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Microsoft Lync Online rides coattails of Office 365 adoption

Microsoft's cloud-based Lync Online is attractive to SMBs, less glitchy and saves customers money over other unified communications options.

The audience of small and medium-sized businesses that might deploy Microsoft Lync Server 2010 on-premises is limited, but partners report accelerating interest in the cloud edition, Lync Online.

Microsoft Lync Server is a unified communications platform that combines instant messaging, videoconferencing, email and collaboration technologies. Lync Online can be purchased either on its own or bundled with Microsoft Office 365.

At InfinIT Consulting, a managed services provider in San Jose, Calif., close to 85% of Lync customers opt to combine Lync Online with Office 365, replacing insecure communications platforms such as Skype or more pricey offerings such as Citrix GoToMeeting or Cisco WebEx, said Jerod Powell, CEO and founder. 

"Lync is a slam dunk argument for most people," he said. "It can save some companies thousands of dollars."

Subscription pricing for the standalone version of Lync Online starts at $2 per month per user for basic features including instant messaging, presence, PC to PC calling and federation. The so-called E1-3 package, however, supplements an Office 365 plan with more advanced features including online meetings and content sharing; this offering starts at $6 per user per month.

Carl Mazzanti, CEO and cofounder of eMazzanti Technologies, a Microsoft partner in Hoboken, N.J., said he is presenting Lync Online to all of his Office 365 customers. Between 5% and 10% of eMazzanti's clients are prospects for Lync Server 2010, because they want to replace existing on-premises solutions and the Lync Server can be deployed at approximately one-third the cost of a Cisco solution, Mazzanti said.

"If we were a phone company, Lync would be the game changer/killer for our phone systems," Mazzanti said.

Even so, eMazzanti recommends that its SMB accounts consider Lync Online rather than the on-premises solution so that they can invest that money elsewhere, he said.

During the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in mid-July, the company reported that sales of Lync grew at double-digit rates for the 2012 fiscal year that ended June 30. More than 3 million enterprise voice users have adopted the service and 2 million Lync mobile clients were downloaded in the past six months alone, the company said. Microsoft did not break out figures for on-premises versus cloud versions.

Adoption figures for Office 365 remain unclear. When the cloud service hit its one-year anniversary in early July, Microsoft added 46 new markets bringing the total to 88. Although Microsoft touts high-profile customers like new convert Lowe's, Office 365 director Arpan Shah estimated that 90% of Office 365 users come from small businesses.

About the expert
Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist in the New York City area with more than 20 years' experience. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Clancy was previously editor at Computer Reseller News, a business-to-business trade publication covering news and trends about the high-tech channel.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Leah Rosin at Follow @ITChannelTT on Twitter.

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