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Evaluating Microsoft Lync? Be sure to consider ShoreTel

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When Microsoft releases a new product, it generally receives plenty of attention. Its entry into the already full IP telephony industry is worth analyzing. All of the providers in this market offer variations of the same thing: unified communications, a catchall phrase for what Gartner defines as “products (equipment, software and services) that facilitate the interactive use of multiple enterprise communications methods.” With all of the choices on the market, it can be confusing to determine which phone system is best. While evaluating Microsoft Lync 2013 it is advisable to carefully consider what you actually get for the premium price tag.

Microsoft Lync 2013

Microsoft’s entry into the Unified Communications (UC) industry is the natural progression from its beginnings as an Instant Messaging (IM) solution and platform in 2003. Over the past decade, Microsoft iterations have led to Lync Server 2013, what Microsoft says is “an enterprise-ready unified communications platform that connects people everywhere, on Windows 8 and other devices, as part of their everyday productivity experience.”

How enterprise-ready is Lync 2013? Lync relies on a complex, centralized architecture with multiple server roles that work in conjunction to enable features. This makes it less flexible and more expensive to implement, deploy and maintain. It also has complex, extensive and expensive hardware and licensing requirements.

While Lync offers IM, sharing, video chat and interactive meetings it is still missing many of they key telephony features of more mature UC offerings. While there have been improvements to Microsoft’s enterprise voice features, it has yet to offer those considered standard ShoreTel Sky elements, including call management and transfer options, intercom and paging features, and a contact center solution, to name a few. The limited Lync call features it does provide depend on service providers to enable by request.

It’s this heavy reliance on service providers for many of the components that makes the solution complicated, particularly when it comes time for product updates, installation, training, support, administration and application integration. Customers must manage these third-party relationships without the guarantee of getting the most experienced people, latest product versions or appropriate integration software. These providers are generally smaller companies who rarely reveal financials, performance records, or support metrics. The lack of transparency can be risky for the consumer.

ShoreTel vs. Microsoft Lync

In contrast, ShoreTel has a different approach that results in lower total cost of ownership without sacrificing quality, reliability or support. In fact, a recent Nemertes Research study found ShoreTel has the lowest cost of IP Telephony overall in the first year and in installations with less than 1,500 users, and delivers the best TCO in terms of lowest capital, implementation and operational costs of any other vendor. Comparing the two solutions side-by-side makes the choice obvious, as our new whitepaper details.

The Bottom Line - TCO

Any UC product comparison must include a comprehensive total cost of ownership analysis alongside capabilities, service and support, and scalability assessments. The results will likely reveal what the Nemertes study concluded:

  • The hardware and software requirements alone make Lync 2013 cost-prohibitive for many organizations.
  • Research shows operating costs for Lync 2013 are the highest among all other UC providers, more than 400% higher than ShoreTel.
  • The high operating costs are likely due to the number of Lync administrators, partners and third-party providers involved and the complexity of the system.

ShoreTel provides a single-source solution for a more simplified, comprehensive, reliable UC platform at a price point most organizations can afford.