Using Lync for emergency contact management in universities

Last week I wrote about Marquette University, and their Lync 2013 implementation project. One of the aspects l didn’t explicitly mention is their use of Lync for emergency contact management – the university’s emergency response team are using Lync 2013 to enable collaboration in real time.

The university’s emergency response team originally came to the IT department with a request for a system that it could use to communicate in an emergency, and track the actions of various responders. Lync’s persistent chat was a natural fit (persistent chat means that conversations can be picked up from where they are left off, and are fully searchable and archived). Persistent chat enables teams to meet and collaborate in virtual rooms in real time, enabling more efficient information sharing.

The response team can post notices to the entire university, and use chat rooms for internal communications to maintain a record of the event. All students, faculty, and staff can access persistent chat rooms through the unified Lync 2013 client (which is available on a wide range of different devices).

Dan Smith, the university’s Senior Director of IT Services, described some of the use scenarios:

  Persistent chat is great for us. We set it up for the emergency response team, but now we have created rooms for IT support, class discussion rooms, and any other scenario where we want to preserve conversations from multiple people  

The question I had about this scenario was how they implemented Lync to minimise the risk of downtime, as using IP telephony for emergency contact management has been looked at as higher risk. According to the case study:


Lync Server 2013 has several capabilities that will help Marquette ensure a high level of availability. Marquette deployed Lync Server 2013 with two front-end server pools that are linked to provide redundancy. If one server pool is taken offline, people are automatically switched to the other pool and experience little to no downtime.

In addition, Marquette deployed two instances of SQL Server data management software and is using database mirroring to provide a backup. With the addition of a third SQL Server instance to serve as a witness, the failover between the database servers is automatic.


As Victor Martinez, the lead of the university’s Windows Team, responsible for implementing the infrastructure to support Lync for emergency contact management, said:

  With Lync Server 2013, we have a standalone infrastructure that is redundant. We can lose half of our servers and still have IM and voice. Also, data is now stored in two places with automatic failover, so we don’t have downtime while we restore from backups.  


And the added bonus is that their Lync implementation will be saving them at least $200,000 a year. You can read the full case study on the worldwide Microsoft case studies website:

Learn MoreRead the full Marquette University case study