their team-call groups in call forwarding settings the same way as managing call forwarding. This allows Enterprise Voice users to enable or disable the team-call feature as necessary.


Delegation

Being enabled for Enterprise Voice enables users to define delegates to answer calls on their behalf, but the delegate functionality is slightly different from team-call. In the situation of a delegate and a boss, the boss might elect for calls to ring only the delegate first, allowing delegates to screen calls on behalf of the boss and transfer users if necessary.

Tip

Delegate functionality is best provided through the Attendant Console client, which is designed specifically for these types of scenarios. It offers delegates an interface more focused on call answering, transfers, and taking notes about callers, which can be useful for delegate or front desk reception users.


Delegates have the option to use a blind or consultative transfer to send the caller to a boss. In a blind transfer, the caller is sent directly to the boss without notification, whereas in a consultative transfer, the delegate first calls the boss to check whether he wants to accept the call or not accept it. Only if the boss desires to accept the call does the delegate transfer the caller.

Delegates can also perform safe transfers where they remain on the line with the caller and principal to ensure the two parties are connected before removing themselves from the conversation. A key advantage of Enterprise Voice delegation is that these options are performed using a graphical user interface, and users have no need to memorize phone keys and codes to perform these types of transfers.

Response Groups

Response Groups are a feature that Lync Server provides to manage and direct inbound callers to agents. Workflows can be defined where callers are prompted for specific questions and then directed to a queue of agents who consist of Enterprise Voice users. The callers’ responses to any questions are converted from speech to text and displayed to the agent when receiving the call.

Additionally, Response Group agents appear as anonymous to the caller. Administrators can define multiple workflows, queues, and algorithms for routing callers to the correct agents. Agents can also participate formally or informally, meaning they can either manually sign out of a Response Group or they can be automatically included in a group that receives calls any time they are signed in to Lync Server.

Call Park

Call park features allow a Lync Server Enterprise Voice user to answer a call at one endpoint and then put the user on hold, or park the call temporarily. The user can then pick up that same call at some other location or endpoint by calling the phone number used to park the call.

Private Lines

An Enterprise Voice user can have a private telephone number hidden from address lists and contacts in addition to the primary telephone number, which is published to users. This additional line can be configured to ring with a different sound to differentiate calls to the private line from the regular number.

SIP Trunking

The concept of SIP trunking is a feature that has been supported in Communications Server since OCS 2007 R2. SIP trunking enables Lync Server to connect either to another IP-based PBX using SIP or to an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP).

SIP trunking is generally used when integrating Lync Server directly with an existing IP-PBX from vendors such as Cisco or Avaya without the need for a media gateway device. Alternatively, it can be used to provide telephony service to Lync Server without the need for traditional PBX, media gateway, or wiring. Instead, an ITSP provides SIP trunking services across the Internet to allow Lync Server to make and receive phone calls using purely VoIP without a traditional phone infrastructure, as depicted in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Lync Server SIP Trunking with an Internet Telephony Service Provider

E911

Enhanced 911 features are now provided in Enterprise Voice so that users can dial 911 and have that call connected to an emergency routing service. Through the use of the location information discussed previously, the routing service is automatically provided with the endpoint location when dialed.

Note

It is important to note that Lync Server does not provide E911 capabilities, but can provide location information to an E911 routing service on behalf of the endpoints.

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