Let us preface this blog entry by saying up front that Netizen Corporation is not in any way sponsored by these two companies nor did they pay anyone for this content. We are just avid fans of these particular technologies and choose to share some of what we have learned with them. So, let’s begin.
Today I’m going to write about something I learned along the way in my journey to test out a variety of web conferencing and screen sharing utilities. Two applications have really stood out for me – Microsoft Lync Online for Office 365 (the de-facto standard of enterprise desktop sharing and communication) and a new teleconferencing startup based out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area called Speek (link). Separately they are good, but together they rock the competition. Here’s why I love them.
Speek offers self-described “super-simple phone conferencing” for the masses. Their free plan allows unlimited calls with unlimited minutes, but with only up to 5 users per call whereas their $10/month “pro” plan offers unlimited users for every conference. You can join a conference by going to your own “dashboard” page (e.g. http://speek.com/yourname) and entering a phone number, or they also offer more traditional dial-in PIN numbers for users.
Microsoft Office 365 Lync Online offers enterprise-grade desktop sharing and video conferencing starting at $2/month (or $6/month combined with their entry-level Office 365 small business package which also has SharePoint, SkyDrive and Web Outlook). Whether using the Lync desktop client, mobile app, or just in the web browser, it provides everything from screen sharing to whiteboarding and more. Working with a lot of large clients, especially in the public sector, Lync is stable, trusted and secure while presenting a polished and professional appearance for clients. Definitely my first choice, however, the dial-in providers for Lync are both obsolete by today’s standards and rather expensive.
Now, we get to the point. Here is how to set up Lync Online to automatically populate your Speek conferencing number and PIN in every invitation:
1. From your Office 365 Admin Dashboard, click on the “Service Settings” link.
2. On the “Service Settings” page, click the “IM, meetings, and conferencing” on the left side.
3. On the right side, which just loaded, under the “Dial-in Conferencing” section at the top, click “Manage” (or configure).
4. Go through the setup process, but here is the trick – when it asks for a conferencing provider, select ANY of them and continue through.
5. When it asks for the “phone number” and “passcode” you received from the conferencing provider, enter your Speek phone number and access PIN (from your dashboard). Click save.
6. If necessary, add these numbers to each person in your organization as needed.
Now, you can go to your Outlook Calendar, set up an event and click on the “Online Meeting” link about halfway down the page. After a brief pause, you’ll see your Lync access link and your Speek number with the passcode in the body of the event invite. Invite your attendees and send away!
That’s it. Hopefully if Speek becomes affiliated or registered with Lync Online this process will be a lot easier but, until then, this workaround seems to work flawlessly at the moment. It will provide enterprise-class desktop sharing with affordable, unlimited dial-in conferencing for under $15/month per user (assuming you use multiple Speek accounts, otherwise it is just the cost of Lync, currently ~$2/month, to share your number and PIN). Can’t beat that.