IT deployments can get complicated in a hurry. Lync implementations are no exception – especially when your needs go past a simple Lync Server 2010 Standard Edition for internal instant messaging and presence. As complexity ramps up the need for planning and documentation become more critical .This article highlights the baseline concepts that will help ensure a successful Lync project.

Author: John Weber, CDW Senior Microsoft Consultant for Microsoft Unified Communications

Publication date: December 11, 2012

Product version: Lync Server 2010, Lync Server 2013

1. Define your business requirements

a. Map your requirements to system features. Make sure you understand the capabilities to be delivered. Are there requirements that Lync does not offer natively? Are there third party solutions to handle these requirements?

b. Fight scope creep – if you have a fixed time frame and/or budget, be aware that trying to cram more features into your deployment may have unintended consequences.

c. Ensure that a support system is in place for the entire infrastructure. The classic example is deploying clusters for high availability when the staff has no knowledge about the care and feeding of a cluster. Virtualization has the same caveats – rolling out a complete HA/DR environment might not be the best choice for getting started with virtualization.

d. Discover the culture’s telephony/conferencing/usage habits BEFORE you start. Don’t learn about 50-60 custom dialing habits or massive conferencing expectations after you have already installed servers.

2. Plan before you deploy

a. Do not just install Lync and think you will modify the system later. For example, it’s essential to get the IP space and DNS defined early. To correctly plan the IP and DNS requires knowing the business requirements, the technical requirements map, and having an understanding of the target environment.

b. Start with a solid design document.

c. Document the deployment—even for a simple environment.

d. Make sure that the as-built documentation clearly captures the deployment in both pictures and text.

f. Figure out how to handle remote offices BEFORE you start installing.

3. Define DNS, IP, and certificate requirements early in the process – yes this subject is important enough to show up twice

a. Large organizations and education institutions may still utilize public IP space for internal systems. Typically, DNS and firewalls are a challenge in these environments.

b. Develop your Edge concepts early in the process. Edge IP requirements can be significant.

c. DNS is extremely important. If you have more than a small deployment, you do not want to be running host files for your users.

d. Certificates, certificates, certificates!

4. Policies control feature usage

a. How will this work in your environment? How does a system function concept map to your business requirements? If you are deploying Enterprise Voice, the impact of Dial Plans and Voice Policy are critical to your success.

b. Client versions may be important to delivering on expectations.

c. Conferencing is important – do you really want all your users able to create 250 person meetings with the entire feature set enabled?

d. External user access is awesome – does everyone need it?

e. The Lync Control Panel does not expose a GUI for the CSClientPolicy. Spend some time understanding the impact of the Global policy – and get a grip on 70+ settings!

5. Don’t think you can roll straight to Enterprise Voice

a. Get the basics in place first; Enterprise Voice is a viral pull at that point. If you ARE starting with an Enterprise Voice project, focus on getting the basic feature set done first, including (and important) the Edge.

b. Don’t pound a square peg into a round hole. There are some things that Lync is just not going to do, or for which Lync is not the best solution. Look at third party integrators, IP-Gateways, or even keeping the existing PBX for a unique feature.

c. Does the existing PBX support direct SIP or will you need a gateway? Is a straight SIP trunk from a provider a good option?

d. How are you going to provide HA and DR for Enterprise Voice?

e. What is the plan for Exchange integration?

f. With Enterprise Voice, E9-1-1 is a critical component. Do you have FCC and/or Local Government requirements?

6. Consider what to do when a feature goes viral

a. When new features are introduced, a small pilot group can unexpectedly grow in size when the pilot group starts showing off the features.

b. MCX is a good example. Once users are shown the app, they will likely start downloading it from their respective app store of choice, and start overwhelming the support staff with requests for how to set it up.

7. If you have a large organization, do not undersize resources

a. This is especially important if you are leveraging virtualization.

b. Network capacity—running large conferences with a RoundTable or two can consume large amounts of bandwidth. The Bandwidth Capacity tool can help estimate requirements.

c. Wireless coverage and saturation. A small number of WAP’s can easily get overloaded leading to a poor user experience.

d. SQL storage space requirements for Archiving, Monitoring, and Persistent Chat, and the Lync File Share for large numbers of users and meetings can escalate rapidly. One deployment I planned had an initial estimate of over 50TB for the file share for each pool. Getting that number out of the stratosphere required re-planning several components – and re-looking at how conference policy was structured and how to configure the services.

8. High availability/disaster recovery upfront

a. Lync could easily be a business critical system.

b. Hardware Load Balancers – are these ready to be paired or capable of being highly available?

c. Failover procedures – how and when to failover and failback. What is the user experience during these events? Documentation is essential here!

9. Understand tools and options

a. Knowing how to read the various log files created by install and configuration actions can reduce troubleshooting efforts by several orders of magnitude.

b. Topology builder – the outputs come in HTML and can be very useful.

c. Control Panel versus Windows PowerShell – what can be done where and by what tool?

d. Lync Server 2010 Resource Kit – the ResKit has several very nice utilities for advanced configuration.

10. Management, monitoring, and reporting counts

a. Even in smaller environments, backup and restore demands attention. How, when, where, with what? There are some great scripts in the blogosphere, but VERY FEW actual programs that will capture your Lync environment – you need to do this for yourself.

b. Monitoring—how and with what tools? System Center Operations Manager has a management pack – but maybe another tool already exists in the environment.

c. Reporting on all aspects of the Lync deployment and performance will assist in proving business value and future troubleshooting.

Plus One - recruit and involve the right people for your deployment

Make sure you identify and involve the other important parties required for successful implementation as early as humanly possible, and get buyoff on your plans before doing anything. This helps to ensure you won’t have any surprise long wait times to get things like firewalls or other network configurations,  Certificates, Active Directory and DNS configurations,  and that PBXs or gateways are configured at the times you expect. The larger the organization, the smaller the chance that all these items are owned by one person. Failure to bring in all the required people, as early as possible, to get buyoff and prepare for the deployment can cause roadblocks and delays in deployments—not to mention waiting on change management in a large organization. Make sure they can be involved in decisions that affect the pieces they own – they hold the fate of your deployment in their hands!

Even a simple Lync Server project touches multiple areas of your environment. As a first step map your technical solution to the business requirements. Take time to plan; DNS, IP addressing, and external user access require advance planning—work through the issues before jumping in. The larger the organization, the greater the need for comprehensive resource planning. Consider the Lync policies for the various features and how you will craft and apply them. If you plan out the entire project before installing the first server or making the first DNS record, you will have a much better Lync Server deployment experience.

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Keywords: Project, planning, DNS, certificates, Policy, EV