2 Articles You Need to Read about Lync

Lync Online, Lync Server 2013, Voice over IP

It’s been a little while since I did a “Lync Love” post. I do like offering commentary on great Lync-related articles. I had one ready last week. And since then, a second one has popped up.

These are articles everyone interested in Lync Server (and its related technologies) should read. Let me explain the reasons why, below.

1. How PSTN voice in Lync Online will bring unified VoIP to the masses – BetaNews

Written by Derrick Wlodarz, this article raises some urgent questions about VoIP’s future.1279599_13140278a

Short Synopsis: Voice over IP, in its current form, can’t provide easy access to the PSTN. As a result, its services exist as a sort of ‘bubble’ next to the PSTN, trying to wiggle itself in. Adding full PSTN connectivity into Lync Online (part of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering) would go a long way toward improving VoIP’s standing.

There’s a lot of truth in what the author says. Lync Online is near-crippled without the PSTN. Skype’s proprietary network, while immense and well-used, does tend to wall its users in a little.

Where I disagree in part is the position that running your own Lync Server system is pretty much reserved for the Fortune 500. Not the case at all. Our own client experiences don’t match up. In fact, most of our Lync implementations were for businesses under 200 people.

Lync Online does have its limitations when it comes to making calls out. I happily support Microsoft adding such functionality.
The PSTN has been around for more than a century. VoIP has only seen notable use in the past decade or so. We will see unification…just give it time.

2. Law Firm CIO Makes the Case for Microsoft Lync – CIO.com

This is a detailed case study of a Lync Server implementation.  It’s terrific work; thorough explanations of the law firm’s situation, the decisions made, the steps involved in transition & so on.

I have to quote the section about achieving a successful deployment:
“We find most often that if a project fails, it’s because people aren’t addressing the user and change management issues,” he [Dean Leung, Holland & Knight CIO] says. “If you just deploy it and hope that they’ll adopt it, they may or they may not. If you focus on change management and really help build the business case as to how it’s going to help their workflow and their practice, that always leads to a successful deployment.”

Indeed!

Interconnectivity of services was the driver behind the law firm’s Lync move. They wanted more efficiency out of current communications. Especially when talking with clients.

Deploying Lync Server got them what they wanted – including the extras like changing call types or adding a whiteboard. Leung called these features “Phone+”. I rather like that. Might use it in future posts.

If you’re on the fence about using Lync Server, go read this article. Holland & Knight took their time and addressed potential issues with careful deployment planning. Very smart approach for any software change–particularly Lync.

Question for Readers: What would hold you back from switching to Lync Server? Please comment or email with your answers!

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3 Solutions to Office 2013 Issues After the Windows 8.1 Update

Lync 2013 Client

I had intended on writing a response to this article today:
How PSTN Voice in Lync Online Will Bring Unified VoIP to the Masses – BetaNews
I don’t 100% agree with it, but it makes some great points.

Instead, today I’m posting about the severe software issue I encountered.

Here’s the scene: Yesterday, I installed the Windows 8.1 Update on my computer. Took about 90 minutes in all, but it went smoothly. At least until today…when I tried to open Word.

Lync 2013 opened just fine. But Word – and every other Office application – refused. They only displayed the following error:

“This update package could not be opened”

Hey now, what’s going on here?

Problem 1: Disrupted Office 2013 Installation

So I tried to repair Office 2013 via Control Panel. No change.
I decided to try uninstalling…but the uninstall failed.

Okay, to the Web for some answers. According to this Microsoft Answers thread, many people have a similar problem.

Apparently Windows 8.1 will sometimes throw an update error into Office 2013. The solution – at least the one that worked for me – is to uninstall Office completely and install fresh.

If your Control Panel uninstall option won’t work, use the Microsoft Fixit Tool here: How to uninstall Office 2013 or Office 365 – Microsoft Support. It did the job for me.

Problem 2: Registry Prevents Reinstall

Now, to reinstall Office 2013. I downloaded the ISO from our network store, mounted it locally, and ran Setup.
…And just as it started copying files, it froze up.
“Setup cannot find office.en-us officelr.cab”

OfficeSetupError

What?! The file is right in front of me! How can it not find the CAB file?

Back to Google. The problem wasn’t with Office Setup; it was with the computer. Specifically, the Registry already has an Office entry in it, and it was blocking a new install.
Most of the solution is here: Setup cannot find Office.en-us\OfficeLR.cab – FixYa.com
The site is ad-heavy, so here’s a short version: Copy the Office 2013 Setup files to disk. Open RegEdit. Locate the following folder:
Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office
Delete the entire folder. Re-run Setup.

However, I had to do some permissions changes to make it work. RegEdit refused to delete one of the keys in the Office Registry folder.

If you face this, here’s what you do: in RegEdit, click the key you want to delete. Go to Edit -> Permissions. Select every choice under “Group or User Names”.
Under Permissions below, check “Allow” by Full Control. For every choice, ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES down to Users.
Click OK. Now you should be able to delete the keys, and the “Office” folder itself.

(Don’t worry; Office Setup will put this back later.)

Problem 3: Outlook Thinks it Needs the License Key Again (But it Doesn’t)

After I removed the registry folder, Office 2013 installed fine. I opened Word, Lync and OneNote with no problem.

However…

Outlook loaded, but immediately displayed an error. “Microsoft Office cannot verify the license for this product.”

And of course, Outlook closes when you click OK.

Again I tried repairing the (brand new!) Office 2013 installation in Control Panel. Rebooted twice. No other problems but this one.

Returning to Google a third time, I found the solution. Turns out Outlook doesn’t have a problem with the license key…it’s somehow put itself in Compatibility Mode!

Documentation & Solution here: Error: “Microsoft Office cannot verify the license for this product.” – Microsoft Support

I followed the steps and found Outlook was indeed set to run in Windows 7 Compatibility Mode. I unchecked the box…and NOW Outlook works.

All of Office 2013 works again. Though my Lync client never once had a problem through all of this. A little odd, but I’m just grateful I didn’t have to fix it too!

If I’d had any inkling of what would happen after, I’d have postponed the Windows 8.1 Update for a few weeks. These sorts of errors are extremely frustrating! I ran the update to improve my system, not mess it up.

I hope documenting this issue will help my fellow Windows 8 users & administrators. We’ll be back next week with more Lync discussion!

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Where Users Want Lync to Go

Lync Server 2013, Third-Party Lync Products

For today’s post, I browsed through a series of plugins on GitHub. I was struck by the variety of purposes behind the plugins…and what they might hold for the future of Lync Server.

But first, let me take a step back & describe GitHub. In case one of my readers isn’t familiar, GitHub.com is a code repository for open source & private projects. Developers can use it to store, share and work on code in a group.

Because this is a collaborative space, not every project on GitHub is in a finished/ready-to-use state. In fact most of the Lync-related projects I saw weren’t even started! Many others didn’t have any usable code yet. So I couldn’t actually test much of anything.

But even in such a state, I saw great variety. There are Lync plugin projects listed which cover areas like:
Logging or recording or tracking Conversations
Expanding Presence into other systems
Auto-responding Bots
Notification popups
Versions of the Lync client on other architectures (e.g. Java)
Creating an entire billing system involving Lync
And dozens more. Have a look for yourself – Lync Results: GitHub.com

Some of these plugin projects are extending the Lync UI into other areas. But some are trying to duplicate existing Lync functions. Why?

Maybe a user wants to add a feature to that function? Or maybe it’s an intellectual exercise. Or even a demonstration of the developer’s coding skills (in which case I applaud them for the subject matter!).

In any case, curiosity kept me looking through GitHub projects. Eventually, I hit on a reason why so many Lync projects exist.

Maybe these are ideas of the direction Lync users & developers want Lync Server to go.

If so, where do those ideas lead?

Ideas for the Future of Lync

Based on this, I mused a while on what I saw. What kinds of things would Lync users & developers like to see happen with future versions of Lync Server?

Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Universal Platform Coverage – Lync clients for all operating systems
  2. Connector APIs for Lync use through other primary business systems – accounting, payroll, manufacturing operations
  3. Automated response features – Not just forwarding calls via Response Groups, but actively answering conversation requests and intelligently directing callers
  4. Automatic Backups – Cloud-based backup routines running in background, so conversations are always backed up & accessible on any device

How close are we?

Not far off, if the GitHub developers are any indication. The billing system plugin I mentioned above? Its developer coded in C# and ASP.NET on a SQL Server base. Same kind of programming used in Lync Server.

We’re getting there. Maybe the next version of Lync Server will come with some of these functions. If so, I’ll be right here to share them with you!

Is there a function or new capability you’d like to see in the next version of Lync Server? Please leave a comment or email describing it, and let’s talk.

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Using Skype and Lync for Work – A Reader’s Experience

Unified Communications, Voice over IP

I was planning on testing some Lync plugins from GitHub today. But that will have to wait.

The other day I asked you, our readers, for a little help. Would someone who uses both Skype and Lync answer a couple questions about your experiences with the two systems?

And someone did! Peter from Psquared.net has come forward. His office uses both Lync and Skype (along with a couple other add-ons, as you’ll see). He was kind enough to answer my questions with great detail.

From my questions and Peter’s answers, I hope you’re able to get a good clear example of how businesses can use Skype and Lync in concert. CAN, mind you, not MUST. There are many different ways for Skype and Lync to interoperate…this is just one (albeit one that appears to serve Peter quite well)!

So let’s see what Peter has to say. The following is from his own words.

Q&A – One Company’s Skype/Lync Experience

1) What’s your Lync Server setup like?

We have a single Sangoma Lync Express appliance which hosts our FE [Front End Server], as well as VMs that host the Web Apps server and the Edge Server. It also has a special Sangoma software SBC VM image.

We still use a TMG2010 server for our Reverse proxy. I keep meaning to switch to a new VM running IIS ARR etc. but just haven’t gotten round to it – after all, it currently ain’t broke!

We actually use an Asterisk based IP-PBX for our main office PBX (Sark from Aelintra), but this has bidirectional links to Lync so our employees can use either Lync or legacy SIP for their calls – the phones are all Snom 820/821 phones with accounts for Lync (7xx extension numbers) and for the Asterisk extensions (all 2xx extension numbers)

The reason for still having the Asterisk box is that although we have Enterprise Voice, the built in Response Group Application is just too slow at connecting calls when used with the Snom handsets, so we have stuck with the Asterisk for the majority of calls.

Our biggest use for Lync is internal IM, but it’s also key for our disaster management plans – in the event that the office cannot be reached due to bad weather etc. then staff will remote desktop into the building and use the Lync client for all calls in and out of the building. We would change our call routing so all calls will go straight through the Asterisk box direct to the RGS service on Lync – as these are then Lync Client then the call connect delay is minimal. This is all much easier to handle than achieving the same with our Asterisk box which would require everyone setting up soft Sip clients and all sorts of other tricky bits, not least due to the lack of multi-endpoint registration to a single account.

2) Can you tell me a little about the people who use Skype? Just customers, or maybe partners?
man-talking-on-phone-md
We use Skype to connect primarily to customers, though a few partners as well. Primarily we use it for doing initial web based meetings and demonstrations of our products with new customers. However, we have quite a few customers in India and in East Africa and Skype is ideal for them to save a fortune on international calls!

Because of the relatively high cost of a Lync deployment for small sites, we actually don’t have any active Lync federation with any customers, so Skype is what gets used for “free” calls to us and vice versa.

3) What kinds of errors do you come up against, user-related or otherwise?

The biggest issues we have are to do with initially getting Skype based contacts into our Lync Contacts List. If you add the user, but they haven’t requested to contact you first, then the Skype user doesn’t always seem to get the Contact Request. If they do, but then discard it by accident then you end up with a real problem as it doesn’t seem that you can re-send the request – even deleting the contact from Lync and trying again doesn’t seem to resend the request.

The opposite is also true – even with your Lync Permissions set to allow anyone to contact request you, some requests just don’t seem to come in from Skype users, and if they do but you accidentally reject it, you’re stuck again. After a lot of removing from both ends and re-trying you sometimes get the requests come through and then you can connect without any problem.

The main issue is that it’s obviously great for IM and voice, but with video not supported, we often end up getting the person to join a straight Lync Web Conference instead. Being honest, most of the time we just go straight to this anyway as it obviously works without any Skype client install so is good for locked down users like education sites, but also means we can do multi-person conferences. Skype can do these, but at a cost!

When we get Video to Skype with the next release of Lync that will be a big improvement, but we’re really comfortable with web meetings now, so not so critical.

4) From your site, you work with radio software. Do you find Skype is more conducive to good-quality recordings? Or is Lync better? How do they compare?

The Skype audio codec is excellent so when we do Skype-Skype it’s always good. However, we have a full broadcast studio here with professional quality microphones and hi-def Microsoft webcams, which means that when we do Lync Web Conferences we always get comments on how amazing the quality is and how clearly the end user can hear us – important when we’re aiming to sell audio equipment and software to them!

We know that a lot of our customers are using Skype for doing Outside Broadcasts to get high quality audio back to the studios, so they obviously like the Silk codec, so when we get to see that in the next release of Lync it will be quite interesting to see how that sounds!

5) Do you use any add-on services for either Skype or Lync?

We use Skype Connect to actually give us “real world” phone numbers in Eire and the US which are routed directly into our Asterisk phone exchange – this is not ideal as there is quite a connection delay with 2 or 3 rings before Skype forwards the calls on. We have looked at using 3rd parties to provide us real world numbers on TLS streams that could be fed into Lync, but these are expensive and complicated to setup compared to Skype.

We also looked at using WorkAnywhere, but as this is licensed by the number of queues, not by the number of end users, it’s much too expensive to justify.

6) What’s the most common cross-platform communication you do for both systems? Chat, voice calls, conferences?

Chat is easily the biggest – even while typing this email I’ve handled 3 or 4 Lync IM conversations with people here in the office, and also with a supplier who open federates so we can do nice quick IM checks with them as to how they get on.

For Skype, we primarily use it for voice, but we do do some IM as well.

In terms of sales, we use Lync Web Conferences a lot – these have saved us a huge amount of travelling to show customers (and potential customers) new features and “how-tos” for existing deployments. We’ve never actually done a Lync to Lync conference as we just don’t seem to have any customers on it! But because the Web client can work for anyone with a modern browser, it’s ideal for use for demos and training sessions.

Some Observations to Add

  • It seems that the strongest services for each – IM and Conferencing for Lync, Voice Calls for Skype – are Psquared.net’s focus. They’re using the service which makes the most sense for the communication medium.
  • I’ve heard good things about the Sangoma Lync Express Appliance, but never had the chance to work with one. I’ll have to look into it more.
  • Curious doubling effect with the Asterisk PBX. Sounds like they have VoIP partially overlapping. Though it does make for an excellent disaster recovery setup!
  • Introducing the Silk codec into Lync may in fact be the driver for broader Enterprise Voice adoption.
  • The contacts error in #3 seems very similar to the Contact Removal trouble I had a while back: How to Remove Old Federated Contacts from Your Lync Contacts List

Thanks very much Peter! This is excellent insight into Skype/Lync interaction. Again, you’ll find his business at Psquared.net.

 

Is your Skype/Lync experience different? Have you experienced problems using either Skype or Lync? Please comment or email…I’d love to talk about it!

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Lync Love: March 2014

Exchange Server 2013, Lync 2013 Client, Lync Online, Lync Server 2013, Unified Communications, Voice over IP

Need to stay head-down this week. I was planning to continue my exploration of Lync plugins from last time…but, no rest for the busy!

So for today’s post, let’s take a look out in the Lyncosphere and see what we find.

Exchange Server 2013 SP1: What’s New – WindowsITPro.com
Discussion of Exchange 2013′s Service Pack 1, released last month. A very thorough article on it too. It covers SP1′s intended purpose, what to watch out for, the new features, and background on the Exchange service model (Cumulative Updates similar to Lync). If you haven’t already installed SP1, read this for a useful reference.

Lync-Skype-Office 365 Goes Off-Hook – TelecomReseller
This article covers some of the same points I made in Exchanging Protocols: The Latest on Lync and Skype Integration.
Not sure I fully agree with this line: “MSFT will finally smash them together a new UI will emerge probably in 1-2 years to simplify their product offering.”
But, the reason I included it in Lync Love is the images. There’s a big diagram outlining the Lync-Skype-Office 365 architecture (interactive), and a chart of codecs used. Good for a visual reference on both.PosterCutout

Announcing the Release of the Lync Server 2013 On-Premises Architectures Poster – NextHop
Speaking of visual reference! NextHop recently posted an architectural guide for running Lync Server 2013 on-premises. As with previous posters, this one’s extremely detailed and required reading for any Lync administrator.

Microsoft Warns of Looming Exchange Server 2003 Support Deadline – Redmond Channel Partner
Most of us are aware of the looming Windows XP deadline. (Only 3 weeks away!) At the same time, Office 2003 and Exchange Server 2003 will meet their end.
Hopefully everyone is off of Exchange 2003 by now! But just in case, here’s a reminder. And a nice punctual list of the available upgrade & support options for Exchange 2003 holdouts.

I also came across a long article on VoIP and Lync Online. It deserves its own post as a response. You’ll see that one soon.

Next week, I’ll take a stroll through GitHub for some more Lync plugins to test. See you then!

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Trying Out Lync Plugins: 4 Examples of Add-On Functionality from CodePlex

Lync Server 2013

Last week we talked about Lync add-ons. One of the new URLs I came across was the CodePlex list of Lync plugins.

This week, I decided to look through those plugins, and try out a few.

Several plugins are either in alpha and don’t have downloads available, or they’re built for Lync Server 2010 only. Couldn’t test those.

I did find 4 which I could test. Here’s what I did, and their results.

1. Lync Presence & Chat Widget

http://lyncwidget.codeplex.com/
What it Does: Shows Lync users’ Presence information on your website. Visitors can start conversations right from the webpage.

Test Results: I’ve written about this widget before, back in November (Is There a Way to Use Persistent Chat as a Web App – Without a Lync Account?). We tested it then, and it worked very well.

This is a true extension to Lync Server – it provides a means to connect with an organization’s employees directly. Seriously, the capability is good enough to include in the next version of Lync Server. You still taking suggestions, Microsoft…?

2. LUMT – Lync User Management Tool

http://lumt.codeplex.com/
What it Does: Administrators can manage contacts and privacy settings on behalf of users. Add/remove contacts, change relationship levels, and set privacy preference settings.

Test Results: Unable to test. This gave me a version conflict error – my 32-bit system is not acceptable. Plus, LUMT appears to require server installation.

3. PressToCall

http://presstocall.codeplex.com/
What it Does: Initiate a call by pressing a key.

Test Results: This plugin functions as a mini-app running in the system tray. It adds one new function – pressing one of the Function keys (default is F8) in order to initiate a Lync call.

Now, the CodePlex page says you can call a phone number by typing it out, selecting it and pressing F8. PressToCall does indeed do this. But what if you press F8 without a number selected?

I tried it. Turns out the plugin brings up a new Conversation window, and asks who you want to invite!

PressToCallInvite

So with or without a phone number, PressToCall helps you to start conversations with one button. Nice bit of extra functionality.

4. SpotifyLync

http://spotifylync.codeplex.com/
What it Does: Puts your current song on Spotify in the Lync “What’s happening today?” line. Also lets you control Spotify playback, and allows for remote access from another PC running SpotifyLync.

Test Results: Couldn’t be simpler. Just double-click the SpotifyLync.application download, and you’re up & running.

This is definitely a ‘fun’ plugin, as reading Spotify’s information is pretty much all it does. But hey, it works! (I prefer Pandora though.)

I will have to revisit this topic again later, when I can access the Lync Server and test out the LUMT plugin directly.

Do you use a Lync Server plugin regularly? Which one, and for what purpose? Please comment or email, and let’s talk about it!

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Add-Ons for Lync 2013: Exploring Plugins and What They Do

Lync 2013 Client

The other day, a reader emailed me asked about plugins. I’ll call him J. J asked about add-ons for extending the Lync 2013 client.

So I went looking. And it turns out there’s quite a few. Now, I have profiled a couple of third-party plugins here in the past:
Can You Change Lync’s Incoming Call Popup?
Is There a Way to Use Persistent Chat as a Web App – Without a Lync Account?
2 Ways to Configure Lync Call Forwarding

But people are always developing more! Here’s some new plugins I came across:

  1. Integrate Lync into your intranet sites using the NameCtrl plug-in – Tom Hollander’s Blog. Integrates Lync connectivity into intranet sites.
  2. The SIPE Project. Lets users of Pidgin, Miranda and Adium connect with Lync users.
  3. The Lync 2013 Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Plug-In. Use Lync 2013 in a Virtual Desktop environment.
  4. CodePlex – Lync Server Plugins. A list of Lync plugins, everything from “SpotifyLync” (adding Spotify features into Lync) to “LyncTalker” (speaks incoming IMs). Might have to try a couple of these myself.

J asked about one area in particular though – Conversation History. He cited the old MessengerDiscovery plugin for Windows Messenger, and SkypeDiscovery for Skype.

Now, I wasn’t too familiar with either of these. So here’s a list of the features those plugins offered:

SkypeDiscovery: Change the color of Skype, Encrypted conversations, Event log, Chat log viewer, Webcam recorder, Ad removal, Window transparency, run Skype multiple times, etc.
MessengerDiscovery: Open more than one copy of Messenger, Webcam capture, Contact management, Ad removal, Listen to messages out loud, Receive alerts, Message tracking, etc.

The bolded features are the ones I think J was interested in for Lync 2013. Do plugins exist for building such enhancements into Lync 2013? Let’s find out.

Event Log/Chat Logs/Message Tracking

Plugin not necessary. Lync 2013 records its text conversations. Archiving Server will store chat logs, and Monitoring Server will give you reports on them.

There was a Microsoft add-on for Lync Server 2010 which accomplished many of the above-listed functions though – the Lync Adoption and Training Kit. I wrote about it a while back.

However, it appears the kit is not yet available for Lync Server 2013. To be fair, some of its functions (i.e. Tabbed Conversations) were blended into the Lync 2013 client. So we may never see a separate kit.

Webcam Capture

Plugin not necessary. Lync 2013 will record video of conversations and meetings if you tell it to.
Client-side Recording: Lync 2013 – TechNet Blogs.
Record and Play Back a Lync Meeting – Office Support.

Listen to messages out loud

Not native to Lync, but Microsoft has a solution: the Speech Platform. This will read out text for you (albeit somewhat mechanically, depending on the voice you choose!).

Where does that leave us? Most of the MessengerDiscovery/SkypeDiscovery functions are either deprecated or incorporated into Lync 2013 already. Are there even any plugins dealing specifically with Conversation History?

Not that I can find. In a sense, Conversation History itself is a plugin – it’s an add-on to Outlook which displays Lync IM conversations.

I’m not sure how you’d extend that kind of functionality. (Which is one reason why I’m not a developer.) Examining information ABOUT your conversations, however, is already part of Monitoring Server. Its reports will tell you whatever you want to know.

Either way, there’s quite a few plugins for Lync 2013. And more are coming, I’m sure! J, I hope this helps you (and all our other readers) out!

Do you use a plugin in your Lync Server infrastructure? Which one? Leave a comment with the plugin’s name; I’d love to hear what you’re using.

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Exchanging Protocols: The Latest on Lync and Skype Integration

Lync 2013 Client

Last week, we had the Lync Conference in Las Vegas. (I was not able to go. Sad.)

One big thing to come out of that conference was news about more cooperation between Lync and Skype.

If you’ve read this blog a while, then you know I like to follow the Lync-Skype integration.
Lync-to-Skype Connectivity is Here. But Don’t Forget the Provisioning! (June 12, 2013)

So this was definitely welcome news. Especially when I read through the changes announced.

What’s Coming: Lync 2013 gets HD Audio, Skype gets video calls peer-to-peer

Essentially, the changes involve an exchange of capabilities. Lync will gain access to Skype’s SILK codec for HD audio. And the Lync Server architecture will allow peer-to-peer media connections – granting Skype more direct access to establish video calls with Lync users.

Simon Bisson has an excellent rundown on this at ZDNet: Lync and Skype together – here’s how it will work

Both Skype and Lync are gaining new protocols too – STUN, TURN and ICE. The big value on this is that both systems will be more friendly to newer mobile devices.

Which side is harder to update – Skype or Lync?

Since Microsoft has control of both Skype and Lync Server, this whole “capabilities exchange” might seem silly. Why don’t they just rewrite one to fit into the other? Or both?

I don’t think that would be smart. In fact, I think Microsoft is taking the smarter road by playing it safe.

Skype is a unique communications system. Built to be consumer-grade, and possessed of a huge worldwide following. Lync is made within the Microsoft architectural standard; popular, but designed as an interconnected system working with other Microsoft platforms.

Merging the two – or even modifying both to seamlessly work together – will take a LOT of programming changes. Introducing those changes one step at a time, allowing users to adapt and measuring the real-world usage, makes the most sense.

Which is exactly what they’re doing.

I suspect it’s actually harder to update Skype, since it has its own protocol structure and prides itself on peer-to-peer communication. Which might be why Microsoft opted to allow peer-to-peer for video calls to Lync users.

Plus, it takes advantage of PIC (Public IM Connectivity), which already exists in Lync Server. Saves time, less hassle.

Where are Skype and Lync going next?

I made four predictions last year, in a January post – Messenger Users Moved to Skype By March. Lync Users are NOT Next.

These new protocol exchanges between Lync and Skype figure into Prediction #4 – “Lync and Skype stay separate, but interoperate.”

Allowing Skype to run video calls peer-to-peer – something it’s already famous for doing – indicates that Microsoft wants to keep the functionality (mostly) as-is. Building Lync connectivity and security around it means the user’s experience is pretty much the same…just better on the backend.

Plus, with the interoperability and friendliness on mobile, we could see #3 coming about in the next couple years too. (That would be “A new Lync-Skype hybrid app replaces both platforms,” by the way.)

Call to Readers!  Do you use Skype and Lync for work?

Okay, let me ask you for a little help. I’d like to talk with a reader who uses both Skype and Lync. (Must be at least one of you out there!)

If this is you, and you want to help out, I’d appreciate asking you a couple questions about your experiences between the two systems. You get a link and a spotlight here on the blog, when I write it up!

Please contact me at chris.williams@planetmagpie.com, or leave a comment on this post.

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Follow Along With the Lync January 2014 Update Process

Lync Server 2013, Reference

Before I get into today’s post, I want to point out – we now have an email subscription option for the Lync Insider! The latest posts delivered to your inbox, every Friday. Enter your name and email in the boxes to the right.

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We installed a series of Lync updates last week. The full list is here:
Updates for Lync Server 2013: January 2014

As you’ll see, the updates included patches to Core Components, Conferencing, Front End Servers, Mediation and several others. Like many other Microsoft support packages, it also includes updates previously released for completion & dependencies. Which is helpful if you haven’t already done the July or February 2013 updates.

I don’t have to tell you how important it is to keep your Lync Server up-to-date. (At least I hope not!)

So why a post on following an update process? Isn’t it pretty much self-explanatory?

While there are instructions – and we should all follow them – it’s useful to have perspective on people actually doing the process. There may be snags you encounter. Steps you don’t need to take. Alternate ways to install components.

And if nothing else, having our process laid out here can provide you, our readers, with another reference point.

So with all that in mind, here’s how we installed the January 2014 Lync Updates.

The Updating Process: Prep

Log onto your Lync Server as Administrator.
From here, go to the Update page. Download the updates manually. Microsoft offers them as separate files, so you can install the updates you need. Most are in .msp format. We grabbed all of them, just in case.

Leave the Updates page open, so you’ll have instructions & details handy.

(One point to make here: We did not always specify certain criteria. The reason was, not doing so encourages the servers to put existing values into the updates. For example, auto-detecting our SQL Server. You’ll see this later.)

At this point I need to clarify something on the Update page. There are two install processes – one for Standard Edition, one for Enterprise Edition. They are clearly marked. Use the set which corresponds to your Lync Server!

(We followed the Standard Edition instructions below.)

The Updating Process: Running Step by Step

(Important Note! Make sure this takes place during a maintenance window. The Update Installer WILL bring down Lync services while it works.)

The update process begins at Step 1, with running the LyncServerUpdateInstaller.exe file on the Front End. Run it directly, not through Management Shell. And make sure to run it as Administrator if you have UAC on. Otherwise it will error out.

The installer will examine your system for its patch status. It then shows you which updates are needed with red icons. If an update has a green check icon, it’s up-to-date and will not be messed with.

The Update Installer, when you tell it OK, will apply the necessary updates to your Front End Server. The easy part. Sit back and relax a moment.

Once the installer is done, reboot the Lync Server.

Step 2 is to apply database updates. The SQL database will drop as you do. Once the server is back up, you’ll need to update your backend database via the Management Shell.

The cmdlet to use for this in Standard Edition is:
Install-CsDatabase -ConfiguredDatabases -SqlServerFqdn SE.FQDN -Verbose

Enter the SQL Server’s FQDN where you see SE.FQDN in the cmdlet above. If you don’t remember it, open up Topology Builder. (We’ll reference Topology Builder in a moment anyway.)

The backend databases updated without a hitch for us. I hope they do as well for you.

Next, the Persistent Chat databases. Run the same cmdlet again, with some different parameters:
Install-CsDatabase -DatabaseType PersistentChat -SqlServerFqdn PChatBE.fqdn -SqlInstanceName DBInstance -Verbose

Remember what I said earlier about letting servers fill in values? You can try this here. Try leaving the PChatBE.FQDN value blank and see if it works. Same with the DBInstance name.

Another thing to note: When we first ran this cmdlet, it failed. We took the SQLInstance name off, and it worked by auto-detection.
And finally for Step 2, we re-ran the cmdlet for the Monitoring store.
Install-CsDatabase -ConfiguredDatabases -SqlServerFqdn SQLServer.FQDN -Verbose

Placing the Monitoring Server’s FQDN in for SQLServer.FQDN. (If you need to recall the Monitoring Store FQDN, you can check in Topology Builder.)

The Monitoring Store may already be updated by the backend database update. If so, Management Shell will say “already up to date.” It’s still OK to do this; you won’t hurt anything.

Step 3 is to apply the Central Management Service (CMS) Update. We did not do this.

Why not? Because we’d already done the February 2013 Cumulative Update. If you did too, then you can skip Step 3. If not, follow the instructions!

And now, Step 4 – enable the Mobility service again. Very simple – just run:
Enable Cs-Topology
No parameters needed.

The Update Process: Verification

Step 5 is titled, “Enable the Unified Communications Web API.” Essentially, it wants you to activate Lync Services and verify that they’re running. To do this, we run Bootstrapper.exe.

If you haven’t run the Bootstrapper before, there are two ways to access it: via Management Shell cmdlets, or via the Deployment Wizard. We opted for the Deployment Wizard here, as it’s an easy process.

(I’ll do a post on Bootstrapper.exe later on.)

In Deployment Wizard, go to “Install/Update Lync Server System”. Run the “Install Local Configuration Store” command. You should see green check icons pop up for the window’s listed commands. Bootstrapper has done its job.

Note: Bootstrapper.exe creates an HTML log file of its activity. If you experience any errors, look in the log file. If you use Bootstrapper.exe via Management Shell, you’ll see the log file’s name and location. This is not displayed within Deployment Wizard (but the log file still exists).

Repeat for Edge Servers

This update process must also be run on every Edge Server in your topology. (Sorry.)

The good news is, it’s the exact same process. Just follow the instructions as we did above. Our Edge only needed 3 of these updates, and one reboot.

When Edge Servers reboot, you’ll drop outside connections like phones. Again, do updates within a maintenance window!

The instructions do not say to, but we ran Bootstrapper.exe again on the Edge Server. It may not be needed, but we covered the base. Making sure all components are updated.

As before, we opened the Deployment Wizard, running “Retrieve Local Replica Store.” It should work fine, since it’s a live, communicating environment.

Lync Server Now Up-to-Date!

All updates are complete! Your Lync Server should be back up and purring. This update took us a little less than 1 hour to complete. Provided there are no serious snags, yours should take about the same time.

One final recommendation: Check your Services.msc on the Windows Server. Verify that all Lync Server services are Running.

Have you experienced a snag with Lync Server updates recently? If so, please comment or email me! Let’s talk about the stranger errors we find, and what we can do to solve them.

See you next week!

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Examining Lync's Connection Tools: Online Directory Synchronization

Lync Online, Office 365

Our last post in the “Lync Connection Tools” series! Today I’m adding Online Directory Synchronization to the list, along with the others:
TRIPP
MOSDAL
OCSUMUtil

With these we can test connection quality for Lync Online, examine network configuration, connect Unified Messaging…and now, synchronize information between your local Active Directory and Office 365!

What is Directory Synchronization?

This is a tool to maintain synchronization of user data between Office 365 and your local Active Directory user information. It is commonly used to maintain data consistency between local Exchange Servers and Lync Online.

Directory Synchronization, or “DirSync”, is the most common provisioning choice for Enterprise-level businesses moving to Office 365.

What does Online Directory Synchronization Do?

DirSync acts as a constant “live update” for user accounts. It goes back and forth between your local AD and the Windows Azure AD (which provides identity and access capabilities for Office 365). Each time it synchronizes a long list of user account information, contact objects and other attributes.

Which objects and attributes are synchronized?

  • Contact Name
  • Contact Phone Number
  • List of Contact’s Email Addresses
  • IP Address for Contact Phone
  • Manager Relationship for the Contact
  • Mailbox GUID
  • SIP URI
  • Geographical Information for each user
  • And much more.

A full list is here: List of attributes that are synced by the Windows Azure Active Directory Sync tool – Microsoft Support

DirSync is required if you plan to use Single Sign-On, Lync Coexistence Mode, Exchange hybrid deployment, photo synchronization and so on.

How do You Use Directory Synchronization?

The best way to use DirSync is to turn it on and let it do its job. With directory synchronization enabled, your users’ information should always stay up-to-date, whether you call someone from Lync Online or email them from Exchange.

The computer running Directory Synchronization must have the following requirements:

  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter (64-Bit); 2008 R2 Standard/Enterprise/Datacenter (64-Bit); Windows Server 2012 Standard/Datacenter (64-Bit)
  • Joined to Active Directory domain
  • Runs .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and .NET Framework 4.0
  • Runs PowerShell
  • NOT located on a Domain Controller

I should also note – Directory Synchronization is not always enabled by default! You may need to activate it yourself. If you want to activate Directory Synchronization, I refer you to this very detailed post at the Petri IT Knowledgebase:
Active Directory Integration with Office 365: Directory Sync – Petri.co.il

DirSync will run for up to 50,000 objects. If you have more than those, clean out any old contacts & duplicates, or contact Microsoft Support.

That’s it! DirSync is pretty much a single-purpose tool…but very useful for Office 365 users. You can work without it, but I seriously would not recommend it. Manual synchronization is time-consuming and prone to inconsistencies. Automate user data sync with this tool and don’t worry about it.

Plan for Online Directory Synchronization – TechNet Page

Next week I plan to have some hands-on notes for doing Lync Server updating. Join us back here for the details!

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