Browsing the archives for the Unified Communications tag.

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.

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What is the most useful Lync service? (Choose up to 3)

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What are your Lync-related plans for 2015?

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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.

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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!

3 Comments

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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Should You Spy on BYOD Users? The New Lync Online Client Devices Report Lets You

Lync Online

Last week, one of Microsoft’s Lync team announced a new reporting tool for Lync Online. The new Lync Online Client Devices Report monitors which mobile devices have been used to access Lync Online.

Announcing the Lync Online Client Devices Report – Office Blogs

Report data is collected on number of users, which device they used & when, and what kind of services they accessed (IM, calls, conferencing, video).

Useful data. For a lot of reasons. However, it brings up a very large concern. What about BYOD users?

Which Trumps: Work Flexibility or Privacy?

Essentially, the Client Devices Report means that administrators can spy on any device used to access their Lync Online service.

Client Devices Report - Courtesy of Office Blogs

Now, it’s important to make a distinction here. Many businesses are concerned about the BYOD trend eroding their IT security. With good reason, in our opinion. These are devices brought into & out of the office all the time. Most with very little (if any) administrative or security oversight.

However, privacy is also a concern. Examining users’ conversations on their personal devices? Too easy to cross the line and just spy on everything they do. And users know that.

Privacy vs. Protection

The delicate balance between safeguarding the office network and protecting user privacy is detailed in an October 21 piece on CMSWire by David Roe:

Microsoft Lync Can Spy on Enterprise BYOD Use – CMSWire

David makes a valid point about mobile malware. BYOD IS a security risk…we even documented evidence of such in a newsletter article last year:
10 Ways BYOD Threatens Network Security AND Your Private Data

That said, these are still personal devices. They may be used for work, but in many cases the user/owner has files they want to keep separate/private from work.

Lync is sort of a middle-ground. It’s intended for business communication, between all its services, and as such falls under most business’ intellectual property restrictions.

If You Institute Spying, Make It Clear

Frankly, I don’t think the BYOD trend will reverse anytime soon. Big manufacturers keep pushing out new devices. People will bring them into work & want to use them FOR work.

Since Lync’s primary purpose is office communication, there’s enough justification for instituting tracking with this new tool. But it’s also important to make clear what you are tracking and why.

  1. Maybe you want to maintain efficiency by using the data.
  2. Or you’re tracking to keep malware out of the network.
  3. Or maybe you’re measuring communications to identify where users are most productive.

All very good business reasons. Just make sure the employees KNOW your reasons.

My stance on the Lync Online Client Devices Report tool? If a client opted for Lync Online, and they had multiple employees with BYOD tablets, then I would recommend using this report tool. If nothing else, for 3-6 months as a data test.

Inform all users beforehand. Give the BYOD users the option of not bringing their devices into work. And make sure everyone knows that you’re collecting business data only, for business reasons.

Lync Online as a Testing Ground? Lync Server 2013 Next?

I didn’t see a version for Lync 2013 in the announcement. This tool (right now) is meant only to track Lync Online/Office 365 users. But I’m sure an on-premises version will come.

Could releasing the Client Devices Report tool for Lync Online first be a testing ground? Since it’s cloud-based anyway, data has to come & go between device and cloud server. Maybe Microsoft wants to examine which devices use what Lync services.

Or examine the workplace’s reaction to a new way of spying on users.

The new reporting tool will be available next month. We’ll see what kind of response it generates then. I have a feeling it’ll be a big one.

What do you think about tracking BYOD Lync data? Harmless data gathering, or invasion of privacy? Please comment or email me.

1 Comment

Lync on Linux: How to Access Lync Services from Linux Computers

Lync 2013 Client, Lync Mobile, Reference, Third-Party Lync Products, Unified Communications, Voice over IP

In my post on MindLink Anywhere last week, I mentioned that one big value-add from the software was its ability to work on Linux. Options for accessing Lync services on Linux are limited. Though in the past couple years they’ve improved a lot, both in number and quality.

What else is available for “Lync on Linux”? Let’s take a look and see what’s out there.

Running Lync Server 2013 on a Linux Server? No. But you can access it from Linux computers.

Unless you install Windows Server in a VM, this isn’t happening. Lync Server 2013 is intended for Windows Servers. Which makes sense, honestly – Unified Communications hooks into Exchange and SharePoint, also Windows-platform servers. If Lync ran on Linux, it would do so in an underperforming state, users unable to take full advantage of its capabilities.

Fortunately, this does not mean Linux users are completely in the cold! There are ways to access Lync’s services on Linux desktops and mobile devices.

Linux Lync Clients

Sadly, there is no native Lync client for the Linux desktop. You must use third-party products to connect with Lync. Only a couple of them exist as yet.

Judging from my research, the most popular choice is Pidgin. Makes sense – one of the most reliable, full-featured IM platforms on Linux. Adding Lync to Pidgin? Just one more service.

Choose from any of the following blog posts to install Lync into Pidgin:

  1. Microsoft Lync on Linux – GeekySchmidt.com
  2. Configuring Pidgin to work with Lync server in Arch Linux – I Fix Therefore I Am
  3. Add a Lync/Office Communicator Account to Pidgin/Ubuntu – ITSwapShop.com
  4. Setting Pidgin Up for Lync 2013 – AskUbuntu.comWync-Logo

No matter the method, you may have to deal with limitations when using Lync through Pidgin. Commenters have claimed everything from having to manually add contacts, to voice and video chat not working.

Another third-party client usable for Lync on Linux is Wync, made by Fisil. Wync is actually designed to work with Lync, and Fisil does offer support. Most functions work – Voice, IM/Chat, Screen Sharing and File Transfer.

I was only able to test it out briefly, but Wync was stable and made clear calls. (Tested on Ubuntu 32-bit desktop.) It’s great to see an actual Lync client available on Linux systems!

Lync Web App

Works, but only for attending Lync Meetings by default. No voice, video or IM.

Important distinction here: If you’re running Lync Server 2010, you will need Silverlight to run the Lync Web App. Silverlight is Windows-only. But there is a Linux version of Silverlight, called Moonlight.

Here’s an AskUbuntu discussion to help you work out Lync 2010 Web App with Moonlight. You should find Moonlight in your repository of choice…but if it’s not there, try these direct downloads: Moonlight for Chrome & Firefox.

If you’re running Lync Server 2013, Lync Web App does not require Silverlight. However, expect a very limited experience on a Linux desktop (if it works at all).

Android

I’ve heard people say that the #1 operating system in the world is actually Android–a Linux distribution. If so, Microsoft really should spend more effort on its Lync Mobile client for Android. The reviews are full of problem reports!

That said, I’m glad the client at least exists and is supported directly by Microsoft. Android isn’t poised to go anywhere but up, and I want a good solid version of Lync available to its users.

Lync Online on Linux?

Using Lync Online? You’ll still face the same problems as above. Fortunately, the same solutions also work. If you use Lync Online in a Linux environment, I’d say try Wync first, and then Pidgin. See which one works better for your day-to-day.

Here’s a blog post on how to get Pidgin working with Lync, specifically focused on using Office 365: Configuring Pidgin Instant Messenger for Office 365 LYNC – VincentPassaro.com

What About Skype?

There is a version of Skype available for Linux, so at least our Skype brothers & sisters are OK. A little better off than Lync users…at least for now.

If anything, this could be a positive sign for future versions. Depending on the upgrade path Microsoft takes for Lync & Skype integration, we may have ourselves a Lync client (or at least a Lync-friendly client) on Linux soon.

Linux Alternatives to Lync Server

What’s that? You only use Linux on your company’s servers? Well, I’m afraid it could be a while before you can enjoy Lync Server’s capabilities (if ever). But fear not! Alternatives do exist. None are quite the same as Lync, but they can give you the necessary communications tools.

Here are 3 popular Linux/open-source alternatives:

  • Avaya: Avaya has the Aura Platform for a VoIP, chat & video offering.
  • Twilio: Twilio is a cloud-based voice and text product suite that’s quite highly reviewed. Useful on the phone side, though not as full-featured as Lync.
  • Asterisk: Asterisk is a framework for building powerful communications systems. As I understand it, several enterprises have used Asterisk to build their own custom phone systems.

Of these, if I had to recommend a Lync Server alternative to a Linux-using business, I’d recommend Asterisk. Then Avaya.e00cb7b29fc9f70724e906d87e4e4dbf-tux-penguin-clip-art

Lync is Making its Way Onto Linux

While PlanetMagpie is a Microsoft shop and supports all Microsoft servers (not just Lync Server), sometimes I like to see how Linux is doing in comparison. It’s encouraging that there’s this much development regarding Lync. More is sure to come, both within the Linux community and from official channels. (Okay, mostly from the Linux community.)

Does your office use Linux and Lync? How do you make it work for you? I’d like to hear your experiences.

Next week, more reader inquiries! Join us then.

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MSPL: What It Is, and How to Use It with Lync Server

Lync Server 2013, Third-Party Lync Products, Voice over IP

I mentioned last week that I’d explore MSPL more. While researching the Automatic Logout post, I came across a few MSPL-related websites with lots of good information. This week I’ve found a few more–so it’s time to blog!

MSPL – Scripting for Lync Call Routing

MSPL stands for “Microsoft SIP Processing Language”. It’s a scripting language you can use to customize how Lync Server routes SIP messages.
MSPL Scripting Reference – MSDN
Frustratingly, the MSPL Script Syntax has been moved out of the Scripting Reference at MSDN. You’ll find it here instead:
MSPL Script Syntax – MSDN

How Does MSPL Work

The process of creating and adding MSPL scripts to your Lync Server is actually quite simple:

  1. Generate MSPL scripting, either by hand-coding or using an application (see “How to Create MSPL Scripting” below).
  2. Scripting is imported into the Lync Server front end via PowerShell cmdlets
  3. The Lync Server routes SIP messages (like phone calls) where you have directed them.

There’s an excellent how-to writeup at the Code4Lync blog: MSPL SCRIPT HOW-TO – Code4Lync
It documents script structure, when to use MSPL over UCMA, and describes the basic scripting syntax. Worth a read.

MSPL formats as XML when it’s ready for importing. Commenting is included too, so feel free to note your processes.

What You Can Do with MSPL

You are limited in scope to addressing SIP messages within your Lync Server environment. However within that scope, there’s quite a few things you can do with MSPL.

Here are two examples at Channel9:
Lync Server 2013: Use an MSPL Script to Forward IM Calls
Lync Server 2013: Use an MSPL Script to Enforce Custom Privacy Settings

MSPL lets you control routing of calls, Instant Messages and even video from one SIP address to another. Roughly, the more SIP-enabled endpoints you have, the more MSPL routes you can make.

How to Create MSPL Scripting

Like I said before, you can hand-code MSPL, or have an application generate it for you. Last week I visited Matt Landis’ blog and found he’d posted on an MSPL application called SimpleRoute.
The Masses Can Now Make Microsoft Lync MSPL Scripts Via Free Tool from Colima – Microsoft UC Report

I tried this tool out myself. And it works exactly as Matt describes–very easily! I selected Audio/Video call and routed one SIP address to another (using a fake number of course). This only took 3 steps.

Generating MSPL in SimpleRoute

What’s especially valuable about SimpleRoute is that, once you create an MSPL script with it, SimpleRoute actually helps you install it. Remember Steps 2 & 3 above, about importing scripting into Lync Server 2013?

Well, take a look at this. This is what SimpleRoute displays after you click Save:

MSPL Import Instructions in SimpleRoute

==============================
Detailed instructions on how to import the saved script (in an .am file) into the Lync front end via PowerShell. How’s that for helpful?

Download SimpleRoute here: Colima – Customize Lync Routing

MSPL: Good for Basic, User-Level Call Routing

MSPL is a very specific scripting language. It’s pretty much designed to do one thing and one thing only–change SIP routing within Lync Server 2013. I’ve said in the past that I like tools which focus on one job and do it well. MSPL is another example of this.

Administrators should look to MSPL if they want to customize call routing down toward the user-level. Say an employee leaves and you want to route their calls to someone else, right away. Use SimpleRoute to generate some MSPL. It’ll take care of that for you.

Have you used MSPL in your Lync Server environment? What did you do with it? Please comment or email! We’d love to hear about it.

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Third-Party Software for Lync Server: What are the Qualified Lync Applications?

Third-Party Lync Products

The other day we went through a list of hardware approved for Lync use. (Lync Add-On Hardware for Client Enhancement and Server Capability: 10 Examples)

But third parties don’t just make hardware for Lync. There’s a whole host of third-party software too!

Thanks to Shaun, a reader, for sending me his Lync experience and this URL:
Qualified Lync Applications – Office TechCenter

On this page is a list of third-party software applications Microsoft has approved for use with Lync Server. They are designated as “Qualified Lync Applications”.

What do these applications provide?

  • New Attendant Consoles
  • Billing and/or better reporting tools
  • Extensions for Lync 2013 clients (including mobile)
  • A Contact Center
  • Persistent Chat enhancements (these particularly interest me)
  • Recording tools
  • Software-defined networking

And a few more. Let’s go through the list and see what we find.

Samroxx Attendant

A new attendant console for Lync. Very easy to install – I had a free trial downloaded and running in less than 5 minutes. Setup takes a little bit longer, as it appears (at least in the trial version) that you must enter contacts yourself, instead of relying on Active Directory. Samroxx did grab my account information from Active Directory though.

samroxx

As you see from this screenshot, the Samroxx interface is very clean, and options are clearly listed. If you opt to use a third-party attendant console with Lync Server 2013, this is a pretty good choice.

Zylinc Attendant Console

Another attendant console. This one seems beefier though – it has more features, like calendar updating and statistics.

Zylinc-Attendant-Console_EN

Image courtesy of Zylinc.com.

Plus it works for both Lync Server 2010 and 2013. This in itself could provide a useful transition from 2010 to 2013–the interface for reception wouldn’t change.

No demo option I saw. But they do offer a product sheet: Zylinc Attendant Console Product Sheet (PDF)

Verba Recording

Call Recording add-on for Lync Server. While Archiving Server does some of this, it does have its limits Extending recording capabilities is a huge benefit – not only does it protect against lost productivity from confusion, but it helps with legal & regulatory compliance.

Two things I particularly like about Verba:

  1. It records all calls, IM conversations, and videos – media Archiving Server doesn’t record.
  2. It’s a server-side solution. Nobody has to install software on their PCs, which means everyone is recorded by default.

I’ll book a Verba demo and report back on my findings soon.

MindLink Mobile Chat

Persistent Chat is one of my favorite Lync tools. However it suffers from one notable limitation – mobile access. Or lack thereof.

MindLink extends Persistent Chat onto mobile devices (phones and tablets). It also works on Mac and Linux computers, extending Lync’s chat capabilities across pretty much all platforms. MindLink even integrates with email and SharePoint.

I’m signing up for a MindLink demo too. Watch for a future post on this too.

Many More Third-Party Applications – Have You Tried One?

These are only a few of the 95 total “Qualified Lync Applications”. I’ll revisit the page later, go through more software, test the ones I can, and report back. Feel free to do the same (and let me know what you find)!

The idea that Lync Server 2013 would need “extending” might make some think the software is incomplete, or immature. Not so. One software application isn’t perfect for all situations. That’s why so many release APIs and work with third-party developers to create extensions. Firefox has its Add-Ons. WordPress has its Plugins and Themes.

Lync Server has Qualified Applications. Use them to make Lync run like you need it to.

Does your business use a Qualified Lync Application? Please comment or email me with the details. I’d like to hear about the application, what you use it for, and how well it works.

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