Category: Lync Online

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

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.

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Lync VS. the PBX – Is Conferencing Driving Adoption More Than Voice?

Lync is experiencing serious growth in business environments. Both via on-premise Lync Server 2013 and cloud-based Lync Online. While this makes us happy, I find myself wondering what’s driving the increase in adoption.

Is it the prospect of replacing your old PBX? Or something else?

I’ve spoken in the past about adding PSTN calling to Lync Online. It’s a popular demand, and for good reason. Yet Lync Online is still gaining subscribers without it.

Lync Server 2013 is, in my opinion, doing even better. Full communications feature set including PBX-replacement-level Enterprise Voice. Takes some setup (like PBXes do) but once it’s in place? Fully-functional phone system with a dozen extra services available.

Hmmm. Maybe those extra services are more popular than we think. Maybe it’s the additional tools which continue to propel Lync Server, more than its PBX replacement power.

Conferencing Emerges Stronger

In an article titled Lync voice capabilities mature, but can they replace PBXs?, Antone Gonsalves includes an infographic from Infonetics Research. The infographic details the fastest-growing UC (Unified Communications) applications.

What’s the most popular? It’s not voice – it’s video conferencing.

Video Conferencing71% of survey respondents (largely enterprises from what I can tell) use it now, with 88% projected to use it by February 2015. Next up is Web conferencing, at 65% currently using and 83% projected to by February 2015.

(Go read the article for more; it’s well written with lots of good data. I’ll wait right here.)

Voice is not among the top 4 applications in this graphic. That doesn’t mean it’s not popular – can’t have a conference without voice! – but it does show another power behind Lync’s drive forward.

Video Conferencing is included in Lync Online. It’s limited to Lync clients, but at least it’s available. Aside from price, this may be a big reason behind Lync Online’s popularity.

Either way, more Lync use is more Lync use. Expansion into more businesses, more testing & updating for its communications tools. Both for Conferencing and for Voice.

I remember when first reading about Lync Server 2010’s Enterprise Voice. “Wow, a whole phone system built in!” It was exciting–then. Now? Now we just get frustrated when there’s a hiccup and we can’t make calls.

Why Voice Isn’t the Biggest Adoption Driver (But Still Surpasses the PBX)

I think there are two reasons Voice is not the biggest pull for Lync:

  1. Voice is seen as ‘ordinary’. We’ve grown used to having the ability to make a phone call from just about anywhere. Voice is essential for conferencing, but it’s not seen as the ‘major’ feature. Video is.
  2. The rise of texting via smartphones. I recall seeing a statistic somewhere saying more people text on their phones than make calls!

While this doesn’t help Lync Server adoption, it doesn’t much hurt either. In fact, I think this information could help push the PBX even closer to the recycling bin.

A PBX doesn’t include video. If you even want the option, you have to introduce a whole other system, such as Cisco’s Telepresence Server. And if you’re adding servers, you’re increasing complexity to the point of diminishing returns. Fast.

Smart businesses are moving to integrated solutions like Lync. Hence why Lync Server surpasses the PBX – even if we’re more interested in video conferencing than making calls, we can get both & more from 1 software platform.

Did you replace a PBX with Lync Server? What motivated you to switch? Please comment or email me. I’d love to hear your stories!

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Lessons from an Office 365 Outage

Starting Monday, Office 365 users started losing service. First Lync Online went down for several hours on the 23rd. Then Exchange Online did the same thing on the 24th.

Lync Online Outage: Microsoft Lync Online users hit by outage – ZDNet
Lync users see outages as Microsoft wrangles with network problems – The Register

Outlook/Exchange Online Outage: Microsoft Outlook Outage Reported Across Much of the Country (Resolved) – Washington Post
Microsoft Suffers Another Cloud Outage As Exchange Online Users Left In The Lurch – CRN.com

Looking at Twitter yesterday, I saw tweet after tweet of frustration. There were even businesses who asked customers to call them today, because nobody could receive email!

The services are back up as of now…but the outage still meant many hours of lost business time for thousands of customers.

Comments on the above articles make points we should all keep in mind.

“At least with on premise, you are in control.”
“[On-premise] Lync Server is on par with Exchange in terms of complexity.”
“Outages happen. Doesn’t matter if it’s your datacenter or MS’ datacenter, just a fact of life.”

The last one is 100% true. This was inevitable. The day Office 365 signed up its first user, the countdown to a large-scale crash started.

Outages are an unfortunate reality of IT. No matter what system, no matter how many backups or failsafes or redundancies you build in, eventually something will crash.

No, I’m not going to say ‘I told you so’. Nor will I disparage Microsoft for the outage (though I am on record as preferring Lync on-premises than via Office 365).

Instead, I’d just like to talk about what we can learn from outages like this.

Outages are Inevitable. Plan Accordingly.

The main thing to remember when it comes to outages, is that they WILL show up eventually. Sure, we do a lot of work to make sure they are rare and short-lived. But part of that work, if you’re working smart, is in making a plan for when the outages do come about.

brokencable1It could be as simple a plan as, “When outages occur, switch operations to X and call IT.” Even that can help a lot.

If you want a more constructive plan, here are some considerations all businesses – especially businesses using cloud solutions – should take into account.

Do you have a backup communications method?
If you do use Lync Online, chances are you can survive without IM for a while. Unless email is down too. Then you’re left scrambling to communicate. And when Lync Online adds VoIP capability, I would advise you to keep some cellphones around!

Do your users have an alternate way to send/receive email, create business documents and collaborate?
Few things will grind a business to a halt than email going down. It may be prudent to contract with a local service for an on-demand email server. Or add Exchange to an on-site server and keep it in reserve.

Where are your files stored?
If you store files in the cloud, it’s smart to have a local backup of some sort. Either a local server pulling down copies, or a third-party backup provider doing so for you.

Do you have strong security in place, both for cloud-based access and internal computers?
Microsoft’s security for Office 365 data is well-documented. But it still pays to employ security on data transmitted to & from cloud services.

Maintain a relationship with an IT professional or consultant who specializes in the software.
Do you know an expert who can help you if Lync Online goes down? What about on-premises software like Exchange Server or your CMS? Even if you don’t call them often, having someone you can rely on brings peace of mind.

Remember not to blame IT for the outage.
I asked our IT consultants about the last few customer outages on which we’ve worked. They mentioned two in the past month. Both at customer sites – a server failure and an email crash. It wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t the customer’s fault either. It just happened. They went in, fixed the problem, and everyone got back to work. Believe it or not, keeping this in mind helps a lot with the frustration.

Office 365 Will Go Down Again. Just a Matter of Time. Don’t Panic.

While I’m not a big fan of Office 365 – I prefer Lync’s much greater on-premise capabilities – it’s out there and in popular use. All Office 365 users must be aware that, even with 99.9% uptime, outages can occur. If someone is at fault, fine. But either way YOU need a plan to deal with the outage.

Without a plan in place, most business’ default response to an outage is something like, “Wave Arms in Air, Run Around Yelling”. Not very productive is it?

Do you have an outage plan in place? Does it have elements not listed here? If so, please comment or email me. We can all benefit from discussing outages and how to respond to them.

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Lync Usage Poll Results

Short post this week – We have a major site launch in the works, and another coming up right after it.

But I promised to return to the Lync usage poll I put up 2 weeks ago. So, here we are! I have some good results from the poll, and some reflection on your votes. Here are the poll results:

POLL – What type of Lync Server do you use?
Lync Server 2010 (On-Premise) – 7 votes
Lync Server 2013 (On-Premise) – 29 votes
Lync Server 2013 (Hosted) – 0 votes
Lync Online – 1 vote
OCS 2007 – 1 vote (write-in)

Thank you to everyone who did vote. I will leave the poll up here if you didn’t get a chance before.

Lync Server Usage: 2013 Most Popular, Some Surprises Between On-Premise and Online

That Lync Server 2013 (On-Premise) was #1 makes sense to me. It’s the latest version, with many more capabilities than the other choices.

I didn’t expect someone to write in OCS 2007 though. Lone reader/voter, I’d love to know why you’re still using it. Upgrade hassle? Does it fulfill a proprietary need? Please comment or email me!

I’m also a little surprised by the number of Lync Server 2010 users. I actually thought the numbers would be a little more even between 2010 on-premise and 2013 on-premise.

It’s one of those situations where I’m glad to be wrong! While Lync 2010 was a good system and had a lot of appeal, 2013 is much more powerful & flexible. The upgrade path isn’t as scary as some people have mentioned to me.

Zero votes for the Lync Server 2013 (Hosted) option makes me think I should have clarified that a bit more. By this I mean running a full-version Lync Server 2013 instance, in a hosted/cloud data center. You get the full power of Lync Server, but without installing extra servers on-site. We actually do this for a couple of customers now, via our Private Cloud Service.  Hope that didn’t confuse anyone!

Lastly, Lync Online. Only 1 voter for Microsoft’s Office 365 service. Given the rancor posted to NextHop about Lync Online’s service quality, this doesn’t surprise me either.

That said, I suppose now’s a good time to explain why we don’t recommend it to most businesses.

As I mentioned in “Lync Blogs are Disappearing,” on-premises Lync Server has more options & more power than Lync Online. Though we may see PSTN calling added to Lync Online soon, we don’t know when. And there are other capabilities Lync Server 2013 has which we may never see in Lync Online.

The same is true of Office 2013 overall vs. the Office 365 offerings. Many people will never use Word’s more advanced functions, but they’re there nonetheless.

I don’t blame anyone for wanting to save money up-front. In that respect, Office 365 seems appealing. However, its regular billing adds up over time. In the long term, you’re paying a lot for decreased capacity.

The only time I WOULD recommend Office 365/Lync Online is for a small-but-growing business who wants to temporarily test out the Lync communications system. In this case, Office 365 becomes a useful stepping stone into a full-version Lync Server implementation. Would it work for your business? Well, here’s a way to find out!

Again, thanks to everyone who voted. I will put up more polls in the future, so you can be heard more often. As always, the Lync Insider Blog welcomes feedback & questions!

Next time (provided I have enough time to make a solid post on it) we’ll discuss using Lync Server as an alternative to LogMeIn. Don’t forget to sign up for email reminders in the right column, so you won’t miss out!

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Reader Question: Call Transmission in Lync Server vs. Lync Online

To everyone who responded on last week’s Usage Poll, thank you! We already have quite a few responses. I’ll leave it open another week (go here if you haven’t voted yet).

In the meantime, I received an email from a reader. Jose was curious about Lync call transmission methods. He asked (in part):

“We are planning to deploy Lync on-cloud. But I wonder if the audio-call or video-call is established directly peer-to-peer or is it always depending of an internet connection?”

It’s a good question to ask before you deploy Lync – in any form! When I replied, I asked him what form of Lync deployment they were considering. This will become important in a moment.

How Lync Transmits Calls Across the Network and Out to Phones

But first, let me answer the question of call transmission method. There are three types of calls to consider here: Peer-to-peer Lync calls, PSTN/Enterprise Voice calls, and conferencing.

Peer-to-peer calls use existing network bandwidth. Internally, so do conferencing calls. They use different audio codecs to facilitate their connections, and they have specific bandwidth requirements for those codecs.Lync Call Transmission Methods

Here’s a list of those codecs and their requirements: Network Bandwidth Requirements for Media Traffic – TechNet

(Obviously, conferencing will require more bandwidth to transmit video!)

PSTN/Enterprise Voice calls are a bit trickier. Since these need to communicate with the worldwide phone network, they must be translated into a signaling medium compatible with our phones. To do this in Lync Server 2010 and 2013, you need two things: the Mediation Server Role, and either a PSTN gateway or SIP trunk.

Here’s an overview page on Mediation Server: Mediation Server Component – TechNet
There’s also some information PSTN gateways and SIP trunks.

Through configuration in your Lync topology and Mediation Server, you dictate how voice calls are transmitted to & from the PSTN. It takes some setup, and you must make sure you have enough bandwidth available! But the system works once it’s in place.

I communicated this to Jose. And I asked him a question of my own:

“You said on-cloud – do you mean a hosted Lync Server installation, or Lync Online with Microsoft? Lync Online does not include Mediation Server, the component which governs communication with PSTN gateways.”

Good thing I did. Jose responded by saying he was interested in Lync Online instead of a full on-premises Lync Server. He added:

“Is there any way to create some sort of hybrid environment to have Lync Online with the Mediation Server capabilities? I’m trying to get this scenario because Lync Online is cheaper than a full on premises implementation.”

This is also a very good question. It’s true that Lync Online is cheaper than on-premises Lync Server 2013. But you’re making a trade-off when you opt for Lync Online – its calling capabilities are severely limited. Why? Because Enterprise Voice is not included. No Mediation Server. No PSTN calling capability.

Lync Online requires an Internet connection? Yes, to start. But what about PSTN calls?

Now, let’s go back to Jose’s original question. He wanted to know if Lync Online required an Internet connection for direct peer-to-peer calls. I cannot answer this with complete certainty, as I don’t have Lync Online right in front of me to test. (Really need to get myself an account…)

However, after consulting Office 365 Help (Set up Microsoft Lync Online), I feel confident in saying that Lync Online requires Internet access to establish peer-to-peer calls. But it uses existing network bandwidth to facilitate them once established.

Lync Online runs off of Microsoft servers. It makes sense that the Lync client would store contacts on those servers, and need to call back to those servers when a Lync call or conference is started.

But what about PSTN calling?

It’s here that Lync Online stumbles. It has no Mediation Server component available. No Enterprise Voice capability. At least, not yet. Microsoft has recently stated that PSTN calling functionality is coming. Lync Online users are clamoring for its addition…but for now, they have to wait.

In the meantime, is there a hybrid solution like Jose asked? Yes. I do know of one option:
Telephony Support for Lync Online or Office 365 – Sangoma Express for Lync

Sangoma offers a Lync gateway to add VoIP to Lync Online. From the page:

“Express for Lync is the ONLY Lync server appliance with a built-in VoIP gateway and SBC, both of which are qualified and tested for Lync. It is the easiest and most convenient way to deploy Lync with telephony support for Office 365, for a branch office or for a complete PBX replacement using Lync for installations of less than 1,000 users.”

1,000 user limit…while I’d strongly recommend organizations with 1,000 users and up use on-premises Lync Server, it’s good that we have an option for smaller organizations.

I hope this helped Jose with his questions. And his future Lync rollout, whichever form it takes.

Did this post help you with understanding Lync calls? If so, please comment or email. Oh, and don’t forget to vote in the poll! We’ll return to it next week. See you then!

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2 Articles You Need to Read about Lync

It’s been a little while since I did a “Lync Love” post. I do like offering commentary on great Lync-related articles. I had one ready last week. And since then, a second one has popped up.

These are articles everyone interested in Lync Server (and its related technologies) should read. Let me explain the reasons why, below.

1. How PSTN voice in Lync Online will bring unified VoIP to the masses – BetaNews

Written by Derrick Wlodarz, this article raises some urgent questions about VoIP’s future.1279599_13140278a

Short Synopsis: Voice over IP, in its current form, can’t provide easy access to the PSTN. As a result, its services exist as a sort of ‘bubble’ next to the PSTN, trying to wiggle itself in. Adding full PSTN connectivity into Lync Online (part of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering) would go a long way toward improving VoIP’s standing.

There’s a lot of truth in what the author says. Lync Online is near-crippled without the PSTN. Skype’s proprietary network, while immense and well-used, does tend to wall its users in a little.

Where I disagree in part is the position that running your own Lync Server system is pretty much reserved for the Fortune 500. Not the case at all. Our own client experiences don’t match up. In fact, most of our Lync implementations were for businesses under 200 people.

Lync Online does have its limitations when it comes to making calls out. I happily support Microsoft adding such functionality.
The PSTN has been around for more than a century. VoIP has only seen notable use in the past decade or so. We will see unification…just give it time.

2. Law Firm CIO Makes the Case for Microsoft Lync – CIO.com

This is a detailed case study of a Lync Server implementation.  It’s terrific work; thorough explanations of the law firm’s situation, the decisions made, the steps involved in transition & so on.

I have to quote the section about achieving a successful deployment:
“We find most often that if a project fails, it’s because people aren’t addressing the user and change management issues,” he [Dean Leung, Holland & Knight CIO] says. “If you just deploy it and hope that they’ll adopt it, they may or they may not. If you focus on change management and really help build the business case as to how it’s going to help their workflow and their practice, that always leads to a successful deployment.”

Indeed!

Interconnectivity of services was the driver behind the law firm’s Lync move. They wanted more efficiency out of current communications. Especially when talking with clients.

Deploying Lync Server got them what they wanted – including the extras like changing call types or adding a whiteboard. Leung called these features “Phone+”. I rather like that. Might use it in future posts.

If you’re on the fence about using Lync Server, go read this article. Holland & Knight took their time and addressed potential issues with careful deployment planning. Very smart approach for any software change–particularly Lync.

Question for Readers: What would hold you back from switching to Lync Server? Please comment or email with your answers!

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Lync Love: March 2014

Need to stay head-down this week. I was planning to continue my exploration of Lync plugins from last time…but, no rest for the busy!

So for today’s post, let’s take a look out in the Lyncosphere and see what we find.

Exchange Server 2013 SP1: What’s New – WindowsITPro.com
Discussion of Exchange 2013’s Service Pack 1, released last month. A very thorough article on it too. It covers SP1’s intended purpose, what to watch out for, the new features, and background on the Exchange service model (Cumulative Updates similar to Lync). If you haven’t already installed SP1, read this for a useful reference.

Lync-Skype-Office 365 Goes Off-Hook – TelecomReseller
This article covers some of the same points I made in Exchanging Protocols: The Latest on Lync and Skype Integration.
Not sure I fully agree with this line: “MSFT will finally smash them together a new UI will emerge probably in 1-2 years to simplify their product offering.”
But, the reason I included it in Lync Love is the images. There’s a big diagram outlining the Lync-Skype-Office 365 architecture (interactive), and a chart of codecs used. Good for a visual reference on both.PosterCutout

Announcing the Release of the Lync Server 2013 On-Premises Architectures Poster – NextHop
Speaking of visual reference! NextHop recently posted an architectural guide for running Lync Server 2013 on-premises. As with previous posters, this one’s extremely detailed and required reading for any Lync administrator.

Microsoft Warns of Looming Exchange Server 2003 Support Deadline – Redmond Channel Partner
Most of us are aware of the looming Windows XP deadline. (Only 3 weeks away!) At the same time, Office 2003 and Exchange Server 2003 will meet their end.
Hopefully everyone is off of Exchange 2003 by now! But just in case, here’s a reminder. And a nice punctual list of the available upgrade & support options for Exchange 2003 holdouts.

I also came across a long article on VoIP and Lync Online. It deserves its own post as a response. You’ll see that one soon.

Next week, I’ll take a stroll through GitHub for some more Lync plugins to test. See you then!

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Examining Lync's Connection Tools: Online Directory Synchronization

Our last post in the “Lync Connection Tools” series! Today I’m adding Online Directory Synchronization to the list, along with the others:
TRIPP
MOSDAL
OCSUMUtil

With these we can test connection quality for Lync Online, examine network configuration, connect Unified Messaging…and now, synchronize information between your local Active Directory and Office 365!

What is Directory Synchronization?

This is a tool to maintain synchronization of user data between Office 365 and your local Active Directory user information. It is commonly used to maintain data consistency between local Exchange Servers and Lync Online.

Directory Synchronization, or “DirSync”, is the most common provisioning choice for Enterprise-level businesses moving to Office 365.

What does Online Directory Synchronization Do?

DirSync acts as a constant “live update” for user accounts. It goes back and forth between your local AD and the Windows Azure AD (which provides identity and access capabilities for Office 365). Each time it synchronizes a long list of user account information, contact objects and other attributes.

Which objects and attributes are synchronized?

  • Contact Name
  • Contact Phone Number
  • List of Contact’s Email Addresses
  • IP Address for Contact Phone
  • Manager Relationship for the Contact
  • Mailbox GUID
  • SIP URI
  • Geographical Information for each user
  • And much more.

A full list is here: List of attributes that are synced by the Windows Azure Active Directory Sync tool – Microsoft Support

DirSync is required if you plan to use Single Sign-On, Lync Coexistence Mode, Exchange hybrid deployment, photo synchronization and so on.

How do You Use Directory Synchronization?

The best way to use DirSync is to turn it on and let it do its job. With directory synchronization enabled, your users’ information should always stay up-to-date, whether you call someone from Lync Online or email them from Exchange.

The computer running Directory Synchronization must have the following requirements:

  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter (64-Bit); 2008 R2 Standard/Enterprise/Datacenter (64-Bit); Windows Server 2012 Standard/Datacenter (64-Bit)
  • Joined to Active Directory domain
  • Runs .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and .NET Framework 4.0
  • Runs PowerShell
  • NOT located on a Domain Controller

I should also note – Directory Synchronization is not always enabled by default! You may need to activate it yourself. If you want to activate Directory Synchronization, I refer you to this very detailed post at the Petri IT Knowledgebase:
Active Directory Integration with Office 365: Directory Sync – Petri.co.il

DirSync will run for up to 50,000 objects. If you have more than those, clean out any old contacts & duplicates, or contact Microsoft Support.

That’s it! DirSync is pretty much a single-purpose tool…but very useful for Office 365 users. You can work without it, but I seriously would not recommend it. Manual synchronization is time-consuming and prone to inconsistencies. Automate user data sync with this tool and don’t worry about it.

Plan for Online Directory Synchronization – TechNet Page

Next week I plan to have some hands-on notes for doing Lync Server updating. Join us back here for the details!

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Examining Lync's Connection Tools: MOSDAL

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

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

What Does MOSDAL Mean?

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

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

What MOSDAL Does

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

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

MOSDAL Window

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

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

What Kind of Information MOSDAL Gives You

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

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

The folders are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This file was 3 folders down.

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

Where to Find MOSDAL

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

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

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

Coming up we’ll have a post on either:

  • Online Directory Synchronization
  • OCSUMUtil

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

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Examining Lync's Connection Tools: TRIPP

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

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

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

  • TRIPP
  • Online Directory Synchronization
  • MOSDAL
  • OCSUMUtil

(Not necessarily in this order.)

Today we’re focusing on TRIPP.

What Does TRIPP Mean?

TRIPP stands for Transport Reliability IP Probe.


It’s meant for use with Lync Online subscribers.

When You Need to Use It

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

What TRIPP Does – Tests Connection Quality

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

Where to Find TRIPP

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

What Kind of Information TRIPP Gives You

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

Here are my TRIPP results:

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

Everything else is green – good to go!

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

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

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

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

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