Unified Communications - The Importance of Design

Article discussing the importance of technical design for Unified Communications platforms.

I spend a lot of my time doing technical designs for the implementation of Microsoft Lync, and Exchange etc. Now and again I get sites with issues escalated to me - more often than not with UC they’re sites that are ‘nearly’ or ‘mostly’ working.

I’ve recovered a fair number of installations of OCS & Lync deployments now that have been causing end users problems. Things like meetings not always working - not being able to connect externally, media not connecting etc. Problems with federation - one way presence/messaging, failed multi-party etc.

I’m sure you know the type. Pretty much most things work, but in some situations they don’t. It really does provide a poor experience for the user and they get a jaded impression of the technology. This is unfortunate, as a well configured Lync solution is an absolute dream to use in terms of flexibility.

Lync is an interesting product - it’s incredibly flexible in terms of a UC platform. With flexibility though comes complexity doesn’t it?

WIth a lot of products you can dive right in and install/play with the product to get the results you want. In some respects you can with Lync too - installing a Standard Edition front-end server for instant messaging & presence isn’t that difficult. Start bringing edge access, telephony etc. into the equation and the complexity goes up.

With these sites that ‘almost’ work the issues nearly always comes down to poor or non-existent design, and an attention to detail. Certificates are misconfigured, DNS entries are missing/incorrect, firewall rules are misunderstood and implemented incorrectly.

All of the above can often result in a system that mostly works, and yet doesn’t work well enough. The result is much frustration on the user’s part and a poor perception of the technology.

Things do not need to be this way. I cannot stress enough the important of a good, solid design for the implementation of Lync technologies. Get someone experienced to do the design for you. If they understand your requirements in terms of SIP domains, external access requirements, federation requirements etc. they can tell you explicitly what’s required for each component.

This, in my opinion, is 80% of the battle with installing this product set.

If you don’t want to get an external resource to do the design, then you have some preparation work on your hands. Go through the documentation, in particular the planning guide.

Pay a lot of attention to things like DNS requirements, and firewall rules.

Attention to detail at the planning stage, and getting an effective design, are absolutely core to a successful delivery of this fantastic product set.

You’re better off spending some time at the beginning getting things right, then you are trying to fix things when you’ve got frustrated users on your back don’t you think?

Pretty much all of the sites I’ve looked at that have issues have demonstrated a lack of attention to detail on design - nothing more. Sure, now and again you get odd issues that take some investigation, but for the most part it is attention to design detail.

Good luck!

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