Browsing the archives for the video conferencing tag.

Lync Add-On Hardware for Client Enhancement and Server Capability: 10 Examples

Third-Party Lync Products

Readers, I apologize for no “Stress Test” post yet. Stress testing is best done after a Lync Server infrastructure is set up…but before users being working with it. Since we already use ours, I’ll have to set up a test instance in order to run stress tests. I’ve asked for server room access to do this, but it could take a little while. I promise; you’ll have the post as soon as I can complete the testing!

Now, on to today’s post. A reader emailed in, asking about the MyIntercom device I wrote about last year. He wanted to know if MyIntercom would integrate into Lync 2013.

Interesting question. I researched it and eventually concluded that, no, it will not directly integrate right now. They are similar in the sense that MyIntercom and Lync both facilitate audio/video communication…but the MyIntercom software would need add-ons to transmit its data to a Lync client.

Which got me thinking. What other kinds of third-party devices are out there, which DO work with Lync 2013?

We already know about plenty of desktop phones from Snom, Polycom, Logitech, etc. We know about the Jabra headsets and conferencing room speakers from previous posts. And we know about the Lync Room System.

But what else?

Logitech Speakerphone

Photo courtesy of Logitech.com.

I went searching. And found a whole bunch of devices ready for Lync use!

So many in fact that I couldn’t list them all if I wanted to. I’ll instead select a group of Lync add-on hardware, at the client-level and the server-level, for you the reader to browse. Some we have worked with at PlanetMagpie; some we haven’t (yet!).

Maybe one of these devices is just what you need right now. Maybe the list will inform your future Lync Server upgrade. Either way, I hope the list helps!

Client-Level Devices: Cameras, Computers, Headsets with Extras

  1. Polycom VVX Camera: A USB video camera you can add directly to your desktop phone for conferencing. Listed as an add-on to PolyCom VVX phones, but since it’s USB it may work with other Lync-capable phones. (Any reader used these? If so, please comment!)
  2. Polycom VVX Expansion Module: Expands PolyCom phones into an advanced call handling system. Helpful to receptionists who need to manage a bunch of incoming calls. (Ours would love it–I’ll send her the link!)
  3. Logitech Conference Cam Series: One of the reigning champions of high-quality conferencing tools, Logitech has several conferencing cameras geared toward Lync Meetings. –I’d love to talk with a Lync expert at Logitech. Anyone know a Logitech manager I could talk to?
  4. Logitech Mobile Speakerphone P710e: (Pictured above.)  This device is particularly interesting to me for two reasons. One, it allows for an on-the-fly Lync Meeting using your phone or tablet. Two, it’s certified both for Lync and Skype use. Which increases its lifespan, keeping it viable while Microsoft continues to move forward on Lync/Skype integration.
  5. Lenovo ThinkCentre All-in-One PC: I want one of these. A Lenovo all-in-one, integrated HD speakers, built-in arm…and since it’s listed in the Lync Catalog, it’s obviously ready for Lync 2013 use!
  6. Jabra Motion UC MS: The Bluetooth headset for Lync 2013 users. Why shouldn’t we have a headset just as sexy as regular cellphone callers? The Jabra Motion comes with a touchscreen on its stand too, and it’s certified for use with Cisco and Avaya as well as Microsoft Lync.

Server-Level Hardware: Gateways, SBAs, Expansions

  1. Sonus SBC Gateways & Survivable Branch Appliances: We’ve used the Sonus SBC 1000 and SBC 2000 as Survivable Branch Appliances for clients’ branch offices. They have larger gateways too, the 5100 and 5200, if you need more than 600 concurrent sessions running.
  2. Juniper Wireless LAN APs: We are a Juniper partner and use their wireless APs in our office as well as client networks. They are certified for Lync Server use, and wireless call transmissions hold up very well.
  3. Sangoma NetBorder Media Gateway: I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it bears repeating. Sangoma gateways are powerful Lync appliances. Use them as a Survivable Branch Appliance, a VoIP gateway to the PSTN, or both!
  4. PolyCom Packaged HD VideoConferencing Solutions: If the Lync Room System is a little big for you, but you like the idea? Try one of these freestanding video conferencing stations. (Let’s hope they don’t automate the rollers though…I’d feel weird if these stations drove themselves right up to your desk!)

You can see more Lync-approved products like these here:

Does your office use Lync Add-On Hardware from this list (or a device NOT on this list)? If so, please comment or email. Either way, I’d love to hear your experience with it.

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Exchanging Protocols: The Latest on Lync and Skype Integration

Lync 2013 Client

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which side is harder to update – Skype or Lync?

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

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

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

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

Which is exactly what they’re doing.

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

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

Where are Skype and Lync going next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Answer the Door From Your Phone: The MyIntercom Live-Streaming Doorbell

Reference, Third-Party Lync Products

This week’s post is only tangentially related to Lync. It’s not actually about a Lync product. But it is a product which deals with video, and it certainly helps with communication!

PlanetMagpie recently became an Axis Camera partner, to provide video surveillance equipment for one of our major clients. Soon after, we learned of a device that uses an Axis camera in a place you might not expect…but it’s very useful (and pretty darn cool).

I’m talking about – the doorbell.MyIntercom Streaming Doorbell

The device is the MyIntercom.

What’s MyIntercom? Video-Streaming Doorbell + Intercom System, Accessible Anywhere

Here’s how it works: You install a MyIntercom at your front door. It connects to your network via standard Ethernet cable. When someone rings the doorbell, you receive a notification on your phone.

You tap the notification, and a live video stream starts up. You see who’s at the door right on your phone!

You can even push a button and talk to the person like a regular intercom.

Not at home? You’ll still see who it is; the stream comes in over 3G. You can essentially answer your door wherever you are.

(Or check the video & avoid talking to yet another insurance salesman!)

MyIntercom requires nothing except power, a network address and a connection to the Internet. Streaming apps are available for iPhone, Android, Windows and Mac OS (Windows Phone coming soon).

Answer the Office Door from Your DeskStream who's at the door to your phone!

I know, this isn’t a Lync product. But it’s too awesome not to mention. And besides, you can still use it alongside Lync.

Think about it this way. Lync makes communicating easy from wherever you are. But this is computer to computer, or phone to phone. The front door is neither; we still have to get up & answer it, at the office or at home.

With a product like this, you can automate answering the door! See who’s visiting the office right away. Determine if it’s someone you’re expecting. And notify them that you’re on your way.

All without leaving your desk.

** Full disclosure: We became a MyIntercom partner after using their device. We liked the product that much! **

I tested it myself last week. The video was crisp on my phone, with barely a hint of stream delay.

The MyIntercom device strikes me as a great addition to your Lync-enabled network. In Lync Server, all computers and phones are endpoints – places where you can communicate with someone else, via their preferred endpoint.

This device basically turns the doorbell into another endpoint, through which employees can communicate with visitors.

Visit the MyIntercom FAQ here. Got a question about it, feel free to ask me!

Next week: Training for the new Lync Server 2013 certification exams? I may have some helpful surprises in store. See you then.

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Is the Unified Communications Market Crowded?

Unified Communications

The other day I came across this article:
Microsoft pushes into crowded Unified Communications market – ComputerWorld

It says that Lync Server 2013 is pushing into an already-crowded Unified Communications market. And that it doesn’t really stand out from its competitors…or show any real innovation.

Are these valid concerns? Is the UC market really crowded?

All due respect to the article’s author (it’s still a good read)…but I don’t think it is. And I think Lync Server is well-suited for the future of communications. Let’s explore the market a little, and see what we find.

The Current Providers

As mentioned in the article, the major Unified Communications providers right now are:

  • Cisco
  • IBM
  • Avaya
  • Siemens
  • Alcatel-Lucent
  • Mitel
  • ShoreTel
  • Microsoft Lync

8 major IT players. Definitely some healthy competition going on here.

That by itself doesn’t mean the market is crowded. Crowded implies the market is glutted, or the current providers are offering solutions the market doesn’t want.

Not even close. In fact, businesses are moving to more UC technology, not less.

The Current State of UC: 51% and Growing

According to a 2012 IDG Enterprise report, Unified Communications adoption is at 51%. Half the organizations out there.

Plenty more room for UC expansion. And in fact, 90% of organizations DO plan to invest more into Unified Communications & Collaboration solutions over the next 3 years, starting in 2013.

The most popular UC solution in use? Web conferencing (76% of organizations). Followed by IM (72%). VoIP is at 52%. (“The State of Unified Communications Adoption”, Osterman Research 2010) Again, plenty of room for more service adoption.

The BYOD trend is helping to accelerate adoption too. The enterprise is accelerating UC investment due to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets.

Because employees are buying such equipment themselves, they’re essentially giving enterprise businesses ready-to-use UC endpoints. (Just be careful of security!)

Finally, consider that the market is not universal. We do have the enterprise, mid-market and small business segments. Are the current providers focusing equally on all three?

No. According to their websites’ UC content, they’re concentrated mostly on enterprise-level:

  1. Cisco – Enterprise, Mid-Market
  2. IBM – Enterprise, Mid-Market
  3. Avaya – Enterprise
  4. Siemens – Enterprise
  5. Alcatel – Enterprise
  6. Mitel – Enterprise, Mid-Market, Small Business
  7. ShoreTel – Enterprise, Mid-Market
  8. Microsoft Lync – Enterprise, Mid-Market, Small Business

Clearly, there’s plenty of room in the small business and mid-market space. And this is where the ComputerWorld article slipped – it appears to characterize Lync Server as an enterprise product only, like the other providers’ offerings.

Lync is more adaptable than that. In fact, far from “not showing innovation,” Lync Server is one of the very few which can provide Unified Communications to ALL market segments!

Unified Communications is Spreading Out, Responding to Market Demands

BYOD, almost half of the market still open, UC expansion continuing, most providers concentrated on the enterprise…I don’t think the Unified Communications field is crowded at all. I think it’s undergoing metamorphosis.

One final statistic: Right now, there are more cellphones than people in the U.S. (327 million phones, for 310 million people). And they’re still buying more!

In light of continuing phone & tablet proliferation, some of these providers will change their offerings. Some may drop out of the space, or be bought out. As mobile access speeds improve and business adapts to changing information flow, Unified Communications will provide necessary channels.

Perhaps that’s a little optimistic. But we’ll see, very soon!

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Exploring (and Ranking) the New Features in the Lync 2013 July Update

Lync 2013 Client

Last week Microsoft released an update for the Lync 2013 client. Lync receives a few updates every year, for security patches and the occasional new feature.

This time however, we have not one new feature, but four!

So after implementing it, my boss asked me to test all the new features. Make sure everything’s working. Check for issues. And document it for the blog.

Having spent a few hours doing so yesterday and today, I now have my experience documented. But you’re not just getting a bland list of the new features, no no. This wouldn’t be the awesome blog it is if I did that!

I’m also ranking the new Lync features on usefulness. You’ll have them all when you add the July updates…but which will you use? And how often? That’s what I’ll answer here. Strap in!

The 4 Newest Lync 2013 Features, Ranked for Usefulness

#4 – IM Mute

Running a presentation, and want to keep to the audio/video side only? IM Mute does exactly that – mutes the IM side of the presentation. Participants will not be able to type questions/comments in the IM window. This helps to keep distractions low, so the presenter can focus on giving a clear presentation.

IM Mute Option

Usefulness: Low. While it’s a well-intentioned add-on, I think there’s a flaw in muting IM here. Not in the functionality (that works perfectly); in the motivation. Most webinars I’ve attended will mute the attendees, so they can’t hear chatter over the presenter. Muting IM, along with muted audio, effectively silences the attendees. I know some presentations aren’t intended as discussions, but totally removing the ability can hamper business meetings.

#3 – Embedded Images

IM conversations are fast and useful. Ask a question, answer one, check in and then get back to work. But when you run up against a limitation of IM – say, not being able to show someone an image – the conversation tends to derail.

Embedded Images fixes that, by adding in the ability to put images into your conversations. As simple as copy-and-paste, you can now toss an image into your IM window, and the other person(s) sees it. Just like this!

Embedded Image in IM

Usefulness: Moderate. While being able to stick an image into an IM on the fly IS handy if you need to show something, I don’t think I’ll use it much. Conversations that are detailed enough to involve images often branch into email and file transfer.

#2 – Meetings Menu

Meetings is a new choice available on the Lync client’s top navigation. You can see it her (far right, the pie chart):
Meetings View on Lync 2013
Clicking it brings you to a list of your scheduled meetings. If a meeting is blue, you can join it straight from Lync by clicking “Join”.

Usefulness: High. Having a list of Meetings right in Lync (instead of having to go to Outlook) alleviates some confusion about when the next Lync meeting is scheduled. Joining them only takes a click. And since you also see the day’s Calendar events, you can avoid scheduling conflicts.

#1 – Q&A Manager

Now THIS I like! Q&A Manager creates a space during presentations to ask questions, and receive answers, in a structured manner. All you do is enable Q&A from the Presentations menu…

Q&A Manager Option in Presentations

And a Q&A tab appears for all participants. They ask you a question, you type in an answer, and it’s all displayed in a clean, tiered layout for all to see.

Usefulness: High. Right now this is only available on Lync 2013 Desktop and Lync Web Access. That still covers the majority of Lync meeting users…which means my concern about discussion during presentations up in #4? Taken care of. You could even assign one presenter to give the speech, and another to man the Q&A.

To download the July update for your Lync client (2013 only), click here: Security Update for Microsoft Lync 2013 (KB2817465)
(Make sure your Lync Server is updated too: Updates for Lync Server 2013)

For further reference on the new features, Richard Brynteson’s post on Mastering Lync is a great run-down.

Which of these updates do YOU think you’ll use the most? And how? Comment or email me, and let’s discuss!

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Lync 2013 Hits the App Store – Ideal for Mobile Meetings

Lync Server 2013

The Lync 2013 Client for iOS is now in the App Store. Time to celebrate!

I’ve been using Lync 2010 with our new Lync Server 2013 system for weeks now. It does the job, but I was missing out on several things. Like making calls out. So I eagerly awaited the 2013 upgrade.

Microsoft has not disappointed.

What to Expect: Calling Features, Video, Everything You Like About Lync

Just a few minutes of fiddling with Lync 2013 on my phone has shown it has all the Lync features available:

  • Making/receiving Enterprise Voice calls
  • Video calls
  • Instant Messaging
  • Chat
  • Presence awareness
  • Attend Lync Online Meetings

Everything you’d expect from the Lync 2013 desktop client. The interface is almost identical too – clean and functional.

Simultaneous Ring works perfectly. Video calls are so smooth, they reminded me of the subspace conversations from Star Trek!

Search for “Microsoft Lync 2013 for iPhone” to find it in the App Store.

The iPad version was also released. Between the two, I actually like the iPad client better. Since it has more screen space, the interface makes full use of it.

The screen is split into 2 vertical columns. On the left you have contacts. Touch one and full Lync contact options pop up in the right column. Call, IM, video, email.

Here’s a screenshot of the contact details (on a dummy account we have set up):

Lync 2013 on iPad 2

Access your own info from the Lync icon at top-left. As well as IM, Chats and your phone.

Lync 2013 for Mobile Requirements

  • Your phone/tablet must be on iOS 6, at least.
  • And you have to have CU1 installed on Lync to get the new version to work
  • You will need Mobility Services enabled in Lync Server 2013 to fully use the iPhone client.

Take care of those requirements and you’re set. I’m running Lync 2013 on an iPhone 3GS and an iPad 2, both running iOS 6.1.2. Zero issues.

Lync 2013 has been released for Windows Phone 8 too. But it looks like Android users will have to wait a little longer.

Conferencing: Jason Perlow Calls Lync “Telecommuter’s Dream” (And I Agree!)

The new mobile clients are great for staying in touch. But what I – and Jason Perlow – really appreciate about them is the Conferencing capability.

Jason has discussed Lync’s value on his Tech Broiler blog for ZDNet:
Why I love Lync 2013: A telecommuter’s dream come true – ZDNet

In the piece (which is already making the social media rounds,) Jason praises Lync 2013′s conferencing abilities as invaluable to telecommuters like himself. Great points on how Lync makes communication easy, no matter where you are or what medium you’re using.

We have engineers in the field all day. We use Lync to communicate back and forth, and for conference calls with clients.

As soon as our engineers are back in the office, I’m bugging them about updating to Lync 2013 on their phones.

How will you use Lync 2013 for Mobile? Please share your experiences!

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Who Uses Lync Server?

Conferencing, Instant Messaging (IM), lync server 2010, Microsoft Lync, Unified Communications, Voice over IP

It’s not just businesses

Lots of people are talking Lync these days. (Seems like I’m fielding questions via email and Twitter every other day!)

Some news articles about Lync adoption this week got me thinking about this. About all the places these conversations come from.

You might assume businesses would make up the vast majority of Lync Server inquiries. (I did at one point.) But, you’d be wrong.

Yes, businesses are adopting Lync Server every day now. But other organizations are as well – and the variety of reasons they have for choosing Lync Server are all over the place.

So today’s post is about the non-business organizations who use Lync Server. What types of organization they are, and what benefits they draw from adopting Lync.

Not sure if your organization should try Lync out? Uncertain of how its tools would help you? Maybe these examples will give you some ideas.

(I won’t name names, unless I’ve already been given permission, or media citations exist. PlanetMagpie protects the privacy of our clients and our prospects.)

Organization Type 1: Schools & Universities

The University of the West England in the UK has deployed Lync Server 2010. Primary reasons? Use of voice telephony, and meeting collaboration. Perfect for large university campuses.

Even high schools are getting in on the action. Remember our recent guest post on Custom Presence Status? Mr. Christie, its author, works for the High School of Dundee in Scotland. They’re deploying Lync to make communication between teachers and offices much easier. (IM doesn’t disrupt students too much during class.)

Organization Type 2: Religious Organizations

There’s a lot of structure to religious organizations. It makes sense that they’d need a solid way to keep in touch with constituents, and fellow organizations.

We’re working with a Catholic office which is looking at Lync for giving presentations and VoIP. It’s a lower cost than using a PBX, and having on-the-fly presentation ability in-house saves them time when hosting guests and running classes.

Organization Type 3: Non-Profits

Non-profits exist in many shapes and sizes. The number we’ve spoken to have Lync needs just as varied. A charity is implementing Lync to bridge a communication gap between its main office and three branch offices. A hospital on the East Coast asked us about which Lync phones are best in high-traffic environments. We even had a non-profit which ran all Macs and iPads asking us about Lync Server!

Organization Type 4: Governments

Last month, the Argyll and Bute Council in Scotland adopted Lync Server for use across 60 separate locations. According to this TMCNet article on the adoption, the Council wants to use Presence and video conferencing for flexible remote work.

More locally, a county Transportation Authority here in California told us that they’d switched to Lync. They wanted training help on all Lync aspects. That was part of reason I blogged about the Lync Training Package (Part 1) (Part 2).

Organization Type 4: International Firms

Almost half of the emails to this blog come from overseas. Hong Kong, Europe, South Africa, you name it. The organizations vary from businesses to non-profits to charities.

VoIP is the big request with these firms. Especially when it comes to Skype. The recent purchase & integration announcements have either encouraged Skype-using international firms to consider Lync…or they’re a bit nervous and want some reassurance they’ll still have Skype’s functionality post-integration!

I find the international attention really encouraging, since it means so many more organizations worldwide are exploring Lync Server.

Many Organizations, Many Uses for Lync Server

When potential clients come talk to us about Lync Server 2010, they’re usually zeroed in on one aspect of it. We want the VoIP, they’ll say. Or, we heard Lync does web conferences.

It’s fun to watch their eyebrows rise when we tell them everything ELSE Lync does.

If you don’t have Lync Server yet, did this post give you ideas on what benefits Lync can bring? Which service are you most looking forward to?

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What Archiving Server Archives – and What it Doesn't

Instant Messaging (IM), lync server 2010, SQL Server 2008

Archiving Server provides a repository for information exchanged via Lync Server. Why? Two reasons:

  1. It gives you a log of Lync activity everyone can draw upon. How many times have you tried to remember what Jane said about the Michaels project? Thanks to Archiving Server, you have a saved copy of that IM conversation.
  2. It helps you fulfill legal compliance requirements. Many organizations must keep track of project steps, client files, and so on to meet compliance regulations. Since Archiving Server tracks automatically, its archive database acts as a regulatory resource.

What DOES it track though? It’s important to know what is and is not archived by Archiving Server. Otherwise, you might assume it just grabs everything. It doesn’t.

What Lync Archives on the Archiving Server

  • Instant messaging conversations (both person-to-person, and between multiple parties)
  • Content uploaded in Web conferences
  • Conference events (joins, parts, etc.)

What Lync DOES NOT Archive on Archiving Server

  • File transfers
  • Conferencing annotations and polls
  • Audio & video for person-to-person IM and conferences
  • Application sharing for IM and conferences
  • Diagnostic reports for session failures (those come from Monitoring Server)

Caution – There’s a Time Limit on Archived Materials

It’s important to note: Archiving is NOT intended to work indefinitely! As you can imagine from the above lists, storing uploaded files and daily IM logs will fill up space fast.

The server will keep archives until one of two things happens:

  1. You tell it to purge old archived files.
  2. Its storage fills up.

Obviously, you don’t want to reach #2.

In the Lync Server 2010 Control Panel, there’s a setting that dictates when to purge old archive files. You can control the time interval for this under Archiving Configuration. How long you keep archived files depends on your legal compliance requirements. 1 year, 2? Talk to Legal.

Then head to this page for a how-to: Enable or Disable Purging for Archiving – TechNet.

 

Want to add Archiving Server to your Lync setup? Use this deployment guide to help you.

If you’re having trouble with Archiving Server (e.g. conversations aren’t showing up in Conversation History), use NextHop’s “Troubleshooting Archiving Server” post as a guide.

 

Do you use an Archiving Server? What’s the big value from it, for you?

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Jabra BIZ 620 Headset: Making Lync Calls Even Easier (Review)

Conferencing, Microsoft Lync, Third-Party Lync Products, Unified Communications, Voice over IP

On Monday my boss handed me a new Jabra headset and said, “Here, we got a bunch of these in. Try it out. Let’s put a review up.”

Sure!Jabra BIZ 620 USB Headset

Image courtesy of Jabra.com.

Starting With a Headset OverviewJabra Call Control

I’m using a Jabra BIZ 620 USB mono headset (one headphone, for the right ear). The mic arm is adjustable, and moves up to 270 degrees.

In other words, up alongside your head when you want it out of the way.

The headset has an integrated call control knob on the cord (right).

The buttons are (from top to bottom):

  • Answer Call
  • Increase Volume
  • Lower Volume
  • End Call (Pressing this button when not in a call will mute your mic)

There’s also two LEDs on the call control. One green LED to indicate that the device is in use; one red LED to indicate that the headset is muted.

The BIZ 620 is a USB plug-and-play headset. No drivers are required. Just plug it in and you’re ready to talk.

Supports Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Windows 7. Also support Mac OS 9.0.4 and up.

Putting it On

The call control knob is a little heavy, causes headset to tilt if it’s not adjusted. I had to keep the band fairly tight to balance out the weight on the cord. Once I did that, the headset was very comfortable.
The ear piece is well-padded, so it sits very lightly against the ear.

The mic is adjustable. Jabra recommends putting it about two finger-lengths away from your face.

I’ve had the headset on for about an hour now. No discomfort whatsoever. (In fact I stood up a moment ago, forgetting it was on!)

After I plugged the headset in, Lync automatically recognized it and switched my audio devices. (Note the headset icon in the lower-left corner.)
Jabra Headset Recognized in Lync 2010
Right here!

That’s all the configuration I had to do. A test under Options/Audio Device reveals that the headset volume is set to about 40% by default. Just tap the “+” on the call control knob to raise it.

From here, it’s just a matter of clicking a contact (or entering a phone number) and hitting Enter.

Making Calls in Lync 2010

Rubber meets the road time!

I tested the headset on four calls: two to internal contacts, and two to outside clients.

I didn’t tell any of them I used the headset.

Both of the outside clients asked if I had a new phone. When asked why, they said I sounded much clearer. (I’d spoken with them before using my laptop’s built-in mic.)

It’s always better listening to voices through headphones than laptop speakers. The Jabra headset improved sound quality for both of us. No static, no pauses, no issues.

Final Verdict: Great Headset for Lync Users

The Jabra BIZ 620 USB is optimized for use with Lync Server. It’s one of Jabra’s Unified Communications products, made for their partnership with Microsoft. lines comes in mono (one headphone) and duo (two headphones) versions. USB and MS connectors available.

I really like how simple this headset makes things. There’s no setup, and no extra steps in Lync. Click to make a call, and this headset handles the rest.

The Jabra BIZ 620 USB headsets are available through several distributors and resellers. Jabra maintains a list on this page: Jabra BIZ 620 Series – Authorized Distributors and Resellers

Do you use a Jabra headset with Lync? Which model? How’s it working for you?

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Redirect Live Meeting Users to Lync: 20 Tasks Every Lync Administrator Should Know

Conferencing, lync server 2010, Microsoft Lync, Unified Communications

Live Meeting’s functionality was absorbed into Lync Server. Since Lync had Web Conferencing (and the Dial-In Conferencing service!) built in, it made sense to equip the software with Live Meeting’s anyone-can-join capability too.

With Live Meeting, people wanting to join a conference (as guests, outside your network) would join in by downloading the Live Meeting Client. In Lync Server, you have two new choices: Lync Attendee, or the Lync Web App.

Meeting Option #1: Lync Attendee

Lync Attendee is a downloadable client for external users to join Lync meetings. In other words, it operates just like the Live Meeting Client.

However, it doesn’t allow for Presence, or scheduling meetings on its own. (You need the full Lync client for those.) Attendees can enter a meeting as a Guest or as an Authenticated User, with their own corporate credentials.
Download Lync Attendee here.

Meeting Option #2: Lync Web App

The Lync Web App is a Silverlight-based app for people who don’t have Lync 2010. It enables remote connection as a guest – same functionality as Live Meeting, just in a Web-based app.

The Web App doesn’t allow for Presence either. But it *does* include IM. And all the collaboration features you’d find in Lync 2010 or Lync Attendee: PowerPoint presentations, the Whiteboard, polls, etc.

(Using these features may prompt attendees to download a plugin. Warn them beforehand.)

NextHop has a thorough run-down of the Lync Web App here.

So Which Should You Use for Meetings?

If you’re reasonably sure attendees are on newer computers, use the Lync Web App. Silverlight is newer technology; the latest systems will support it easily.

Also, use the Web App if you’re inviting people on Macs and/or smartphones.

Otherwise, go with Lync Attendee. It’s a good all-around client for meetings, and it’s easier to use than Live Meeting.

A Note About Conference Scheduling

Scheduling a web conference in Lync is pretty easy. Lync users can begin a meeting anytime (what’s called an “ad-hoc meeting”) by right-clicking on another contact.

However, when it comes to scheduling meetings, the Conferencing Add-In I mentioned will likely get more use. Being integrated into Outlook, it’s literally right there.

You’ll see a “New Online meeting” button (with the Lync logo) under Calendar. Click that and enter the meeting details.

 

This should clear up a little confusion. I’m sure there’s a lot more to discuss when it comes to meetings in Lync though.

Have you had trouble scheduling or attending one? Let’s hear about it!

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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, its predecessor Lync Server 2010, Unified Communications, Voice over IP and related technologies like Exchange Server. Written by Chris W., Tech Writer & SEO Engineer for PlanetMagpie IT Consulting.
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