Now that licensing has been addressed, let's talk about IT partners. Unless you're an IT agency, you're going to want some help with installing Lync Server. Rather than just call anybody (and deal with a dozen rapid-fire proposals), let's nail down what you should look for first.

Why Get a Partner?

–It's new technology. Complications are bound to pop up. Simple fact of modern life.
–You may need to make some changes to your existing network. Lync requires at least one physical server, with Hyper-V (more on this next week). It may also require additional bandwidth – particularly for Enterprise Voice.

(Disclaimer: My company, PlanetMagpie, is an IT agency and Microsoft Partner. That said, I'm holding us to the same scrutiny as I would any other IT partner.)

Factors to Consider

Let's say you have a few possible partners to choose from. What would they need to know? They'd need familiarity with Lync Server 2010 of course…but what else would help? Which factors would turn a good IT partner into a great one?

  • OCS 2007 Experience. Knowing the previous version goes a long way toward being prepared to handle the new. This factor alone should qualify an IT agency as someone worth talking to (or disqualify them, if they don't know OCS at all!).
  • Familiarity with Unified Communications. Unified Communications is more of a strategy than a specific solution. Understanding the tech behind integrating voice with IM, Outlook and smartphones will give you insight on how to best use Lync in your office.
  • Do they have a relationship with an Infrastructure and/or Device Partner? A great IT partner should have recommendations on what hardware will work for your Lync install. For example, PolyCom and Jabra have phones designed for use with Lync. Do they know these? Which would they recommend? Ask.
  • Virtualization Experts. Can't get around this one. They have to know Hyper-V inside and out. (I don't know how well VMWare would work with Lync, since it was designed with Hyper-V in mind. If you try it,let me know how it worked!)
  • Microsoft-Certified. Might be a no-brainer,but you never know.

Where an IT Partner's Involvement Helps

Ideally, your IT partner should be there when you're ready to tackle licensing. I put this step after the licensing step because the IT partner should be around throughout the rest of the installation process too.

The places an IT partner will be involved in future steps should include:

  1. Securing licensing from Microsoft
  2. Estimating necessary bandwidth, and upgrading to match this
  3. Installing the Lync Server software and any needed hardware
  4. Configuration of Lync Server and client apps on user PCs
  5. Supporting Lync connectivity to mobiles
  6. Troubleshooting the inevitable complications

This should give you a good idea of how to vet an IT partner for your Lync install. Remember, Lync Server is new tech – if someone claims years of experience in it, they're lying. Understanding the tech behind it + Microsoft skills + Hardware knowledge = The right IT partner to help you.

Next week I'll talk about what hardware you'll need for Step 5. See you then!

Path to Lync Server – Step 4: Choose an IT Partner
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