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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RHUB Conferencing Software: More a Threat to WebEx Than Lync Server

Conferencing

Last month, a reader commented on my post Exchanging Protocols: The Latest on Lync and Skype Integration. Matthew mentioned RHUB as a secure conferencing software provider, billed as ‘unprecedented’ security.

This week I had time to test out RHUB’s TurboMeeting conferencing software. Glad I did too.

Useful? Very!
Secure? Yes, though I have questions here.
How does it stack up to Lync Server? Well, let’s go through my findings and determine that.

The TurboMeeting Demo

I signed up for a demo on RHUBCom.com – there are “Try It Free” and “Demo” buttons right on their homepage. I downloaded the TurboMeeting demo file, but it wouldn’t load for some reason (maybe my Windows 8.1). A zipped version of the download worked OK.

Here’s what the TurboMeeting client looks like on loading:

rhubturbomtg1

I entered my email and password. The meeting server address is “demo.rhubcom.com” for their Demo. Had to locate this in the Quick User Guide.

Now we have the main client window:

rhubturbomtg2

Huh, no meetings listed in the demo…let’s make one!

“Interactive Meeting” is the default, so let’s try that first. (I’m also curious about the “Remote Access to This Computer” option.)

I invited myself to join on another computer (henceforth the “attendee”) via email. Two things to note right away:

  • The email text looks very similar to Lync and WebEx. This is good; it encourages familiarity and gives simple instructions on how to join a meeting.
  • This is an impromptu meeting; a way to schedule the meeting for later is not immediately apparent.

On my other computer (“attendee”) I accepted the meeting request. The RHUB demo prompted me to download & run the TurboMeeting client. Like Lync Meeting and WebEx, it went through the automatic process of loading the meeting client in a snap.

But here’s the interesting thing. When the client finished loading on my attendee computer…my host PC shared its desktop!

rhubturbomtg3

Look at the top left of this screenshot. See how it says “Share My: [Screen]“?

I didn’t choose that option. TurboMeeting defaulted to Desktop Sharing on its own.

There’s an advantage and a disadvantage to this default.
Advantage: Fewer steps for sharing in a meeting. (Note: You can choose between open applications to share as well, with a click.)
Disadvantage: Maybe you didn’t want to start a meeting with a shared desktop. It happens. If so, there is an option under Tools > Preferences: “Show my desktop when a meeting starts”. Uncheck this to avoid defaulting to Desktop Sharing.

The meeting caused a little bit of lag between the host and the attendee computers. Just enough to notice; maybe a quarter of a second. Not a big deal.

Finally, I tested the voice quality. Since it’s just me on the calls, I got some echo (both computers are in the same room). I expected that. Voice quality is good; comparable to Lync’s.

Remote Control: 2 Ways to Achieve Remote Access

While in this two-computer/single-person meeting, I decided try out the “Give Control” button.

Clicking it gives a small drop-down with two options: “Reclaim Controller” and names of attendees. Click another attendee to grant them control of your keyboard & mouse.

Caveat: The computer which controls another must be set as Presenter. Use the “Change Presenter” button to do this. Then, Give Control to another attendee. (I typed this paragraph remotely from the attendee, while my host PC was Presenter and had Given Control to the other.)

This works similarly to using Lync for remote access, as I blogged about before.

The meeting suddenly ended after I returned control to the host. There’s a 15-minute timeout on the demo. I decided to reconnect and try out the “Remote Access to This Computer” option.

It starts up the same way – create a meeting, enter a password for access. Instead of a meeting Subject, you enter a name for your computer. And Invite by Email is not available this time. TurboMeeting does allow you to copy the meeting information though, which you can then email to attendees.

In the case of remote access, the password is encrypted & not shown to the attendees. You must give it to them another way – either in the email you send, or via IM/phone/yelling it across the hall (I don’t recommend the last option).

Once the meeting connects, you’re immediately granted access to the host’s computer. Again, I’m typing this paragraph from the attendee via TurboMeeting Remote Access.

The lag I mentioned before grew worse this time. About half a second on the attendee. I’m sure corrections can be made to improve the response time.

An attendee TurboMeeting window has different options than the host. Here you see the buttons for File Transfer, Start Webcam and Record along the top:

rhubturbomtg4

Better test these too. I initiated a file transfer between my other computer and the host. (What file to send…how about a screenshot of the process?)

rhubturbomtg5

I also did a test Record of both typing remotely, and a brief activation of the webcam. (Not brave enough to post it though!)

TurboMeeting automatically prompted me for a save location when I stopped recording. It saves as a .exe file though – a file format many spam filters will not allow through. Easy to share other ways, but sharing a recording via email could prove difficult.

The Security Question

RHUB places high value on making their conferencing software secure. It’s called out frequently on their site, and in product descriptions. I also found mention of it in a press release on MarketWatch.com: Why RHUB Web Conferencing and Remote Servers are so Secure.

There is one point which I must question here. RHUB points to access security as a weak point. “Practically anyone” can get in with a meeting ID and password. RHUB’s response is to create a virtual VPN limited to specified IP addresses. While that is indeed good security, it can seriously cramp remote conferencing capability.

Since the default option (at least in their demo) is to immediately start a meeting instead of scheduling, you could wind up inviting people who are connecting from unauthorized IPs. Their office network isn’t authorized, or they’re in a coffee shop, or logging in remotely. Instant security snag.

I could be missing some information; if so, I happily invite RHUB to comment here with their input. The security approach here is a strong one. I’m just concerned that when it comes to something dependent on multiple inputs like web conferencing, it can trip organizations up.

Final Thoughts

I’d draw a parallel between RHUB’s TurboMeeting and Lync Server 2010. A sturdy solution for its intended purpose (online conferencing), which could use a little more added. Is it perfect? No. But neither was Lync Server 2010. When we got Lync Server 2013, several issues were polished out & handy features added. I believe the same thing will happen with RHUB, giving us a superb Conferencing-only option.

Since it focuses on conferencing only, the vendor who should worry the most is Cisco WebEx. TurboMeeting is very similar to WebEx, but loads a little faster and has a cleaner client-side interface. Their focus on security is bound to win favor from WebEx users too.

Competition is always good in business. I like that we have TurboMeeting as a conferencing-only alternative. It’s not Lync, but it isn’t trying to be. It wants only to be a strong, secure conferencing solution. And in that, it does the job well.

(For everything else, there’s Lync Server! Sorry Mastercard.)

Have you used RHUB’S TurboMeeting? What was your experience with it? Please comment or email. If you’ve tried another conferencing solution, I’d love to hear about that too.

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Lync Add-On Hardware for Client Enhancement and Server Capability: 10 Examples

Third-Party Lync Products

Readers, I apologize for no “Stress Test” post yet. Stress testing is best done after a Lync Server infrastructure is set up…but before users being working with it. Since we already use ours, I’ll have to set up a test instance in order to run stress tests. I’ve asked for server room access to do this, but it could take a little while. I promise; you’ll have the post as soon as I can complete the testing!

Now, on to today’s post. A reader emailed in, asking about the MyIntercom device I wrote about last year. He wanted to know if MyIntercom would integrate into Lync 2013.

Interesting question. I researched it and eventually concluded that, no, it will not directly integrate right now. They are similar in the sense that MyIntercom and Lync both facilitate audio/video communication…but the MyIntercom software would need add-ons to transmit its data to a Lync client.

Which got me thinking. What other kinds of third-party devices are out there, which DO work with Lync 2013?

We already know about plenty of desktop phones from Snom, Polycom, Logitech, etc. We know about the Jabra headsets and conferencing room speakers from previous posts. And we know about the Lync Room System.

But what else?

Logitech Speakerphone

Photo courtesy of Logitech.com.

I went searching. And found a whole bunch of devices ready for Lync use!

So many in fact that I couldn’t list them all if I wanted to. I’ll instead select a group of Lync add-on hardware, at the client-level and the server-level, for you the reader to browse. Some we have worked with at PlanetMagpie; some we haven’t (yet!).

Maybe one of these devices is just what you need right now. Maybe the list will inform your future Lync Server upgrade. Either way, I hope the list helps!

Client-Level Devices: Cameras, Computers, Headsets with Extras

  1. Polycom VVX Camera: A USB video camera you can add directly to your desktop phone for conferencing. Listed as an add-on to PolyCom VVX phones, but since it’s USB it may work with other Lync-capable phones. (Any reader used these? If so, please comment!)
  2. Polycom VVX Expansion Module: Expands PolyCom phones into an advanced call handling system. Helpful to receptionists who need to manage a bunch of incoming calls. (Ours would love it–I’ll send her the link!)
  3. Logitech Conference Cam Series: One of the reigning champions of high-quality conferencing tools, Logitech has several conferencing cameras geared toward Lync Meetings. –I’d love to talk with a Lync expert at Logitech. Anyone know a Logitech manager I could talk to?
  4. Logitech Mobile Speakerphone P710e: (Pictured above.)  This device is particularly interesting to me for two reasons. One, it allows for an on-the-fly Lync Meeting using your phone or tablet. Two, it’s certified both for Lync and Skype use. Which increases its lifespan, keeping it viable while Microsoft continues to move forward on Lync/Skype integration.
  5. Lenovo ThinkCentre All-in-One PC: I want one of these. A Lenovo all-in-one, integrated HD speakers, built-in arm…and since it’s listed in the Lync Catalog, it’s obviously ready for Lync 2013 use!
  6. Jabra Motion UC MS: The Bluetooth headset for Lync 2013 users. Why shouldn’t we have a headset just as sexy as regular cellphone callers? The Jabra Motion comes with a touchscreen on its stand too, and it’s certified for use with Cisco and Avaya as well as Microsoft Lync.

Server-Level Hardware: Gateways, SBAs, Expansions

  1. Sonus SBC Gateways & Survivable Branch Appliances: We’ve used the Sonus SBC 1000 and SBC 2000 as Survivable Branch Appliances for clients’ branch offices. They have larger gateways too, the 5100 and 5200, if you need more than 600 concurrent sessions running.
  2. Juniper Wireless LAN APs: We are a Juniper partner and use their wireless APs in our office as well as client networks. They are certified for Lync Server use, and wireless call transmissions hold up very well.
  3. Sangoma NetBorder Media Gateway: I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it bears repeating. Sangoma gateways are powerful Lync appliances. Use them as a Survivable Branch Appliance, a VoIP gateway to the PSTN, or both!
  4. PolyCom Packaged HD VideoConferencing Solutions: If the Lync Room System is a little big for you, but you like the idea? Try one of these freestanding video conferencing stations. (Let’s hope they don’t automate the rollers though…I’d feel weird if these stations drove themselves right up to your desk!)

You can see more Lync-approved products like these here:

Does your office use Lync Add-On Hardware from this list (or a device NOT on this list)? If so, please comment or email. Either way, I’d love to hear your experience with it.

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No Post This Week – Join Us for More Next Week

Lync Server 2013

Hello Lync Insider readers! Remember last week when I said I’d have a post on stress-testing Lync Servers today? Well, it’s not quite ready yet. I’d like to do a few more tests before I can call this topic well-researched. So I’m postponing this another week.

Join us next week though! It’ll be worth it, I promise.

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What is the Lync Room System?

Conferencing

Reader emailed me asking about the latest update to the Lync Room System (see “What’s ‘Room PC View’?” below). And I realized…we’ve NEVER talked about it here on the Lync Insider!

So I’ll answer his question, of course. But along the way, let’s do a little introduction to the Lync Room System too.

Introduction to the Lync Room System (or LRS)

The “LRS” is an integrated hardware & software endpoint designed for conducting Lync Meetings in a conference room. Microsoft created LRS in partnership with Crestron, LifeSize, Polycom and SMART.

The LRS consists of a special Lync 2013 client, touchscreen monitors, video cameras, audio, and a tabletop meeting console. This kind of setup creates a much more immersive conferencing environment than regular Lync conferencing.LRSrender

You’ll find a full introduction post at TechNet: The Lync Room System (LRS) – TechNet Blogs

(Image taken from TechNet Blogs page, Copyright Microsoft.)

Who Can Use the LRS, and What For?

Unlike the standard Lync 2013 client, the LRS client is designed specifically for conducting video conferences. Businesses mid-market and larger can set up the Lync Room System in their conferencing rooms to run their meetings with internal and external contacts. (LRS has the same interoperability with other systems that Lync Server 2013 does.)

Because the LRS is assembled using dedicated hardware and thus requires higher up-front investment than a standard Lync 2013 client, it’s not generally recommended for small business use.

Do We Need to Have LRS to Run Conferences?

No. Lync Server 2013′s Conferencing functionality works with all its clients as-is. The LRS is intended as a standing “Lync version” of a conference room. Think of it like a dedicated workstation – you go to the conference room, touch the meeting console to activate, and begin a scheduled Meeting.

What Kind of Hardware is Needed?

You’ll need at least a meeting console, audio, a video camera and one display. See this list of video options for Lync for supported partner hardware: Video Solutions Qualified for Lync – Lync Tech Center
(I like Polycom myself; very reliable hardware.)

What’s “Room PC View?”

Here’s where we come to our reader question. The reader, K, asked:
“I saw this post yesterday. Never heard of Room PC View before. What is it? How does it work?”
(Slight editing to remove personal details.)

Like all its software, Microsoft updates the Lync Room System regularly. Its June 2014 update for Lync Room System includes a new feature called “Room PC View”.

This feature essentially lets a presenter push a button and display content from a PC connected to the LRS console. Microsoft added it because some LRS users connect a computer to their LRS and leave it there 24/7.

(Never seen this happen in person, so I’m guessing it’s meant as a storage location for conferencing-related content).

Room PC View is optional; if you just want to plug a laptop into the console and display PowerPoint occasionally, you don’t need it. Here’s some more information (this is the post K asked about): Lync Room System June Update Now Available: New Room PC View! – Office Blogs

How Would We Install the Lync Room System?

Consult this deployment guide: Microsoft Lync Room System Deployment Guide – Microsoft Downloads Obviously, you’ll need to have some form of Lync Server installed already (I would strongly recommend on-premise Lync Server 2013). The installation process is quite detailed; multiple PowerShell cmdlets are needed to enable LRS accounts, connect them to Exchange & Active Directory, and update Conferencing Policies.

Acquiring the LRS software itself is done through Microsoft’s partners (Crestron, LifeSize, Polycom and SMART). Makes sense, since you’ll have to pick up the hardware necessary to run it first.

And that’s our introduction to the LRS! It’s basically a super-strong conferencing station. Great for big important meetings with shareholders, partners, vendors, and the San Jose branch office. K, I hope this post answers your question.

Does your business have a Lync Room System? If so, please comment or email me. I’d love to hear your experiences using it.

Join us next week for a post on stress-testing your Lync Servers.

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Read Up on Lync, SharePoint, Office 365 and More with Free Microsoft eBooks

Lync Server 2013

It’s happened again. Microsoft released a trove of ebooks about their various software products:
Largest collection of FREE Microsoft eBooks ever, including: Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Office 2013, Office 365, Office 2010, SharePoint 2013, Dynamics CRM, PowerShell, Exchange Server, Lync 2013, System Center, Azure, Cloud, SQL Server, and much more
(Yes, that’s the post’s real title!)readingbook

I think this is the third time such a giveaway has occurred in the past 2 years? Fourth? Either way, I’m grateful to Microsoft for releasing all these titles. And to Mr. Ligman for compiling them.

This latest collection is huge – and it contains more than enough Lync Insider-relevant books for me to mention it. Here’s a list of what I downloaded right away for brushing up.

  1. Office 365 Midsize Business Quick Deployment Guide (DOCX)
  2. Quick Start to Office 365 for Small to Medium Businesses (ZIP)
  3. The Wiki Ninjas Guide to SharePoint 2013 (PDF)
  4. The Wiki Ninjas Guide to SharePoint 2013 – Part II (PDF)
  5. Windows PowerShell 4.0 Language Quick Reference (PDF)
  6. The Big Book of PowerShell Gotchas
  7. Lync Server 2013 Stress Testing Guide
  8. Microsoft Lync Server 2013 Step By Step for Anyone (PDF)
  9. Microsoft Lync Server 2013: Basic Administration – Release 2.1 (PDF)

There’s a couple more Lync-related books in the post, so go check it out. But I’d like to talk about these last 3 today.

Microsoft Lync Server 2013 Step by Step for Anyone
Written by Matt Landis
Matt’s on the list! Looks like he has converted a series of posts on setting up Lync Server 2013 from his blog into an ebook. We’ve covered this material here in the past.

The book walks you through a Lync Server 2013 Standard Edition install. It also has several additional how-to’s, such as “Using Microsoft Lync Server with SonicWall Firewalls” and “How to Configure Lync Server 2013 Live Messenger PIC to Enable Skype Federation.”

At 258 total pages, it’s too big to print out. But it’s a great reference to have on hand if you’re running an installation offline (e.g. for a test project). Maybe put it on a tablet while you install Lync Server.

Microsoft Lync Server 2013 Basic Administration
Written by Fabrizio Volpe
This is a basic overview of Lync Server 2013 for administrators. It has a narrative approach, which would make it great for those newer to Lync and potentially unfamiliar with the scope of its capabilities. Good high-level detail on Lync’s structure and workings.

What I do like about it is that it includes information on:

  • Cost mindfulness when deploying server roles (p. 15)
  • Firewall rules & access requirements (p. 82)
  • Verification tools [which include TRIPP and Remote Connectivity Analyzer!] (p. 90)

It would make a good catching-up reference for new hires entering a Lync environment.

Lync Stress Testing Guide
Written by the Lync Server 2013 Virtualization Team
This one is just fun. It talks about conducting stress tests on your Lync installation with the Lync Server 2013 Stress and Performance Tool (LSS). Since this guide focuses on one toolset and one purpose, it’s very focused & heavily detailed. (I didn’t even know it could do some of these tests!)

It does recommend you run stress tests in a lab environment. NOT on a live deployed Lync Server system. If you do run it while live, don’t be surprised if you knock everyone offline!

I’ll do a full post on stress testing later. The contributors did a thorough job documenting the process; it deserves more attention. Pick this guide up and see for yourself.

Go Forth and Download – But Come Back for More Details!

Both the strength and the weakness of Microsoft free ebooks are that they are basic guides. Intended to introduce you to software, how to run it, how to work efficiently with it. Nothing at all wrong with that – in fact I think it’s a great way to foster knowledge – but it has its limits.

In books like these, gritty-details administration, troubleshooting, advanced modifications & developments are not usually covered. You need to rely on experience, more specialized manuals, and online resources. Like this blog!

Is there an upcoming Microsoft software release you’re waiting for? New version, an update or a fix? Please comment or email me. Let’s see what’s coming soon for all of us.

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