Presence is the core feature of Lync Server and drives or enhances almost every other feature. In its simplest form, presence
is defined as the combination of a person’s availability and
willingness to communicate at any given time. This presence is published
to colleagues and peers. It is what allows others to determine an
appropriate time to contact a user and what communication modality makes
the most sense at that time. A user has complete control over his
presence state, which means he can choose when to appear available or
unavailable to peers.
information, users tend to fall back on other communication methods such
as sending e-mail messages that say, “Are you free?” or “Do you have
time to talk now?” With presence information at their disposal, users
have no need to send these types of messages. With a quick glance,
users can see a contact’s presence and make a determination about when
it’s appropriate to initiate a conversation. These conversations are not
necessarily IM-based; they can be in the form of an IM, a phone call,
or a video conference. However, the appropriate time and modality of
communication are driven by the presence information. For instance, a
user whose presence is currently Busy most likely isn’t going to be
receptive to a phone conversation, but might be willing to communicate
through IM for a short period of time.
Many presence engines have
only a few presence states, such as Available or Away. These provide
some insight into availability, but traditionally require manual user
management and offer little control over what information is actually
The presence engine
Microsoft has developed behind Lync Server is referred to as Enhanced
Presence, which is a combination of a numerous presence states, access
levels, interruption management, automated updates, application
integration, location information, and multiple points of presence
(MPOP). These features interconnect to provide a prolific amount of
presence information that is simply not possible in many other systems.
Lync Server presence consists
of a presence icon and a status text string. A number of colors are
associated with each presence class that operate on a similar scale as a
stoplight from green to red. Although each of these colors provide a
good indicator of presence, they are paired with a textual
representation of the user’s presence when published, providing even
more insight to the current status. Some colors can take on separate
text strings depending on the user’s availability. For instance, the
color red is displayed when a user manually sets her presence to Busy,
but red can also be associated with the In a Call, In a Conference, and
In a Meeting presence states. These are unique presence states, but
indicate a similar level of willingness to communicate at that moment.
The core availability classes are listed in Table 1.
Table 1. Microsoft Lync Server Presence States
|Presence Color||Presence Text String|
Out of Office|
In a Call
In a Conference
|Dark Red||Do Not Disturb
Urgent Interruptions Only|
Access Levels and Privacy Relationships
relationships are the component of enhanced presence used to control
the amount of information visible to contacts. In prior iterations of
Communications Server, these were referred to as access levels, but they are now called privacy relationships
in Lync Server. Instead of publishing the same presence to all
subscribers, a user can control the flow of information based on
differing privacy relationships assigned to contacts.
The enhanced presence model
publishes more than just a user’s presence name; it also includes e-mail
address, title, company, address, working hours, and a multitude of
A user might not want to
expose all of this information to a user, so privacy relationships can
be used to distribute only the necessary information to subscribers. A
user can also adjust the relationship for each contact individually,
giving the user complete control and flexibility for managing the
information provided to contacts.
The privacy relationships available in Lync Server are
Friends & Family— Shares all contact information except for meeting subject and meeting location. This level is intended for personal contacts.
Shares all contact information except for nonwork phone numbers.
Contacts assigned to this relationship level can interrupt the user when
his status is Do Not Disturb.
Shares all contact information except for nonwork phone numbers,
meeting subject, and meeting location. This is the default relationship
assigned to contacts in the organization.
External Contacts— Shares all information except for phone numbers, meeting subject, and meeting location.
Shows only the user’s name and e-mail address. Contacts assigned to
this relationship cannot reach the user through Lync endpoints.
Table 2 details what information is available to end users assigned to each privacy relationship.
Table 2. Information Shared Based on Privacy Relationship
|Information||Blocked||External||Colleagues||Workgroup||Friends & Family|
|Offline Presence||X|| || || || |
|Presence State|| ||X||X||X||X|
|Work Phone|| || ||X||X||X|
|Mobile Phone|| || || ||X||X|
|Home Phone|| || || || ||X|
|Other Phone|| || || || ||X|
|Office|| || ||X||X||X|
|Work Address|| || ||X||X||X|
|SharePoint Site|| || ||X||X||X|
|Meeting Location|| || || ||X|| |
|Meeting Subject|| || || ||X|| |
|Free/Busy|| || ||X||X||X|
|Working Hours|| || ||X||X||X|
|Endpoint Location|| || || ||X||X|
|Note|| || ||X||X||X|
|Last Active|| || || ||X||X|
Access levels control
interruption management because they determine whether a contact can
initiate a conversation with the user at a particular time. For example,
a contact assigned to the Company access level cannot interrupt with a
phone call or IM message when the user’s presence is set to Do Not
Disturb, but someone assigned to the Team access level sees the status
as Urgent Interruptions Only. This provides a visual cue to the team
members that the user doesn’t want to be disturbed, but can be
interrupted for a critical issue. When a conversation is initiated, the
receiver sees a pop-up notification called the toast in the lower-right corner of her screen.
presence doesn’t only help to suspend toast pop-ups or phone calls.
Endpoints have the option to suspend audio sounds when a user’s status
is Busy or Do Not Disturb. And as an added bonus, they have the
capability to pause Windows Media Player audio when an incoming audio or
video call is detected. Although automatically pausing a media player
might seem trivial, the value of not having to bring Windows Media
Player to the foreground and fumble for a Pause button or Mute button
before answering the phone call is significant. This speaks to the
seamlessness of Lync Server and the productivity gains it can provide to
Automated Status Updates
Presence is a great
indicator of a user’s willingness to communicate, but if left to the
users to manually manage, it tends to be inaccurate. A user cannot
always remember to change his presence to Busy when walking into a
meeting or back to Available when returning to his desk, so Lync Server
leverages a user’s calendar and manages these kinds of updates on his
behalf. If a user has an appointment on the calendar, his presence
automatically changes to Busy during the appointment and then goes back
to Available when the appointment concludes.
differentiate between personal calendar entries considered appointments
and meetings where multiple attendees exist. In the previous example, if
the calendar entry is a meeting instead of appointment, the status
changes to In a Meeting instead of Busy, indicating the user is most
likely in the company of others and probably engaged in conversation.
integration can be performed from Microsoft Office Outlook if installed,
or if the user’s mailbox is hosted by a Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
or later, endpoints can use Exchange Web Services to log in and pull the
calendar data directly from the mailbox using Lync Server credentials.
In addition to the calendar
integration, Lync Server keeps track of a user’s activity at an
endpoint and can automatically mark an endpoint as Inactive or Away
after a period of time. This ensures that if a user has walked away from
an endpoint without changing his presence, subscribers can see the last
presence state with an Inactive designation as part of the status. Even
though the user is still signed in, subscribers can tell they probably
won’t get a response when trying to initiate a conversation.
points mentioned previously provide a way to keep presence information
up-to-date automatically. However, the user has the option to manually
override her presence to any state.
Multiple Points of Presence
Server presence has the added flexibility of being read from multiple
endpoints simultaneously. This enables a user to be signed in at
multiple locations or endpoints that publish presence independently. The
server then aggregates these endpoints and forms a single presence
class that is published to subscribers.
For instance, a user can be
signed in to Lync on a desktop, again on a roaming laptop, at home on a
Mac, and also on a mobile device. Each of these endpoints publishes
presence independently, and the server then forms the user’s presence
Having multiple clients signed in
is generally considered a problem because how does a user know which
endpoint to send a message to? Without multiple points of presence
(MPOP), there is a problem. However, when a user sends another user a
message, the Lync Server determines which endpoint is currently most
active for that user. For example, a user might be Away at three of the
four endpoints, so the server sends the message only to the endpoint
where the user is Available.
If the server is unable to
determine which state is most active, it sends the message to the
endpoint it determines most likely active and waits to see if the user
acknowledges the toast at any location. If the user opens the toast at
an endpoint, the server removes the message from the other endpoints. If
an endpoint doesn’t acknowledge the message, the server leaves the
message at only one location—the most likely endpoint.
MPOP might not be perfect at
all times, but it does enable a user to publish presence from multiple
locations and still receive conversations at the most likely endpoint.
The built-in presence states
provide an excellent array of options for users, but the Lync Server
platform is extensible, and businesses can build on these choices using
custom presence states. These custom presence states enable the user to
select one of the standard presence classes and colors, but to customize
the text displayed with the status. Although a subscriber might still
see a green icon synonymous with availability, the user’s presence can
read Catching Up On E-mail, which gives subscribers an additional piece
of information to consider before initiating a conversation.
applications use the extensibility features to provide more information
about an endpoint’s capabilities. Mobile clients generally append a
Mobile indicator to the presence status. This gives subscribers
information that the user might be slow to respond because he is likely
without a full keyboard or computer. Subscribers are aware they won’t
likely be able to have a lengthy conversation, but that they can have a
quick or short conversation. This designation might also give users an
idea that calling the user’s mobile at that time is probably the
quickest way to initiate a conversation.
component of Enhanced Presence is the automatic availability of presence
in other Microsoft products. This means that although a Lync client
runs in the background, users are able to see presence for those
contacts in Outlook right next to their names. This
presence can be seen directly in the context of the mail message, so
there is no need to switch between applications to view a user’s
presence. Right from the e-mail message or contact card, the user can
see the presence and initiate an IM, e-mail, or phone conversation with
only one or two clicks of the mouse.
Lync Server can also
integrate with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Outlook Web App to provide
presence and IM capabilities directly within the Outlook Web App
interface. This allows users to see presence information within the
context of e-mail either from the full Outlook client or while using a
The same rich
presence information is also available in Microsoft Office SharePoint
where users can view presence in the context of documents and files. The
contact card displayed in other applications is the same card and
interface displayed within Lync, ensuring users have a consistent view
of contacts and presence across any application.
With Lync any kind of
telephone number displayed on a web page in Internet Explorer suddenly
becomes a hyperlink and can be clicked to initiate a phone call. All of
these integration points are not overwhelming by themselves, but
collectively create an improved end-user experience unique from any
The presence integration
discussed previously is provided out-of-the-box with applications such
as Outlook and SharePoint. However, presence can also be extended to
other applications through the use of the published APIs. Companies can
use these APIs to integrate presence into any existing applications or
workflows of their own. Microsoft provides a software development kit
with tools and documentation of the APIs to help businesses develop Lync
and application integration.
Another component of
presence is the concept of publishing a user’s physical location, which
can be as vague as whether they are in the office or at home, or as
exact as being in a particular floor of a building. Administrators can
configure a Location Information Service (LIS) to integrate with Lync
Server, which allows Lync Server endpoints to automatically identify
what physical location they are connecting from and then publish that
information with the user’s presence. If the Location Information
Service cannot identify the user’s location, they will be prompted to
enter one and the endpoint will retain that information if the user
returns to that location at any time so a user never has enter a
A user always has the option to block the publication of location if necessary.