April 29, 2015

Lync users enjoy new features, cloud technology with updated 2013 client

Mobile applications, cloud technology and Skype federation are some of the benefits of Lync 2013, recently deployed by Vanderbilt IT.

Vanderbilt IT’s deployment of Lync 2013 reached completion on March 31, and since then, users have been able to enjoy the latest features—among them the freedom that comes with mobile applications, cloud technology and Skype federation.

“With the latest version of Lync, we are full-on embracing cloud technology,” said Scott Hogan, director of core infrastructure with VUIT. “It’s just one step in moving more services to the cloud.”

VUIT is planning to move more services to the cloud because it offers the added benefit of the resiliency of large corporations’ data centers—in this case, Microsoft’s.

“When an individual takes advantage of the cloud with Lync or another Microsoft application, their documents, files and other workloads are stored in Microsoft’s data center,” Hogan said.

The updated client also gives users the freedom to streamline their contacts with its Skype federation. This allows users to interact with their contacts on Skype through Lync 2013, which is a brand-new feature that Lync 2010 does not grant.

Jeff Gordon, professor of educational informatics in the School of Nursing, has been using Lync software for distance learning for the last three to four years. He was a primary force propelling SON to become the first unit adopter—both for the 2010 and 2013 versions. Because of Lync 2013’s new features, SON is able to mix students’ work in the cloud with faculty and staff members’ work on premise.

“[lquote]We do a lot of distance classes,” Gordon said. “And Lync is a great way to have clinical meetings in such a way that students can participate from the other side of the world.”[/lquote]

Between the video conferencing flexibility and the mobile freedom, SON has decided to transition current Scopia (a video conferencing system) classes to Lync. Though Scopia offers 16 videos at a time in comparison to Lync’s five in gallery view, Lync offers additional connectivity features.

For example, when faculty travel overseas, they no longer have to pay expensive fees to make calls back to the states, Gordon said. With Lync 2013 installed on mobile device, users can connect using either Wi-Fi or cell service and make a free phone call to the Nashville area codes.

“Frankly, without Lync, we would have trouble,” Gordon said. “But Lync 2013 adds a lot of richness to the environment that allows us to teach our classes over distance much more easily.”

Betsy Weiner, the senior associate dean for informatics in SON, agrees.

“By using Lync to its maximum potential, we have been able to provide another alternative to our video conferencing needs, which has come in handy during the recent site visit during the ice storm when faculty used the Lync platform to ‘attend’ sessions virtually rather than risk driving to school,” Weiner said.

According to Hogan, all servers have been upgraded to support the 2013 version of Lync; however, individuals must still update their own systems before taking advantage of its benefits.

Additional benefits of Lync 2013:

  • With gallery video, users can view up to five video windows when using a Windows client or a Mac iPad client.
  • Lync 2013 offers the ability to make VoIP calls from a mobile device connected to a Wi-Fi router. This means that if you travel overseas, you can place free calls back to the 615 and 629 area codes without paying the $3-plus dollars per minute to call home.
  • Users are now able to participate in Lync meeting (audio and video) using mobile devices.
  • Lync 2013 grants users the ability to include someone not affiliated with Vanderbilt in meetings using a small app client on their Windows machine or phone. The small app client offers all the features of the full client without requiring a full installation.

To learn more about Lync 2013 and its new features, please contact the VUIT Collaboration team at vuit.collaboration@vanderbilt.edu.