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Implementing Microsoft lync: Lessons learned killing PBX

Shane O'Neill | March 8, 2011
Entering a phoneless world when switching over to VoIP and a unifed communications suite has cultural and technical challenges. The Marquette University IT group offers three tips on transitioning from PBX systems to Microsoft Lync.

FRAMINGHAM, 8 MARCH 2011 - When Marquette University started construction on three campus buildings a year and a half ago, the IT department saw it as a good time to deploy VoIP (Voice over IP) from the ground up.

The delivery of voice and multimedia over the Internet has cost-saving advantages over running PBX systems that are connected to a public telephone network. And by switching to a SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) architecture to enable VoIP, Milwaukee-based Marquette has cut telecom operational costs in half, from $240,000 to $120,000 a year.

Marquette's plan was to tap into VoIP for its staff and faculty and replace its Siemens PBX phones with unified communications suites that include voice, videoconferencing, instant messaging and presence.

Initially, Marquette assumed Cisco would be its unified communications vendor considering that the university uses Cisco gear for its networking.

"We did test out CallManager [Cisco's VoIP software product] with some phones," says Dan Smith, Marquette's Senior Director of IT Services. "But because of our established Microsoft (MSFT) ecosystem and our campus agreement with them, the licensing costs for OCS R2 [Lync's predecessor] were a lot cheaper than Cisco."

The first of the new buildings to open was a student administrative building, and the new dwellers were immediately voice-enabled for IP telephony using OCS R2. Because Marquette is in TAP, Microsoft's invitation-only rapid deployment program for early adopters, as soon as OCS R2 became Lync and the beta was stable, the university began transitioning.

Currently, the entire Marquette campus has access to Lync for IM and dial-in audio conferencing, but 1,000 faculty and staff members also have videoconferencing and voice-enabled IP telephony and their Siemens PBX desk phones have been removed.

Faculty and staff using Lync for voice still have phones, but they are VoIP-based phones from Polycom that use Lync rather than a PBX system as the call manager.

Here are three lessons that Marquette's IT department learned while switching to VoIP and transitioning users to Lync.

Get Users Ready for a Culture Change

There's no question that unified communications technologies alter the way users communicate, resulting in a culture change that not all users will greet with open arms, says Smith.

"Some groups have embraced Lync. They love how it reroutes your office number to Lync and allows you to work at home when you need to," says Smith. "But for others the attitude is, 'give me a phone and go away — I don't want to use any of this fancy stuff.' It depends on the department and how they want to use Lync."


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