Overview of On-Premises Lync vs Top Lync Hosting Offerings with Office 365

For a fully integrated enterprise voice solution utilizing Microsoft Lync, there are two options: self-hosted or vendor hosted. This overview will focus on the integration between Office 365 and Lync, comparing the self-hosted option with two of the top partners in the Lync hosting market (Workspace and OBT).

The current integration between Office 365 and hosted Lync providers varies greatly between each of the providers. Microsoft has not provided a robust set of tools for vendors to assist with Office 365 integration. Some vendors have chosen to live with the limitations and only offer a subset of features, or will only setup a hosted environment for very large customers. Other vendors, such as OBT and Workspace have implemented their own workarounds to most, if not all, of the limitations.

Microsoft has just released an updated version of the tools that hosting providers like www.hostiserver.com need, but will require several weeks, maybe months, for these tools to be tested and implemented. This will greatly improve the capabilities of hosting providers to provide a complete set of enterprise voice features in a manner fully supported by Microsoft.

Below is a comparison of the major features between self-hosted Lync, Workspace, and OBT:

Initial Setup:

Self-Hosted: Requires several servers to be setup to host the various roles that comprise the Lync server environment. Licensing fees, hardware and software capital expenditure needed.

Workspace: No hardware to setup or licenses to buy up front. Cost is based per-person as an operational expenditure.

OBT: No hardware to setup or licenses to buy up front. Cost is based per-person as an operational expenditure.

Maintenance and Monitoring:

Self-Hosted: Requires IT staff or contractors to troubleshoot, apply updates, monitor and maintain uptime and performance of the server environment.

Workspace: All maintenance and monitoring are performed by the hosting provider. IT staff focuses on tier 1 support and training for employees.

OBT: All maintenance and monitoring are performed by the hosting provider. IT staff focuses on tier 1 support and training for employees.

Redundancy:

Self-Hosted: Some redundancy can be gained by leveraging the existing virtual machine architecture. Creating redundant virtual servers will be necessary. Additional ISP circuit should be considered to eliminate that as a single point of failure. Self-hosting would not provide the same level of physical protection from natural disasters as locating servers in a data center would.

Workspace: Server infrastructure is located in a hardened, SSAE 16 compliant data center specifically designed for hosting server equipment with multiple redundancies in place for equipment, power, and ISP failures. Failover to a separate datacenter (geo-redundancy) is in the works and will become possible with the integration of updated hosting tools just released.

OBT: Server infrastructure is located in a hardened, SSAE 16 compliant data center specifically designed for hosting server equipment with multiple redundancies in place for equipment, power, and ISP failures. Failover to a separate datacenter (geo-redundancy) is in the works and will become possible with the integration of updated hosting tools just released.

Active Directory Integration and Single Sign-On:

Self-Hosted: Full Active Directory integration between Lync and Office 365 including single sign-on.

Workspace: Synchronization of Active Directory and single sign-on capability is not currently in place. When Microsoft updates the tools for hosting providers later this year, these functionalities will become available. Workspace does not currently have a “self-managed” portal site to administer user accounts.

OBT: OBT has a workaround in place for the limitations of the existing integration tools provided by Microsoft allowing Active Directory integration and single sign-on capabilities. OBT also currently has a portal site in place to manage account settings.

Lync Mobile apps:

Self-Hosted: Would be able to setup integration with Lync mobile apps.

Workspace: Not available until updated hosting tools from Microsoft are available.

OBT: Currently available.

Voicemail Access:

Self-Hosted: Full integration and features.

Workspace: Outlook voice access is not currently available, meaning employees cannot call a number to retrieve voicemails and emails. Voicemails will need to be retrieved through Outlook (as attachments) or Outlook Web Access. Outlook voice access will be available when updated tools are available to hosting providers.

OBT: OBT has a workaround in place providing Outlook voice access features.

Call Quality:

Self-Hosted: Call quality within the office hosting the Lync Servers is guaranteed. Call quality in other offices will be dependent on the outbound Internet connection of the hosting office as well as the inbound connection speed of the offices receiving service.

Workspace: Will be dependent on the inbound connection speed of the offices receiving service.

OBT: Will be dependent on the inbound connection speed of the offices receiving service.

 

While there are positives and negatives to both on premises or hosted Lync, the release of updated tools for hosting providers makes them much more attractive then they have been in the past. Based on our experience with a self-hosted Lync environment, unless there is a strong commitment to providing both human and capital resources, a hosted Lync environment with a good partner is going to provide your employees a much more satisfying and productive experience.



Author: Michael Joseph
Information Technology professional with TecFac Business Services Group. Solving client technology needs as a Microsoft partner via business process improvements with a strong customer focus. Promoting TecFac's TeamWorkAnyWhere solution which is a combination of Office 365, Windows Intune, and hosted Lync telephony. Over 14 years of experience with Microsoft systems administration, IT operations, and helpdesk management. Specialties: Office 365, Lync, Windows Intune, Windows Server 2003/2008/2012, WSUS, Backup Exec, Microsoft Distributed File System and Namespace.