Skype for Business, Lync and Cisco integration options

Technology is an ever changing landscape and now more than ever organizations are ending up with different technology silos which don’t integrate and may not always be optimal to the companies operations. One of the typical scenarios I often come across are organizations which have invested in a Cisco phone system but are using Skype for Business or Lync on the desktop. To leverage the existing Cisco phone system, the logical option is to integrate Skype for Business/Lync with the existing Cisco telephony platform. I will cover the options which exist for integrating these two platforms.

Remote Call Control

Remote Call Control

This was usually the best integration option in the past. Unfortunately Microsoft have discontinued this integration in Skype for Business. This consists of configuring SIP trunks from the Lync Mediation server to the Cisco Unified Presence server. This will allow Lync users to dial out to PSTN using the Cisco telephony infrastructure providing “Enterprise Voice” type functionality. You need to be careful as users enabled for RCC cannot be enabled for Lync Enterprise Voice and cannot benefit from the rich telephony features offered on the Lync server. The biggest advantages of this configuration is that presence on the Lync client is updated when using a Cisco phone. This is important for many organizations as users (some) have learnt to respect presence and not disturb users who are on a call or busy. One of the major disadvantages of this configuration is that it is no longer supported in Skype for Business which will mean additional effort when updating your Lync 2013 platform.

Direct SIP

Direct SIP

This is another connection option when integrating Lync and Cisco. This integration consist of configuring SIP trunks from the Lync Mediation server to Cisco Call Manager. This will provide the Lync users the ability to dial out to PSTN from their Lync client. The biggest advantage of this configuration is this will still work when you migrate to Skype for Business. The biggest disadvantage is if a user picks up the Cisco phone to dial out, presence is not updated on the Skype for Business/Lync client as it is not aware of this call. This may cause confusion for environments where presence between colleagues is respected.

Voice Gateway Integration

Voice Gateway

This is supported for both Lync and Skype for Business as an integration option with a Cisco telephony platform. This consists of adding a gateway (like a Sonus or AudioCodes) which bridges the Skype for Business/Lync Mediation Server to the Cisco Call Manager infrastructure. This option is the most flexible in terms of your UC strategy moving forward. If you are moving from a Cisco infrastructure to a Skype for Business, this will ensure a minimal disruption as users are slowly migrated across and will not require a big bang approach which usually comes with a slew of issues. The downside to this approach the cost of deploying a gateway at every break out point where you plan to integrate with PSTN and acquire a new technology into the environment which will need to be maintained.

CUCI Lync

In my experience, this is usually not received well by end users and not an option I would recommend. Justin Morris has a blog article where he covers things to think about if considering this option.

Call via Work

Call via Work

This is a new feature which was introduced in Skype for Business as a replacement option for Remote Call Control. The configuration is very similar to direct SIP as you build a sip trunk between the Skype for Business Mediation Server and the Cisco Call Manager. Once this integration and the necessary configuration is completed on the Skype for Business end, then users can dial out to PSTN. The end user has a very disjointed experience where by if you place the call on the Skype for Business client, it will dial the number and then dial you on your Cisco desk phone. When you pick up you Cisco desk phone you are now connected to the user you dialled on your Skype for Business client. I personally don’t think this is a natural way to work don’t see it being popular with end users.

If you have your end users in mind, integration options should only be a temporary stop gap as you migrate from one platform to the other. It is easy to get stuck in the integrated state usually resulting in a mismatch of features between users and not leveraging either of the platforms to provide the best end user experience.

A Unified Collaboration strategy cannot be looked at in isolation and other considerations such as Video Conferencing, integration with other line of business applications such as ERP, CRM, HR, Marketing and Customer Care systems should be kept in mind.

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