Category: OCS 2007

2018 Begins, OCS Ends

Welcome to 2018!

We’ll have a full post up soon. Before that though, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge a milestone coming very soon.

OCS 2007. Office Communications Server. The first iteration of what has now become the Skype for Business ecosystem. This landmark software (problematic as it was) will at last reach End of Life on January 8.

Office Communications Server End of Life Roadmap – Office Support

I seriously hope nobody still uses OCS! But if you (somehow) still do, you’re in dire need of an upgrade. End of Life doesn’t mean the software suddenly shuts off. But it does mean you’ll have no support on which to fall back if there’s a problem.

The Best Upgrade Path for OCS Users

For OCS users (as well as older Lync 2010 users), the fastest upgrade path is the best one. Since OCS-grade server hardware won’t comfortably support Skype for Business Server, you’d have to buy new hardware anyway. That would put you on this upgrade path:

OCS → Lync Server 2010 or 2013 → Skype for Business Server 2015

Instead, I recommend moving to the cloud. Set up a new Office 365 tenant with Skype for Business. Fewer steps, shorter launch time, MUCH cheaper up-front licensing cost…and you can use Teams!

2017 Reader Poll Results

Let’s cap this post with the poll results from December. For Poll 1, asking readers what they use for business communication now, the #1 answer by far (25 votes) was: Skype for Business Server. A distant #2 (10 votes) was: Cellphones.

For Poll 2, asking what changes do you see your organization making in 2018, the #1 answer (10 votes) was: Moving to Office 365/Microsoft Teams. Close after that (9 votes) was: No Changes.

Good results! I like that so many readers appreciate their Skype for Business Servers. Thanks to everyone who voted.

Hope everyone had a safe New Year, and great things in store for 2018. I know we have great things planned for the blog, so join us back here next time!

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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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Upgrading Users from OCS to Lync? How to Correct the "Failed While Updating" Error

Joe, one of our Lync engineers, came to me the other day with a story. He’d run up against an error while moving a few users from an OCS 2007 R2 pool into a new Lync Server pool.

The error looked like this:

Lync 2010 Error:  Failed Updating User Pool

 

 

Image credit to ShyIT.WordPress.com (linked below)

Lync claimed he didn’t have sufficient access rights to perform the update. Even if you try to force it, the user update won’t go through.

Turns out the solution is pretty easy. Joe found it on the ShyIT Blog.
Lync 2010 Move User – 1 Error(s) Failed While Updating Destination pool :: www.ShyIT.co.uk

The problem isn’t strictly a Lync bug. It’s more of a bug in how Lync Server communicates with Active Directory.

If a user is in a protected Active Directory group, AD removes security inheritance for its account. Lync can’t move that user into its own pools without security inheritance. It must be re-enabled.

Re-Enable Security Inheritance, and Lync Server Welcomes the User

To correct the error and have Lync allow OCS users to upgrade into its user pools, you’ll need to modify that user’s Active Directory security permissions. Here’s how.

  1. Open Active Directory Users and Computers.
    • Click “View” and navigate to “Advanced Features.” These must be enabled before you proceed. They probably are, but if not, enable them.
  2. Locate the user you want to move. Open its Account Properties.
  3. Locate the “Security” tab.
  4. Click “Advanced.”
  5. Check the “Allow inheritable permissions from the parent to propagate to this object and all child objects” box.
  6. Click “Apply.”

Done! This re-applies the user’s security inheritance. Lync takes it as new, and lets the user on through.

Have you encountered this error? Or another error with upgrading users from OCS 2007 to Lync 2010? Email me, or leave a comment. I’d like to hear what you did!

Heads up; next week I’ll have a short Q&A post, since it’s Thanksgiving week. We had a question about sending Lync phone numbers via email. See you back here next week.

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Database Update Question for OCS

We’re bogged down with SharePoint work at the moment. So this week’s post will be a short Q&A.

A couple weeks ago I received an email from Eder. He had a technical questions about OCS 2007 R2. It went like this:

“Last year I ran the OCS2009-DBUpgrade.msi update patch. Now a new version of it is available. Should I run this newer patch before I do any OCS server upgrades? Or will the old patch be sufficient?”

He’s talking about the database patch listed in OCS 2007 R2 Hotfix 968802. It’s a group of the latest updates for Office Communications Server.

If you’re still running OCS, these are updates you should implement. Especially the database update patch Eder mentioned.

Run that first. Do it from the command line, as Administrator. After that, you should run your server upgrades for each OCS machine in the farm.

Out of curiosity, how many of you are still using OCS? Are you planning to switch to Lync?

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How to Send Bulk IMs in Lync: Special Post

I promised a special post about a new Lync tool last week. And here it is!

One of the main advantages in Lync Server is the interconnectivity of its communications tools. (It IS called “Unified Communications,” after all.) That's what I'm talking about today – a third-party tool that builds on Lync's interconnectivity.

The other day a Mr. Fred Natzke, an Australian software developer, emailed me. He's built a tool called psIMAlerts for use on Lync, and he wanted to let me know.

I took a look at this tool – and decided it was a great thing to blog about here!

psIMAlerts is a Powershell “cmdlet” that lets an administrator send bulk messages out over Lync's IM. (It also works on OCS 2007 R2.) If you're not familiar with “cmdlets,” think of them as Powershell mini-apps. They're script-based tools that execute specific functions using .NET. Makes for a lot of flexibility – as this developer has demonstrated.

Use IM Alerts for Announcements, Notifications, Emergencies

At first, the idea of sending out a bulk IM alert resurrected the “spim” notion of IM-based spam from years ago. But I looked through the information sent to me, and the developer's site (Blue Quality Studios) and was reassured.

In fact, the usefulness grew on me pretty fast. It goes right back to the Unified Communications intent: communicate with people when it's needed, using the best available channel. Sending a bulk email out doesn't work if you're warning everyone that the email server's down. But an IM would!

In fact,Mr. Natzke even listed out some uses for bulk IM alerts in a corporate environment when he contacted me. He gave scenarios like:
1,) An IT Admin sending alert to notify staff that an Exchange server isn't working properly. Anyone affected by this can simply IM him back for updates, instead of waiting on the help desk phones.
2) Auto-notification of log volume limits reached.
3) Important financial announcements that the finance (or Marketing) department needs to see.
4) Announcing a “Service Interruption” while IT fixes a broken T1 line.

Customizable, Interactive IM Notices

The psIMAlerts tool allows customization not only of the message, but of its template. Mr. Natzke has written 12 HTML-based message templates (included with the tool). I'm posting a couple examples to illustrate.

A bulk IM alert sent via psIMAlerts

A bulk IM alert sent via psIMAlerts


A test IM sent by the developer to show psIMAlerts templates

A test IM sent by the developer to show psIMAlert templates

It's important to note that all links in these IM alerts are active. So you can push out a URL to co-workers at the same time.

psIMAlerts Integrates into Lync Server

Because it's a Powershell cmdlet, there's no new desktop software. If you're running Office Communicator (for OCS) or Lync 2010 (for Lync Server) you're ready to use psIMAlerts.

You're able to run psIMAlerts from the Lync (or OCS) server, or from another computer running the Windows Management Framework. Fred has posted a tutorial on how to do this:
psIMAlerts Tutorial – Remote Use

You can download psIMAlerts for a free 14-day trial here. The tool costs 150 Australian (about $150 in USD) for full use. Order it here.

Yes, I've tried the tool out. It works flawlessly. Well worth it if you want to send out any kind of bulk notifications.

Thanks for the email Fred! Best of luck with your work.

Are you working on Lync-based software tools? Email me or leave a comment. I'd like to hear about it.

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What Does the Lync 2010 Attendant Console Do?

We interrupt the “Path to Lync Server” series to bring you a special post!

EJ from Texas emailed the Lync Insider with this question:

“I'm in the planning phase of our Lync implementation. One of my tasks is to know how the OCS R2 Attendant Console works with Lync Server.  Would you have any insight into this?”

Yep, I do. In fact I already answered his question. And he gave the OK to post both question and answer here. Since the question's focused and relevant, I'm sure some people are confused over the Attendant as well. Let's tackle it.

What's the Attendant Console For Anyway?

Back in 2009, I reviewed the OCS 2007 Attendant Console. In that post I described the Attendant as “taking over main-office call management.” It allows someone (a receptionist or call center manager) to receive and forward calls to others, depending on their presence status.

In Lync 2010 the Attendant Console received a few enhancements. Now you can:

  • Initiate conference calls
  • Prioritize calls
  • Use one-click operation for answering/transferring/holding

What's important to note here – and what I told EJ – is that one part of the Attendant Console isn't there anymore. See, the OCS 2007 Attendant Console operated in two scenarios – a manager/delegate scenario, where the call manager assigns specific people (delegates) to answer certain calls on the manager's behalf. And a receptionist scenario, where the receptionist managed & forwarded calls as they came.

When Microsoft upgraded the Attendant Console from OCS 2007 to Lync 2010, they removed the manager/delegate scenario.

Where'd they put it?

Delegates in Lync

Image courtesy of Microsoft Download Center.
Directly into the Microsoft Lync client app, that's where.

Anyone using Lync can add other users as delegates. Say Josh wants to delegate calls to you just in case he's sick. Lync tells you that you've been added as Josh's delegate. Now you have the ability to make/receive calls (or set up meetings) on behalf of the “manager,” Josh. There's even an automatic contact group that contains people for whom you're a delegate.

This isn't a one-way street though. Lync 2010 supports multiple managers with multiple delegates. The functionality's intended to speed up collaboration between individuals and departments. If you're not there today, but one of your delegates is,they can answer a question for you from another department. And that department can keep on working.

You can even share applications and transfer files in the same conversations.

The Attendant Console is Still Useful,Though

In a way, this reduced the importance of the Attendant Console. That's okay though – it increases the ease of collaboration overall. Net positive. And the Attendant Console is still there in Lync Server. (Reception can still put that pushy salesperson on hold for a few hours.)

If you'd like details on delegation in Lync, download this Microsoft Training presentation file.
Microsoft Lync 2010 Delegate Training – Microsoft Download Center

This blog's received quite a bit of traffic in recent weeks! Thanks very much to everyone who stopped by for some Lync reference. Email me or leave a comment if any of these posts are helpful to you. I'd love to hear success stories (and any stumbling blocks) that pop up with your Lync Server exploration.

I'll resume the “Path to Lync Server” series next week. See you then!

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Path to Lync Server – Step 4: Choose an IT Partner

Now that licensing has been addressed, let's talk about IT partners. Unless you're an IT agency, you're going to want some help with installing Lync Server. Rather than just call anybody (and deal with a dozen rapid-fire proposals), let's nail down what you should look for first.

Why Get a Partner?

–It's new technology. Complications are bound to pop up. Simple fact of modern life.
–You may need to make some changes to your existing network. Lync requires at least one physical server, with Hyper-V (more on this next week). It may also require additional bandwidth – particularly for Enterprise Voice.

(Disclaimer: My company, PlanetMagpie, is an IT agency and Microsoft Partner. That said, I'm holding us to the same scrutiny as I would any other IT partner.)

Factors to Consider

Let's say you have a few possible partners to choose from. What would they need to know? They'd need familiarity with Lync Server 2010 of course…but what else would help? Which factors would turn a good IT partner into a great one?

  • OCS 2007 Experience. Knowing the previous version goes a long way toward being prepared to handle the new. This factor alone should qualify an IT agency as someone worth talking to (or disqualify them, if they don't know OCS at all!).
  • Familiarity with Unified Communications. Unified Communications is more of a strategy than a specific solution. Understanding the tech behind integrating voice with IM, Outlook and smartphones will give you insight on how to best use Lync in your office.
  • Do they have a relationship with an Infrastructure and/or Device Partner? A great IT partner should have recommendations on what hardware will work for your Lync install. For example, PolyCom and Jabra have phones designed for use with Lync. Do they know these? Which would they recommend? Ask.
  • Virtualization Experts. Can't get around this one. They have to know Hyper-V inside and out. (I don't know how well VMWare would work with Lync, since it was designed with Hyper-V in mind. If you try it,let me know how it worked!)
  • Microsoft-Certified. Might be a no-brainer,but you never know.

Where an IT Partner's Involvement Helps

Ideally, your IT partner should be there when you're ready to tackle licensing. I put this step after the licensing step because the IT partner should be around throughout the rest of the installation process too.

The places an IT partner will be involved in future steps should include:

  1. Securing licensing from Microsoft
  2. Estimating necessary bandwidth, and upgrading to match this
  3. Installing the Lync Server software and any needed hardware
  4. Configuration of Lync Server and client apps on user PCs
  5. Supporting Lync connectivity to mobiles
  6. Troubleshooting the inevitable complications

This should give you a good idea of how to vet an IT partner for your Lync install. Remember, Lync Server is new tech – if someone claims years of experience in it, they're lying. Understanding the tech behind it + Microsoft skills + Hardware knowledge = The right IT partner to help you.

Next week I'll talk about what hardware you'll need for Step 5. See you then!

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What does a Cloud Version of Lync Server (Hosted by Microsoft) Mean for the Market?

By now you've seen the announcements.
Microsoft Announces Office 365 – PressPass
Microsoft Office 365 Bets on the Cloud

Office as a hosted service. Pretty big announcement. And there's another part to this too – namely that Microsoft ALSO announced they'll offer SharePoint as a hosted service. Same with Exchange 2010. And *drumroll*…Lync Server 2010.

Now, we already offer cloud versions of OCS and Exchange from our office. We'll have a Hosted Lync Server as well, very soon. (And our version will offer full enterprise VoIP – I'm not sure Lync Online will do that!)

But I'm actually happy about this announcement.

Why? Why would I be happy about Microsoft beginning their own cloud versions – when we, one of their partners, already have them available? (Images of Goliath's foot heading for David's head here…)

I'm happy because of classic old supply and demand.

Is OCS Too Expensive?

In a recent Osterman Research survey, it was found that OCS is perceived as too expensive for some organizations (NetworkWorld.com).

Despite high adoption rates, the up-front cost is still a big obstacle. So is lack of a business case. When OCS started out, the concepts of “Unified Communications” and “VoIP for everyone in the office” were still new. OCS had to sell them.

Now thanks to time and Lync Server, the need for selling may be diminishing. And demand growing.

Turns Out Lync Server is More Capable AND Affordable

Over half of the survey's respondents said that Lync Server's less stringent requirements (and its ability to run happily on virtual servers) makes it more appealing to them. (I'm sure the fact that more people understand Unified Communications and VoIP plays into this too.)

This is great news for Lync! And it demonstrates why Microsoft's cloud move is a viable (and timely) option for businesses.

More Interest in Lync = Good for All

Going back to the original point, we can see that Microsoft is responding to market demand. A faster, more capable communications solution with lighter physical requirements. And now a cloud option. (And a partner with a similar cloud option!)

The demand IS there.

That's why I'm happy.

It means more interest in hosted Lync overall. More cloud-based Lync Server setups for us. Lower costs for businesses to add enterprise VoIP and conferencing.

And more support needed from us, but that”s another thing…

Your thoughts? Are you considering Office 365,or the other cloud services? Why? No really,I'm curious.

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OCS 2007 R2 Architecture Poster Available for Download

Last week Microsoft released a new version of the Office Communications Server 2007 R2 Workload Architecture poster. You can download it here (free, MS login required):
OCS 2007 R2 Workload Architecture Poster

The timing on this might seem odd. After all, we're charging full-on toward Lync Server 2010's release right?

Even so, this is a handy reference tool to have. For OCS 2007 and for Lync 2010.

The reason I say that is because it divides architecture up into four distinct functions: IM and Presence Workload, Application Sharing Workload, A/V and Web Conferencing Workload, and Enterprise Voice Workload.

Having these functions split up does several things for you:

  • Easy reference for discussion
  • Implementation aid if you don't use OCS
  • Troubleshooting aid if you do use OCS
  • Preparation for Lync

Now, the architecture in Lync Server is bound to differ from this. What I mean BY well, anyommunications system like Lync will need.”

Lync 2010 will need fewer servers than OCS 2007, to boot. So it should be a simpler architecture.

Familiarize yourself with OCS' architecture and be pleasantly surprised when Lync rolls out!

A couple additional points I want to make about the OCS 2007 R2 poster:

  1. Make a list of all the ports you'll need to use and keep it handy during implementation (OCS or Lync). Port collisions can cause a lot of trouble fast; head them off ahead of time.
  2. Note the positions of the hardware load balancers. There are that many for a good reason.
  3. If there's a part of this that will change the most in Lync Server, I'd say it's “Certificate Requirements.” Virtualization, altered server roles,and the integrated PBX capabilities will all change that.

I recommend this to all companies who use OCS 2007 right now,as well as any companies considering Lync Server 2010. Download and keep it handy!

Any other downloadable OCS/Lync resources you know of? Post them here and I'll highlight them in future posts.

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Exchange Server 2010 SP1 Is Out – Here are Resources

This post is a little late, I know. We've been taking care of a few Microsoft partner requirements.

And speaking of Microsoft–Exchange 2010 Service Pack 1 is out!

If you haven't already seen it, Microsoft's Exchange Team announced the service pack on their blog. According to them and many beta users, OWA is the big beneficiary this round.

I also want to point out the release notes here. There are some things you should know before upgrading to SP1…things that affect OCS. (Naturally, given the nature of this blog!)

Release Notes for Exchange Server 2010 SP1 – Microsoft TechNet

If you plan to upgrade, let me make the following recommendations.

A. Do a Full Upgrade of the Unified Messaging Server. You have the option for a Partial Upgrade, which runs an Exchange 2007 UM Server alongside the 2010 UM Server.
Problem is, OCS 2007 R2 can't determine what version your users' mailboxes are, 2007 or 2010! So if it sends a call to an Exchange 2007 UM Server, but the user's mailbox is on a 2010 UM Server? The call will fail.
Avoid this by doing a Full Upgrade.

B. Run all hotfixes available for your .NET Framework before the upgrade begins. This avoids a potential error which could cause trouble with mailbox moves.

C. Planning to use OCS 2010/Communications Server “14” when it's released? You can (and should) install Exchange 2010 SP1 first. Its new UM Server contains tools that work with both OCS 2007 R2 and OCS 2010. For example, you can migrate SIP dial plans between servers.

Scott Lowe's “Servers and Storage” blog on TechRepublic has a nice screenshot-heavy capabilities overview on Exchange 2010 SP1. There's a lot of little improvements all throughout Exchange with SP1; a few extra references in your initial research will only help.

Already done your SP1 upgrade? Let us know how it's treating you. If you're planning one, what issues are you concerned about?

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