Tag: hosted exchange

How to Connect Lync Server to Exchange Online: Part 2

Before we get to Part 2 of our latest Lync how-to series, there’s a question we should ask.

Why would you WANT to connect an internal Lync Server 2010 setup to Office 365’s Exchange Online? Why not use an internal Exchange Server instead? Or go for Lync Online?

Sometimes Email Isn’t Enough – You Need a Phone!

The customer who asked the original question didn’t say. But I suspect it involves the fact that Lync Server includes VoIP. Very important difference when it comes to value.

(Maybe it’s a smaller organization, and Exchange Online works for their needs. If so, more power to them!)

Anyway, continuing on the topic. In Part 1 we provided Lync users with voice mail on Exchange Online. According to the checklist Microsoft has laid out, the next step is to configure Exchange Online’s Unified Messaging to work with Lync Server 2010.

This process will look a bit more familiar to Lync admins. It involves setting up dial plans. Yes, very similar to Lync’s standard dial plan setup – with a couple extra steps added. Let’s get into it.

How-To, Step 2 – Configure Exchange Online Unified Messaging

A) Create a new UM Dial Plan.

Quick refresher: Dial Plans are sets of rules for normalization and governance of calls. In this case, the dial plan will govern:

  • How your Lync Server connects to Exchange Online UM
  • Dial rules & settings for user access
  • Outlook Voice Access connectivity

Creating the dial plan is itself not difficult. Follow these steps:

  1. Select Manage My Organization > Phone & Voice > UM Dial Plans.
  2. Under UM Dial Plans, click New.
  3. Under Name, enter a name that is unique in your organization. It can be up to 49 characters long.
  4. Enter the following information for the dial plan:
    1. Extension Length: Enter the number of digits you’ve assigned to your Lync phone extensions.
    2. Dial Plan URI Type: Because we’re connecting to Lync Server, select SIP URI here.
    3. Audio Language: Select the language to use. It’ll cover the automated greetings, phone navigation prompts, Voice Mail Preview, and Outlook Voice Access.
    4. Country/Region Code: Enter your country code (or regional code) so UM dials domestic and international numbers correctly. Accepts 1-4 digits.
  5. Click Save to create the dial plan.

B) Configure the Dial Plan.

1.  Select the UM dial plan you just created.
2.  Click Details. We have many details to fill out, so make sure you have the following information on hand:

  • General. Verify that this information matches what you just created. (If it doesn’t, you may have to go back & recreate the dial plan.) You should see Name, Extension Length, URI Type (SIP!) & Audio Language.
  • Dial Codes. Specify the number formats so your outgoing calls reach their destinations.
    • Outside Line Access Code – Enter the code for accessing an outside line, if needed to reach external numbers (usually 9).
    • International Access Code – Enter the code needed to place international calls for your location (US is 011, Europe is 00).
    • National Number Prefix – Enter the prefix required for outgoing calls in your country/region. North America’s is 1.
    • Country/Region Code – Same code as the one entered when we created the dial plan earlier. Accepts 1-4 digits.
    • Country/Region Number Format – Enter the number format to resolve caller ID for users dialing outside this dial plan to other dial plans in your company. If you wanted to add a 4-digit extension for caller ID (like 1234), you’d enter 1234xxxxx.
    • International Number Format – Same as the point above, but for international calls. For instance, if you wanted to add 011-1234 as a prefix to an international caller extension, you’d enter 0111234xxxxx.
    • Number Formats for Incoming Calls – Enter the number format to use to provide caller ID on calls placed to users of this UM dial plan. For example, you’d enter 2345xxxxx to add the 2345 prefix to a 5-digit extension for incoming calls.
  • Outlook Voice Access. Select the greetings & numbers for Outlook Voice Access. Recorded greetings & announcements must be in 16-bit, 8kHz .wma or .wav file format.
    • Welcome Greeting – Click “Change File” if you want to upload a custom greeting file for Outlook Voice Access callers.
    • Informational Announcement – Click “Change File” to upload a custom recording to be played for callers after hours.
    • Allow Announcement to Be Interrupted – Check the box if you want callers to be able to skip the announcement.
    • Numbers for Users to Access Voice Mail – Enter a number for dial plan users to access their mailboxes, and click Add. Letters and numbers are supported.
  • Settings. Options for name searches, operator extensions, max recording length, and more.
    • Primary Way of Searching for Names – How should callers search for people in the address book? Specify it here. Could be by last name and first name, first name and last name, or an alias.
    • Secondary Way of Searching for Names – You can enter a second search method here, or select None to skip the option.
    • Audio Codec – Select the codec to use for recording voice mails. Available codecs are: MP3 (default), GSM, G711, and WMA.
    • Operator Extension – Enter the extension you want callers to connect with when they press zero. Could be an Auto Attendant, a specific person, or an external number.
    • Number of Sign-in Failures Before Disconnecting – How many sign-in attempts before disconnection? Default is 3, but you can choose from 1 to 20.
    • Timeouts and Retries – Change these settings to control how long recordings can last. Also controls when to timeout after a failed option.
    • Maximum Call Duration – How long should incoming calls last? Default is 30 minutes, but you can change the number (from 10 to 120) for all calls in the dial plan.
    • Maximum Recording Duration – Enter the maximum time a voice mail recording can last. Default is 20 minutes. Can go from 1 to 100 minutes (must be less than the Maximum Call Duration).
    • Recording Idle Timeout – Enter the number of seconds of silence to allow in a voice mail, before disconnecting the call. Anywhere from 2 to 10 seconds. (default is 5).
    • Number of Input Failures Before Disconnecting – How many times should callers be able to enter incorrect information when searching the address book, before they’re disconnected? 1 attempt to 99, default is 3.
    • Audio Language – Select the language to use for automated greetings, phone navigation prompts, Voice Mail Preview, and Outlook Voice Access. Same as the one you selected creating the dial plan.
  • Dialing Rules. These rules define the types of calls users can make. They also change the number users dial to the number that UM dials for outgoing calls. Adding a 9 for outside lines, etc. Groups of rules are placed into dialing rule groups, which you use to authorize all the rules together. You authorize rules under Dialing Authorization (see below), UM mailbox policies, and/or UM auto attendants.
    • In-Country/Region Rules – Create these dialing rules to define what kind of in-country/in-region calls your UM users can make.
    • International Rules – Same thing, except for international calls.
  • Dialing Authorization. Previously we created dialing rules for controlling the types of calls users can make. This is where we authorize those rule groups.
    • Allow Calls in the Same UM Dial Plan – Select the check box to allow unauthenticated callers calling into the access number to call/transfer to other users of the UM dial plan.
    • Allow Calls to Any Extension – Checking this box allows unauthenticated callers calling the subscriber access number to call/transfer to extensions of non-UM-enabled users.
    • Allowed In-Country/Region Dialing Rule Groups – Dial plan users can dial the numbers authorized by the dialing rule groups in this list.
    • Allowed International Dialing Rule Groups – Same as the previous setting, but for the international dialing rule groups.

Don’t forget to click Save!

C) Add the domain configured for your Lync voice mail policy to your Office 365 domains.

By now you already have domains set up for Lync, from Part 1. Microsoft recommends using the third-level domain assigned when you signed up for Office 365 (e.g., office365.yourdomain.com).

(Note: It can’t be the same one you use for Lync users’ SIP addresses.)

To Add the Domain:

  1. On the Admin page in Office 365, under Management, click Domains
  2. Click “Add a domain.”
  3. Under Specify domain on the next page, type the domain name you want to add, and then click Next.
  4. Follow the next steps in the wizard to verify with Office 365 that the domain name belongs to you.

Once the domain name is added, you must specify services with which you’ll use it.

  1. In the Add a Domain wizard, on the Specify services page, select the services you want. In this case, Exchange Online.
  2. Click Next.

Finally, you must edit your DNS records on this domain.

  1. If you just completed the Add a Domain wizard, click “Configure DNS records.”
  2. Otherwise, click Domains on the Admin page.
  3. Click the domain name you just set up, and click the DNS Settings tab. Here are the DNS records for Office 365’s services.
  4. Take these records to your domain registrar’s website, and add them into your DNS file.

For more details on this process, read this reference: Add Your Domain to Office 365.

In Part 3 we make the last connection – directing the Lync Server to Exchange Online. Check back next week, and we’ll wrap up the whole how-to.

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Hosted Exchange VS. Google Apps: Which Works Better for Small Business?

I saw a great discussion thread on LinkedIn today (view the thread here) – about whether a consultant”s client should move to Hosted Exchange or Google Apps.

The replies leaned a bit more toward Google Apps than Exchange. Many good points about how much IT help is available/budgeted, “getting what you pay for,” simplicity of Google, familiarity of Exchange/Outlook, etc.

You'd think I would weigh in on the side of Hosted Exchange. It is one of our services (and a very popular one at that), but even we recognize that at times something simpler, like Google Apps, makes for a better solution.

See, when we get a client who wants to move to hosted services, there's a lot of factors to consider. Many of them are addressed in the thread: mobile users, growth potential, available budget,available IT expertise/extra support hours needed,and the client's needs for the service.

We weigh these between two prime factors: The size of the business, and what their day-to-day practices are surrounding email.

Can A Business Outgrow Google?

Let's divide up some factors between size and daily practice here. Under size, we can list things like:

  • How many mobile users a company has – iPhones, Blackberries, Android, etc.
  • How many Outlook users there are (and how often they use it).
  • What amount of on-site IT is in place, or do they rely on contracted IT support?

Both systems – Google Apps and Hosted Exchange – can sync with iPhones and Blackberries. (Androids MIGHT prefer Google, but I can't imagine why.) Outlook however leads more people to Exchange than away from it. One big intangible with email is how many users “live in” Outlook. True, Google Apps Premier Edition will sync with Outlook, but the difference is that those Apps accounts are on Google's servers, not hosted servers you contract. Which leads to the question of IT support. Who do you want to support your email? How fast of a response time do you need?

Under day-to-day email practices, we'll put these factors:

  • What are users' preferred communication methods?
  • How much email storage is needed?
  • How often do users share calendars?
  • Who's administering?

If email is the big communication tool (and it is for most businesses), then even a smidge of downtime is potentially catastrophic. We admit it, Exchange isn't perfect here…but then, nobody is. Google Apps does beat Exchange on default account space (25GB against 5GB). But shared calendaring brings us back to Outlook and its rich invite features.

We're back at the administration question. Many LinkedIn posters recommended contract IT support, especially if you're a smaller company. Of course Google provides support for Apps…but interfacing with other systems? Not so much.

What's the Verdict?

So where did we end up? When is Hosted Exchange a good choice, and when is Google Apps better? I'll give my answers in terms of the two prime factors I mentioned.

IN TERMS OF BUSINESS SIZE: For startup-level businesses, Google Apps makes more sense. Little infrastructure is needed, and it”s easier for a few people to adapt (they probably use Google already). Generally, the larger the business, the more likely Exchange will better suit them.

IN TERMS OF DAY-TO-DAY EMAIL PRACTICES: If a company already uses Outlook, we recommend they go Hosted Exchange. If they have an IT department already, so much the better. If not, and they don't want to spend much, then go Google Apps and get some local support in case integration hits a snag.

Of course, this is just one blog post. Do your research before contacting suppliers.

Which do you use, Google Apps or Hosted Exchange? Let me know in the comments.

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