Lync on Linux: How to Access Lync Services from Linux Computers

Lync 2013 Client, Lync Mobile, Reference, Third-Party Lync Products, Unified Communications, Voice over IP

In my post on MindLink Anywhere last week, I mentioned that one big value-add from the software was its ability to work on Linux. Options for accessing Lync services on Linux are limited. Though in the past couple years they’ve improved a lot, both in number and quality.

What else is available for “Lync on Linux”? Let’s take a look and see what’s out there.

Running Lync Server 2013 on a Linux Server? No. But you can access it from Linux computers.

Unless you install Windows Server in a VM, this isn’t happening. Lync Server 2013 is intended for Windows Servers. Which makes sense, honestly – Unified Communications hooks into Exchange and SharePoint, also Windows-platform servers. If Lync ran on Linux, it would do so in an underperforming state, users unable to take full advantage of its capabilities.

Fortunately, this does not mean Linux users are completely in the cold! There are ways to access Lync’s services on Linux desktops and mobile devices.

Linux Lync Clients

Sadly, there is no native Lync client for the Linux desktop. You must use third-party products to connect with Lync. Only a couple of them exist as yet.

Judging from my research, the most popular choice is Pidgin. Makes sense – one of the most reliable, full-featured IM platforms on Linux. Adding Lync to Pidgin? Just one more service.

Choose from any of the following blog posts to install Lync into Pidgin:

  1. Microsoft Lync on Linux – GeekySchmidt.com
  2. Configuring Pidgin to work with Lync server in Arch Linux – I Fix Therefore I Am
  3. Add a Lync/Office Communicator Account to Pidgin/Ubuntu – ITSwapShop.com
  4. Setting Pidgin Up for Lync 2013 – AskUbuntu.comWync-Logo

No matter the method, you may have to deal with limitations when using Lync through Pidgin. Commenters have claimed everything from having to manually add contacts, to voice and video chat not working.

Another third-party client usable for Lync on Linux is Wync, made by Fisil. Wync is actually designed to work with Lync, and Fisil does offer support. Most functions work – Voice, IM/Chat, Screen Sharing and File Transfer.

I was only able to test it out briefly, but Wync was stable and made clear calls. (Tested on Ubuntu 32-bit desktop.) It’s great to see an actual Lync client available on Linux systems!

Lync Web App

Works, but only for attending Lync Meetings by default. No voice, video or IM.

Important distinction here: If you’re running Lync Server 2010, you will need Silverlight to run the Lync Web App. Silverlight is Windows-only. But there is a Linux version of Silverlight, called Moonlight.

Here’s an AskUbuntu discussion to help you work out Lync 2010 Web App with Moonlight. You should find Moonlight in your repository of choice…but if it’s not there, try these direct downloads: Moonlight for Chrome & Firefox.

If you’re running Lync Server 2013, Lync Web App does not require Silverlight. However, expect a very limited experience on a Linux desktop (if it works at all).

Android

I’ve heard people say that the #1 operating system in the world is actually Android–a Linux distribution. If so, Microsoft really should spend more effort on its Lync Mobile client for Android. The reviews are full of problem reports!

That said, I’m glad the client at least exists and is supported directly by Microsoft. Android isn’t poised to go anywhere but up, and I want a good solid version of Lync available to its users.

Lync Online on Linux?

Using Lync Online? You’ll still face the same problems as above. Fortunately, the same solutions also work. If you use Lync Online in a Linux environment, I’d say try Wync first, and then Pidgin. See which one works better for your day-to-day.

Here’s a blog post on how to get Pidgin working with Lync, specifically focused on using Office 365: Configuring Pidgin Instant Messenger for Office 365 LYNC – VincentPassaro.com

What About Skype?

There is a version of Skype available for Linux, so at least our Skype brothers & sisters are OK. A little better off than Lync users…at least for now.

If anything, this could be a positive sign for future versions. Depending on the upgrade path Microsoft takes for Lync & Skype integration, we may have ourselves a Lync client (or at least a Lync-friendly client) on Linux soon.

Linux Alternatives to Lync Server

What’s that? You only use Linux on your company’s servers? Well, I’m afraid it could be a while before you can enjoy Lync Server’s capabilities (if ever). But fear not! Alternatives do exist. None are quite the same as Lync, but they can give you the necessary communications tools.

Here are 3 popular Linux/open-source alternatives:

  • Avaya: Avaya has the Aura Platform for a VoIP, chat & video offering.
  • Twilio: Twilio is a cloud-based voice and text product suite that’s quite highly reviewed. Useful on the phone side, though not as full-featured as Lync.
  • Asterisk: Asterisk is a framework for building powerful communications systems. As I understand it, several enterprises have used Asterisk to build their own custom phone systems.

Of these, if I had to recommend a Lync Server alternative to a Linux-using business, I’d recommend Asterisk. Then Avaya.e00cb7b29fc9f70724e906d87e4e4dbf-tux-penguin-clip-art

Lync is Making its Way Onto Linux

While PlanetMagpie is a Microsoft shop and supports all Microsoft servers (not just Lync Server), sometimes I like to see how Linux is doing in comparison. It’s encouraging that there’s this much development regarding Lync. More is sure to come, both within the Linux community and from official channels. (Okay, mostly from the Linux community.)

Does your office use Linux and Lync? How do you make it work for you? I’d like to hear your experiences.

Next week, more reader inquiries! Join us then.

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Lync Add-Ons: MindLink Anywhere Extends Persistent Chat’s Reach

Persistent Chat, Third-Party Lync Products

Another third-party Lync app to test!

I signed up for a trial of MindLink Anywhere. MindLink describes the product like this:

“MindLink Anywhere brings the power of Microsoft Lync Persistent Chat, Presence and Instant Messaging through your web browser to Windows, Mac and Linux users.”

The trial runs on a hosted instance of Lync Server 2013. Ordinarily, MindLink installs alongside your on-premise Lync Server.

Overall, I found MindLink Anywhere an excellent app for conducting chat conversations. It gives the user a choice of two different views, starting a chat is as easy as Lync 2013, and you can use it anywhere – get it? – you have a Web browser.

Touring a Persistent Chat Extension, Accessible Anywhere

My trial started with logging in at an auto-generated URL. Your average login prompt, with one additional checkbox: “Disable IM”. I didn’t check this box when initially logging in (it does have an effect though, as you’ll see later).

MindLink Anywhere loads in what it calls “Streams View” by default. Chats are organized into streaming “Group” columns in the browser window. Think TweetDeck, if you’re a Twitter user.

The other possible view is called “Classic View”. To reach it you must re-login. Classic View has the advantage of showing you a detailed guide of the buttons and actions you can take within it, right away. Because of this, I suggest all users switch to Classic View at first, until you can familiarize yourself. Then you can switch back to Streams View (as I did) if you like.

(This “Quick Guide” is also available in Streams View. Just click the “i” button in the top right.)

Two elements I noticed immediately: MindLink ChatBuddy, and Social Connector. These act like users, showing up in your feeds. The ChatBuddy provides tips and tricks for using MindLink. Social Connector shows you what MindLink’s social media accounts are saying.

In Streams View, you have a left-hand column for navigation and starting up chats. It has 4 features:

  • LiveStream – snapshot of all activity, including Social Connector
  • Groups – a list of the chats to which you’re invited, with activity counts
  • Contacts – Your MindLink/Lync contacts
  • Presence – Presence status. You can set your Presence status with the exact same options as Lync 2013 by default.

In Classic View, the left-hand column is still there. But its features are in different places:

  • LiveStream – Click one of the chat rooms in the left-hand dock to see any chat activity.
  • Groups – Under “Chat Rooms” in the left-hand column.
  • Contacts – Under “Users” in the left-hand column.
  • Presence – In a dropdown menu at the very top left of the window. Not unlike Lync 2013’s Presence menu.

(If you do check “Disable IM” when logging in, the Contacts and Presence icons are not present.)

In the trial, MindLink provides some videos to help get you started using the software. I watched a couple. They’re good for giving you the basics. Recommended for new users.

MindLink Anywhere (and I suspect all other MindLink products) uses hashtags, just like Twitter, displayed under a chat room in Classic View. These function like page markers: click one and you’re shown where the hashtag was used in conversation.

The two Views mean you can view chats in 2 different ways.

In Classic View, chat rooms look like large open spaces for text. Going to date myself a bit here, but they are very similar to IRC chat rooms.

MindLink Classic View

In Streams View, chat rooms look like Twitter columns. This version is closer to Lync’s own Persistent Chat than the Classic View, with some social-media paint added.

MindLink Streams View
Honestly, I prefer the Classic View version. But it lacks one important value: You’re basically limited to chatting in one room at a time. Streams View lets you engage in multiple chat conversations at once (including IM), which will definitely appeal to younger/more social-friendly users.

To Chat: Writing a message is easy – just click the cloud icon and start typing. There are options along the top for designating the message as an Alert, adding emoticons, attaching a file or adding a link.

The Gears: When you see a gear in MindLink, it means you can either change settings or create something. The gear at top right in Streams View will bring up Notification Settings. The gear which appears when you click Groups in the LiveStream window however, will bring up the Add Group & Add Folder options.

MindLink’s Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages: MindLink’s web-based interface makes using Persistent Chat very easy. It’s simple to set up and to follow conversations.

A second advantage is the multiplatform support. Lync Server is very difficult to access on Linux–or at least it was. Since MindLink Anywhere is web-based, you’d have no trouble accessing IM and Persistent Chat on a Linux system. That’s a major value-add for Lync Server right there. I’m very glad MindLink built this cross-platform!

Disadvantages: It is an additional step. Extra login. Which takes you away from Lync itself. I see this as a minor disadvantage because if users are familiar with MindLink and not Lync, they may be confused if they must switch between them in the future.

A slightly larger disadvantage is that MindLink’s products are separated by platform. MindLink Anywhere is not the same as MindLink Mobile, nor MindLink Tablet. Anywhere works via web browsers; Mobile works on phones; Tablets on tablets. I’m sure they’ll interoperate, of course! But this division means higher cost if users want to keep using MindLink (even though Lync clients are already available on mobile platforms).

As I said earlier, MindLink Anywhere is a well-developed and useful Lync add-on. One of the most responsive I’ve seen in fact. Given my already-stated favoritism for Persistent Chat, this is a welcome extension of its reach across platforms.

Learn more about MindLink’s Lync-related products, like MindLink Anywhere and MindLink Mobile: Applications – MindLink
Request a trial of MindLink Anywhere here: Free 30-Day Trial – MindLink

How would you use MindLink Anywhere to extend Persistent Chat? Support Chat on your site? Communication across offices/nations? Please comment or email your thoughts.

And join us again next week for more!

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Why Doesn’t Lync Online Include Persistent Chat? 4 Reasons

Persistent Chat

Lync Online is a helpful introduction to the world of Lync. It’s handy for a lower-cost communications solution when smaller offices need on fast. However, it has painful limitations – no external VoIP calls (yet), limitations to online meetings, and no Persistent Chat.

Some of these features are on the path to inclusion. Some, as far as I can tell, are not. Why? Why would Microsoft leave out something as useful as Persistent Chat for Lync Online users?Where's Persistent Chat?

Let’s see if we can’t figure out some reasons. Join me, as I attempt to read the mind of Microsoft!

Reason Lync Online Doesn’t Have Persistent Chat #1: Priorities.

It’s taking Microsoft months to build in the functionality necessary to bring external VoIP calls to Lync Online users. I understand why that’s first-priority – it should be – but it means adding in a Persistent Chat server farm will take that much longer. If that is what they plan to do.

Reason #2: Structural Changes Needed to Lync Online.

Lync Online was not designed to incorporate Persistent Chat. Lync 2013 was. It is possible to use Lync 2013 with Office 365, but Persistent Chat depends on a backend server instance to store its chat rooms. To add this to Lync Online will require backend system changes. Nothing Microsoft can’t do, they just…haven’t.

Reason #3: Persistent Chat Rooms Need Grouping to Work.

The purpose of Persistent Chat is for communication with a group of people over time, in one location. Lync online accounts have no such guarantee.

Lync Online users are account-based, whereas Persistent Chat servers are domain-based. In order to adapt Persistent Chat’s architecture for cloud use, you’d have to change it so chat rooms would be invite-only or dedicated to account groups. Same issue as #2, just from a user focus.

Reason #4: Yammer.Yammer Icon

Yammer is, according to its website, “a private social network that helps employees collaborate across departments, locations and business apps.”

I’m already sensing a parallel here.

In July, Microsoft – which owns Yammer – moved its operations under Office 365. I’ve seen several comments online which agree with my impression of this move: Yammer is Lync Online’s Persistent Chat.

It’s not a feature-for-feature parallel. Groups instead of chat rooms. A Twitter-like conversation feed. Notes and documents shared. But it’s close.

One big drawback to using Yammer in place of Persistent Chat, is that Yammer is so “open” that people may use it more as a social chatting platform than a business collaboration tool. Since Persistent Chat divides conversations by Chat Room, keeping them on-topic is much easier.

MindLink has an excellent article (with charts!) illustrating the differences between Yammer, Persistent Chat and SharePoint: SharePoint, Yammer, Lync & Persistent Chat – How does it all fit together?

Do We Want Persistent Chat in Lync Online? Or Should We Wait and See?

Personally, I think #4 is the main reason why we don’t see Persistent Chat for Lync Online users yet. Yammer is not a BAD option…but it’s not Persistent Chat.

This feels like a bit of a misstep by Microsoft. Like they’re trying to “cram social” into chat too, instead of using a pre-existing solutions. Which is already a social option, really.

As we wrap up 2014 and head into 2015, expect more Lync-related announcements. A new version of Exchange and SharePoint are due next year…possibly a new version of Lync Server too. With that should come Office 365 updates. We’ll see.

Do you use Yammer with Lync Online? If so, please send me your experience! Love to examine the chat dynamics further.

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MSPL: What It Is, and How to Use It with Lync Server

Lync Server 2013, Third-Party Lync Products, Voice over IP

I mentioned last week that I’d explore MSPL more. While researching the Automatic Logout post, I came across a few MSPL-related websites with lots of good information. This week I’ve found a few more–so it’s time to blog!

MSPL – Scripting for Lync Call Routing

MSPL stands for “Microsoft SIP Processing Language”. It’s a scripting language you can use to customize how Lync Server routes SIP messages.
MSPL Scripting Reference – MSDN
Frustratingly, the MSPL Script Syntax has been moved out of the Scripting Reference at MSDN. You’ll find it here instead:
MSPL Script Syntax – MSDN

How Does MSPL Work

The process of creating and adding MSPL scripts to your Lync Server is actually quite simple:

  1. Generate MSPL scripting, either by hand-coding or using an application (see “How to Create MSPL Scripting” below).
  2. Scripting is imported into the Lync Server front end via PowerShell cmdlets
  3. The Lync Server routes SIP messages (like phone calls) where you have directed them.

There’s an excellent how-to writeup at the Code4Lync blog: MSPL SCRIPT HOW-TO – Code4Lync
It documents script structure, when to use MSPL over UCMA, and describes the basic scripting syntax. Worth a read.

MSPL formats as XML when it’s ready for importing. Commenting is included too, so feel free to note your processes.

What You Can Do with MSPL

You are limited in scope to addressing SIP messages within your Lync Server environment. However within that scope, there’s quite a few things you can do with MSPL.

Here are two examples at Channel9:
Lync Server 2013: Use an MSPL Script to Forward IM Calls
Lync Server 2013: Use an MSPL Script to Enforce Custom Privacy Settings

MSPL lets you control routing of calls, Instant Messages and even video from one SIP address to another. Roughly, the more SIP-enabled endpoints you have, the more MSPL routes you can make.

How to Create MSPL Scripting

Like I said before, you can hand-code MSPL, or have an application generate it for you. Last week I visited Matt Landis’ blog and found he’d posted on an MSPL application called SimpleRoute.
The Masses Can Now Make Microsoft Lync MSPL Scripts Via Free Tool from Colima – Microsoft UC Report

I tried this tool out myself. And it works exactly as Matt describes–very easily! I selected Audio/Video call and routed one SIP address to another (using a fake number of course). This only took 3 steps.

Generating MSPL in SimpleRoute

What’s especially valuable about SimpleRoute is that, once you create an MSPL script with it, SimpleRoute actually helps you install it. Remember Steps 2 & 3 above, about importing scripting into Lync Server 2013?

Well, take a look at this. This is what SimpleRoute displays after you click Save:

MSPL Import Instructions in SimpleRoute

==============================
Detailed instructions on how to import the saved script (in an .am file) into the Lync front end via PowerShell. How’s that for helpful?

Download SimpleRoute here: Colima – Customize Lync Routing

MSPL: Good for Basic, User-Level Call Routing

MSPL is a very specific scripting language. It’s pretty much designed to do one thing and one thing only–change SIP routing within Lync Server 2013. I’ve said in the past that I like tools which focus on one job and do it well. MSPL is another example of this.

Administrators should look to MSPL if they want to customize call routing down toward the user-level. Say an employee leaves and you want to route their calls to someone else, right away. Use SimpleRoute to generate some MSPL. It’ll take care of that for you.

Have you used MSPL in your Lync Server environment? What did you do with it? Please comment or email! We’d love to hear about it.

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How Would Automatic Logout Work for Lync 2013? 2 Possible Ways

Lync 2013 Client

The other day, a Lync Insider reader asked a question in the comments:

“Is it possible to have Lync users auto-logout after a period of inactivity?”

He wanted to know if MSPL could be used to control an auto-logout process. If so, how would it be done?

Intrigued by this question, I did some research. And while I didn’t precisely find what our reader was looking for, I did find some helpful information.

I’ll start with MSPL itself.

What is MSPL?

MSPL stands for Microsoft SIP Processing Language. It’s a part of the Lync Server SDK. You can use MSPL for modifying Lync SIP routing behavior: intercepting calls, rerouting them, logging configuration and more.

lync account controlIt’s a pretty powerful tool. If you’d like to explore it – and don’t worry, I will in future posts – here’s some links for you.
MSPL Scripting Reference – Office DevCenter
SimpleRoute – MSPL Scripting Tool

All that said, I do not think MSPL is the way to enforcing automatic logout. Its focus is on SIP routing, not the Lync 2013 client controls.

You would use MSPL scripts to control where certain calls are sent, or through which voice routes each office goes. Local client modification is more the preserve of PowerShell and GPOs. Which is where my research went next.

I looked for a PowerShell cmdlet which may control user logins or session logouts – but there was nothing relevant. Which disappointed me a little – I thought PowerShell, with its extensive cmdlet library, would have at least one cmdlet for governing Lync 2013’s login/logout behavior.

Next I looked into GPOs. Here I did find some success. Not directly so, but close enough that I can say we have 2 possible solutions to the reader’s question.

2 Ways to Control Lync 2013 Logout

#1 – Use a Custom Group Policy Object (GPO). There isn’t a standard GPO which controls session logoff (at least not yet!). After much research, we did come across a custom GPO which comes close though. It was written by Murali Krishnan over at UnifiedMe.co.uk:
Lync 2013 Group Policy to Enforce Ringtones Centrally
Murali has graciously made the .ADM file available for download on this page. One of the functions it provides is setting users’ Idle Timeout and Session Timeout. Which accomplishes close to the same thing.

#2 – Configure Windows to auto-logout instead! When you log out of Windows, Lync automatically signs out too. And it’s very simple to log users out of Windows at the admin level. It’s a workaround, but hey, it does work!

Here’s one way to automatically log users off on Windows 7. You can also enforce logoff via Power Options in Control Panel, or through another GPO.

Or, if you’re using a Terminal Server, try this:
Open gpedit.msc (Local Group Policy) and configure the following:

User Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Terminal Services\Terminal Server\Session Time Limits

Jas, I hope this gives you something to work with. Honestly, I’d never thought about administration of Lync’s login/logout before. Since it’s normally dependent on the user’s actions – or in this case inaction – the system’s default functions were sufficient. But I can (now) easily see the need for control of such – if you’re in a large corporate environment and need to schedule updates, for instance.

Do you know of another way to automatically log users off of Lync 2013 clients? If so, please comment or email!

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Lync Add-Ons: Lync Custom Status Tool

Third-Party Lync Products

Today on the Lync Insider, I’m reviewing a third-party add-on for Lync 2013. This is a client-focused add-on called the “Lync Custom Status” tool, or LCS for short. It was made by Mike Hudson at MikeSel.info.

The tool allows a Lync 2013 user to create custom Presence status messages, with accompanying notes & call rules. A full features list is here, along with trial and purchase options: Lync Custom Status – MikeSel.info

I downloaded a trial version – Mike has a 15-day free trial available with no software limitations – and tried it out!

Caveat: You must run LCS Setup as Administrator! It requires elevated privileges. This tripped me up at first, for a moment. Once you do though, it installs nice and smoothly.

Function #1 – Custom Presence Status Messages

Now, the main event. In LCS, you can set up to 4 custom statuses, plus a custom status for when the computer goes idle and Lync switches you to Away.

lcs01

As you see here, you have 3 IM handling options: what you Display Status As, what (if any) Personal Note to show, and where your Location is.

Then you select one of 3 Availability options: Online, Busy or Do Not Disturb. You have the option to send an automated response too.

Here’s what I entered for a custom Presence status. (Why “Wrestling a Wolverine”? Well, if you’re in IT, think of working on a stubborn server. It’s like that.)

lcs02

Save the Custom Status and you have it as a permanent option under your Lync’s Presence options.

Function #2 – Call Handling Options

Call handling is optional for each custom status. This, I think, is where Lync Custom Status has its true value. A custom Instant Messaging/Presence status is useful for identifying when you can (and cannot) respond to queries. But this can be bypassed by a phone call – unless you set yourself to Do Not Disturb, of course.

What LCS does with calls is allows the user to enforce a specific response to calls per custom status. You can reject incoming calls or forward them to another Lync contact. Again, for each 4 status options plus Away.

Let me illustrate. Say you want to automatically direct calls to Reception while you’re assisting a customer. This is possible to set up with call forwarding in Lync 2013, of course. But using LCS, you can forward the calls AND identify why you’re doing so via Presence. You’d do something like this:

lcs03

Make Sure to Save the Status!

Once you have a custom status set up, you must save it. Click the disk icon in the toolbar. You’ll see a prompt to restart the Lync client:

lcs04

Be sure you do this! While it does minimize to the taskbar, Lync Custom Status can be closed like any other application. If you close without saving, your custom Presence status will not appear in Lync 2013.

If you do save though, this is what you’ll see:

lcs05

I now have the choice of “Assisting a Customer” or “Wrestling a Wolverine.” Hmmm, which one should I choose…

Quick, Simple Tool for Custom Presence and Call Handling

In all, this is a very good Lync add-on. I like tools that focus on improving one area of an application, and don’t stuff in extras just because they can. Lync Custom Status does exactly that – focuses on improving Lync’s Presence function, and no more.

A single-install license for LCS is only £19.99 (or $32.45). Really quite reasonable for an add-on, especially since it includes support & updates. Probably pick up a copy myself shortly.

Again, you can find it at MikeSel.info.

Do you have a Lync-related add-on? Please comment or email me the information. I’d love to test it out.

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On the Lync Radar: “Lync-in-a-Box” Appliance Down Under, 802.11ac is Lync-Certified

Lync Server 2013, Third-Party Lync Products

Uh oh! I attempted to install a third-party add-on for testing today. But the add-on didn’t want to cooperate. While I contact the developer for assistance, let’s see what’s on the Lync radar for the week.

Audiocode Releases “Lync in a Box”

“Lync-in-a-Box” Released in Australia – CRN.com.au
Audiocodes, a VoIP vendor, has released a new product in Australia. It’s called “One Box 365″, and it combines a Lync Enterprise Voice Server with a session border controller. By combining these, Audiocodes claims they’ve reduced the cost of deploying Lync for smaller businesses (less than 200 computers).

A Session Border Controller (SBC), in case anyone needs a refresher, is a Voice over IP device which connects your Lync environment to SIP Trunk providers. Or another VoIP system if you choose to configure it that way. Essentially it’s an add-on which can provide additional functionality, like security or performance improvements, to Lync Enterprise Voice connectivity.

NextHop published a very good explanation of Session Border Controllers last year.

What does this mean for Lync Server Users?

One Box 365 is designed for use with Office 365. That will help with ease of setup, definitely. But from the specifications, I believe it could be used as a standalone Lync Server 2013 deployment as well.

Now that would be a useful package – anything intended to shorten deployment time for SMBs is a welcome option in my book.

Hope it’s released in the USA soon. I’d like to test-drive a Lync-in-a-box.

Aruba Networks Certifies Their 802.11ac Access Points for Lync Use

Aruba Networks Hopes to Make Rain With Microsoft Lync – NoJitter
Aruba Networks’ wireless 802.11ac access points (APs) have been certified under the Microsoft Lync Server Wi-Fi qualification program. The first APs to do so, according to this article.

This is BADLY needed. Wireless networks (when properly secured) are a major help to business productivity. And they’re a cost savings on top of that.

However, if you’ve made Lync calls over wireless, you’re aware that it doesn’t always work well. Using Lync over Wi-Fi can cause traffic slowdowns, collisions, jitter on calls, and various other not-so-good things.

Sometimes Lync calls work perfectly on Wi-Fi. If you have good-quality APs, odds are you won’t have more than the occasional hiccup. The big help with Aruba’s qualification is that we now have a standard available.

Other 802.11ac wireless vendors will surely follow suit, making sure their products meet the bandwidth requirements to fully support Lync Server 2013. The technology will continue to improve. Lync users will continue to benefit from wider service options.

Congratulations to Aruba for being the first! I might request we get one of these new APs to test in the office.

The Testing Continues

Speaking of testing, we have several demos in the works for Lync products & enhancements. If your company makes a Lync Server add-on of some kind, please comment or email me! I’d love to take a look.

And don’t forget to sign up for email updates!

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Third-Party Software for Lync Server: What are the Qualified Lync Applications?

Third-Party Lync Products

The other day we went through a list of hardware approved for Lync use. (Lync Add-On Hardware for Client Enhancement and Server Capability: 10 Examples)

But third parties don’t just make hardware for Lync. There’s a whole host of third-party software too!

Thanks to Shaun, a reader, for sending me his Lync experience and this URL:
Qualified Lync Applications – Office TechCenter

On this page is a list of third-party software applications Microsoft has approved for use with Lync Server. They are designated as “Qualified Lync Applications”.

What do these applications provide?

  • New Attendant Consoles
  • Billing and/or better reporting tools
  • Extensions for Lync 2013 clients (including mobile)
  • A Contact Center
  • Persistent Chat enhancements (these particularly interest me)
  • Recording tools
  • Software-defined networking

And a few more. Let’s go through the list and see what we find.

Samroxx Attendant

A new attendant console for Lync. Very easy to install – I had a free trial downloaded and running in less than 5 minutes. Setup takes a little bit longer, as it appears (at least in the trial version) that you must enter contacts yourself, instead of relying on Active Directory. Samroxx did grab my account information from Active Directory though.

samroxx

As you see from this screenshot, the Samroxx interface is very clean, and options are clearly listed. If you opt to use a third-party attendant console with Lync Server 2013, this is a pretty good choice.

Zylinc Attendant Console

Another attendant console. This one seems beefier though – it has more features, like calendar updating and statistics.

Zylinc-Attendant-Console_EN

Image courtesy of Zylinc.com.

Plus it works for both Lync Server 2010 and 2013. This in itself could provide a useful transition from 2010 to 2013–the interface for reception wouldn’t change.

No demo option I saw. But they do offer a product sheet: Zylinc Attendant Console Product Sheet (PDF)

Verba Recording

Call Recording add-on for Lync Server. While Archiving Server does some of this, it does have its limits Extending recording capabilities is a huge benefit – not only does it protect against lost productivity from confusion, but it helps with legal & regulatory compliance.

Two things I particularly like about Verba:

  1. It records all calls, IM conversations, and videos – media Archiving Server doesn’t record.
  2. It’s a server-side solution. Nobody has to install software on their PCs, which means everyone is recorded by default.

I’ll book a Verba demo and report back on my findings soon.

MindLink Mobile Chat

Persistent Chat is one of my favorite Lync tools. However it suffers from one notable limitation – mobile access. Or lack thereof.

MindLink extends Persistent Chat onto mobile devices (phones and tablets). It also works on Mac and Linux computers, extending Lync’s chat capabilities across pretty much all platforms. MindLink even integrates with email and SharePoint.

I’m signing up for a MindLink demo too. Watch for a future post on this too.

Many More Third-Party Applications – Have You Tried One?

These are only a few of the 95 total “Qualified Lync Applications”. I’ll revisit the page later, go through more software, test the ones I can, and report back. Feel free to do the same (and let me know what you find)!

The idea that Lync Server 2013 would need “extending” might make some think the software is incomplete, or immature. Not so. One software application isn’t perfect for all situations. That’s why so many release APIs and work with third-party developers to create extensions. Firefox has its Add-Ons. WordPress has its Plugins and Themes.

Lync Server has Qualified Applications. Use them to make Lync run like you need it to.

Does your business use a Qualified Lync Application? Please comment or email me with the details. I’d like to hear about the application, what you use it for, and how well it works.

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11 Lync 2013 Keyboard Shortcuts You Should Know

Lync 2013 Client

Do you use keyboard shortcuts during the workday? Odds are most of us do. Cut & paste, switching windows, opening/closing programs…

Most Microsoft programs have plenty of keyboard shortcuts built-in. Lync 2013 is no exception. Until recently, I only knew a couple of them. But when I came across the big collection of Microsoft guides I blogged about last month, that changed fast.

Where to Download the Lync Keyboard Shortcuts Guide

One of the guides on that page is is titled “Lync 2013 Keyboard Shortcuts”. It’s a short PDF, merely listing out all the keyboard shortcuts you can use to get around Lync. I didn’t mention it in last month’s blog post for one reason–it deserved its own.
Direct Download Link.

Most of the shortcuts you’ll find in the PDF are for Lync 2013 on Windows only. (They use the Windows logo key.) For Mac users, visit this page: Keyboard Shortcuts for Lync 2011 for Mac – Microsoft Office.com
(I have no idea what the name of that Mac key is.)

Ready? Let’s see what kind of keyboard shortcuts we have!

Conversations Shortcuts

Accept a conversation invite (use anywhere) – Windows+A
Decline an invite (use anywhere) – Windows+Esc
Accept an invite (while in Conversation window) – Alt+C
“Engage Privacy Mode” – ignore any invite notifications. Alt+I

Change between conversation windows – Ctrl+Tab
Save an IM log in Conversation History – Ctrl+S (This one saved my bacon a few times)

Phone Calls Shortcuts

Accept a call* – Alt+C keyboardshortcuts
Mute your audio – Windows+F4
Place a call on Hold – Ctrl+Shift+H

*As of now, I don’t see a shortcut for initiating a call. It’s still very easy to do, by either clicking Call on a contact or typing a phone number into the Lync 2013 search window. If I were to guess the reason for no shortcut here, I would say initiating a call prompts Lync to examine its contacts database and conversation history, for auto-complete. Using a keyboard shortcut could circumvent this process, and thus cut you off from some of Lync’s functionality. Hence, no shortcut.

(Besides, you do have the Lync Browser Helper to launch click-to-call in other windows. That counts as a shortcut!)

Meetings/Presentations Shortcuts

Start a “Meet Now” meeting – Alt+M
If Presenting: start/stop sharing, fullscreen/come out of fullscreen, close the sharing stage, switch views gallery/speaker

Persistent Chat Shortcuts

You can use the same shortcuts you see above for conversations.

Save Yourself Some Time in Lync 2013 with These Keyboard Shortcuts

This isn’t all of the keyboard shortcuts, of course. The full list is in the PDF linked above. It’s also available on its own Office.com page: Keyboard Shortcuts for Lync 2013 for Windows – Microsoft Office.com

Keyboard shortcuts are there for one reason: To save us time while working. With these shortcuts, Lync’s windows and popups are less of a disruption to workflow, and more of an additional tool.

There’s one shortcut missing here: Switching your Presence status. I’d really like to have that one in Lync 2015. Microsoft, you listening?

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The Importance of Updating: Lync Server 2013 Cumulative Update 5 is Here

Lync Server 2013

It’s time to update! Microsoft released Lync Server 2013’s Cumulative Update 5 on the 7th:
Updates for Lync Server 2013 (CU5) – Microsoft Knowledge Base
Download Lync Server 2013 Cumulative Update 5 – Microsoft Downloads

CU5, like its predecessors, contains fixes for a lot of issues users may experience. Which issues? Tom Arbuthnot documented them in a quick & neat list on his “Tom Talks UC” blog.
Lync Server 2013 CU5 / August 2014 5.0.8308.733 Details and Download – Tom Talks UC

Tom also points out that there are some fixes included in CU5 not listed on Microsoft’s KB page (or buried deep in the documentation). I was particularly happy to see these two:

  • 2967629 Significant bandwidth usage increase by SIP traffic in a Lync Server 2013 environment
  • 2967630 Callee receives a missed call notification after answering a call on an IP telephone in a Lync Server 2013 environment

Because at one point or another, we’ve dealt with both of them.FailedCall

“Significant bandwidth usage increase by SIP traffic in a Lync Server 2013 environment”
A few months ago, one of our clients experienced Lync 2013 clients frequently dropping connection. At the time we thought it was a bandwidth issue, and increased bandwidth accordingly. The drops diminished, but didn’t go away 100%. Their Lync Server seemed like Godzilla, endlessly chewing through bandwidth and demanding more.

We resolved the issue by a complete rebuild of the topology and clean installs of the Lync 2013 clients. This CU5 update suggests that the problem originated with a bug in either CU3 or CU4. Perhaps re-applying those updates during our rebuild helped us. Either way, now we have CU5 to correct this “bandwidth greed” issue.

“Callee receives a missed call notification after answering a call on an IP telephone in a Lync Server 2013 environment”
Mediation Server is very picky about its configuration details. All numbers must be exactly to standard, consistent for all endpoints, and tested in just about every possible call method. And even then, sometimes it just doesn’t want to behave. Like that one cell satellite that routes your New York call to New Jersey every time.

Overall it’s a good thing Mediation Server is so specific – it helps your calls reach the intended person (and even the intended device). This error however shows that, like any technology, it can guess wrong.

From the KB page: “This issue occurs because Mediation Server deals with the SIP reason header incorrectly, and then generates a missed call notification.”

We’ve experienced this error often enough to where we tried to correct it at the source. (None of our Lync Server clients have reported any such error to us–it seems confined to our own system.) We did fix it by removing Mediation Server from our Lync Server topology and rebuilding it. Same hardware, same SIP line, same phone numbers…it just wanted a rebuild.

Hopefully this fix in CU5 will spare everyone else the grief of:

  1. Picking up the phone after 1 ring
  2. Hearing nothing on the line. Hello? Hello??
  3. And watching a “Missed Call” email appear. For no reason.

Never Wait on Any Server Issues

Most readers here definitely keep up on server updates. Don’t want to get out of date, right?

This probably goes without saying. But just in case – if you do run Lync Server (or any server) and it’s not functioning at 100%, do not leave minor issues sitting!

We all want to fix major issues and get the servers back to running. Maybe a minor issue pops up, but it doesn’t disrupt daily operation, so you decide to leave it alone for now.

Don’t. Waiting for an issue to self-correct, or hoping a future software patch will fix it, is not an administrative strategy. If you experience an issue, try to correct it immediately, even if it isn’t disrupting normal operations.

Remember, CU5 was just released last week. CU4 was released back in January. Nearly 8 months between them. That’s a long time to let issues linger inside your Lync Server.

Keep Lync Server 2013 Updated and It Will Take Care of Your Communications

Hope these stories encourage you to update as soon as possible. Again, the links for Cumulative Update 5:
Updates for Lync Server 2013 (CU5) – Microsoft Knowledge Base
Download Lync Server 2013 Cumulative Update 5 – Microsoft Downloads

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    The Lync Insider is a blog about the technology we use to communicate in business today. Here we talk about Microsoft Lync Server 2013, its predecessor Lync Server 2010, Unified Communications, Voice over IP and related technologies like Exchange Server. Written by Chris W., Tech Writer & SEO Engineer for PlanetMagpie IT Consulting.
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