Late last year I posted on Office 365. More specifically: What does a Cloud Version of Lync Server (Hosted by Microsoft) Mean for the Market?

Including a version of Lync in Office 365 struck me as a good move. It means the demand is growing, and it provides a low-cost alternative to a full Lync Server setup.

Now that Office 365 has opened, it’s time to revisit the topic!

The Office 365 Advisors website recently posted a feature list comparing Lync Server, Lync Online and Office Communicator Online. (The list originates on the Office 365 Community site, but the Advisors post also comments on Lync Online pricing. And they made the list look cleaner.)

While this is a very thorough list, it is a feature-by-feature comparison. Let me extrapolate on what we’re reading. See if I can’t draw out some general guidelines on when it makes sense to use a full Lync Server. And when Lync Online would be a better choice.

When to Use Lync Online

Lync Online includes the features needed for IM & audio conferencing: The Attendee client, the Web app, interoperation with certified partners, conference scheduling and more. It does not include Group Chat, IM federation, PSTN calling (except for conferencing, via a third-party connector) or IP phone support.

This sort of package would appeal to an office where third-party connectivity isn’t necessary. Maybe the whole office already has smartphones, but they’re spending lots of money on conferencing systems. Lync Online makes sense as a cheaper alternative (per user), that also integrates into Outlook.

So when should you use Lync Online? When the focus is on conducting meetings and inter-office communication.

When to Use Lync Server

Obviously, Lync Server includes the features that aren’t in Lync Online. Full-service VoIP, PSTN calling, Call Admissions Control (CAC), interoperation with a PBX. All in. Of course this means you need a full server installation too. It’s a large investment, and it’s up-front (as compared to Lync Online’s per-user monthly pricing).

Lync Server is the better option if you need full communication options. Desk phones, calling (and receiving calls from) customers, and so on.

When should you opt for Lync Server? When the focus is on VoIP communication, especially calling out.


Honestly, Lync Online has more features than I thought Microsoft would include. Which is great – it’s a very affordable way to get into using the Lync platform.

Have you used Lync Online yet? How well did it work for you? Tell us your conference stories!

When to Use Lync Server VS. When to Use Lync Online

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