Simplifying Lync for the Channel

Scott-Riley-2294

Comms Business Magazine talks to Scott Riley, Director of Cloud and Hosting Solutions for GCI Channel Solutions, about Microsoft Lync and how his company is enabling SME resellers to simply sell solution to their customers.

GCI has recently begun selling Microsoft Lync to the channel in a deployment model that allows resellers to not only quickly get to grips with the features and benefits of Lync but to also supply the solution to their SME sized customers. We put some questions to GCI’s Director of Cloud and Hosting Solutions, Scott Riley.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): In a nutshell, what is Lync and where does it fit in the communications mix?

Scott Riley (SR): Lync is a fully developed product launched just over three years ago. It builds on OCS 2007 which was an on premise solution for messaging, text and chat but has continually evolved to where today it is a unified communications and collaboration platform that includes audio and video conferencing, call centre and a fully featured PBX capability all ‘out of the box’.

We deploy a simple licensing model based on a per user per month where for all this functionality except voice we charge channel partners £7.50 and an advanced licence that includes all the above plus the Enterprise voice features – the voicemail and call centre applications, for £10.00 per user per month. It’s as simple as that.

CBM: We tend to think that Lync is only for larger enterprises. How do you target SMEs with the product?

SR: Fair point. If you were going to roll this out on premises you would need an experienced team and many pieces of hardware. However, GCI has developed a bundled approach for our resellers and their customers all in to a true on line service on a per user per month to enable the channel partner to open up smaller, say 25 user customers. It’s a fully channel enabled product provided on a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with all the services and hardware located in our data centres on virtualised servers on the GCI cloud platform.

We have over 42,000 seats in the UK and of course some are very large customers including the University of London with 1650 users!

The reason we have launched through the channel is to enable resellers to target the large 5-25 user market who will benefit from these fantastic features without buying a traditional PBX.

GCI is a Microsoft Gold Partner for Messaging and Collaboration as well as a Premiere Support for Lync Provider (PSLP). We enable our channel partners, we make Lync a simple and consumer friendly product for resellers to deploy and we have the resources and the skill sets to support them.

CBM: Is Lync just a collaboration tool or can it really be used for voice communications as a replacement for a PBX?

SR: Yes, Lync is a fully featured PBX with reception consoles, direct dial numbers, hunt groups, voicemail, and failover functionality. You can connect SIP trunks but can also have connectivity in combination with ISDN for fall back – we tend to run SIP almost exclusively, however you can also have failover on the user site with local ISDN for survivability.

The benefits over a traditional PBX can be illustrated at the University of London where last summer, during the clearing process for allocating student places, they had to hire in a lot of temporary staff. With a traditional CPE based PBX extra ISDN would have to be installed and paid for long after the clearing was completed. Likewise expensive extra CPE equipment ordered would lie dormant for most of year. With Lync we handled the extra staff on a per user per month basis only charging for the duration the licenses were used. That’s flexibility.

CBM: What’s involved in becoming a Lync ‘authorised/accredited’ supplier?

SR: We have developed a highly structured training program for our partners to provide resellers with an understanding of the features and benefits of Lync, which will help them sell the solution and defend it against alternative solutions.

We are giving away free in house Lync systems for channel partners which breeds familiarity with the product and builds confidence. It’s all packaged up, ready to go and we are signing up channel partners now!

Margins seem good; we anticipate resellers charging their users £10.00 and £15.00 for the licenses and further sales and margins can be made from endpoint sales where we have a fully functional provisioning portal for resellers.

GCI includes 3rd line support in our license costs with resellers carrying out first and second line support. Formal training certification would be advantageous but not mandatory.

We have made a huge effort to make sure our back end systems enable reseller to make simple sales and GCI provides the material for on boarding resource kits that includes end user guides, support guides and welcome packs.

Finally, we support deployments on mobiles and tablets (All operating systems except BlackBerry), PC and laptops running Linux, Apple iOS and Windows.

We have hearts and minds to be won over. Lync has not been viewed as a phone system by hard-core telephony resellers but the introduction last year of Lync 2013 dispelled those fears and concerns completely. So, if you want to know more come and see GCI Channel Solutions at the Convergence Summit North where we can set you up as partner and provide a free Lync trial for your company!