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Six problems with Office Communications Server 2007

Analysis: our doubts about Microsoft OCS 2007

As the years of hype around Office Communications Server 2007 show, when Microsoft launches a product, everyone wants to hear about it. But we have our doubts about OCS 2007. Here are six examples:

1) Should I entrust my telephone system to a software vendor?

With Live Communications Server 2005, Microsoft relied on Siemens Communications to provide the voice telephony component of the software. But with Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft is doing VoIP itself, an area in which competitors charge it has little history or credibility.

"Microsoft has significantly underestimated the amount of work it takes to build a new voice system," said Mark Straton, senior vice president of global marketing at Siemens, which has since realigned itself with IBM's competing Sametime software. Microsoft is being "somewhat naive".

Microsoft is also minimising the likely degradation in audio quality as users are switched from conventional PBXes to VOIP-based ones, said Paul Lopez, general manager of marketing at NEC Unified Solutions in Irving, Texas.

"When you go from a 64Kbps circuit to a highly compressed 5Kbps stream, it's like going from a CD to an MP3," Lopez said. "Users may be getting desensitised to what true toll-quality voice should be, but audio engineers will tell you there is a big difference."

Microsoft maintains, however, that Office Communications Server 2007's adaptive codec, combined with tools such as the QOEM (Quality of Experience Monitoring) server, which lets system administrators monitor and fix sound quality, will provide as good or better-sounding calls than conventional PBXes.

One Office Communications Server 2007 beta tester, Lionbridge Technologies, agrees. A full-time user of Live Communications Server 2005 since 2006, the software localisation firm upgraded to Office Communications Server 2007 nine months ago.

Today, its 4,300 employees - scattered in 50 offices worldwide - make 400,000 VoIP minutes worth of calls per month, according to Oyvind Kaldestad, IT director.

"People still use their regular phones. But we are encouraging them go to Office Communications Server 2007 for all internal calls," Kaldestad said.

The voice quality through Office Communications Server 2007 is pretty good, Kaldestad said, and better than the regular phone network between many of its international offices.

Lionbridge did not roll out any additional networking gear to support VoIP, although it did set its routers to prioritise VoIP traffic. That was only needed for employees in offices with heavy Internet use, said Kaldestad.

  1. Should I entrust my telephone system to a software vendor?
  2. Can I really expect some Microsoft software running on a Windows box to be as reliable as a PBX?
  3. If I'm not getting rid of my PBXes for a while, why go to Office Communications Server 2007 at all?
  4. Do I even really need unified communications?
  5. Well, I AM interested in unified communications. But Office Communications Server 2007 seems to lack features we need
  6. Why go to OCS if we're not a Microsoft shop?

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