Browsing the blog archives for March, 2012.

Lucid Meetings: A Simple Conferencing Alternative

Conferencing, lync server 2010, Third-Party Lync Products

A few weeks ago I received a request to try out LucidMeetings.com. It’s a web-based conferencing solution, which “allows teams to get more done in less time by combining collaboration, web conferencing, and teleconferencing into one seamless solution.”

Hmmmm. Interesting. Now, Lync Server does all of this, via A/V Conferencing Server and Enterprise Voice. Would this Lucid Meetings have some use to people who don’t have Lync (yet)?

Or maybe it has something Lync doesn’t?

And here they’ve kindly to offer me a free trial.

In the end, I decided it was worth a check.

Initial Impression: Simple, Straightforward Meeting Setup

(I apologize if the following screenshots don’t look too good. It’s a broad site, in terms of screen space.)

Signup was simple – you create a login at http://meet.lucidmeetings.com, use a coupon code if you have one, and done!

After that, I was presented with my “Review Room.”

Pretty clean dashboard. Lists recent meetings, my Room Bridge number, and tabs for contacts & settings. You’ll note a list of additional options in the toolbar at top right. One-click access to my dashboard, to the Meeting Rooms I can attend (there’s only one in this trial), search and help.

Next I clicked the “Schedule a Meeting” button on the right. To, what else? Schedule a test meeting.

I then beheld this setup screen:

Let me draw your attention to something: Under “Phone and Voice” on this screenshot, you’ll see three options.
• None
• Use Lucid Meetings Integrated Audio (the default)
• Enter a New Number for This Meeting

This means you could use Lync numbers with Lucid Meetings. Their FAQ even backs this up:

Do you support VOIP or Skype?
Not at this time, but we’re working on it. However, you can always use a separate VOIP or Skype solution in conjunction with Lucid Meetings.
http://www.lucidmeetings.com/docs/conference-calls

Next you must create an Agenda, and add people (by email address). There are a couple options for agendas if you don’t have one, including Standard Agenda and Committee/Team Agenda. I picked Committee/Team.

Running a Lucid Meeting: Agenda Steps and Action Items

I went ahead and started the meeting right after setting it up. Here’s the “Meeting in Progress” screen.

I looped a co-worker into the meeting as a test (after taking this screenshot). Since it’s browser-based, no special configuration or preparations were necessary.

Conference call quality is comparable to Lync Server. Recording conference calls may be initiated the facilitator at any time. Lucid Meetings provides an MP3 recording of the call for 90 days (so download it right after the meeting!).

If you want to share your screen or a file, click the Share tab. You will need to install an app called Glance to share your screen (link’s in the tab). Fair warning: you can’t be on a phone or tablet to run Glance.

Creating Action Items – tasks you create during the meeting – was a breeze.
1. Click the Action Item tab on the Meeting in Progress screen.
2. Type out the task you need Person X to do.
3. Select an attendee to assign the Action Item to.
4. Assign a due date from the calendar.
5. Click Save. Done.

When you’re done, just click End Meeting at the top.

Lucid Meetings has set up a Support page, with a FAQ and User Guide. They’re very easy to navigate, and you’ll find clear content on how to get around in the app.

My Impression: Good Alternative to Lync Server, if You Only Want Conferencing

If you’re happy with your current phone setup and only need a conferencing solution, Lucid Meetings may be what you’re after. It doesn’t try to be anything more than an online meeting platform. That focus has served it well.

Pricing starts at $24.95/month for 1 Meeting Room and 1GB of storage. They have four total packages, from Individual up to Enterprise (Pricing page here).

LucidMeetings.com is offering a Blogger Discount Special: 10% off your first year, and a free 30-day trial. Just use this coupon code on signup: NY2012

Don’t forget to mention that you found them at The Lync Insider!

We won’t have a post next week, due to a short trip I’m taking.

In the meantime, what do you use for online meetings? Lync? WebEx? Something else?

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4 Reminders for the Lync Community

lync server 2010, Microsoft Lync, Reference, Unified Communications

Troubleshooting, Lync Wikis, Another Lync Server Update and A SQL Warning

I’ve seen a lot of updates on the Lync field lately. New documentation, software patches, and lots of information shared.

So much information in fact, that I wanted to pull some important things out from the tide. These are too good for our readers to miss!

Keeping up on Lync Server? You’ll want to know about these 4 items.

Lync will NOT work with SQL 2012 (right now).

Planning an upgrade to SQL Server 2012 in the coming year? If you use Lync Server, you may want to wait. According to the TechNet Blogs, SQL 2012 does not support Lync Server 2010.

This is due to SQL 2012 dropping support for DMO (Distributed Management Objects), an older set of objects which let programs do some SQL management. Lync Server still uses DMO. The blog’s author, Damien Caro, has provided links to explain more about DMO and SQL.

This has to change soon. Having Lync and SQL incompatible doesn’t make any sense. Either Microsoft will introduce an add-on that allows Lync to work with SQL 2012, or there will be a fix in the next version. Keep it in mind.

Lync Server Cumulative Update 5 (CU5) has been released.

The fifth Cumulative Update for Lync is out. Credit to Justin Morris at Justin-Morris.net for making the announcement (he’s on the ball with these!).

CU5 contains fixes for video in Remote Call Control (RCC). Justin has already done the work of finding the links, so I’ll send you over to his blog for the downloads.

Lync Server 2010 Cumulative Update 5 Download Links at Justin-Morris.net.

Maybe a future Cumulative Update will fix the Lync 2010/SQL 2012 issue. If so, you have yet another reason to always patch when a new Update is released!

Lync Wikis are now available.

If you’ve used Wikipedia, you know that wikis are a great way to collect information about topics. TechNet has created wikis for Lync Server and Office 365’s Lync Online. Where you, me and everyone interested in Lync can share what they know.

Lync Server Wiki Portal

Lync Online Wiki Portal

Starting out, these two use different navigation structures. The Lync Wiki starts with an Overview in the “Wiki Navigation” section of the main page. The Lync Online Wiki has organized by resource type instead.

The best thing about a wiki, however, is that it changes depending on what its community decides. DrRez has some guidelines on how to use the new Wikis, to get you going.

And yes, you’ll find me milling about in there!

Troubleshoot Lync Phone Edition Issues (and Phone Firmware) at Jeff Schertz’s blog.

Jeff Schertz (Lync Server MVP and an excellent blogger) has posted a “massive” troubleshooting article. It gives exhaustive detail on fixing problems with Lync Phone Edition, AND firmware for compatible phones.

The content is very technical (Jeff gives firmware screenshots and log analyses), and calling it massive is not an exaggeration!

Lync administrators, if you support a lot of desktop phones in your environment, this needs to go in your resource library. Grab a coffee and start reading.

Now you’re (a little more) up to date on what’s happening. Plenty more out there, too.

Next week I’m digging into Lync Mobile a little more. Join me on Wednesday for the details!

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Group Chat – A Refresher

lync server 2010, Unified Communications

Last week, Justin Morris wrote a post about deploying Lync Group Chat multi-server environment. He made two very important points about Group Chat that I didn’t make back in my post in May on setting up & administering Group Chat. (More on those later.)

After reading his post, I thought it was time for a Group Chat revisit!

Lync Group Chat 101: What it Is, What it Does

Group Chat is an additional role for Lync Server 2010. It provides text-based chat rooms where chats are recorded & searchable.

  • Group Chat is a separate download from Lync Server
  • Comes with its own client (see screenshot)Lync Group Chat Window
  • You’re sharing knowledge in a format people can look up later
  • Use Group Chat for both internal and external discussions, thanks to federation and public sharing
  • Simple setup – add the server in Topology Builder, DNS configuration, push out clients
  • Create chat channels organized by topic, department, etc.

Necessary Components for Group Chat

  1. Group Chat Server Role download
  2. DNS A Records
  3. SQL Database
  4. Client Software
  5. License: If you’re licensed for IM/Presence, you’re licensed for Group Chat

Here’s the 2 key points Justin made (be sure to read his post too!):

A. The SQL database is the key here. It holds Group Chat’s configuration and channel data. Group Chat is basically a pair of services (Lookup Service, Channel Service) which both plug into SQL.
Make sure your SQL Server has plenty of space and solid performance. Consider deploying a separate SQL instance (you’ll have to if you run Lync Standard Edition).

B. When you obtain certificates for your Group Chat server, DO NOT USE ANY SANs! Any Subject Alternate Names listed in a Group Chat certificate causes the Channel Service to work improperly. As in, it will make some Chat users invisible to others–even if they’re in the same channel.

Uses for Group Chat

As I mentioned in my post in May, “Administer Group Chat”, Group Chat works best for project discussions and meetings.

You could also think of it like a constantly-updating FAQ. Support teams can use it to share customer solutions between themselves. Co-workers at different offices can use it to communicate.

Group Chat sits comfortably between IM and email. If you need to share information with multiple people, and you need it accessible later, then neither IM nor email are the best choice. Go with Lync’s Group Chat.

Want to try Group Chat? Head to Microsoft Downloads for the three main components (must have Lync Server installed):
Group Chat Server
Group Chat Admin Tool
Group Chat Client

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How to Create Custom Lync Presence States

Instant Messaging (IM), lync server 2010, Microsoft Lync

Guest Post from J. Christie

Fellow geeks and ladies, we have a guest post for you today! This comes from J. Christie in Scotland. He’s talking with us on creating custom Lync Presence states. Enjoy!

I’m the Director of ICT at an independent school in Scotland. After trialling (playing with) OCS 2007, I paid serious attention when Lync was announced. Like many businesses our PBX was aging. It was underused (in terms of features – voicemail, conference calling, call forwarding, etc.) due to its complexity. And it was a right royal pain wiring new extensions in old buildings!

So – Lync’s been installed. All staff have the Lync 2010 client. Reception staff have the Attendant for fielding calls. Department heads and non-teaching staff have USB handsets (Polycom cx200, Jabra dial 520 for ‘roaming’ staff). Mobile clients are now supported.

But there’s still a few niggles.

Custom Presence States: When You Must Be Able to Interrupt

For example, Calendar integration – wouldn’t it be nice if Lync not only read the calendar’s Free/Busy info, but could also set your status depending on the category assigned? And use a custom status to indicate, for instance, teaching?

There’s also the issue of DND (Do Not Disturb). DND is easily abused. Yes the user can add in contacts who can interrupt, but wouldn’t it be nice if Lync handled this a bit better. If Reception staff has to locate a pupil, they might need to interrupt a teacher to do that. But if the teacher’s status is DND, they can’t interrupt.

We badly needed that level of detail. With all the different roles education professionals play each day, I needed a way to identify what exactly everyone was doing at that moment AND still reach them in emergencies.

(We also want the ability to break through DND if necessary. But that’s another blog post!)

So I decided to implement custom presence states. Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Create Custom Presence Code in XML

There’s a good article on TechNet which describes the steps necessary. Link: Configuring Custom Presence States – TechNet

I’ve used the code below to set 4 additional custom status presence states.

  1. Teaching
  2. Department Meeting
  3. Interviewing
  4. Working from Home

The code reads as follows:

<?xml version=”1.0″?>

<customStates xmlns=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/09/2009/communicator/customStates“>

  <customState ID=”1″ availability=”busy”>

    <activity LCID=”1033″>Teaching</activity>

  </customState>

  <customState ID=”2″ availability=”busy”>

    <activity LCID=”1033″>Department Meeting</activity>

  </customState>

  <customState ID=”3″ availability=”do-not-disturb”>

    <activity LCID=”1033″>Interviewing</activity>

  </customState>

  <customState ID=”4″ availability=”online”>

    <activity LCID=”1033″>Working from Home</activity>

  </customState>

  </customStates>

 

As you see, I set “Interviewing” to Do Not Disturb level. But the others are set to either Busy or Online, so interruptions are permitted.

Name the file something easily recognizable and valid – like mine, CustomPresence.xml.

Step 2: Make the Code Available to Lync Clients using Powershell

There’s a couple ways to implement this code on clients. I could push it out via Group Policy/SCCM to copy a file locally, and set a registry entry. But that wouldn’t cover all clients.

Instead, using the client policy on the Lync server, I uploaded the custom states file to a server that’s available internally and externally. And referenced from there.

Open Lync Management Shell (Powershell) and make the new custom states available to everyone with this command (switch the URL with your own file’s location):

Set-CsClientPolicy –Identity Global –CustomStateURL “https://webserver.school.org.uk/CustomPresence.xml”

Step 3: Logout, Log Back In & Verify

Log out and back in to Lync and the new Presence states will appear (eventually). Don’t expect instant results, as the policy can take a while to kick in. Default is 3 hours according to TechNet.

At the school, the Lync windows clients are working. Mobile devices don’t yet show custom states (but we’re working on that). Here’s a screenshot of my own Lync client to show them:

Lync 2010 with Custom Presence States

Ta da! Custom Presence states, available on-click. Now we just have to encourage the teachers to use them.

Thanks for the post J! Great information.

Have you implemented custom Presence states in your organization? What was the motivation?

4 Comments

What's the Director For?

lync server 2010, Reference

We haven’t shown the Director very much love on this blog. Let’s change that.

In OCS 2007, the “Director” was just a chopped-down Front End server with no default configuration or definite purpose. It often caused trouble by letting users home on it!

In Lync Server 2010 it became its own dedicated server role, and took on a few important duties.

What the Director Does

I think of the Director like a sentry just inside the castle walls. A Director Server (or a Director Pool) sits between the perimeter network and the internal network. Another hop between the Edge Servers and the Front End Servers.

First, a Director authenticates traffic. SIP Requests come in from the Edge Server? The Director authenticates them before they’re allowed access to the Front End.

As a result, Directors are in the perfect position to protect against malicious traffic and DoS attacks. A Director Server can in fact be overloaded from a DoS attack, while the Front End pool keeps on working. (Mark of a good sentry – he goes down fighting.)

Internally, Directors help handle login and traffic redirects between Front End Pools.

The larger your deployment grows, the more functions a Director performs. For instance, Directors improve Lync performance by taking some of the authentication & traffic workload off Front End Servers.

Do You (Really) Need a Director?

Technically speaking, no. A Director IS optional. Most of its functions will run on Front End just fine.

However, the larger your deployment becomes, the more benefit a Director can give you. In Enterprise Edition pools, it can host the Registrar role to help with voice resiliency.

Directors even distribute information about backup registrars through the network, to help with failover.

 

The Director often confuses people – we get plenty of questions about it. I think that’s because its purpose isn’t any specific function, like Edge or A/V Conferencing. Instead, it assists other servers in performing their roles a little more efficiently.

And because of that, a Director can make your Lync Server deployment a lot better.

Do you use a Director? Where do you find it helps the most?

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