Last week at TechEd, Microsoft announced the new features of Communications Server 14. Frankly, I”m not sure why the new version is named “14.” But that's not what I wanted to write about anyway.

What I'm blogging about today is a few of the features announced. More specifically, how those features translate into new benefits for small business OCS users.

Many of 14's updates focus on simplification: Easier administration, more unified front-end interface (Unified Communication – get it?). The main small-business advantage comes from a more comprehensive client application. All communication channels ready and waiting for you.

1. The Rise of Communicator 14

Every service goes through the Communicator 14 client. Live Meeting was originally separate from the Office Communicator 2007 client. (They were developed separately at first.) Communicator 14 has it built in. All conferencing capabilities, in fact…along with IM, voice calls, Presence, even a visual Voicemail menu.

2. More Roles Virtually Capable

In 14 there's support for virtualizing almost all OCS server roles (AV Conferencing, Archiving, Edge Mediation, etc.). Putting in a new Communications Server 14 setup becomes more appealing if there are fewer physical servers needed than for OCS.

3. Web Client Following You Around

14 includes a new Silverlight-based web client version of Communicator. Very handy if you have people who live on netbooks or smartphones. I've played with Silverlight a little too; this client is almost guaranteed to be much faster than CWA.

4. Avoid the Media (Server) and Still Call the Office

There's a new media bypass,reducing the need for a mediation server. It allows a front-end server to go “direct SIP,” meaning you can call into (supported) PBX phone systems without mediation. In other words, simpler setup, and you can still call non-VoIP phones.

5. Alert! Call #2467 is Failing!

I really like this one. There's a new Monitoring Pack in Communications Server 14. If calls are failing or their quality drops, alerts will show in the Monitoring Pack. You can even boost the audio quality if it”s degrading!

6. SQL Backend Moved to Express Lane

The Director server role will include a SQL Express database in 14. So there's no more need for a separate SQL backend. That means even fewer servers running.

There's even more features than these too. A very thorough overview is on the “Inside OCS” blog.

A smaller, more streamlined communications system. Appealing to small business cost and space concerns, wouldn't you say?

What are you looking forward to in Communications Server 14? Drop us a comment and let's talk.

Rename and a Revamp – New Features of Communications Server 14
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