26 JunHow can APAC customers leverage Office 365 Cloud PBX today?

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

After 6+ months of availability, I want to share what Modality are seeing in the APAC market and dispel some of the myths and hearsay around what is and isn’t available in Skype for Business Online in APAC right now.

A lot of people I speak to say “yes but Cloud PBX isn’t in Australia/Singapore/other APAC country yet” – which isn’t quite true. We have customers deploying Cloud PBX in Singapore and Australia right now. In this post, I’ll talk about how you can deploy and what the considerations are.

What’s available?

Cloud PBX is the product name for Skype for Business calling features in Office 365 e.g. make/receive calls, hold/transfer/send to voicemail, team-call groups, music on hold etc – full list of features here. Don’t think about it in the context of how calls are made to/from the PSTN.

PSTN calling isn’t available just yet in APAC. This is what most of the market considers “Cloud PBX in Office 365”. It means Microsoft providing your connectivity to the PSTN, porting your existing phone numbers/buying new ones directly from Microsoft and having no on-premises infrastructure. It’s available in the US and in the UK in preview right now.

Your ability to buy PSTN calling is defined by where you pay for Office 365 and where you tenant – your “sell-to country”. As more countries are enabled for PSTN calling, your tenant will get access to numbers in those countries. E.g if you pay for O365 in the US, once PSTN calling in the UK reaches general availability, you’ll be able to assign UK numbers to users straight away.

We’ve been trialling this with our US tenant in Modality since it was released and the ability to give new staff a phone number in the state they live in instantly makes on-boarding so simple.

What can I do without PSTN calling?

Just because PSTN calling isn’t available in APAC doesn’t stop you from deploying Cloud PBX. Using your existing on-premises PSTN connectivity with Cloud PBX allows you to start using those features now rather than having to wait until general availability is announced. To do this, you can deploy Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) in your DMZ and connect it to the ISDN or SIP trunk service from your current carrier. Alternatively you can setup a hybrid environment with your existing Skype for Business Server deployment and Office 365.

On-premises PSTN connectivity provides a phased migration approach

Plugging Cloud PBX into your ISDN/SIP service means users keep their phone numbers in the cloud and teams/offices can be migrated at their own pace. It also allows your to maintain a period of coexistence with the current phone system if a big-bang approach isn’t your cup of tea.

Real world reference – two of our customers are centralising their Australian PSTN connectivity with SIP trunks in two data centres on the eastern seaboard and then migrating each capital city office to Cloud PBX as they roll out Office 365 Pro Plus.

Assess your telephony requirements

Think about what your staff have today and what they’ll need tomorrow. Most of our customers keep a few phones on desks but deploy a majority of headsets along with Skype meeting room devices. Consider components like reception consoles, hunt group wallboards/reporting, fax machines, UPS/security modems, contact centres and call recording requirements. If you have some of these requirements, a hybrid approach might be right for you.

Think about where your organisation is going – are your teams crying out for ways to be better connected anywhere and on any device? A common request we hear is staff don’t want to be chained to their desk to make calls to customers and partners. Get people excited by showing them how easy it is to use a Bluetooth headset with Skype for Business on your PC and on your mobile to join meetings and make calls.

Develop a road map

Once you decide on the features and functionality, determine the right approach and architecture for roll out. Where are your current ISDN/SIP services terminating and where is your DMZ? Are your mailboxes already in Exchange Online? The answers to these questions will help define your timeline and architecture for Cloud PBX.

Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) gives you a lightweight way of bringing Office 365 on-premises to connect to the PSTN, and it’s the path we’re seeing most customers already using Office 365 take to deploy Cloud PBX now.

Final thoughts

Organisations across APAC are embracing Cloud PBX as part of their Office 365 strategy. They’re getting away from crumbling phone systems (a common email I get is “the phone system went down again, how soon can we get on Cloud PBX?”) and allowing their staff to communicate from anywhere, anytime and collaborate on any device they have.

17 OctHow to balance the adoption of Unified Communications

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn

With the continuing juggernaut of Microsoft UC (Lync or Skype for Business, depending on where in the journey you’re at) adoption in the market, I never stop discovering new approaches to get users using things faster – be that from our own internal thinking, customer ideas or feedback from users.

Recently I’ve seen a few user scenarios that call for balance. That there is a valid reason to accommodate some of the status quo when it comes to UC adoption, but also ongoing value to push forward with a new way of working.

Read more…

09 AprSkype for Business – Microsoft’s master stroke

I first published this post over on LinkedIn.

The launch of Skype for Business is the last piece in the puzzle that will have users excited about Microsoft’s enterprise communications software. It’s going to change the conversation from “well, it’s this app that integrates with Office and you can use it to chat and make phone calls” to a simple statement of “you know Skype? It’s that, but for business”.

Here’s why I think come end of April/start of May, Microsoft will be set up to win in the business productivity space, leave competitors for dead and ultimately enable tons of enterprises worldwide to simply get stuff done easier and faster. Read more…

23 SepCalls from Lync to Nortel CS1000 over ISDN don’t display caller ID on handset

During a recent Lync 2013 Enterprise Voice roll-out I was configuring interoperability with the legacy Nortel CS1000 PBX. For this, we’d deployed a pair of Sonus SBC 1000 gateways with 2x ISDN PRI ports each. In each gateway, one PRI port was connected to the PSTN and the other PRI port was connected to the CS1000, so these gateways were deployed in an upstream model in front of the PBX.

Calls to all destinations (Lync, the CS1000 and the PSTN) were connecting fine with no media problems, but we did observe that calls from Lync to legacy PBX phones were not displaying the calling number (or caller ID, or CLI, take your pick) on the handset. Tracing this using Sonus LX found that the gateway was configured to pass through the calling and called numbers correctly, so the problem wasn’t immediately apparent: Read more…

14 SepSpeaking at TechEd Australia 2014 in Melbourne and Sydney

Having moved back to Australia 2 months ago, I’m stoked to announce that I’ll be presenting at TechEd Australia next month in Melbourne on October 7th/8th and Sydney on October 27th/28th!

Speaking both

I’ll be presenting 10 keys to ensuring the success of your Lync deployment in the Office Servers and Services track where I’ll cover the important technical and business considerations you need to watch out for to ensure users love their new communications solution. Make sure you also check out Microsoft’s Vakhtang Assatrian’s session on Addressing Lync 2013 Security Aspects.

I’m looking forward to seeing folks interested in Lync from all over Australia, look forward to seeing you in Melbourne and Sydney next month!

20 MayLync MVPs descend on TechEd North America 2014

Last week a bunch of us MVPs had the pleasure of flying the Lync flag at TechEd North America 2014 in Houston, Texas. I’d successfully landed a session in the Office Servers and Services track and was accompanied by a slew of fellow Lync MVPs from Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, UK, USA and Canada in delivering content in the track. This was my second TechEd North America after last year in New Orleans and I was pumped to visit Texas, eat some great food and see both new and familiar faces again. Read more…

06 MayModality Systems Upcoming UC Webinar Series

We’re pleased to announce that we have a series of upcoming UC webinars for both the US and UK audiences. The series covers a range of topics and will offer attendees practical advice, best practices and a balanced insight into UC and Lync, calling upon a combination of expert knowledge, customer experiences and industry insight.

Read more…

03 AprSpeaking at TechEd North America 2014

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be speaking about Lync at TechEd North America again this year!

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I’ll be presenting my Understanding How Microsoft Lync Server 2013 Leverages the Complete Microsoft Infrastructure Ecosystem session from Lync Conference 2014 in Houston as part of the 20 other Lync sessions in the Office Servers and Services track.

I’m looking forward to seeing folks interested in Lync from all over Canada and the USA again, and in addition to my breakout session I’ll be working the Microsoft Lync booth and at the Ask the Experts event.

I’ll also be joined by other MVPs like Stale Hansen, Brian Ricks, Johan Delimon, Tommy Clarke, Bhargav Shukla, Paul Robichaux, Ken Lasko and Adam Gent along with Microsoft folks, so there will also be someone on hand to answer your questions or help you whiteboard a solution. I’ll be on the hunt for some good Texas BBQ also. 🙂

See you there!

27 MarDNS Load Balancing with Lync now supported in Mitel LBG 3.4 SP2

Good news! Mitel recently reached out to me to tell me that my post back in 2012 is now wrong, and that in the latest release of their Live Business Gateway (LBG), they now support DNS load balancing for both Lync Server 2010 and Lync Server 2013 with Remote Call Control (RCC).

We all know we’re seeing less and less RCC with Lync out there these days, with both customers realising that the disadvantages outweigh the positives of RCC and the PBX vendors pushing their client plugins more, but there is still a significant legacy install base of RCC configurations and this news may relieve some pain for those organisations.

To receive the LBG 3.4 SP2 software and documentation, speak to your Mitel provider.

27 DecSpeaking at Microsoft Lync Conference 2014

In addition to speaking at NIC Cloud Edition in January, I’m also stoked to announce that I’ll be speaking at Microsoft Lync Conference 2014 in Las Vegas in February!

I’ll be presenting two sessions along with a host of other fellow MVPs and Microsoft folks over the 3 days from 18th to 21st February at the Aria Resort and Hotel. My two sessions are in the Business Value and Voice tracks and are as follows:

Enhancing your Voice Rollout to Make it a Killer Success for the Business

  • Session Type: Breakout
  • Level: 200 – Feature oriented

Learn about functionality you need to think of to meet all the business requirements during a UC rollout that Lync out of the box doesn’t provide. In this session, we’ll cover options regarding operator console, call center software, voicemail compliance, call recording, SBCs, other products that can enhance your deployment.

Understanding how Lync Server 2013 leverages the complete Microsoft infrastructure ecosystem

  • Session Type: Breakout
  • Level: 300 – Technical

Lync connects to and leverages key Microsoft technologies, driving efficiency through infrastructure and skills re-use . This session, I’ll cover how Lync uses SQL, Active Directory, Exchange Server, Windows Fabric, Office, Windows client, and other Microsoft technologies and the cost savings that result. Note: Some content will be technical in nature, to help make it clear to practitioners how these business benefits are realized.

Modality Systems are also a Silver Sponsor at 2014’s event, so feel free to come meet me and others from the Modality team at our booth in the Expo Hall. Hope to see you there!