Browsing the archives for the configuration tag.

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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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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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: MOSDAL

Lync Online, Office 365

Welcome to the second in our post series on Lync connection tools. This week we’re talking about MOSDAL. Like TRIPP, it helps administrators figure out what’s gone wrong with Lync Online. And Exchange Online. And Office Web Apps. And a bunch of other Microsoft online services.

Let’s see what we’ll get from all this!

What Does MOSDAL Mean?

MOSDAL stands for “Microsoft Online Services Diagnostics and Logging”. It’s a support toolkit intended for diagnosing Office 365 and BPOS operational issues.

(I believe it’s pronounced ‘moz-dahl’. Had to think on that one.)

What MOSDAL Does

Microsoft’s description of MOSDAL:
“(MOSDAL) performs network diagnostics and collects system configuration, network configuration, and logging information for applications that are used to connect to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS-S) or to Microsoft Office 365. The logs and diagnostic information that the tool generates provide data that helps technical support professionals troubleshoot configuration, network, installation, and other service-related issues.”

Though they deal with the same arena – Office 365 services like Lync Online – MOSDAL has a much broader focus than TRIPP.

MOSDAL Window

A detailed list of which services MOSDAL covers, and what information it compiles, is here:
The Microsoft Online Services Diagnostics and Logging (MOSDAL) Support Toolkit – Microsoft Support

Essentially, it runs a series of tests on the service you request, hands you the test results and says, “The problem’s in here someplace. Good luck.”

What Kind of Information MOSDAL Gives You

Once you’ve selected a service to test, entered your login & password (not required every time) and hit Run, MOSDAL will take a few moments to conduct its tests.

When done, you’ll receive reports in the form of text files grouped in folders. I ran a test on my Active Directory connection as an example. (I don’t use Office 365 on this machine, but I do have a live Active Directory connection!)

The folders are:

  1. Admin_Applications
  2. Network_Tests
  3. System_Information
  4. User_Applications

Each has subfolders and sub-subfolders, to identify specifically what the text file they (eventually) contain talks about.

The end result is a large group of text files with huge amounts of system & network data in them. Being plain text, it’s easy to search through them for whatever issue you’re having with your Lync Online or DNS setup.

However, the sheer number of files & folders is frustrating. There’s no overview report, no callout of a big issue…nothing like that. MOSDAL creates an information dump. Which may not be what you want when you’re scrambling to find & fix a single issue.

For instance, here’s the sum total of the “O365_Sign_In_Assistant” log file:

Starting MSO IDCRL Sign-In Assistant Configuration Data
Microsoft Online Services IDCRL Not Installed – No registry key
Completed MSO IDCRL Sign-In Assistant Configuration Data
Module Execution Time was: 0 minutes and 0 seconds.

This file was 3 folders down.

MOSDAL is a very useful tool for collecting diagnostic information. Its only caveat is that it leaves sifting through all that information up to the administrator.

Where to Find MOSDAL

The support toolkit is a free download:
Download MOSDAL Support Toolkit

You’ll need the .NET Framework 4 to run it. But you already had that, right?

NOTE: You’ll also find a training file at the URL above. I suggest downloading it as well – it has some useful reference points for where MOSDAL stores data, and a couple ways to make sense of it all.

Coming up we’ll have a post on either:

  • Online Directory Synchronization
  • OCSUMUtil

Have you used MOSDAL before? What for? And did you find the information you needed to resolve the issue?

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Examining Lync's Connection Tools: TRIPP

Lync Online, Voice over IP

I’m kicking off a new series of posts this week. We’re examining the connection tools available to Lync Server and Lync Online administrators.

These tools are made to help you identify many different connection & issues between clients, Lync Servers, Exchange, the PSTN and so on. As such, they’re extremely important for new Lync systems. Help you iron out any kinks lingering in the connections.

In the “Examining Lync’s Connection Tools” series, we’ll cover:

  • TRIPP
  • Online Directory Synchronization
  • MOSDAL
  • OCSUMUtil

(Not necessarily in this order.)

Today we’re focusing on TRIPP.

What Does TRIPP Mean?

TRIPP stands for Transport Reliability IP Probe.


It’s meant for use with Lync Online subscribers.

When You Need to Use It

At some point, every Lync user has experienced a garbled call or a video conference that lost picture. When you experience poor audio or video quality in Lync Online, TRIPP will help you locate the problem.

What TRIPP Does – Tests Connection Quality

TRIPP runs a trio of tests on your Internet connection to the Lync Online datacenter. These tests measure connection speed, bandwidth, available ports, routing, and so on. TRIPP looks for potential obstacles to a good solid VoIP connection, such as packet loss, jitter, closed ports or bad routes.

Where to Find TRIPP

TRIPP is an online tool. (Handy; no install required.) Microsoft has placed it on several websites. Use the one closest to you from this list:

What Kind of Information TRIPP Gives You

I ran a test on my own connection to the Singapore TRIPP page. Now, I don’t use Lync Online, and Singapore’s pretty far away from California. I did this just so we could see the potentialities of connection trouble.

Here are my TRIPP results:

The Consistency of Service result was 59%. It’s marked in yellow. Which means TRIPP thinks my connection to the Lync Online service is all right for VoIP, but calls may break up now & then.

Everything else is green – good to go!

Like many other Microsoft tools, TRIPP focuses on a specific type of issue: Voice over IP connection speed and quality for Lync Online. Lync Server’s connections must be tested by another tool.

We’ll get to that as the Connection Tools series continues! Join us here next week for the next post.

Lync Online – Transport Reliability IP Probe (TRIPP): Technet Blogs

“You experience poor audio or video quality in Lync Online” – Microsoft Support

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What Monitoring Server Monitors – and What It Doesn't (2013 Version)

Lync Server 2013

As I mentioned the other day, I previously did a post on Monitoring Server for Lync 2010:
What Monitoring Server Monitors – and What It Doesn’t

With Lync Server 2013, a few things have changed.

Now you can home the Monitoring Server Role on your Front End Server. It doesn’t require a separate server anymore. Neither does its sibling service, Archiving.

I think this actually makes monitoring easier, both to set up and to retrieve information. The number and depth of Monitoring Reports were also increased for 2013:

  1. New reports on voice quality: Media Quality Comparison Report (compares quality between different kinds of calls), Conference Join Time Report (gives information on the time it takes users to join a conference).
  2. More details on video and application sharing. Now the Media Quality Summary Report has information on video calls and calls where you share apps. If there’s a problem with these call types, the Server Performance Report can help you pinpoint which server has the problem.
    1. You can look up video and application sharing data in the Peer-to-Peer Session Detail Report and Conference Detail Report too.

Speed of report generation & retrieval has gone up too. No big surprise, since it’s homed on the Front End Server.

With new reports and expanded current ones, does Monitoring Server have a farther reach than its 2010 predecessor? Does it monitor things Lync Server 2010 didn’t?

Yes…mostly.

What Monitoring Server (Lync 2013 Version) Monitors

  • Usage information on all communication sessions. VoIP calls, conferencing, and IM.
  • Peer-to-Peer session information. Any two users communicating in any Lync medium (including application sharing and video, as I mentioned above).
  • Any failures in communication sessions (logged per user and in aggregate), including which failures occurred most frequently and where the failures originated.
  • Response Group Usage data.
  • Lists and data of Call Admission Control-restricted activities.
  • Metrics on call quality, signaling issues such as jitter, location data and devices used by Lync Server.
  • Details on calls made and received.

Pretty much everything it monitored before, plus some new reports on voice quality and expanded reporting for more developed services in 2013, like video calls and sharing.

Still, it doesn’t cover everything.

What Monitoring Server (2013 Version) DOES NOT Monitor

  • Since Archiving Server is still around, it’s responsible for contents of IM sessions, conferences, whiteboards and phone calls. Not Monitoring Server.
  • Monitoring for the Windows Servers on which Lync is installed. Sorry, it still doesn’t cover the Windows Server! Make sure to install a server monitoring tool.
  • Non-Lync Server application logging. If you have other services homed on the same server (which I don’t recommend!), Monitoring Server will not report on them.

Monitoring in Lync Server 2013 covers everything its 2010 predecessor does–as well as the new capabilities introduced in 2013. It does remain Lync-specific though. Which is good; focusing on the complexities of Lync processes means we have plenty of data for support and growth.

One thing to note: If you use the Monitoring Dashboard to keep track of Lync Server activity, remember that it only displays reports going back 6 months. Reports are NOT deleted after 6 months – they just aren’t shown in the Dashboard. Refer to specific reports if you need data older than that.

 

That’s it for 2013! We’re taking off for the next 2 weeks. PlanetMagpie wishes all our Lync Insider readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

I’ll see you all back here the week of January 6th, for a fresh start in 2014. Take care!

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Labs to Learn Lync – Hatsize's Cloud-Based Training Environments Are a Big Help for Certification

Lync Server 2013, Third-Party Lync Products

In the past I’ve posted several times about training aids for learning Lync Server 2010 and 2013.

Some of these training aids help administrators prepare for the Microsoft certification exams. Like this recent one on downloadable images.

Another such certification training aid has become available. I took a look, and decided it was well worth a post!

But first, let me step back a moment and explain where I’m coming from.

How Do You Learn? Visually, By Listening, By Doing?

I’m a combination learner. By that I mean, I learn using a variety of ‘learning methods’ we’ve identified over the years. Here’s a list of all the learning styles (it’s long!): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles

I typically learn in the following order: Read about the topic (text), examine designs and what-if scenarios (visual), and then test myself on the knowledge (kinesthetic/self-learning).

Everyone has a different process. What’s important is knowing how YOU learn best.

If you’re someone who learns best by going hands-on, then this new training aid should appeal. It’s a training lab environment – hosted on the cloud.

Training Labs for Lync, Made by Hatsize

Hatsize.com announced a training lab for Lync Server 2013 last month. They have several other labs available for training too, on Microsoft servers like Windows Server 2012 and System Center.

The full lab listing is here: http://hatsize.com/solutions/microsoft-training-labs/

What they’re offering is essentially a cloud-based version of the Lync “test drive” I mentioned in September. Only instead of setting up the pre-configured VHD images on servers in your office, you just connect to Hatsize’s ready-to-train lab environment.

Hatsize Cloud Training Lab

The labs contain full Lync Server 2013 server setups, including databases, firewalls and routing. (Which is a huge resource savings for businesses right there – that’s a lot of resources you don’t have to take away from other systems!)

It runs on a virtualized Windows Server 2008 R2, per Microsoft training specifications. They’re built to accommodate both Instructor-Led Training and Self-Paced Learning.

The Control Panel makes Instructor-Led Training nice and smooth. It lets the instructor watch and guide all trainees’ virtual machines. You can monitor what they’re doing in real time, and take control of their virtual keyboard if there’s a problem.

Instructor Control of Environment

What Hatsize Has Available: A Secure Platform for Training on Lync Server, Windows Server and a Few More

It’s important to note though, that Hatsize is an infrastructure provider only. They do not have instructors available for training; that’s up to New Horizons or other training organizations. Hatsize focuses on making the training infrastructure. And they’ve done a thorough job of it.

I spoke with Judy at Hatsize just before they’d announced the new Lync Server lab. She offered me a brief demo of the system on Monday. Of course I accepted, and I was impressed by two things:

  • It uses three layers of virtualization, both to keep systems stable and secure. Trainees work in a Hyper-V server manager, which is run by a virtualized Windows Server, which is run from an ESX server. Even if a trainee mangles the Lync environment somehow, they can restore from a save point in a few moments.
  • They’ve built a training environment which CAN be adapted quickly for custom needs. But it’s robust enough as it is that instructors can simply log in and start teaching. Or self-paced learners (like me) can dive right in!

Right now Hatsize has one lab directly relevant to Lync certification: “20336B: Core Solutions of Microsoft Lync Server 2013 (for Exam 70-336)”. There is a second Lync Server 2013 exam – “Enterprise Voice & Online Services with Microsoft Lync Server 2013 (Exam 70-337)” – for which they don’t have a lab yet. But I’m sure one will be assembled soon.

Hatsize also has a “10961A: Automating Administration with Windows PowerShell” lab. Handy if you want to learn PowerShell alongside the big ones.

Curious? Grab their Solution Overview PDF to learn more about their training program.

If you’re a business or organization who needs to train people on Lync, but don’t have the resources or budget right now for a full test environment? Head for Hatsize’s website.

PlanetMagpie wishes all our readers safe travels and a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Is There a Way to Use Persistent Chat as a Web App – Without a Lync Account?

Persistent Chat

Time for another reader question! I received this the other day from Jean:

“A client is asking us if it’s possible to integrate a Lync Chat Room inside a PHP website. They have about 1000 people who want to use it. Is there an embedded Web app that we can use for this kind of request?”

Interesting question. Can Lync’s Chat Room functionality plug into a webpage, so people could use it on a public website instead of a private chat room?

I presume these 1000 people are not all Lync users. Which would be the reason why they’d like to chat, but don’t all have the Lync Chat Room option available to them.

Off to research!

The Bad News: Lync Wants a Client to Connect

Sadly, I had to tell Jean that there is no way to do this natively with Lync Server. Persistent Chat is a server role designed to function within your network. You can always chat with branch offices and federated partners. But they need to use a Lync client to do so.

The only clients with Persistent Chat integrated are Lync 2013 and Lync 2013 Basic. Both of these require a Lync user account. So the whole idea of non-Lync users on a public Chat Room breaks apart.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make this happen. It just means we have to get creative.

The Good News: Third-Party Options Help Lync Provide Public Chat

In my research I turned up a pair third-party software options. These extend Lync Server’s capabilities in the IM, Presence and Persistent Chat areas.

1. The Lync Presence & Chat Widget from OrbitOne:
http://lyncwidget.codeplex.com
Shows Lync Presence information live on your website. Visitors can chat with Lync users through the widget.

2. SmartChat from Evangelyze:
http://smartchat.evangelyze.net
Uses Lync to power a live Web Chat for visitors.

SmartChat is the closest option to what Jean asked for. However in both cases, you’d need to do some development to make the chat rooms function seamlessly. Lync Server is not a PHP application, so connecting to it via PHP will require a bit of coding.

Speaking of coding – there’s always the option of developing your own public-access chat room! I’m not a developer, but I do know about the Lync Web Developer API website: https://ucwa.lync.com/

Some good API documentation here, well-organized.

I recommended making an open Chat Room, and requiring all users to use Lync 2013. That way Persistent Chat takes care of everything for all 1000 users. But if Jean wasn’t able to put everyone on Lync, the options I listed here are the best choices available.

Do you know another way to host Lync Chat online…without requiring participants have a Lync account? Let’s hear about it!

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The Two Types of Response Group Management (and When to Use Them)

Lync Server 2013, Reference

Response Groups help facilitate call transfers within Lync’s infrastructure. They let you direct calls to where the caller needs to go: Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Support, etc.

They do require a little setup time, to organize agent groups, create workflows and so on. So their management is a necessary component of Lync Server administration.

Here’s how they work.

30-Second Response Group Overview

You (the Lync administrator) set up a Response Group for a group of people in your organization. Sales, for example.
Someone calls the Sales office.
Since the number they called is set up with a Response Group, the call is routed to one of the right people (called an “Agent”).
Who gets the call depends on the Response Group’s selected routing method (Serial, Longest Idle, Parallel, Round-Robin, Attendant). If no one is available, the caller is placed in a queue.

Pretty simple, right? Good caller management, entirely configurable by you.

Response Groups have stayed pretty much the same from Lync Server 2010 to Lync Server 2013. Except for one area: Management.

How Response Groups are Managed in Lync Server 2010: 1 Administrator Role

For Lync 2010, you had one administrative role: CsResponseGroupAdministrator. This role could create and modify Response Groups, its agent lists, queues and workflows. Every Response Group setting was available to configure.

However, other administrative roles could also modify Response Group settings. The CsVoiceAdministrator, CsServerAdministrator, and CsAdministrator roles all could. And these were all all-or-nothing roles; you couldn’t set much in the way of granular permissions.

It worked, but only just. If you had multiple administrators, you could lose track of Response Group configurations quickly.

Call Management in Lync Server 2010 (TechNet)

To improve things, Microsoft changed the administrative structure for Response Groups in Lync Server 2013.

How Response Groups are Managed in Lync Server 2013: Manager & Adminstrator roles

You have two management choices for Lync Server 2013 Response Groups: A Response Group Manager role or a Response Group Administrator role.

What’s the difference? An Administrator can do everything for any Response Group, just like its 2010 counterpart. But Managers can only manage Response Groups to which they are assigned. And even then, there are some settings beyond a Manager’s control.

For example:
–Managers can’t create or delete a workflow.
–Managers can’t modify some Response Group settings, like their SIP URI or phone number.

Response Groups in Lync Server 2013 (TechNet)

When to Use the New Manager Role

Some good practices we’ve determined, when it comes to Response Group management:

  1. If you have more than 3 Response Groups, use Managers for each one. (Fewer than 3, just stick with the Administrator role.)
  2. Install a Manager at any branch sites, in case you must troubleshoot call routing errors.
  3. Use Managers for critical Response Groups.

Wait, why did I say use a Manager role (lower-security) on a critical Response Group?

Because essential Response Groups – such as Help Desk or Sales – need immediate support if they don’t function properly. If calls aren’t making it through, someone has to fix that Response Group ASAP.

It’s best to have more than one person available to do so – if the Administrator isn’t available, a Manager better be.

Which I think is at least half the reason Microsoft added the Manager role – you can share responsibility & support between people.

Response Groups are a setup-once-and-watch-it-work sort of functionality. It’s only when calls fail to route that you need management. Having someone to call if the administrator is unavailable means you can repair incoming call management again.

How does your organization use Response Groups? Do you use Managers? Let us know!

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