Five reasons Microsoft Lync 2013 matters

Lync 2013 has some new tricks up its sleeve that make it a great communication and collaboration tool for businesses.

Lync 2013 has a variety of benefits that businesses can take advantage of to make internal and external communicationsA more effective and efficient.

BACKGROUND: 10 things we loved about Lync 2010

Lync, which comes bundled with Office 365 business subscriptions, is Microsoft's server platform for unified communications. In a former life, it went by the longer, but more accurately descriptive name Office Communications Server. Lync ties real-time presence information with instant messaging, video conferencing, and voice communication, and it integrates with Exchange email and Microsoft Office applications.

Here are 5 reasons businesses can benefit from adopting Lync 2013:

1. HD video conferencing

Lync 2013 delivers support for 1080p HD resolution for video conferencing so participants have a sharp, clear display. Lync 2013 uses the standard video codecs like H.264 SVC to provide compatibility across a broader range of platforms and devices, and provide greater flexibility in terms of how video is delivered.

2. Mobile Apps

Microsoft has developed Lync Mobile apps for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android, so Lync communications are available almost universally. The Lync Mobile apps allow users to instant message, call, or join a Lync Meeting from virtually anywhere.

The cross-platform approach is a trend with Microsoft, and it's an important one. Microsoft would obviously prefer that everyone choose Windows Phone, but the reality is that Windows Phone has relatively little market share, while the vast majority of smartphones and tablets use iOS or Android. Microsoft is wise to provide tools that make sure customers continue to rely on Microsoft software no matter what platform they choose.

3. Web app

Beyond the actual Lync client software, and the Lync Mobile apps, Microsoft also introduced a Web app for Lync 2013. Users can join a Lync Meeting from Windows or Mac OS X using a Web browser, and still have access to all of the features of Lync, including HD video, VoIP (Voice over IP), instant messaging, and desktop sharing.

4. Skype federation

As great as Lync is, you will run into plenty of partners, vendors, and customers who don't use it. Skype, on the other hand, is a very popular and free communications tool--and Microsoft owns that as well. Lync has always provided the option to integrate and communicate with Windows Live Messenger, but Microsoft is phasing that platform out and driving users over to Skype instead. Lync 2013 extends communications to Skype with presence, instant messaging, and voice capabilities.

5. Office 365

Small and medium businesses--or even larger businesses for that matter--can take advantage of Lync 2013 as a function of the new Office 365 offering. Lync is not part of the standard Office 365 Home Premium service, but for $150 per user per year the Office 365 Small Business Premium offering includes Lync, as well as Exchange and SharePoint hosted and supported by Microsoft so you don't have to invest in or manage the backend server infrastructure yourself.

The Office 365 element is arguably the most compelling aspect of Lync 2013. There are other video conferencing solutions, like Cisco Webex or Citrix GoToMeeting, but they can be costly and only provide the video conferencing piece. Office 365 makes sense for most business customers, and the addition of Lync, Exchange, and SharePoint for only $50 per user per year more make it an even greater value.

Microsoft has also made some substantial improvements in the look and feel of Lync 2013--making it easier to facilitate Lync Meetings, and presenting a cleaner, more intuitive interface for users. For some businesses, Skype alone may be enough, but businesses that want more robust, comprehensive communication tools should take a look at what Lync 2013 has to offer.

This story, "Five reasons Microsoft Lync 2013 matters" was originally published by PCWorld.

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