Browsing the archives for the Unified Communications tag.

Prepare to Support Skype for Business with a New Lync/Skype Troubleshooting Guide

Skype for Business

Okay! Back to talking about Skype for Business 2015.

I attended a Lync Users Group Meetup 2 weeks ago, where we discussed Skype for Business Server 2015. I’m not able to share specifics yet, but I can talk about the Meetup itself. It was very well-attended–Lync partners, third-party vendors like Sonus, and UC industry experts.

The preparatory process for Skype for Business has clearly begun.

It was in this same vein – preparing for Skype for Business’ arrival – that I wrote today’s post. Last month Thomas Poett, a Microsoft Lync MVP, released a troubleshooting guide (free download). Both for Lync Server 2013…and for Skype for Business 2015!

Troubleshooting Guide, Skype for Business and Lync – Thomas.Poett@UC

Who’s the Guide For?

ThSupporting Lync Servere guide is meant for systems administrators, Lync Server administrators and Exchange Server administrators. It isn’t spelled out exactly, but the subject matter clearly delineates admins for its target audience.

As you’d expect from the title, Thomas’ guide covers troubleshooting methods for resolving issues within Lync Server 2013 and Skype for Business 2015. It addresses topics like the following.

  • Support tools to use, such as Snooper and OCSLogger
  • Testing configurations for IM, Voice/VoIP, Conferencing
  • Analyzing calls for session problems
  • SIP troubleshooting
  • And much more

Things to Consider

–This guide is focused on troubleshooting, NOT on setup. Please read it with that in mind.
For instance: 21 pages are devoted to analyzing SIP data from one Lync call!

–This is a low-level technical guide. Expect to see Snooper logs, PowerShell cmdlets and session diagrams. If you are not already familiar with the Lync Server infrastructure, I suggest saving this for later. (May I suggest previous posts on this blog instead?)

–More attention is paid to Lync than Skype. No surprise here – Thomas does have access to the TAP, but there are strict privacy controls on Skype for Business information right now. And will be for a few more months.

Thomas was clever; he wrote a “universal” Troubleshooting Approach on pages 7-8 which can be applied to Lync, Skype for Business, Exchange Server, and even Office 365. I do not want to take away from his guide, so I will only quote a small part of the Troubleshooting Approach:

4 Major Quality Issue Areas:

  1. Network
  2. Core Performance
  3. Gateway
  4. Devices

Configuration/Environment Setup Regions to Check When Troubleshooting (in order):

  • Voice Setup (Dial Plans, Normalization, Routes)
  • Gateway Configuration
  • Exchange Unified Messaging Integration

Speaking from our Lync experience, this approach holds up. Network issues affect Lync more often than its own Server Roles hitting a snag. Which happens more often than a gateway failing to communicate. Which happens more than a device outright failing (only had that happen a couple times).

Why You Should Read the Troubleshooting Guide

I’m reading this for one reason: Identifying similarities between Lync Server 2013 and Skype for Business Server 2015’s support processes.

Thomas has done some good work here. He’s provided details for troubleshooting a software platform, before it’s commercially available, using its currently-running predecessor. It’s a document intended to help you transition from one to the other.

I’m sure in time we’ll have more documentation, both for setup and for support. But right now, we have a Skype for Business 2015 resource available. Avail yourselves of it – after all, it’s free!

Here’s the direct PDF download link at TechNet.

What steps are you taking to prepare for Skype for Business 2015? Please comment or email your thoughts. And join us back here next week for more!

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Device Review: Jabra Motion Office Headset

Third-Party Lync Products, Voice over IP

Today we have another Jabra headset to review. Not an over-the-ears devices like the Evolve 80 though – no, this is one of their Bluetooth headsets. The Jabra Motion Office unit.

Device Page: JABRA MOTION OFFICE – Jabra.com

I admit to a little reservation when starting the review. Bluetooth headsets and me don’t tend to get along.

Well, until now.

Initial Impressions

The Motion Office is more than just the headset. There’s also a charging/connectivity stand with a small touchscreen. And a headset case. And cables. And a Bluetooth adapter.

Jabra Motion Office Unit

This isn’t just a headset. It’s an extension to your Lync client. Irrespective of the platform on which you use Lync.

Seting Up the Unit

After the unboxing, you connect the headset to the base & plug it in. The touchscreen says the earpiece needs to charge for 20 minutes. And while you wait, why don’t you run through Setup?

motionofficesetup

The touchscreen provides instructions from then on. First it asks if you want to connect this headset to your desk phone. I did, connecting a given cable to the Polycom. It asked me to call a Jabra support number to complete the phone connection.

motionofficeinstructions

After that, it asked if I wanted to connect to a Softphone (PC)? Sure, why not? I plugged it into my laptop’s USB hub. The touchscreen suggested downloading the Jabra PC Suite for additional capabilities, at www.jabra.com/pcsuite. I did so.

PC Suite contains “Softphone Integration Modules” – these enable call control for third-party softphones. It’s a thorough list too – Skype, Cisco, NEC, Lync, ShoreTel and a couple more. I disabled a few that I know I’ll never use.

After the PC Suite installed, the touchscreen asked me, “Connect to mobile phone?” I said No to this one, for now. Didn’t need it, and I was curious when I’d see an option to connect it later.

Next up, Personal Preferences. Screen brightness, dimmer timeout, ringtones, volume controls. The touchscreen then kindly refers you back to the Quick Start Guide for Headset Use 101.

motionofficecalloptions

Making Calls

The headset/earpiece, when fully charged, has an 8-hour talk time. Enough for a full workday.

As I did with the last Jabra headset, I tested this one out by making some calls.
Test calls came:

  • From Lync
  • From cellphones
  • To Lync
  • To cellphones

Call quality was as clear as the Jabra Evolve 80 – which is impressive on its own, considering that had two wrap-around earpieces and the Motion Office only has one in-ear piece.

The calls are so sharp that, when I called a co-worker in the same workspace, the earpiece could pick up his voice through the phone AND spoken! (Which caused a funny echo effect in my ear. Moving away made it disappear.)

motionofficeheadset

Touchscreen

We’ve had touchscreens on our Polycom desk phones for a while now. The Motion Office’s touchscreen is smaller, and has one disadvantage: No ability to dial via touchscreen. However, that isn’t a requirement. Dialing through Lync or your phone works perfectly.

The touchscreen also lets you switch quickly between devices. Remember how I didn’t connect Motion Office to my cellphone at first? When I did (via the Call Options button on top-right), I could switch between it, my desk phone and my computer with a touch. They’re all represented by icons.

Which means I can choose from which location I take my call, within Lync. Forward calls to cell? Pick up with the earpiece. Simultaneous Ring? All devices will give the call to the earpiece.

Voice Commands

Using voice commands with a Lync headset…about time! To find out which voice commands are available, tap the Voice/Mute Mic button when you’re not on a call. When you hear “Say a Command,” say “What can I say?”

The headset will give you a list of voice commands. The ones I received were:

  1. Pair New Device
  2. Battery
  3. Cancel

Speak up; it needs clear instruction.  I had a few funny looks while I walked around shouting, “What can I say?  What can I say??”

The Bluetooth Adapter

The Motion Office headset will work without the base too. All you need is the Bluetooth adapter. Plug this little guy into your computer and poof, it pairs up. I took it and the headset out of the office for a test.

motionofficebluetooth

However, when I did, I encountered an issue.

Snags/Issues

ISSUE 1: When I plugged in the LINK 360 Bluetooth adapter, my computer saw the adapter just fine. But I couldn’t use the headset. I tried pairing, connecting to the headset, switching USB ports…nothing worked.

I tried using the Bluetooth adapter on another computer though, and it worked right away. There is a warning in the Jabra Get Started Guide – “The Jabra Link 360 and the base should not be plugged in at the same time.”

They weren’t plugged in, but I did install the base before I tried the Bluetooth adapter. I suspect this is what caused the issue.

ISSUE 2: Also, I did encounter a pause when the Motion Office base first connected to my laptop. It lasted long enough to make me think the installation had failed, and I eventually closed the window.

But a moment later the “Motion Office” icon showed up in my taskbar. All was well.

This was likely just my system taking its time on install. But I document it here in case others encounter it.

Final Thoughts

I’ve tried Bluetooth headsets in the past. None of them lasted. Either they were too flimsy & kept falling off my ear, or they had spotty call quality.

The Jabra Motion Office headset is much better on both counts. It takes me a second to get the thing on my ear, but once I do, it’s not going anywhere!

And neither is this headset. I really liked the comfort of the Evolve 80. (So did a co-worker, because he asked for it after reading my review!)

But the Motion Office? I’m keeping this one.

Next week we’ll return to Skype for Business 2015. But what will we cover? You’ll have to come back & find out.

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Device Review: Jabra Evolve 80 MS Lync Stereo Headset

Lync 2013 Client, Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business, Voice over IP

In the past, we’ve reviewed a couple Jabra products here on the Lync Insider. I try to avoid all bias when reviewing hardware – the Jabra equipment just keeps delivering high quality.

This week, I received the Jabra Evolve 80 headset (MS Lync Stereo model). Well, I couldn’t pass that up for a review, now could I?

Jabra Evolve Series Page on Jabra.com

Initial Impression

The Evolve 80 MS Lync model has full over-the-ear headphones with an attached mic arm. The earpieces and headband are well-padded. The headset comes in a neoprene case. Easy to store & travel with.
jabra-case

Jabra Evolve 80 Lync Headset

The Controller

The headset comes with a detachable controller. Connect via USB to a PC, or headphone jack to a mobile device (without the controller). The controller buttons gives you these options: Answer Call/End Call, Volume Up/Down, Mute. The center ring/Busylight lights up in red as a “Busy” indicator.

Jabra Evolve 80 Controller

Charging

The headset needs to charge for full use of its functions. It will do so automatically when plugged into a PC. Or you can connect a micro-USB cable directly to the left earpiece to charge. The built-in battery powers these functions:

  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Listen-In
  • Busylight

Noise Cancelling

The right earpiece has a switch to turn on Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). These are already quite muffling of outside sound, but with noise cancellation built-in? I made a call, and couldn’t even hear my co-worker talking less than 10 feet from me.

Making Calls

The controller reminds me of the Jabra SPEAK 410 Speakerphone. Same kind of circular design, and a light indicating calls in progress.

Call quality is superb. Better than my previous headset (the Jabra BIZ 620 from my last review!). No latency on either Lync-to-Lync or Lync-to-Cell calls noticeable.

One thing to point out: The Evolve headset intelligently took over my sound output. Calls came through the headset right away. But music didn’t. It only assigned itself as default for Lync 2013, not the whole computer. I found that valuable–this headset knows not to overextend its reach!

(Of course I switched default devices under Sound, and music played through the headset too. The test song came through nuanced and with clear balance.)

Multiple Call Handling

Now this is fancy. The Jabra Evolve 80 can manage multiple calls at once!

Here’s how it works: If you’re on a call and another call comes in, hold down the Answer/End button for 2 seconds. It puts the current call on hold and answers the incoming call.

To switch between the calls, hold down Answer/End for 2 seconds again.
You don’t want to answer the incoming call? Double-press Answer/End and it’ll stop bothering you.

Listen-In Button

If you’re using ANC, hearing something other than the call you’re on is pretty difficult. But if you press the Listen-In button on the right earpiece, it mutes music and/or calls.

Calls are NOT paused though–and your mic is still on when in Listen-In Mode. Don’t use Listen-In as a Pause button!

The One Snag I Found

One caveat to this headset. Both earpieces will fold flat. Makes it easy to lay flat on your desk. However, when they’re folded flat, the mic arm sticks out away from the headband. It cannot move flush with the headband; just doesn’t go that far.

Now this isn’t much of a big deal. But it is something to keep in mind. I can see someone catching their sleeve or a cable on the jutting-out mic arm, and sending the whole headset flying by accident.

With a headset this high-quality, that’s definitely not something you want to do!

mic-arm

Verdict: Impressive Piece of Lync Hardware!

Jabra continues to make top-tier devices. This headset is comfortable, with sharp call quality and more useful features. Finally, I don’t see any reason why this won’t work with Skype for Business 2015 as well as it does with Lync 2013.

out-of-box3

Next week we’ll be back to our software reviews. Up next: Lync 2013 and Skype on the iPad, point-by-point comparison.

What headset do you use with Lync?

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A Refreshing Walk Through Lync 2013 for iPhone

Lync Mobile

Last week I said I’d do some reviews for Lync and Skype on mobile devices. Good way to know which features are available – and which we need in Skype for Business’ mobile apps.

I’ll start out with Lync 2013 for iPhone.

Now, full disclosure: I don’t use the Lync 2013 client on my iPhone often. I have my laptop for day-to-day work conversations. (It’s a Lenovo Ultrabook–instant Windows 8 tablet with a button-press.) Lync forwards after-hours calls to my phone. Worked so far.

So, this is a bit of a refresher for me too. Haven’t used Lync 2013 on an iPhone before? Join me in exploration!

Logging In

Important Note! This client is used for Lync Online and for Lync 2013 users. Since I’m the latter, I had to enter my username in the proper domain format. You’ll see a reminder of this in the client.
lyncphone-login

As always, your login username/password conventions may differ slightly.

Reviews on this Lync client vary widely. The App Store has plenty of good and bad in the Reviews section. While I go through the features, I’ll mention frequent complaints I found therein.

What Works

Ostensibly, Lync 2013 for iPhone can do everything the desktop version can do, with a few exceptions:

  • Managing contact groups
  • Share Desktop/Program
  • Use of meeting tools (the whiteboard, controlling PowerPoint, etc.)
  • Manage team calls & call Response Groups

(Full Mobile Client Comparison tables are here: Mobile Client Comparison Tables for Lync 2013)

But the main functions – calls, IM, meetings – are front and center. I tested them all and had no problems.

lyncphone-phone1

Lync calls went out, and were received, just fine. So does IM (in fact I may have annoyed a couple co-workers today). My Outlook calendar appointments also come up under the Meetings tab, nice and clear.

What’s Not Right

App Store reviews mention that cell calls will interrupt Lync calls. I asked a co-worker to call my cell from his while I spoke with another co-worker via Lync. It didn’t interrupt; the cell call went to voicemail. Could be our configuration, but I wanted to note that I didn’t duplicate the interruption reviewers mentioned.

However, other mentioned errors did turn up. A review from November mentioned that chats “randomly disappear” and “so do missed conversations.”

I found this to be true on my phone. Here’s my Chats screen:
lyncphone-chats1
Only one conversation, right? Wrong. I had another IM chat via this phone, less than 2 weeks ago. Where is it? Nowhere – not on my phone, not in my Conversation History in Outlook.

Two Conversation Histories – Laptop and Phone?

Then a curious thing happened. While logged into Lync on my phone, I received an IM. The client buzzed at me…but the IM window opened on my laptop. Where I was also logged into Lync 2013.

Why? Well, I was typing on my laptop at the time. Not in Lync, but on the same machine. Lync interpreted me as being active “here” and sent the IM to the respective client.

I wrote about this behavior 2 years ago: Doubling Up: Does Lync Allow Multiple Logins?
(Please do note Peter J.’s comment and my own response for all the details.)

This isn’t so much “not right” as “open for improvement”. Nothing wrong with funneling a conversation to the Lync client with the most-recently-active system!

However, this made me think of a would-be-nice for the Skype for Business iPhone client…access to full Conversation History within the client. I don’t know how many times I’ve consulted Conversation History for dates, numbers, etc. If I could do that on my phone & find conversations from my laptop? Major timesaver.

This is already noted as missing in Microsoft’s documentation:

“The conversation history on Lync for iPhone is not synced with Microsoft Exchange. This means that conversations that occur on your Lync mobile device will only be displayed on that device’s conversation history and nowhere else. Also, when you delete a conversation on your mobile device, that conversation is permanently deleted.”

Limitations Aside, Lync 2013 is Good to Have on the iPhone

Are there issues with Lync 2013 for iPhone? It appears so. I did not experience an app crash, as several reviewers reported, but I don’t doubt they did have Lync crash on them.

That said, having a Lync 2013 app is an overall benefit to users. As I review other mobile clients, I’ll see how they stack up to Lync 2013 for iPhone.

Hmmm, maybe I should “borrow” my co-worker’s Android phone next…

What do you think? Would full Conversation History access on your phone help your work? Please comment or email your thoughts. And check back next week for more reviews!

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2014 Reader Survey: What are Your 2015 Lync Plans?

Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business, Unified Communications, Voice over IP

It’s the last Lync Insider post of 2014! Hope everyone’s Christmas shopping is done and the workload is light.

It’s been quite a year for the blog. Add-ons coming out. Big announcements. Lots of updates & fixes. Lync is out there in a big way and getting bigger. Each month, over 20,000 readers visit the Lync Insider, and we’re grateful for all the conversations we’ve had.

Here’s a few of our most popular 2014 posts (in case you missed them!):

2 Surveys in 2 Minutes – Please Tell Us Your Lync Plans!

We’ll return to our regular posting schedule in early January. But what should we start with? What directions should we go next year?

Well, why not ask our readers these questions! If you’ll spare 2 minutes, please answer the following 2 surveys about your Lync plans. The results will inform our 2015 posting schedule.

===================

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 2014-12-16 09:13:57
end_date 2015-01-10 23:59:59
Poll Results:
What is the most useful Lync service? (Choose up to 3)

===================

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 2014-12-16 09:13:57
end_date 2015-01-10 23:59:59
Poll Results:
What are your Lync-related plans for 2015?

===================

We had 67 votes on our last poll…can we make it to 100 for these two?

As always, if you have a question or want to share a Lync story, please comment on a post or email me. PlanetMagpie is always happy to help business users with their Lync (or other!) support issues.

I just received a comment about Chat inside an add-on, in fact. (Paul, I’ll answer your question as soon as I’m able!)

The Blog Name Change – Decision Made

Thank you again, to all of our readers. We asked you what you thought this blog should be named, since Lync itself will change its name in 2015.

After reviewing the poll results and talking it over amongst ourselves, we decided that the blog’s name will be…

The Lync Insider.

We will stay with the name you already know. But! We’ll have other changes coming to reflect the Skype for Business changes.

What will they be? Well, you’ll have to come back to find out!

Subscribe via email with the signup box at top right, for weekly post emails. Many of you already have this year…and we hope many more will join us next year!

Until then, Happy Holidays to all, and have a safe New Year.

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Moving Versions or Staying Put: How Should You Prepare for Skype for Business in 2015?

Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business, Unified Communications

Look out, Christmas is coming at us!

At several of our clients’ offices, plans for 2015 are in full swing. People are considering what to do next year, where to spend their budgets, what software to update.

With each new year we see new Microsoft software. In the case of Lync Server though, the change is more pronounced. A full rebranding, new features, interconnection with the 500+ million Skype user base…this is a BIG change coming. 2015 Planning Commences!

How should businesses approach Skype for Business? Should they wait, or jump forward? At what point should they transition–and does their current communications software factor in?

After reading some blog posts & reader emails, as well as brainstorming and staring at our own Lync Server a while, I came up with the following recommendations. Each recommendation depends on what version of Lync Server you’re running now (if any). I’ve even included some thoughts for Skype users too.

If you run Lync Server 2010…

According to Monday’s No Jitter post, in-place upgrades aren’t available from Lync Server 2010 to Skype for Business.

No big surprise; the hardware requirements rose between Lync 2010 and 2013. Lync Server 2010 users actually have a unique opportunity: They’ll have to upgrade either way, so moving straight to Skype for Business is a viable option. (If any businesses do this, I’d appreciate an email. Would love to hear how the transition goes for you.)

There’s only one caveat: make sure your Windows Servers are up-to-date before you try any upgrades. In fact, I’d say build a 100% fresh server group and test on there.

If you run Lync Server 2013…

Make sure you have your Cumulative Updates, but otherwise, you have the luxury of time. Lync Server 2013 will remain usable for a while.

We even received a new feature this past week – video calling between Lync and Skype clients.

Start a Skype for Business evaluation when scheduling/budget permits. I’m hoping to do this by summer 2015.

If you are evaluating Lync Server 2013 (and like it)…

Plan to deploy when you’re ready. Don’t worry about, “Should we wait for Skype for Business?” Go ahead and implement Lync. The hardware used can (at least as far as we know) be re-used when you do move to Skype for Business. No need to rush.

If your office uses Skype…

A change from Skype clients to Skype for Business Server is arguably the largest change on this list. Your users would gain a lot of functionality–and a whole new level of complexity to their communications.

If you do plan to transition in 2015, begin advising users of the change as early as possible. Invite test user groups to evaluate Skype for Business – more than once, if you can. You might even direct users toward this blog! I will endeavor to provide useful transitioning content next year.

If you do not have either Lync or Skype…

Interested in the Unified Communications world, huh? Glad you could join us!

2015 will provide you with a choice: Deploy Lync Server 2013 or Skype for Business Server 2015. If you choose Lync 2013, you can begin evaluations right now. If you want Skype for Business, you’ll have to wait a while until we at least see a beta version.

If you have no Lync experience, I would suggest going for Skype for Business. Use the first half of 2015 to read up on Voice over IP, Lync Server’s main Server Roles, blogs discussing Skype for Business features, etc.

===========

I hope these recommendations help my readers (and your businesses) plan well for 2015. Remember also that we should see a new version of Exchange Server in 2015 too. Lots of changes for which we must plan!

Next week we’ll close out 2015 with a reader survey and Q&A. If you have questions you’d like answered about Lync, Skype, Exchange or Unified Communications in general, please comment or email them to me. See you then!

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How to Record Calls in Lync and Skype – And Where Recording Should Go in 2015

Skype for Business, Third-Party Lync Products

In my recent news alerts, I saw mention of a new third-party Lync Server 2013 product. (You’ll see it below; it’s the one from Actiance.)

Reading the news article I thought, “They must be incredibly disappointed. All that work to add something to Lync Server, and Microsoft is changing it into Skype for Business in a few months!”

Which got me thinking more about one of the functions they added: Recording voice calls in Lync.

Recording Calls in Lync

Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Recording conversations is nothing new – but it can be a pain to organize, depending on your platform. I’ve touched on the subject with Lync before–but not for a while. Now seems like a good time to revisit.

You Can Record Lync Meetings

First, the positive: Lync Server DOES allow you to record Lync Meetings natively. The “Start Recording” option is located under More Options in the Lync Meeting window.

Record and Play Back a Lync Meeting – Office.com

(For you Office 365 users, Recording is also available in Lync Online.)

Recording one-to-one voice calls however, is not a native Lync function. You can trick it with a little something Matt Landis wrote about in 2012:
Lync User Tip #20: How to Record Lync to PSTN Calls (With No Addon) – Windows UC Report

But otherwise, you’ll need to use an add-on.

How to Record Calls, in Lync 2013 or Skype

Developers have had years to build add-ons for voice recording. Now Lync Server has several robust third-party solutions available. For example, Verba Technologies’ Lync Call Recording (I mentioned this back in August).

A newer contender is Actiance’s Vantage for Lync. It’s a multi-platform solution, capable of recording conversations and much more. I’ve requested a demo & will report on my findings when it arrives.

Here’s an Actiance datasheet on Vantage for Lync.

Like Lync, Skype has multiple third-party methods of recording voice calls. More than Lync in fact. Skype.com even has a list of add-ons available!

How can I record my Skype calls? – Skype Help
CallNote and MP3 Skype Recorder are highly-reputed for PC; Mac users appear to like Vodburner.

Recording Should Go Native in 2015

Users of Lync 2013 and Skype have options for recording voice calls when businesses require it. Since both will experience an incorporation (at least partially) in next year’s Skype for Business, what should happen with recording?

I think most industry experts – not to mention millions of users – want recording built in.

It makes the most sense. Recording calls fulfills regulatory and recordkeeping requirements for corporations. Clearly the demand is there from everyday users of both Skype AND Lync. Plus, Skype for Business will “blend together” features such as Lync’s Contacts list and Skype’s Directory.

Microsoft, if you’re not already building recording into Skype for Business, here’s your opportunity. You have plenty of options:

  • Extend the Recording Manager’s functionality to include Lync Calls.
  • License or buy one of the available Skype third-party add-ons.
  • License recording technology from Verba, Actiance or another vendor with Lync call recording capability.

The technology is out there. People want to use it. You’re shaking things up with a new version anyway. Here’s a glaring chance to give users what they want.

Do you record calls through Lync or Skype? What do you think of your solution? Please comment or email your responses.

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How will Licensing Work? Which Issues will Appear? Predictions on the Coming Skype for Business

Lync Server 2013, Unified Communications

The Web is abuzz with talk about Lync Server’s rebranding. I’m just as curious as the rest of you. (If anyone wants to weigh in, please feel free to comment with your thoughts/wild speculations.)

After reading more from fellow IT professionals, journalists “in the know” and the vast pool of brains we call ‘social media’, I think it’s time for some predictions.

(Yes, I was wrong about the Skype-Lync integration path, but humor me here! Predictions are fun!)

Upgrades

Microsoft claims the on-premise server upgrade will require “no new hardware.” For the most part, I believe this will be true. A solid Lync Server 2013 hardware setup should easily handle some additional Skype features (e.g., accessing the Skype Directory).ID-100103810

The only place I could see more resources being useful, would be the Mediation Server role. Which is almost guaranteed to change in 2015, to accommodate the Skype access changes.

Licensing

Here I pretty much have nothing but questions. Will Skype for Business have the same CAL structure Lync Server 2013 does? Will users need to use their Microsoft account to sign in?

Licensing costs & implementation issues strangled multiple Lync Server installations back when 2013 was released. We had one client who almost gave up on Lync entirely, after they had to pay for enterprise CALs and then add more CALs later on. Microsoft needs to give details on Skype for Business licensing ASAP.

The Issues

We’ll start seeing the issues appear in the second half of 2015. That’s when businesses will start moving toward Skype for Business. Blog commenters have pointed out several points where they suspect they’ll run into trouble – configuring for firewall rules or proxies, SIP trunking, communication between on-premise Lync users and off-site Skype users. We’ll watch for these.

The Office 365 Question

Announcements have indicated that the Lync Online service will also receive a Skype for Business update. Very little detail beyond that, for now. But I have a concern here…because of another announcement made last week.

Microsoft just released a beta of Skype for Web. A Web-based Skype version, with Skype for Business coming available in an online service too…this is a setup for serious confusion. I hope Microsoft has cross-communication between Skype for Web and Skype for Business completely ironed out.

Anticipated Reactions

There are still some organizations using Lync Server 2010. So, I imagine some of you will stick with Lync Server 2013 a while too. Moving to Skype for Business will be a very gradual process over the next 3 years.

I predict that the reactions to Skype for Business will lean slightly negative. At least next year. We have a lot of disparate groups who’ll weigh in on the transition:

  • Skype users who may not know about the new Lync tools available
  • Businesses who view Skype as “consumer only”
  • Lync 2013 users who don’t like or are confused by the new interface
  • And so on.

Personally, I’m not completely thrilled with the name change. But I’ll withhold judgment until I have a chance to test the software. Actual performance is always more telling.

Where Help is Needed Now

We have the luxury of time right now. We know a new version of Lync is coming, and we have an idea of what to expect when it arrives.

If I consider these predictions, what I think is needed now is:

  1. A better understanding of the new features.
  2. A map of how the old Lync features will transition (if at all).
  3. Performance measurements on the new on-premise server and the online service.

We will aim to bring you all of these, here at the Lync Insider Blog.

Speaking of which, last week’s poll results are split almost evenly between:
–Lync Insider
–Skype for Business Insider
–Inside Unified Communications

There’s a couple hilarious write-in votes too. Thanks guys, those were great. I appreciate all the responses so far. We’ll aim for the new blog name – if we do change it! – around the first of the year.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! We’ll see you back here in December for the 2014 home-stretch.

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Lync Server Gets a New Name – “Skype for Business”

Lync Server 2013, Unified Communications

A while back, I speculated on how the Lync/Skype integration process would work. A few times.

It seems we have an answer. And it wasn’t the one I picked.

Microsoft Rebrands Lync as “Skype for Business” – ZDNet

Lync Gets a New Name and Skype Features in 2015

Next year, Lync will become Skype for Business. A full rebranding–kind of like when OCS became Lync Server. Like before, the next version of Lync/Skype for Business will have some cosmetic changes and new features:

  • Skype contacts available in the Lync client
  • Skype’s “call monitor” window
  • More Skype-like video calling
  • Access to the Skype directory
  • Video integration between Skype and Lync clients

However, at least according to what we know now, the main Lync functions will remain.

Skype for Business

Image courtesy of ZDNet.com.

You’ll still have IM and Presence. Enterprise Voice and Conferencing capabilities. Persistent Chat.

I’ve seen “No new hardware” a few times too. “You will be able to upgrade from Lync Server 2013 to Skype for Business Server. No new hardware is required.”

While I’d love if this were the case, I admit to feeling a little dubious. We’re talking about a major shift in the product’s features and interoperability; even if we can use the exact same hardware, I suspect some reconfiguring is required. Time will tell what kind.

The next release of Lync Server/Skype for Business will arrive in the first half of 2015. The rebranding/update affects both on-premises Lync Server and the Lync Online service (which will become Skype for Business Online, pushed out to users next year too).

Impressions: Yea, Nay, and In-Between

I read through some news articles, their comments, and Twitter. Naturally, such a move by Microsoft garners attention. The opinions range far and wide.

A few people view this as Microsoft abandoning the credit Lync’s built up among enterprise businesses. Others are wishing Lync a speedy goodbye and embracing Skype “on the job”. Still others are irritated by the fact that they just got everyone onto Lync, and now they’ll have to change again (can’t blame them there!).

One point brought up more than once is powerful, and may even indicate why Microsoft did this. Commenters pointed to Skype’s massive worldwide customer base and well-known brand. By changing to “Skype for Business”, Microsoft can capitalize on both the customer base’s familiarity, and extend Lync’s unique capabilities into the everyday Skype-user mindset.

However, this has a built-in problem as well. Skype is known the world over, yes…but as a consumer app. Microsoft wants to employ its name in a business context. That may work fine for smaller businesses, but the enterprise? They may have more of an issue.

What Will Become of The Lync Insider?

Now we’re left with the big question. With Microsoft rebranding Lync, getting rid of the Lync name essentially…what will become of this blog?

Will we continue to be “The Lync Insider”? How about changing to “The Skype Insider”, or “Inside Unified Communications”?

Truthfully, right now I just don’t know. We at PlanetMagpie have worked with Lync since before it was called Lync, and we’ll continue to do so when it’s called Skype for Business. Though I always liked the name “Lync.” Easy to say, easy for people to understand.

We’ll brainstorm on the naming & direction of this blog over the next couple months. And I’ll also ask you!

What do you think this blog should call itself? Post your answer here.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 2014-12-11 00:00:57
end_date 2014-10-12 23:59:59
Poll Results:
What should this blog be called going forward?

Do you have any topics you’d like to see us cover in 2015? Please comment or email them in. Sounds like 2015 will be a big year for unified communications…we’ll have lots to talk about!

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How to Brand Your Lync Server

Lync Server 2013

We’re starting in on some end-of-year upgrades for our datacenter. While we’re doing the work, we took another look at our Lync Server. Right now we run Lync Server 2013 Standard, with a SIP line and Persistent Chat.

Given our explorations earlier in the year into using Lync Server as a LogMeIn replacement, we’re implementing a few changes to make that easier. Which is where today’s Lync Insider topic comes from.

What I Mean By “Brand” – Identify Your Lync Services to Employees and Customers

Lync Server, like most server applications, is designed to look the same across every installation by default. But it includes methods by which you may brand it.

Chances are most of you know what “branding” is. In this case, I’m referring to tagging all elements of your Lync Server users see with your company name, logo, etc.

Why would you want to brand a Lync Server? Well, we’re doing it for two reasons:

  • Internally, this is a helpful measure to avoid confusion. People see their employer’s name on the Lync tools, they know this is what they should use.
  • Externally, branding fulfills a marketing function. Customers, prospects and partners whom you invite to use your Lync tools – they see Lync, yes. But they also see who’s providing Lync services to them.
Image courtesy of Simon Bleasdale on Flickr.

Image courtesy of Simon Bleasdale on Flickr.

Below you’ll find 5 branding changes to make. One you should already have. One you’ll find right here on the blog. The others are links to blog posts which give a good how-to. I’ve included short versions to familiarize you, but I do encourage you to visit the other blogs for more detail.

NOTE: The following applies to Lync Server 2013 installations.

Basic naming: Domain-based URLs

Creating Lync URLs using your domain is done during the Lync Server setup. Particularly when setting up your Edge Server for external user access. Meet.domain.com, dialin.domain.com, etc. This is a fundamental branding element – nobody else has your URL.

Set up/modify the Lync Meeting invitations

Customizing the Online Meeting Add-in in Lync Server 2013 – TechNet
Short Version: Including a logo, custom footer text, and links to your Help or Support pages in every Lync Meeting invitation. Accessible via Lync Server Control Panel, under Conferencing/Meeting Configuration.

Change the logo image on the Lync Web App page

Customizing the Lync Server 2013 Meeting Page – Ehlo World!
Short Version: Change the image on the Lync Web App page from “Lync Web App” to your company name (or whatever phrase you want to put in an image). Replace the “Lync Web App” image in the Lync Server’s Images subfolder. Then restart the Web Conferencing service using this PowerShell cmdlet:
Restart-Service RTCDATAMCU

Customize Lync Presence options

Want to add custom Presence status options to your users’ Lync 2013 clients? We’ve covered two ways to do this in the past. Here are the blog posts you’ll want to reference.
Lync Add-Ons: Lync Custom Status Tool
How to Create Custom Lync Presence States

Customize the Lync Dial-In Page

How to Customize Lync Dialin Page – ExchangePro.DK
Short Version: Editing the Dial-In Conferencing page’s HTML. Add in your logo, or adjust the page formatting. Not the biggest location for branding, but you can alleviate some external users’ confusion at the same time.

Small Changes, Big Visibility Improvement

None of these changes should take you long to make. They work within Lync’s standard setup, either via Control Panel, Management Shell or direct folder access. But the result is far-reaching – once you’ve made these branding edits, everyone will see your logo & information.

Every time you invite someone to a meeting.
Every time your users change their Presence.
Every time you run a conference or webinar.

Every time, they see your name.

How’s that for branding?

Have you branded your Lync Server? Did you use a different method from these? If so, please comment or email me. Always like to hear what work our readers have done.

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    The Lync Insider is a blog about the technology we use to communicate in business today. Here we talk about Microsoft Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business Server 2015, Unified Communications, Voice over IP and related technologies like Exchange Server. Written by Chris W., MCSE in Communication and PlanetMagpie IT Consulting's Tech Writer.
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