Category: Skype for Business Server 2019

Keyboard Shortcuts in Skype for Business – Where to Find and How to Use Them

Dog on Skype for Business

Sorry buddy, these shortcuts require fingers.
Image by Keith Hanson on Unsplash.

I’ve blogged about Skype for Business all this time, and almost never touched on keyboard shortcuts! Shame on me.

As with most tech learning, this came up out of necessity. I wanted to learn two things in particular…shortcuts to:

  1. Accept conversation invites right away, and
  2. Change my Presence status.

Why two very simple processes? Due to a weird, inconsistent issue.

Some months back I began experiencing a strange delay when clicking “Accept” for conversation invites. I could click and click on the notification, but “Accept” just wouldn’t work for several seconds (up to 15!). Only if I waited a moment, THEN clicked, would the conversation window open.

We checked my system; no issues. Problem with Skype for Business? Possible, but we didn’t see anything weird in the system logs. I could deal with it, or find an alternative.

Well, what’s a good alternative? Keyboard shortcuts!

Dog on Skype for Business

Sorry buddy, these shortcuts require fingers.
Image by Keith Hanson on Unsplash.

A little searching found me the proper shortcut for one of my two needs. The other however, Skype for Business does NOT have a native keyboard shortcut for. Instead, I found an add-on that adds in the exact function.

Here’s what I found, and how you can use it too.

How to Accept a Conversation Invite: Use Built-In Keyboard Shortcuts

First place to look, of course, is Microsoft’s knowledgebase. There must be some existing shortcuts.

Sure enough, Microsoft has a whole list. Some are pretty standard, having come from the Office universe.

Where’s the shortcut for accepting invites…ah ha! There it is!

Accept an incoming invite notification
(also works for accepting an incoming call)
  WINDOWS KEY + SHIFT + O

That’s not the only useful-right-away shortcut for Skype for Business, of course. Here’s a few more:

Mute/unmute yourself in a call   WINDOWS KEY + F4
Start Meet Now   ALT + M
Put a call on hold   CTRL + SHIFT + H

And of course *ahem*…

Decline an incoming call or chat   WINDOWS KEY + ESC

The full list is here: Keyboard Shortcuts in Skype for Business – Office Support

NOTE: The above shortcuts are for Windows. The Mac version does have its own keyboard shortcuts…but they’re a much shorter list. Mac Keyboard Shortcuts in Skype for Business

The most useful I can see:

Start a call   SHIFT + ⌘ + R
Restore the active window   ⌘ + 1
Mute microphone   UP ARROW + ⌘ + M
Start video   UP ARROW + ⌘ + V
Share your screen   UP ARROW + ⌘ + S
Transfer call   ALT + ⌘ + T

One shortcut covered. Yet I don’t see one for changing Presence status. I wanted a Presence-changing shortcut to, shall we say, maintain focus on my work. Taking advantage of “Do Not Disturb” works wonders for productivity.

Alas. More searching says that, gasp! No native keyboard shortcut exists for changing Presence status. Am I doomed to keep changing my Presence manually, day in, day out?

How to Change Presence Status with the Keyboard: Use StatusKey

Nope! The same searches also revealed the existence of StatusKey. It’s a mini-app/add-on written by Randy Chapman over at Lynciverse:
StatusKey for Skype for Business – Lynciverse Blog

Created in 2016, with updates done in 2018. It does one job and one job only – give you a group of keyboard shortcuts to change Skype for Business Presence status.

I installed StatusKey to test it. The add-on runs in the taskbar, though consumes only a tiny amount of memory.

NOTE: Even though Randy wrote it in Visual Studio and hosts it on TechNet, my computer still threw up a warning.

WIndows Protection Screen StatusKey

If you click the “More Info” link you’ll see the Run Anyway button.
(It’s perfectly safe. Windows is just being, well, Windows.)

StatusKey does exactly what it says. I tested each given shortcut in my Skype for Business client, with a Conversation window open. Immediate and in-sync Presence status change.

If you forget the shortcuts, Randy put them in the app itself. Just right-click it in the taskbar, and click “Open.” This is what you’ll see.

StatusKey Shortcuts Skype for Business

Can’t get much simpler than that.

After I’d confirmed StatusKey did what I wanted, I thought, “This is the sort of work Microsoft should fold into newer versions. Did they?”

So I checked. While the Office Support page above appears updated for Skype for Business Server 2019, it doesn’t include any Presence status changers.

I even checked an alternate source: ShortCutWorld.com’s Skype for Business page. No luck there either.
If you want the ability to switch Presence status via keyboard, Randy’s StatusKey is the way to go.

What about Teams? Will StatusKey work with that?

It appears not. I tried loading Teams, but it kept crashing while I had StatusKey enabled. Once I turned it off, Teams could load. Turned it back on, and…nothing. No shortcut activity.

That’s okay though; in Teams, you can use slash commands instead.

(The StatusKey TechNet discussion has a question on whether Randy will update the app to work with Teams in the same way. No response yet.)

Skype for Business Has Many Keyboard Shortcuts – But Could Use More

Keyboard shortcuts are one of those things we rarely think about. They’re always waiting for use, but we don’t realize it until another factor throws them in front of us. In this case, it was a strange notification issue. (That still hasn’t gone away…might be a post on it later.)

I hope this post has been that other factor for you!

That said, I’m a little surprised at the relatively few shortcuts Skype for Business has. Some of its major functions don’t have any associated shortcuts. Randy’s done a great job with StatusKey…but if Microsoft had Presence-related shortcuts, he wouldn’t have had to develop it in the first place. What gives, Microsoft?

What’s your everyday go-to keyboard shortcut?

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One Version of Skype for Business Will Retire in 2021. The Other Version Won’t (Not Yet)

Skype for Business Online Retirement

No, not that kind. Photo by Elena Saharova on Unsplash.

Hello “Insiders!” I know I haven’t posted much lately. Went on a short vacation, and we’re now in the middle of 5 (yes, five!) website builds running at the same time

I’m also working on a couple big posts. The Time Lords willing, I’ll have them up before the end of the year.

In the meantime, let’s talk retirement.

Skype for Business Online Retirement

No, not that kind. Software retirement. Well, I guess it applies to some developers…
Photo by Elena Saharova on Unsplash.

Skype for Business (Online) Retiring in 2 Years

If you haven’t heard, MS will retire Skype for Business (Online) July 31, 2021. After that, it’s Teams all the way in Office 365.

No big surprise. We all knew it was coming. But what’s important for me to point out is that this retirement date only applies to the ONLINE version. The one on which Teams has chewed almost since its launch day.

That’s not the case for Skype for Business Server. Our good old on-prem version will stick around a while longer.

Skype4B Server Version Remains Supported Until 2025

Skype for Business Server 2015 mainstream support ends October 13, 2020. Extended support remains available until October 14, 2025.

Skype for Business Server 2019 will receive mainstream support until January 9, 2024. This is interesting though—its Extended support will also run until October 14, 2025.

Both versions of Skype for Business Server running out of support on the same date, a little more than 5 years hence. That’s still a good chunk of time to use the software.

Skype4B Conferencing

Let’s keep doing this.
Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash.

Where does this leave you? A retirement date that far out, and only on one version, means nobody needs to run around in headless-chicken mode. Here’s some suggestions depending on your current Skype4B situation:

  1. If you’re on Skype for Business Server 2019 or plan to migrate there soon – Keep doing what you’re doing. Let us know if you need help with setup.
  2. Running Skype for Business Server 2015? Consider a move to Server 2019 next year. You’ll still have plenty of time with full support to get your money’s worth.
  3. If you’re on Skype for Business Online & considering a move to Teams – Weigh the schedule in light of your workforce. If you have a large employee base, start planning now. If you’re in a smaller company, no need to panic. Run the move when you expect a slower time (does anyone have those anymore?).

If you fall under C, this post has some points about doing a “Skypexit” that may help out: Microsoft Techdays 2019: Skypexit with Marten – Kressmark Unified Communications

You Don’t Have to Move off Skype for Business (Server) if You Don’t Want To

If it sounds like I’m still swinging in Skype for Business Server’s defense…well, I am. I like the platform for its power and its usability. It has a reliable history to boot. In fact, we still have one customer running Lync Server on-prem! (I think we’ve tried to move them off for what, 2 years now?)

What do you think of the Skype for Business Online retirement?

 

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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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