Thursday, May 1, 2014

March/April 2014 Lync Optimizer Updates

I'm always working to provide new features for the Lync Optimizer.  Some have been rolled out silently to fix an issue.  Others are related to country specific dialing rules.  Here are a few things I've done recently that you may or may not have noticed.

NANPA Dial Rule Updates

Recently, I was looking to implement dialing rules for Namibia, when I was faced with an issue I hadn't considered.  The country code for Namibia is the same code I use for all North American dial rules (NA).

To fix the issue meant I had to do something I've been meaning to do for a very long time: separate out dialing rules for the US, Canada and the other 20-odd Caribbean countries that are part of the North American Numbering Plan Administration dialing area (NANPA).  All the countries in NANPA use +1 as the country code, which makes it difficult to work with programatically.  To switch things so that US dial rules have a US- prefix, Canada dial rules have a CA- prefix and so on, required quite a bit of work. 

The end result is that no matter the country you select, the dial rule prefix will use the actual country name, so instead of NA-ON-Toronto-Local or NA-TX-Dallas-National, you'll get CA-ON-Toronto-Local or US-TX-Dallas-National.  You'll still select North America as the country name.  The Optimizer will be smart enough to know if the area code is in Texas, Ontario or the Dominican Republic (for example).

This change is effective as of May 1, 2014.  Anybody who signed up for rule updates prior to this will be unaffected. Your rule updates will still come to you using the old format.  However, if you've started building dial rules for multiple North American locations prior to May 1st, and are adding more dial rules after May 1st, things may not work as expected if you have a mix of US-, CA-, and NA- prefixes. If this does affect you, please let me know and I'll put up an option to use the "legacy" dial rule format, or give you access to the "old" code.

New North America Dialing Options

North America has an interesting situation regarding international dialing.  There are 26 countries that share the same country code: +1.  In the US and Canada, long distance charges to Caribbean countries that are part of NANPA are often the same price as international calls. Since it is difficult to distinguish a Caribbean country from US/Canada based solely on the area code, it is easy for people to accidentally incur high phone charges when calling these countries.

I've added a new option to prevent this by allowing users to select one of the following options with regards to dialing other countries within NANPA:
  1. In-Country Only - Treat all calls to NANPA countries other than your own as international, even though users don't have to dial 011 to reach them. As such, users will have to be a member of a voice policy that allows international dialing.
  2. US/Canada - Treat calls to anywhere in US/Canada as national calls, excluding the Caribbean. To dial Caribbean countries, users will have to be a member of a voice policy that allows international dialing. Not available for Caribbean rulesets.
  3. US/Canada/Caribbean - Treats calls to anywhere in NANPA (US/Canada/Caribbean) as national calls (along with the potentially higher call costs).

If you are creating a ruleset for a Caribbean country that uses +1 as the country code, you won't be able to select US/Canada, since this would make dialing within that Caribbean country difficult.

Selecting the Simple Ruleset option prevents usage of this feature, and will default to US/Canada/Caribbean. You won't be able to control how people dial other NANPA countries when there is only a single simple routing rule. 

New Extension Options

I had a request to create more flexibility around how extensions are used in the Optimizer. One addition is the ability to control how many digits of the extension are part of the associated DID. For example, a company might have an extension range of 2100-2199 that maps to a DID that matches up with the last 3-digits of the extension, like +12125558100 to +12125558199 (Note the extension starts with a 2, while the DID has an 8 in its place).

The Optimizer now supports this via the addition of a new column called "# of Ext Digits in DID". This will only appear when you select the DID option, and you can use the dropdown to select how many digits of the extension is part of the DID.


New Country Additions

I've added support for more countries, including Singapore and finally, Mexico.  Mexico has a very strange dial plan where you have to dial mobile numbers differently than land lines, but nothing about the number tells you in advance whether or not you should dial those additional digits.  If you use the Optimizer to generate dialing rules for Mexico, you should make sure your mobile numbers are stored in AD with 1 after the country code  (like +521331234567), and not with 044 or 045 as you would dial.  Lync will add the 044 or 045 as appropriate before it leaves Lync.

Conclusion

I hope you like the new additions to the Lync Optimizer.  If you require North American dial rules to follow the old format (NA-TX-Dallas-Local), please drop me a line and I'll help you out.