Phone or Headset in Lync environment?

June 26, 2014

By Danny Hayasaka

I remember the planning days when we decided to make the switch from an old Inter-Tel phone system to Microsoft Lync. Even though we were using headsets attached to our desk phones, we still felt it necessary to provide employees with desk phones and headsets.

I believe it took about three months, before the majority of our employees removed the phones off their desk. In a 100% Lync environment, a headset and webcam are all you really need. Of course some folks still can’t make the transition so they must have a desk phone.

The key to knowing whether or not you provide a desk phone, is understanding employees’ roles and how they “work” on a daily basis. In addition to Lync, do they have mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) they have to connect to?

I personally get to test/evaluate many of the devices for Lync so my desk and book shelf are full of multiple products from various manufacturers (Yes, I love what I do).

The way I work, requires me to pair to my PC for Lync calls as well as my mobile phone. Great products that provide that connectivity are the Jabra Motion UC+ MS, Plantronics Voyager Legend UC-M (B235-M), Sennheiser Presence UC ML, and VXi VoxStar UC. All these models allow me to pair to my PC via Bluetooth USB Dongle and my mobile phone via Bluetooth. Regardless of where call comes from (PC or mobile) I can answer with one headset. Additionally, at the end of the day, I can drive home and use same headset for hands-free driving.

However, there are still areas of an organization that require something other than a headset. For example, conference rooms, training rooms, etc. require conference phones or conferencecams. Polycom and Logitech make great Lync optimized devices for those areas like the Polycom CX5100, CX5500 or even CXC8000. From Logitech you have the BCC 950 and CC3000e ConferenceCams.

As I mentioned earlier, some folks will NOT wear a headset and MUST have a phone. Fortunately there are Lync optimized IP phones available from Polycom, HP and Aastra. Then there are a host of Lync compatible phones from AudioCodes, Spectralink, Polycom and Snom that offer multiple features.

How each individual employee works should dictate which device is best. It’s important to seek out a device-centric vendor who specializes in Lync optimized/compatible devices that can guide you through the MANY options that are available and help with best practices. If the vendor uses Lync themselves, like Call One, Inc. it’s a plus!

UC or Microsoft Variant when choosing headsets?

By Danny Hayasaka

June 12, 2014

More and more organizations have hybrid communications and collaboration platforms that involve many of the major voice and UC platform providers. It’s very rare to find a company that is 100% Microsoft Lync, 100% Cisco, 100% Avaya, etc. The majority have a mix of platforms.

Some organizations have two, three, four or more various communications and collaboration platforms which increases the challenge of selecting the right, compatible device. Some companies have Cisco and Microsoft Environments or Avaya and Microsoft. Some have other lesser known VoIP platforms plus they use Google Hangouts or Skype for video. The point is, it’s not so simple selecting a compatible headset with all the “web-based” applications and collaboration platforms in use.

In my earlier blog about “Which Wireless Headset is the Best” I discussed there are multiple variables to consider when selecting a wireless headset. Voice and Collaboration platform is one of those variables. Understanding exactly which platform/s the headset will be used with helps in identifying the compatible device.

For now, I’ll focus on Microsoft Lync & “Other” platform and Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser headsets as they have UC and Microsoft Optimized variants of their USB model corded and wireless headsets. VXi offers Microsoft “compatible” headsets however currently do not have “optimized” variants. Additionally, Logitech Business USB headsets are Lync optimized however do not have different UC and Microsoft Lync variants.

Important note for Plantronics, Jabra, and Sennheiser: They offer software that enables and is sometimes necessary to support some feature/functionality depending on softphone like answer/hang up from headset or inline control. The software is either for individual download or for IT to use as a tool to remotely access and control the various devices.

Plantronics Software link: Spokes & Plantronics Enterprise Management (PEM)

Jabra PC Suite (Individual)

Jabra Xpress (IT)

Sennheiser Software: Cisco Jabber Plugin, Sennheiser Updater, IBM Sametime, HeadSetup

For Plantronics in mixed platform environment where Microsoft Lync is not the main voice platform, it’s recommended to select UC variant of their models with Plantronics Spokes or PEM. In an environment where Microsoft Lync is being used as the main voice platform, then Microsoft Lync Optimized variant is recommended.

When it comes to Jabra and Sennheiser in a mixed environment, they recommend Microsoft Lync Optimized variant over UC models. Again, it’s always best to download Jabra PC Suite, Jabra Xpress or Sennheiser appropriate software.

The best thing you can do is engage a device-centric partner that takes the time to understand your environment discusses the various options available.