Instant Messaging (IM) is the ability to transfer text messages in real time over the Internet or a corporate network. The inherent advantages of IM have caused the technology to migrate from the consumer market to the workplace. IM has gained in importance as a means of communication and collaboration not only within the enterprise, but also with the enterprise’s suppliers, customers, outsourcing vendors, and other transaction partners. IM is an important component connecting data, platforms, processes and people so as to increase productivity and save costs.

Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 (formerly Live Communications Server) provides cost savings, improved business efficiencies, and increased productivity in an enterprise-grade unified communications server. With standard protocols, advanced deployment and management tools, a supportive partner environment, and innovative client features, Office Communications Server set the standard for today's unified communications solutions. Office Communications Server 2007 has been superseded and renamed Lync Server, which in turn has been replaced by Microsoft's Skype for Business product line. Progent's Microsoft-certified unified communications experts can provide online and onsite support and troubleshooting services for your Office Communications Server 2007 environment or help you assess the costs and benefits of a Skype for Business migration. Progent can also help you plan and implement an efficient upgrade from Office Communications Server 2007 to Skype for Business that will add significant strategic value to your information network.

Overview of Microsoft Office Communications Server
Office Communications Server ConsultingCommunication can be full of inefficiencies; phone or email "tag" is familiar to everyone; workers who are physically separated by geography and time zones lack visibility into other people's availability or "presence." Knowing a person's presence is especially important when there is a need for a critical business discussion or a time-sensitive decision has to be made. Office Communications Server helps your organization increase individual productivity using presence, instant messaging, and real-time communication capabilities such as voice, video, and data collaboration.

The preferred client for Office Communications Service is Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 provides integrated communications capabilities that include IM, extendable presence with Microsoft Exchange Server calendar information, PC based voice/video, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony.

Microsoft Office Communications Server allows users to display their status (for example, away, idle, busy, do not disturb) to other users. You can also determine who is offline or unavailable. With Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, offline presence details can be displayed even when a user is not logged in. By right-clicking on the name of a user who is offline, users can see if that user is available via other forms of communication such as email or telephone. Office Communications Server offers features not included with Live Communications Server 2005 such as the ability to utilize Exchange Server distribution lists plus the inclusion of software-driven-powered VoIP support.

Major Benefits of Using Office Communications Server
Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 has a variety of advantages as an IM platform for enterprises that rely on Microsoft information technology, need high levels of security, are subject to strict regulatory compliance, and need to maximize employee productivity. Benefits of Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 for these enterprises include:

  • Add real-time collaboration capabilities to core Microsoft Office programs
    Collaborating with others can be challenging—even in the same geographic office location. Employees are often overloaded with information and email as they constantly switch between business productivity applications. With Office Communications Server 2007, you can add real-time collaboration capabilities and presence, enabling higher productivity from users' favorite Microsoft Office programs such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, Microsoft Office Excel, and Microsoft Office Word. Presence information from the server can also be integrated into productivity applications and enterprise line-of-business (LOB) applications.
  • Collaborate from within Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003
    Office Communications Server 2007 is a valuable part of the Microsoft Office System because it also serves as the presence engine for team sites and portals, providing presence and IM access from within Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server sites. For example, you can enable the Members Web Part to see the presence of anyone associated with a SharePoint site, allowing information workers to spend more productive time in their business productivity applications.
  • Connect to public IM service providers using the new Public IM Connectivity service
    Office Communications Server 2007 Public IM Connectivity provides organizations with the capability to connect their existing base of Office Communications Server-enabled users to trusted contacts using public IM services provided by MSN, AOL, and Yahoo!.
  • Connect quickly and easily from remote locations
    Office Communications Server 2007 enables the ability to communicate and collaborate with remote users, via the Remote User option, which provides security enhanced IM and presence for users outside the corporate firewall—without requiring a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The IT manager now can offer seamless access to remote and home workers without the need for VPN. When someone wants to send a quick IM, requiring them to log on to a VPN is often time-prohibitive. Workers can also log in to their IM interface from remote locations using a simple Internet connection and their Office Communications Server-compatible instant messaging client. These specific real-time communications capabilities immediately increase the productivity of team members regardless of their physical location.
  • Connect and communicate instantly with other organizations
    Federation is the ability to establish trusted relationships between your organization and one or more external organizations, allowing users to initiate and share IM sessions and subscribe to user presence across network boundaries without the need for a VPN connection. This functionality is especially useful for acquisitions, companies with more than one geographic center, or those companies that have multiple partner contacts.
  • Take advantage of enterprise-ready features
    IM encryption, logging and archiving, and server-side contact lists provide enhanced security for sensitive business information and reduce exposure to spam over IM (SPIM) or intellectual property (IP) breaches common to public IM networks. Additionally, Office Communications Server, along with partner solutions for data archiving, supports new United States government regulations for electronic communication required by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). With the new management tools built into Office Communications Server 2007, IT managers can, at a glance, get more of the information they need about their server environment. They save time and reduce training costs by using familiar Windows graphical user interface (GUI)-based administration tools, including Windows Management Interface, Microsoft Management Console, and Microsoft Operations Manager to manage users, servers, and global settings, plus monitor the entire real-time collaboration system.
  • Get higher availability and data recovery through Microsoft SQL Server integration
    For those enterprises with tens of thousands of employees, or those wanting to take advantage of a clustered architecture, Office Communications Server 2007 Enterprise Edition is ideal. Office Communications Server 2007 Enterprise Edition consists of a pool of servers connected to a separate, shared SQL Server database. This two-tier architecture enables Enterprise Edition to deliver substantial improvements in availability, scalability, performance, and data recovery.
  • Reduce communication and travel costs
    Allow person-to-person communication across your organization without expensive business travel or costly phone bills. Office Communications Server can help you dramatically reduce your operating costs by using presence and IM to replace some travel and long distance or international calls. When IM does not provide enough collaborative discussion, users can immediately initiate an audio conversation, using a regular computer microphone and speakers or a headset device. Users can also make PC-to-phone and phone-to-PC audio calls through the standard public switched telephone network (PSTN) with an appropriate gateway deployment. Video conferencing adds another dimension: in a video conference, users can see and hear each other in real-time.
  • Build on an extensible platform
    Office Communications Server is based on industry standards with client and server Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that enable innovative applications and customized solutions using presence and other real-time capabilities. The architecture of Office Communications Server uses the industry-standard protocols Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), and includes a rich set of APIs. Because SIP and SIMPLE are industry standard protocols, a developer can create presence, IM, audio, video and data collaboration, conferencing, and telephony solutions, or even integrate presence and real time capabilities into your existing applications.
How Progent's Consultants Can Help You with Office Communications Server
Office Communications Server is powered by Microsoft Windows Server and takes advantage of powerful Windows technologies such as Active Directory, Microsoft SQL Server, System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), and Microsoft Management Console. Progent's Microsoft-certified experts can provide professional consulting services for all these areas and can assist you in managing and maintaining Office Communications Server 2007 so as to maximize the business value of this IM platform. Progent can also help you to plan and carry out a cost-effective Microsoft Skype for Business migration.

Progent can show you how Office Communications Server works with the Microsoft Office System so that Outlook, Excel, and Word users, as well as users of portals such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Services, can benefit from IM and presence awareness. Progent can also assist you to add fault-tolerant functionality such as clustering and failover to your IM environment so that users stay productive. Progent's CISM, CISA and CISSP certified security professionals can show you how to incorporate Microsoft Office Communications Server into your enterprise security plan.

To find out more about Progent's consulting services for Office Communications Server 2007 or for Microsoft Skype for Business migration consulting, phone 1-800-993-9400 or visit Contact Progent.

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