Category: Lync Server 2013

How the Mediation Server Fits into Skype for Business

Our fifth entry in the “How It Fits” series is…the Mediation Server!

Mediation is a central element within Skype for Business. It’s arguably the most versatile Server Role in the Skype for Business topology too. There’s almost no end to the number of configurations you can deploy for it…collocate, standalone, or pool. SIP trunk or PSTN gateway. Multiple gateways. Multiple trunks. Call routes and bypasses.

The one thing all of these configurations have in common…is listening. Mediation Server listens and translates. Routes and connects. If you use Skype for Business at all for voice, you’re talking through a Mediation Server.

This post, like the previous posts in my “How it Fits” series, will give an overarching take on the Mediation Server’s function and value. I took a more agnostic approach, since we now have two versions of Skype for Business Server to consider (2015 and 2019).

How does Mediation Server work in both of them? Any differences between versions? Let’s find out.

The Mediation Server’s Primary Role

Mediation servers translate signals between your Skype for Business’ Enterprise Voice infrastructure, and the gateway your topology uses to reach the PSTN: either a PSTN gateway, a SIP trunk, or even a PBX. “Mediating” your voice communications, basically.

Mediation Server Signal Processing

The signaling protocols Mediation Server handles. Photo courtesy of Microsoft Docs.

Because of this critical function, Mediation Server is a required Server Role. It also helps facilitate E911, Call Admission Control, and Media Bypass.

This is one of the Server Roles for whom hardware quality matters. The higher the server’s processing capacity & available RAM, the more calls a Mediation Server can handle.

Main Components of the Mediation Server

  1. Signal Translation: The reason you must have a Mediation Server for Enterprise Voice. Without signal translation, nobody could understand each other on the phone. You’d either sound like 80s-era robots, or brain-scrambled demons!
  2. Call Routing: The server coordinates with your gateway of choice to route calls where they need to go. Peer-to-peer inside the network, out to a branch site, or out to a customer three states away on their cellphone.
  3. Media Bypass: Not really a component, but a capability. Skype for Business admins can configure a call route to flow AROUND the Mediation Server! The call route would travel directly between a user’s device and a PSTN Gateway. Why do this? It can reduce lag without traversing the Mediation Server. Media bypass improves call quality by reducing latency, unnecessary translation, possibility of packet loss, and the number of potential points of failure.
  4. Call Admission Control (CAC): A bandwidth management tool. Based on available bandwidth, the Mediation Server determines the best use for existing calls. The idea is to automatically prevent poor call quality as often as possible.NOTE: Media Bypass and CAC are mutually exclusive. If one’s in use for a particular call, the other is not.
Digital Voice Traffic VoIP

Basically, Mediation Server helps you avoid the digital voice equivalent of this.
Photo by Jens Herrndorff on Unsplash

Other Servers a Mediation Server Communicates With

Front End. Of course, Mediation communicates with the Front End Servers all the time. It employs Front End’s database for call routing, and performs a similarly-central role in voice communications Site-wide.

PSTN Gateway / SIP Trunk / IP-PBX. These are the gateway mechanisms, or “peers” for bringing calls to & from Skype for Business. This is where your defined call routes meet the Mediation Server.

Load Balancers. I mentioned in the How the Load Balancer Fits post that load balancers must communicate with servers they’re balancing AND the servers sending them traffic. Since almost all voice traffic must go through the Mediation Server, they’ll talk with load balancers frequently.

(The peers performing call routing to/from Mediation Server also act as load balancers, particularly when you deploy a Mediation Pool.)

How a Mediation Server Works in a Hybrid Deployment

What does a Mediation Server do in a hybrid topology with Office 365?

Fundamentally the same thing. If you’re hybridizing an existing Skype for Business Server deployment, you’ll enable synchronization for Active Directory and change call routes. You’ll have to reflect such changes in your on-prem Mediation Server.

There are too many options to the hybridization process to cover in 1 post. Suffice to say, it all depends on your gateways/SIP trunks, and how much of Office 365’s calling services you use.

Should You Collocate with Front End, or Use a Separate Mediation Pool?

By default, Skype for Business wants to collocate a Mediation Server with the Front End Server. Which is fine for smaller topologies.

If you’re using a SIP trunk though, I recommend the standalone approach. At least one Mediation Server, or a small pool. Microsoft also recommends this approach, but we’ve seen it borne out in the field. Each time we deployed a standalone Mediation Server for a customer location with a SIP trunk, we fielded fewer calls about latency issues (if any).

One caveat for you Skype for Business Server 2019 deployers: According to Brian Siefferman at Perficient, if you’re migrating your Skype4B topology from an existing deployment, it’s a good idea to collocate the legacy Mediation Server during initial deployment. Then you can decide whether to keep it collocated, or move to standalone, later in the process.

Will the Mediation Server Change in Skype for Business Server 2019?

Not fundamentally. It continues its role of call routing/media processing.

We even get a performance boost for Mediation’s call capacity. Paul Lange points out that that a standalone Mediation Server in 2019 will handle 2,000 concurrent calls, with hyper-threading enabled (it can handle 1,500 calls in Skype4B 2015).

Makes sense, since a few deprecated elements deal with messaging—XMPP Gateways, Persistent Chat. Mediation Server won’t need communications with them now, freeing up more processing power for concurrent calls.

Dog Licking Mediation Server

Still reliably doing what it’s ‘trained’ to do.
Photo by James Barker on Unsplash

A Good Listener to Facilitate Voice Calls

The Mediation Server has existed since the OCS 2007 days. Of course, It has grown as more VoIP options came into being. But like its Front End partner, it has continued to provide the same fundamental service for over 10 years.

As long as it has sufficient bandwidth & a reliable gateway available, Mediation Server makes voice calls happen. Which type of gateway you use with it, depends on your network and Site needs.

If you’d like further reference on deploying Mediation Server, try this guide: Mediation Server Deployment Guidelines – MS Docs

What kind of gateway does your Skype for Business’ Mediation Server talk to?

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Software Add-on Review: SuperToast V3

Never Miss a Skype for Business Notification Again

In early 2016 I wrote a post titled, Making Sure You See Skype for Business Notifications—No Matter What!.

In said post I reviewed a notification app called SuperToast, made by Modality Systems. It remains one of the blog’s most-read posts today. Evidently lots of Skype for Business users miss notifications…

The other day, Louise at Modality asked if I’d like to review the new, redeveloped SuperToast V3. Of course I was happy to do so!

What is SuperToast?

The SuperToast app sits in your taskbar. Every time you miss a Skype for Business call or Instant Message, SuperToast displays a notification popup with details about the missed event.

Chat Notification

Someone is chatting with me!

SuperToast notifies you of missed Instant Messages, incoming audio/video calls, and missed audio/video calls.

Missed Call Notification

Can’t talk now, writing this post.

The notification windows only displays the first message someone sends. If for example you receive 4 messages in succession from one person (as my co-workers sometimes do), you’ll only see one SuperToast notification. Which is smart—nobody wants a stream of popup windows blocking other work!

The SuperToast settings could not be simpler. Here’s the entire settings window.

SuperToast Settings

The SuperToast Options window. Five settings. Nothing else needed.

You choose which communication types for which you want to receive SuperToast notifications via checkboxes. That’s it.

What’s New in V3

The new SuperToast has two main improvements over old versions.

  1. Full support for the latest Skype for Business clients.
  2. Bug Fixes:
    1. Notifications appearing despite you being active in the conversation window
    2. Not bringing the conversation window to the front when clicking on a notification

The UI is largely the same as before. Which helped it fold back into my day-to-day routine almost immediately. But after a few weeks’ testing, I can say V3 is more stable now.

Two Versions: Single-Use and Business-Wide

SuperToast comes in two versions:

  • SuperToast One is a single-user version.
  • SuperToast for Business is a business version with central management.

SuperToast One has a few limitations the Business version doesn’t. You can’t customize SuperToast One’s look & feel, no central admin, etc. Pretty much what you’d expect for a single-user.

SuperToast One costs $7/year. SuperToast for Business costs $7/year for 5-99 users, $5/year for 100-999 users, $2.50/year for 1000-2499 users, and $1/year for 2500+ users. So no matter which version you buy, or how many, you’re only paying a few dollars a user per year. You even get 24-hour support with this too.

They used to have a free version. Now there’s a free 30-day trial.

Incoming Call Notification

Hold on, better take this. Be right back.

Who Can/Should Use SuperToast?

Modality developed this app to support Skype for Business users. Like us, they didn’t like missing notifications from co-workers or customers. The app works with Skype for Business Server and Online (O365) deployments.

Lync 2013 users still hanging on? SuperToast will work for you too.

That said, here’s a brief mention of SuperToast’s limits. It has 3 that I can determine:

  1. No Mac version yet.
  2. I am not certain if SuperToast will work with the Teams desktop client.
  3. As many commenters pointed out on my 2016 post, this IS a third-party app. Some organizations block third-party apps from user’s devices on security grounds. That is perfectly valid—we see malware apps all the time on customer PCs!
    In such cases, I’d recommend using SuperToast for Business. Its central management and Modality’s reputation should dissuade any security concerns.

I do know that Modality continues to work on SuperToast. We may see these limits resolved fairly soon. If I hear of timetables for such, I’ll update this post accordingly.

SuperToast in Taskbar

Runs in the taskbar. Quiet. Unobtrusive.

Super for Putting Missed Calls/Conversations in Front of Your Eyes

SuperToast is a single-purpose app. It does one job…and it does it well. Plus it’s cheap to buy. I always like simple apps like this; they don’t require a high learning curve, and provide an immediate benefit.

For those who miss a lot of notifications in the course of a workday, SuperToast makes for a quick, valuable solution.

SuperToast Page – Modality Systems

Used SuperToast before? How was your experience?

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What to Do When Skype4B Conversations Take Weeks to Appear in Outlook

You have a normal conversation in Skype for Business via Instant Messaging. The next day, you need to check the status of a task. You recall you mentioned this task in yesterday’s conversation. Better go check it in Conversation History.

Outlook is already open. You click the Conversation History folder and…wait, where’s the conversation? The last one you see is dated 2 weeks ago!

We ran up against this issue with a customer’s Skype for Business deployment. They had a server deployment, up and running since 2016. The Conversation History “delayed appearance” only started this past fall. Even more confusing, it didn’t occur for all users.

Work Conversation in Skype4B

“I KNOW I talked to Beth yesterday…”
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

The Cause: A Low Threshold for Conversation File Size

We checked all the obvious things, of course. But those were all clear. Only after testing & reviewing the Conversation History logs that did appear, followed by some MS research, did we find the cause.

Lync Server 2013 had an issue with long conversations. If a conversation’s history file ended up over 1MB in size, Lync Server could not upload the file to Exchange Server. This bug persisted into Skype for Business Server.

So if you end up having a long conversation with co-workers, plus a few images & documents shared around, your conversation grew past the server’s (tiny) 1MB limit!

The Solution: A Fix for Lync/Skype for Business Server, Then an Exchange Server Workaround

Microsoft did release a fix for this: KB3101496. It’s a security update issued November 10, 2015. Link to the update below.

This isn’t the only fix though. In fact, it might not even work for you. Not to worry…if it doesn’t, we have an alternative! The clever engineers posting on this thread determined it:
Lync 2013 Conversation History not taken from History Spooler by Outlook 2013 when bigger than 1 MB – TechNet

It’s an edit to an Exchange web.config file. Though from the thread and our own experience, we advise approaching the problem in this order:

  1. Apply the update first. Wait a few hours to determine if it took effect.
  2. If the update doesn’t work, use the following workaround.

Conversation History Bug Fix (KB3101496):

Security Update MS15-116 and MS15-123 for Lync 2013 (Skype for Business)
If your Skype for Business Server doesn’t already have this through Microsoft Update, you can download it here.

If Conversation History in Outlook doesn’t start updating within a few hours (happened for us after Hour 3), then try the web.config workaround.

Exchange Server Web.Config Workaround:

  1. Access your Exchange Server. Make sure you have write permissions.
  2. Navigate to the Exchange installation directory, e.g. C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server.
  3. Open the version folder.
  4. Open the ClientAccess folder.
  5. Open the exchweb folder.
  6. Open the EWS folder.
  7. Edit the web.config file found here.
  8. Within the <appSettings> node, add the following line:
    <add key=”XmlMaxBytesPerRead” value=”1000000″ />
  9. Restart your IIS server.

Again, wait a few hours. The conversations should start trickling into Conversation History, in groups of 10 or so. You may need to restart Outlook & the Skype for Business client a few times to get everything.

Sometimes Conversation Logs Delay Their Appearance. Call Them Out on Stage with These Fixes!

This is an issue which can fly under the radar. Our customer saw no error messages, and had no Outlook crashes related to it. They only noticed when someone did exactly what I portrayed earlier—tried to check a previous Skype4B conversation via their Outlook Conversation History.

Take a second to review your Outlook Conversation History. Hopefully this bug doesn’t affect you…but it doesn’t hurt to check!

Have you experienced a Conversation History “delayed appearance” in Outlook, or something similar?

 

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How the Edge Server Fits into Skype for Business

“What’s the Edge Server do?”

One of our team members fielded this question while on-site the other day. He’d just finished describing the Skype for Business topology we proposed for the customer’s business (hybrid deployment, across 3 offices). One of the users piped up right afterward.

Now to his credit, my co-worker answered the question immediately, and (from his impressions) to the user’s satisfaction. He’d mentioned it to me only in passing. But, me being me, I seized on it as a good post idea.

We’re all about educating users here. In case another user at that customer site, or a future customer’s, still has questions? Let’s take a detailed look at what goes into an Edge Server.

(Please note: We will not discuss Reverse Proxies or Load Balancers in this post. If you want to hear more about these, I’m happy to dedicate a post to each. Please comment if so.)

The Edge Server’s Primary Role

The Edge Server grants Skype for Business access to users outside the internal network. These are mobile users, remote users, federated users (e.g. partners, vendors), and sometimes even customers.

Without the Edge Server, these external users can’t send or receive IM, take phone calls, or join in Online Meetings.

How does it do that? Essentially, by acting as an IP intermediary. It translates external IP addresses into internal IP addresses to facilitate the external user connections. As such, the Edge will need routable public IPs assigned to it (or non-routable private IPs, if you use NAT).

Skype for Business Servers

That’s our Edge Server right there. No, that one.

Main Components of an Edge Server

Each Edge Server runs four main services.

  1. Access Edge. This service gives users a trusted connection for inbound & outbound SIP traffic. Like a private road through the Internet.
  2. Web Conferencing Edge. This service allows an external user to join Online Meetings running on your Skype for Business Server. A virtual “ticket to the show,” as it were.
  3. A/V Edge. This service enables audio/video, application sharing, and file transfer for external users while in said Meetings. That way you’re not missing out on any parts of the conversation.
  4. XMPP Proxy. Finally, this service sends & receives XMPP messages (eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) from federated partners. It makes sure external users can still talk with federated users.
    • NOTE: This is not required for all Edge Servers. You may need an XMPP gateway running on the Front End as well.

Other Servers Edge Communicates With

Front End. Obviously, the Edge Server will communicate the most with the Front End (Standard or Enterprise Edition). Otherwise external user connections would just vanish!

Office 365 Cloud. If you’re running a hybrid configuration, the Edge Server will have to communicate with Office 365 servers. Edge will treat the Office 365 tenant as a federated partner, so make sure SIP Federation is enabled.

Exchange UM Server. Edge must communicate with Unified Messaging, in order for external users to get their voicemails.

Persistent Chat Server. For topologies supporting Persistent Chat, the Edge Server will need to communicate with its server. Access Edge needs to facilitate external users joining chats.

Reverse Proxy, Firewall, Load Balancer. Together with the Edge Server, these servers/tools create the “perimeter network.” They protect your network from unauthorized access (e.g. malware), while letting authenticated users through.

Edge Server Functionality

A Microsoft diagram illustrating some of the Edge Server’s functions. It keeps busy. Image courtesy of Microsoft.com.

Is One Edge Server Enough?

For most offices, yes. One Edge Server can handle 12,000 concurrent users. But for high-availability topologies, you can collocate Edge Servers.

Reminder: Don’t Forget about Mobile User Access

When configuring an Edge Server, make sure you’ve addressed mobile users. We’ve had to reconfigure Edge Servers which were set up properly for most remote users…but mobile apps didn’t have access the moment they left the office.

Every Time You Use Skype for Business on the Road, Thank Your Edge Server

Among our customers, IM is the most-used Skype for Business tool benefiting from the Edge Server. But inviting customers or vendors into an Online Meeting is the most valued benefit.

“You mean they can actually join the meeting too? Just like each of us?” Yes, they sure can! Thanks to the Edge Server. Show it a little love.

(I’m not actually sure how you’d do that. Do servers appreciate it when you clean their fans?)

Did you have a question about what Edge Servers do, or how they do it? Please comment or email your thoughts.

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Poll Results: Some Organizations DO Still Use Lync Server!

We’re working on a big post (again!). It’s directly in response to a reader comment, and deals with a critical part of Skype for Business adoption.

In the meantime, as I promised, here are the results of the Lync Polls I conducted.

On-the-Blog Poll Results

Lync Server Poll Results June 2017

(I’m obscuring actual vote numbers on request.)

58% of the blog poll votes went to “We moved to Skype for Business Server.” No big surprise there. Several votes went to Office 365’s Skype for Business Online, too.

What I found curious was that 25% said they still use Lync Server!

Spiceworks Poll Results

If you’re a Spicehead too, here’s the URL for the voting results over there:
https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/2003305-are-you-still-using-lync-server
All responses voted for: “No, we moved to Skype for Business”

Thanks to everyone who voted.

So, what do the results tell us? Most Lync users moved to Skype for Business, and are doing just fine.

A larger-than-expected percentage still use Lync Server though. I did get a little feedback on this…the main reason? Corporate inertia. Management doesn’t want to invest the time & money to move from Lync to Skype for Business.

For those in such a situation, if you want to move to Skype for Business? You have several ways to demonstrate its value to Management.

  1. Start up an Office 365 trial in one department (maybe IT?). The fastest method, and the closest to Server deployment. Then you can show Management how the workflow benefits from it.
  2. Federate your Lync Server with a colleague’s or vendor’s Skype for Business Server. Might take some asking around, but eventually you’ll find one. That way you can show the differing experiences between Lync and Skype4B.
    • We actually convinced a customer to move to Skype for Business this way…just by using our own Skype4B Server. I’m not opposed to doing so again, if it’ll help you!
  3. Ask to sign up for a Microsoft Teams trial. It’s obviously not the same, but it’s a simple way to show how Microsoft has updated their software since Lync.
  4. Request a live Skype for Business demo from an IT agency. May not change anything, but at least Management gets to see the Skype for Business UI at work!

Lync Users: Lync Server 2013 IS Still Supported, So You’re in Good Shape

If you’re honestly happy with Lync Server, then more power to you! Just keep the server secure and up-to-date. Lync Server 2013 will receive mainstream support until April 2018. It doesn’t reach end of life until April 2023.

We’ll have the next big post coming up as soon as possible. Don’t forget to join us again next week!

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Teams Updates and a Lync Poll

Yes, we’re talking both Teams and Lync today. Old and new.

First, the Teams part. Microsoft continues to expand Teams’ capabilities as the weeks progress. I saw a tweet yesterday from Randy, of the “Randy’s Lync and UC Blog,” talking about the MS Teams May 31 update in his latest post.
Microsoft Teams Update 31st May 2017 – Randy’s Lync and UC Blog

Naturally, I went & had a look.

Current MS Teams Updates, as of June 8

The Teams May 31 update included:MS Teams Settings

  1. Invite people to Teams via chat: Sending non-Teams-users a message will automatically email them with a New Message notice. The email also includes a Teams signup invitation.
  2. [Coming Soon] Manage app behavior on startup: Adding 3 new settings to the Microsoft Teams Settings/Application window. These settings give you options for launching and closing Teams.
    • Teams launches automatically when the computer starts.
    • Teams launches automatically, but stays in the background. (Teams defaults to starting in the foreground otherwise.)
    • Teams keeps running even if you close the window.

Randy reported that he already saw this update in his Teams app. Checking Twitter, I found the same thing for most other users. So I’d consider this a ‘live’ feature.

Yesterday, June 7, saw another update. From the Microsoft Teams Release Notes:

  1. Improved files experience: Look and feel for your OneDrive file library in the Files app is updated to match the Files tab in Teams’ channels. Cosmetic stuff.
  2. [Coming Soon] Group Chat Naming: Gives you the ability to name a group chat even before you send any messages. When you create a new chat, you’ll have an Expand icon, which when clicked, shows you a name field. Using this, you can fork an older chat into a fresh conversation, and differentiate between the two.

I don’t see this naming option yet, so it is still coming. Seems useful though…how many of us have needed to revisit an old topic? Different names give us an easy way to start fresh, without starting over.

Now, we are in June. So I hope the external-user access functionality is almost ready…

Poll: Still Using Lync Server?

Let’s close out today with a poll.Teams, Skype, or Lync?

I read through my social media yesterday, checked some notes…and a question hit me. I saw a post about someone still using the Lync app on their Mac, even though the company had moved to Skype for Business last year. (They apparently didn’t know about the Skype for Business on Mac client.)

I thought, “How many people are still using Lync Server in 2017?”

I would hope the answer is “very few” or “none.” But this one tweet illustrated otherwise. So I dug around, looking for statistics on current Lync usage. As in, businesses or organizations still using Lync Server 2013 in recent months.

I used to sing the praises of Lync Server on this very blog. And for the time, I was justified–the software had immense power, enabling almost every possible communications medium.

Technology waits for no one, however. Nowadays the Lync system is out of date and a bit troublesome to use now. Especially when you have multiple alternatives (all of which are more recent and safer to use!): Skype for Business Server, Skype for Business Online, MS Teams, even Slack or Workplace.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find many hard numbers on current Lync usage. At least so far. No big surprise; even Microsoft pushes anyone still on Lync to upgrade.

So let’s gather some! I’d like to ask you, our readers, what you’re using. Please select a result from this poll.

[yop_poll id=”10″]

(Comments are welcome, of course.)

I’ve posted a similar poll on Spiceworks, if you’re a Spicehead like me: https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/2003305-are-you-still-using-lync-server

I’ll pool all the resulting data in a future post. In the meantime, thanks for responding!

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3 Ways to Start Conversations With Skype for Business Auto-Contact Links

A reader comment drew my attention to this post from way back in 2011: 3 Ways to Start Conversations With Lync Auto-Contact URLs

They asked a simple question: “Could you do this (set auto-contact URLs) with a Skype for Business ID?”

Yes, you can! What’s more, you have more parameters to work with in Skype for Business. I found several sources to help us out here, with lots of good detail. Links at the end of the post.

I’ll follow the same format as my original post. If you’re curious about adding Skype for Business links in places like emails, on a webpage, etc., this is how you do it.

#1 – Call a Skype for Business Number From Your Browser or Email

In the previous post, I mentioned the “TEL:+12223334444” link format. You use “TEL:” plus the country code (1 for the U.S.), plus the area code, plus the number. No spaces and no quote marks. The HTML structure look like this:
<a href=”tel:+12223334444″>Call 222-333-4444</a>

This format still works! In fact it’s near-universal; almost every app that can facilitate VoIP calls will recognize it, including Outlook. The TEL: link works on mobile as well.

(You might see a popup window asking you which app you want to open the TEL: link.)

Open Link in Skype for Business from Auto-Contact Link

Though we do have a caveat here. The sheer number of VoIP-enabled apps – Skype for Business, Skype (Consumer), WhatsApp, Viber, Google Hangouts, Facebook – means your computer may not associate TEL: links with Skype for Business by default. If not, and you want it to, you may need to reset the association. Here’s how to do that.

On Windows 10, this is done in Settings, under System. Click “Default Apps”, scroll down, and click “Choose Default Apps By Protocol.” Scroll until you see the “TEL” protocol. If Skype for Business isn’t the default already, click the app that is and choose it in the popup menu.

On Windows 7/8, go to the Control Panel. Choose Default Programs, and then Set Default Programs. Locate Skype for Business in the list (it may be under “Lync (desktop)”). Click the “Choose Defaults for This Program” and check TEL:.
Reference: Changing the default app used to open tel: links on Windows – MarkWilson.co.uk

#2 – Auto-Contact Link to a Skype for Business Account Name

Now we come to the reader’s original question…initiating a call using a Skype for Business ID instead of a phone number.

Can you do this with a Skype for Business user account name? Yep! But not with the TEL: link format. And the IM: format doesn’t work too well anymore (I think it’s deprecated).

Instead, we’ll use “SIP:”.

You’d code the link like a regular email link. SIP: goes in place of the MAILTO:. Other than that, it’s exactly the same.

<a href=”sip:buddymike@yourdomain.com″>Call Mike with Skype4B</a>

NOTE: Skype for Business’ default response to SIP: links is NOT to start a call. It’s to initiate a new Conversation. Starting a call only takes one click from there, of course. But I don’t want to mislead anyone.

This is the best way to use Skype for Business account names on websites or in emails. From the Conversation window you can start voice, video, sharing, etc.

But when it comes to meetings, there’s an even simpler way.

#3 – Auto-Contact Link for Conversations or Meetings

Links using SIP: work to start a Skype for Business Conversation. If you want to post/share a link to a Skype Meeting though, you don’t even need a special link format. You just need the meeting’s URL. To get that…

  1. In Outlook, click New Items > Skype Meeting.
  2. The New Skype Meeting window opens. Enter whatever details & attendees you want. Before clicking Send, copy the “Join Skype Meeting” link from the meeting invite.
  3. Paste the link into any email, chat, or webpage you want. Meeting links normally look like this:
    https://meet.yourdomain.com/skype.accountname/2394FS3J
    (I inserted random numbers at the end; they’re normally an auto-generated meeting ID number.)

When clicked, the computer will either open a Skype Meeting window, or take you to this message:

Open Skype Meeting Page from Auto-Contact Link

One click to the Skype for Business Web App. Either way, you’re able to access the Skype Meeting.

Auto-Contact Links Help You Get More Use out of Skype for Business

As promised, here are the sources for this post.

Depending on your computer and Skype for Business configuration, your TEL: and SIP: links may respond slightly differently. You should still get the same result; Skype for Business spawning calls and Conversation windows. I’m giving you a just-in-case warning.

This one capability illustrates a lot of how much the communications world has changed since I wrote that 2011 post. In less than 6 years, the pace of Technology exploded Voice over IP across millions of devices. Almost every computing platform out there can click one of these links and make a call.

With links in TEL: and SIP: format, you’re extending Skype for Business out even further. Customers can click a link on your website and talk to a support rep or VP in seconds. Pretty handy for a link, isn’t it?

Do you use TEL: and SIP: links with Skype for Business? In what capacity? Please comment, email, or tweet us at @PlanetMagpieIT.

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Can You Turn Off Skype for Business New Message Alerts?

The other day, a reader commented with this question. 2016-11-30_14-08-04“Is there an option in Skype4B to have it set up where your chat does NOT blink or pop up on your screen? I would like just an icon on my taskbar, until I acknowledge it.”

You know this one. Whenever you get a new IM, or an incoming call, a little box appears in the bottom right of your screen with a message – “John Smith is calling!” – and an Accept button.

I replied to the comment, saying, “I’m not sure the option you’re looking for is available. Part of Skype for Business’ central approach is to show you notifications when someone wants to chat or call you. That said, you CAN turn Push Notifications on & off for the mobile apps.”

Afterward, I did a little more research. Judging from the results, this reader is definitely not the only person interested!
Disable Pop-up Notifications – SkypeFeedback.com Forums

I pored through help files, forum threads, and even the cmdlets index. We know that you can limit alerts on the Windows client–for example, stopping them when your Presence is set to Do Not Disturb.

What about a universal “turn off alerts” setting though? Does it exist?

Skype for Business – Disable Notifications – Answers.Microsoft.com

After the research (example: the above link) and user comments, I can say this. No, you cannot totally disable the Alert notification popup. But you can control where it appears, and how often.

So we have something, at least! Let’s list out how to control what we can control here.

Control Where the Alert Popup Appears

By default, the Alert Popup appears on the bottom right of your screen. But you can change that.
Enter Settings by clicking the gear in your Skype for Business client, and select Alerts in the left column.
Look in the first box on the right. You’ll see a line saying, “Where should alerts appear?” with two dropdown menus.

2016-11-30_14-32-36

Click the second dropdown (titled “Position”) and you’ll see the options. Lower-Right Corner, Lower-Left Corner, Upper-Right Corner, Upper-Left Corner.
Click the option you want, and then click OK.

Control How Often the Alert Popup Appears

The Alerts window contains more options than just Position. They’re broken up in three categories: “General Alerts,” “When my Status is Do Not Disturb,” and “Contacts not Using Skype for Business.”

  • In “General Alerts,” you can turn off alerts for someone adding you to their Contacts list.
  • In “When my Status is Do Not Disturb,” you can turn off all alerts, show only alerts from people in your Workgroup, or show all alerts (but only conversation alerts from people in your Workgroup).
  • In “Contacts not Using Skype for Business,” you can block all invites and communications, allow invites but block all other communications, or allow anyone to contact you.

2016-11-30_8-20-14

Your system admin may set some of these via Group Policy. Otherwise, you can change them yourself.

If the “Don’t show alerts” option was in the “General Alerts” section, this post would be over. One click and we could shut off alert popups. Sigh.

Control Push Notifications on Mobile

We have a little more Alert Popup control on mobile devices than on desktops. There are two ways to control Push Notifications on mobile: on the phone itself, and on the Skype for Business Server.

On the Phone (iPhone):
Open Settings.
Navigate to the Skype for Business app (it may be labeled just “Business”) in the apps list.
Tap Notifications.

img_1191

To turn off all notifications, tap the toggle next to “Allow Notifications.”
*Note: If you have grayed-out options, then push notifications are not enabled on the server. See the next section.

On Skype for Business Server:
Log into the Skype for Business Server Control Panel.
Click the “Clients” menu.
Click “Push Notification Configuration.” You may have an existing Global policy set. Like this:

2016-11-30_8-54-47

If so, double-click the Global policy. (If not, click “New” to generate a new policy.)
Check (or uncheck) the boxes next to “Enable Microsoft push notifications” and/or “Enable Apple push notifications.”
Click Commit.

Control Notification Sounds

For this, I hearken back to the original 2015 post I did on notifications: Make Lync Stop Bugging You – How to Shrink its Powers of Distraction

Look at Option 1, “Turn off the annoying “Ding!” sound when an IM comes in.” We end up doing this a lot for customers, for some reason…

We Cannot Make the Skype4B Alert Popup Go Away. Yet.

At the end of the day, you’re still going to see someone’s face pop up on your screen, when they want to talk to you. It’s central to Skype’s communications.

That said, nothing says this won’t change in time. We’ve already seen third-party tools for modifying alerts & notifications, like SuperToast. I’m not a developer, but I can easily see one building a tool to control Alert Popups.

I’d bet many of us would gladly pay for such a tool, wouldn’t we?

What do you think about Skype’s Alert Popups? Useful reminder or productivity-attacking pest? Please weigh in, in the comments or via email.

 

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Lync Doesn’t Like a Recreated Active Directory User? How to Fix It

A reader sent in a Lync Server/Active Directory support request the other day. I responded, but they solved it without much input from us (a credit to their fast troubleshooting skills!).

Afterward, we discussed their solution, and I asked if I could publish the issue. They said yes. So here it is!

Deleted a User from Active Directory & Recreated – Now Lync Won’t Accept

Alex’s email started with:

“I’m having an issue with a Lync 2013 server. I hope you can help me with it.”

“I had to delete a user account from the AD and my Exchange 2010. After that I made a new account for the user with the same login ID and email address. After that I’m not able to enter the user into the Lync 2013 server. Is there anywhere in the Lync 2013 I have to remove the user, or what can I do?”

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My initial thought was that both Lync and Active Directory had “ghost” user accounts now. The deleted user account still existed someplace, possibly within the Lync Front End server.

I asked Alex: “Did you remove the user from Lync, as well as AD? It’s possible that Lync retained a record of the user account from before, which it doesn’t now match up to the new account.”

“Look in Control Panel under Users. Remove this user, and recreate the user account. If that doesn’t work, you might try removing the user account from AD, Exchange and Lync in that order and re-creating it again. Tedious, I know, but that way Lync can re-establish its AD integration for the user.”

At this point Alex indicated that he’d resolved the issue. He’d done so “by changing the security settings on the AD account, so it is inheriting all security settings.”

Naturally I was curious for more details. How did he make the security change? Which specific permissions did he modify? Did he remove/recreate the user account first?

A Matter of Domain Administration

Alex was happy to provide. I’ve edited & reformatted his response slightly, below.

“On the domain controller, select the user’s profile. Select the Advanced view. Then I selected the Security tab, and could see that the group “Domain Admins” didn’t have any access to the account. I added the Domain Admins group, and then I made sure that all rights were inherited from the parent folder.”

“After this all my problem with Lync was solved. It also solved the problem we had with ActiveSync to Android Phones. ActiveSync to iPhone was working all the time, but not to Android before this operation.”

Makes sense. If the Domain Admins have no access to an account, they can’t authorize it for access to other services—like the Lync Server.

To check this myself, I went into our Active Directory through Active Directory Users and Computers. (This is not the exact way Alex indicated; I wanted to see if I could achieve the same end from another route.)

I made sure to select “Advanced Features” under the View menu. Then located a user, and opened the Properties window.

Sure enough, there’s a Security tab in this window. Click it, and you should see something like this:

userindomainadmin

(The login I used for this screenshot did not have full admin privileges; accordingly, it has grayed-out elements.)

This particular user is a member of Domain Admins, and has Full Control. Which means they are configured properly. If they were not, the highlighted line would not be present. Then I’d have to click the “Add” button and add permissions.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an Android phone on hand to test the sync. But it’s always nice when a fix for one issue resolves another too!

If you do face a situation where you need to delete a user & re-enter them, I’d suggest creating a slightly different AD username first. That way you’re sure the new account has no “ghosts” lurking amid the servers. But if you do need to recreate the exact user account, I hope Alex’s quick fix helps you!

Thanks to Alex for agreeing to share his issue with us.

Have you encountered a similar issue between Active Directory and Lync Server/Skype for Business Server? If so, please comment or email. We’d love to hear the details!

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The Top 7 Reasons to Move from Lync Server to Skype for Business

The end of the year creeps up on us. When it does, I like to look through my list of collected blog post ideas, and see which I should tackle before 2016.

I realized there’s one question I haven’t explicitly answered yet. “Why should we move from Lync Server to Skype for Business?”

With a software application as big & powerful as Skype4B, you’d expect some reticence from buyers. Entirely reasonable—people deserve to know how such a big upgrade will benefit them.

When we talk to Skype4B prospects, the unsure ones tend to fall into one of two camps:

A. “We decided not to use Lync. It was too complicated to set up.”

OR

B. “It took us a lot of effort to get Lync configured to where we want it. Will we really gain from the move?”

Good question. Yes, almost every business running Lync Server would gain from upgrading (especially if you’re still on Lync Server 2010!). But that’s not a sufficient answer. Details, we must have details!

What about Skype for Business 2015 is worth the upgrade effort? What reasons would compel most businesses to move?

Here are seven of those reasons.

1. The New Interface.

Using the Skype interface instead of the Lync UI provides several major benefits…and one issue.

The benefits: It’s easier to navigate than Lync 2013. It’s simple to activate features (adding voice to an IM conversation, for instance). It’s familiar to Skype-C users. And you get emoticons!

April Fool!

The issue: Users may think they’re using Skype-C. As a result they can get confused when they can’t find their favorite feature. Then you hear about it.

2. New/Updated Features.

Conversation History (updated). Call Monitor. Call via Work. Rate My Call. We’ve gone through new features in previous posts already. (Personally, I think Server-Side Conversation History is a major reason to upgrade all by itself!)skype4bvis_thumb

One we haven’t covered much yet is VIS, or Video Interoperability Server. It’s a new server role for video interoperability—”like Mediation Server for video” as a colleague described it. We’ll get to that in future posts (so don’t forget to subscribe!).

3. Skype Directory Search.

While this might seem like a detriment to business communications, there’s a major value in integration between Skype for Business and the Skype Directory: Expanded Reach.

Untold numbers of businesses still use Skype-C for chatting and calls. It’s cheap, simple and does the job. Moving up to Skype for Business gives you access to a far broader range of contacts throughout the business world.

“Do you have Lync?”
“No.”
[Cue scramble for another meeting option.]

“Do you have Skype?”
“Yes.”
“Great! I’ll send you a meeting invite.”

4. Bandwidth Efficiency.

Skype for Business uses about the same amount of bandwidth as Lync Server 2013. However, Skype4B gives you better control over that bandwidth through built-in tools.

Network Bandwidth Requirements for Lync Server 2013
Network Bandwidth Requirements for Skype for Business

Skype for Business uses more codecs and bandwidth allocation for its expanded feature set. This includes the SILK codec from Skype. That means it’s more complex to set up, right? Not so. Microsoft also has a Bandwidth Calculator spreadsheet to help you map out how much bandwidth you’ll need. Skype for Business Bandwidth Calculator – Microsoft Downloads

5. Skype. Secured.

Skype-C is a versatile app, with well-deserved popularity. It’s also infamous among systems administrators, who hate trying to manage it in a corporate environment!

Skype for Business offers a compromise. Employees can use a version of Skype in the office. Administrators have a Microsoft server app they can control & secure. It works for everyone.

(I did a post on this back in June, in case you missed it.)

6. The In-Place Upgrade.

It doesn’t always apply. But having an in-place upgrade option to Skype4B is a big timesaver.

Image courtesy of Matt Landis' Microsoft UC Report Blog

Image courtesy of Matt Landis’ Microsoft UC Report Blog

Not just that, but it represents an easier upgrade path in the future. If we have an In-Place Upgrade option for this version, there’s no reason we won’t get one for the next.

7. Cloud-Friendly.

The Hybrid option with Office 365 means two things for a Lync-to-Skype4B move:

  1. Additional capabilities built in (Office apps, OneDrive cloud storage, Persistent Chat from the on-prem installation)
  2. Two-stage adoption process (Office 365 deployment first, employees have time to adjust, then introduce the Enterprise Voice feature)

I thought about including the new mobile apps here as well. But that’s not a reason to upgrade Lync Server; it’s a reason to update your phone. Still a good reason, but I try to stay consistent!

What’s your reason for upgrading from Lync Server to Skype for Business? Please comment or email. I’d like to hear which reasons compel the most upgrades. Maybe it’s something completely different!

P.S. – We’ve had some great comments come in recently. Our Skype4B team has them—we’ll do what we can, as soon as we can!

 

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