Category: Uncategorized

A Trio of Technical Teams Tips

treasure hunt photo

Today I’m going to meander through Teams. Let’s see how many useful tips I can dredge up!

These are several questions which arose in my mind while playing in Teams. Both in the client, and in its Office 365 backend. As a result, I cannot promise a logical flow of information.

But it’ll be an adventure! And you might just find something useful.

1. How do I chat with an external Skype for Business contact when I’m on Teams?

A common question. One that will slowly become redundant, as well. But still quite useful for now!

As longtime Skype for Business users, we know the term needed here: Federation. The Office 365 admin must enable federation between your Teams tenant & your contact’s Skype for Business (Online) tenant.

Thankfully, we have fewer headaches setting up federation than we used to on Lync. The steps for doing so are right here: Allow Users to Contact External Skype for Business Users – Office Support

Essentially, you add their domain to the “Blocked or Allowed Domains” list in the Skype for Business Admin Center. Wait 24 hours. Make sure the firewall isn’t blocking your ports. And voila!

(If the external contact is on Skype for Business Server user though, this won’t work. Such contacts are not part of Office 365, and as such, are considered “external users.” Teams still doesn’t support external users. Microsoft, we’re waiting here!)

2. When should I use the Teams browser app/desktop client?

Teams has several client apps!
Get Clients for Microsoft Teams – MS Docs
A browser-based Web app, a desktop client, and mobile apps. So which do you use?

The Web app has one major limitation:

“At this point, the web client does not support real-time communications (i.e. joining meetings and having one-to-one calls).”

The mobile apps CAN facilitate audio calls. However, they don’t allow for adding or discovering teams.

This makes the desktop client essential if you want to use all of Teams’ tools. The mobile apps are a close second, and the Web app a close third.

I would presume that Microsoft will add real-time communications into the Teams Web app as the Skype4B integration proceeds. But for now, we have a distinct difference between the two.

3a. Teams Settings: How to Preserve Messages

Then I found myself in the Teams backend. Now, this is not just one single menu in Office 365. Teams’ controls, like most other O365 apps, are spread through its admin menus. Not impossible, but you sometimes have to hunt for things!

Fortunately, one such setting isn’t hard to find. Namely, the option to allow users to delete their Teams messages or not. Why do this? Simple—regulatory compliance. Turning message deletion off preserves all Teams messages in the cloud. This eliminates one potential source of lost communications…which can really gum up compliance audits!

  • Open Office 365 Admin Center.
  • Click Settings.
  • Click Services & Add-Ins.
  • Select “Microsoft Teams” in the list.
  • Open Teams’ Messaging menu.
  • Click the “All users to delete their own messages” switch to turn it OFF.
    Users Cannot Delete Teams Messages
  • Click Save.

This is turned ON by default. If you don’t have to worry about compliance requirements like SOX, you’re fine. If you do, better turn this off. (We check this with all Office 365 customers.)

3b. Teams Settings: How to Make Groups into Teams

(Ooh, bonus tip!)

I already had a Team set up in my demo account. But as I wandered, I came across the Office 365 Groups menu. Hmmm, I wondered. What’s the difference between an O365 Group and a Team anyway? Aren’t all Teams Groups, and all Groups Teams?

The answer is no. Creating an O365 group does NOT automatically make it a Team. To make a Team from a Group, you must go into Teams and add the Teams functionality to the existing group.

Here’s how to do this. (These steps assume you already created the Office 365 Group.)

  1. Within Teams, select the Teams menu. Click the “Add Team” button at the bottom.
  2. Click “Create Team.”
  3. You’ll see this window. What we want is at the bottom (highlighted in red): “Add Microsoft Teams Functionality.”
    Add Teams Functionality
  4. Click this link. You’ll see a list of groups that don’t have Teams functionality added yet.
  5. Click the appropriate group (you’ll see I clicked my “PM Tester 2 Group”).
    Choose Your Team
  6. Click the “Choose Team” button.
  7. Teams does its thing, and poof! A new Team now shows up. Proceed to add people & channels as you like.
    New Team Created

Plenty More to Discover in Teams

I realize the tips in this post might look a bit random. Honestly, that’s because they are. Like many of you, I’m feeling my way around Teams every chance I get. We still use Skype for Business Server in-house, so I’m sneaking off the reservation to play around in Teams. All for the sake of this blog!

Do you have a Teams question to which you can’t find an answer? Please share it with us! Let’s find you a solution.

 

P.S. – To the readers who asked me to do a Fuze vs. Skype for Business comparison? Unfortunately I have not been able to secure a demo from the folks at Fuze. I did comb through its feature set, reviews, and industry sources. Took plenty of notes. But without a demo, it would not be an authentic comparison.

If you would like me to publish those notes anyway, I’m happy to do so (with that caveat). Please comment or email your thoughts.

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

A New Skype for Business Server Version IS Coming!

Permit me a little celebration.

dog playing photo

Photo by carterse

Mary Jo Foley over at ZDNet broke some wonderful news. There is still life in Skype for Business Server after all!

Mary Jo’s article:
What’s Next for Microsoft’s Skype for Business Unified Communications Products – ZDNet

(She also linked to my Microsoft 365 post in the article. Many thanks for that!)

The Source: A Microsoft Ignite Session Listing

Mary Jo found an MS Ignite 2017 session discussion appearing to reference a ‘next version’ of Skype for Business: Plan your UC refresh correctly: Skype for Business on-premises vNext

MS Ignite Session Page

The MS Ignite conference occurs in mid-September. Major announcements of new (or updated) Microsoft products are not unusual.

So it appears Skype for Business Server will indeed get a new version! Possibly by end of year, but I’m thinking early 2018 is more likely.

Now, I’ve seen the term ‘vNext/v.Next’ a few times. Always attached to a Microsoft product, of course…ASP.NET vNext, SQL Server v.Next. What does it mean in this case?

I’ve come across a few general definitions. One is simply that “vNext” is a name given to a product when it’s in pre-release mode. “We don’t have a version number for this yet, so it’s ‘vNext.'” Another was that vNext referenced the latest version of .NET used to develop the apps. I tend to lean more toward the first definition—shorthand for a version number not finalized just yet.

Which means we’ll all have to wait & see what the next Skype for Business Server name will be. Personally, I hope it’s the most obvious choice – “Skype for Business Server 2017” or “2018.”

(Having to say ‘Skype for Business on-premises vNext’ would get old fast!)

What Else is Out There?

I looked at other Skype for Business-related sessions planned for Ignite. Here is the full list.
MS Ignite Session Catalog: “Skype for Business”.

Unsurprisingly, most reference Office 365. Video interop, large-scale deployments, bots, etc. All useful, of course, but not referencing Skype for Business Server.

Curiously, some of the Skype for Business Online services will have name changes too.

  • Cloud PBX becomes “Microsoft’s Phone System” – Good idea. Easier to understand for non-technical users.
  • PSTN Calling becomes “Calling Plan” – Bad idea. Easy to confuse with Dial Plans.

I also looked around on the Web for more instances of the new name. What do you know, I came up with a post from our friend Tom Arbuthnot…
Microsoft Ignite 2017 Session details Live: 34 Session related to Skype for Business including Server vNext

…who just yesterday replied to a comment, agreeing with the notion that “Skype for Business vNext” will be the next on-prem Skype for Business Server.

Whatever the Version Name, More Skype for Business is Great News!

The MS Ignite expo will take place in Orlando, FL from September 25-29. If you already have tickets, I’m jealous, and hereby request you share whatever notes taken relating to Skype for Business.

I can’t make it (much to my disappointment). But as soon as I can find out more about the next Skype for Business Server version, you’ll see it here!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

You May Experience a Drop in Call Volume

Hello Lync Insider fans!  I’m posting early this week to let you know–we did a server move last week.  Nothing huge, just putting in a new server for new site hosting.

Some of the internal links on the Lync Insider may not work right away.  If you come across one that doesn’t, check the domain name used.  It should be:

http://lyncinsider.com/post-you-wanted

If instead it’s:

http://www.theocsinsider.com/post-you-wanted

Switch the domain to lyncinsider.com.  And email me, please!  I’ll be fixing things up, so your help is appreciated.

Everything should be in place and running smoothly by our regular post time.  See you then!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Path to Lync Server – Step 8: Train Users

On to Step 8 – training your users on Lync. Now we're away from the server and over to the Lync 2010 client.
Lync 2010 Client App
Lync 2010 image courtesy of Wikipedia.org. Can't post screenshots of my own yet – darn client confidentiality!

Obviously, it looks a lot like your typical IM client. This works to your advantage – chances are you co-workers know their way around IM already. (You might have caught them IMing from work…)

In today's post I'll present materials to help you prepare for training your users on Lync. There's a combination of training materials, videos, and my own observations.

Training Materials for Lync

First thing to do is go here:
Lync 2010 Training – Microsoft Downloads
And download the training package. It contains 7 PowerPoint presentations that introduce the reader to each aspect of the Lync 2010 client. The following 3 are especially helpful for everyone who'll use Lync:

  • * Conferencing and Collaboration Training

  • * IM and Presence Training
  • * Voice and Video Training

Either use them to create your own training materials, or distribute them as an introduction to Lync features. You'll need more detail to train effectively though. So, here's a few more resources. All are freely available.

Using Instant Messaging

Lync 2010 starts with a blank window. Like any IM client, users will need to add contacts.

Adding Contacts: Here's that two-click add I mentioned before. Lync 2010 Help – Adding Contacts (video)

Adding External Contacts (outside the organization): Doing this isn't much different from adding an internal contact. Type the contact's email address in Lync 2010's search field. Right-click the search result, and then click Add to Contact List.

Once users have their contact list set up, they'll need to know about Presence.

Changing Presence Status: Easy. Have the user type what they're doing in the “What's Happening Today?” field atop Lync 2010. Then, below their name, they should select what their status is – Available, Busy,Away,etc. There's a handy reference table here with all the Presence Status options.

Making Calls Through Lync

Before a user tries to make a call, they should verify that their audio devices (speakers, mic, headset) work with Lync 2010.

I suggest pairing users up to test their audio. Use the first three steps on this guide to verify that they can make and receive calls:
Select Audio Devices, Place a Voice Call – Quick Start

Once they're sure they can use voice, this quick video works for a step-by-step reminder to making calls.

Join a Conference

There are guides for joining conferences, of course.

But the best way to do this (I think) is to run a conference yourself, and invite people in. (See the next paragraph for how to do that.) I'd recommend small groups at a time, so you can answer questions without getting overwhelmed.

Start and Run a Conference

This Quick Start Guide will show users how to schedule a conference, or start one unscheduled.
Quick Start: Set up, Start, and Join an Online Meeting

If users want more control of the conference, they can read about more advanced options – record the meeting, add video – in this guide.

Lync Training for the Masses

That's most of the standard user actions you””””ll come across. If you'd like more, browse this list of Lync Help videos.
I'll post more how-tos as they come up.

Speaking of coming up – is there something specific in Lync 2010 you'd like me to cover? Leave it in a comment, or email me with your idea. We're already starting work on our own Lync Server/Lync 2010 Client guide. Ideas will be blogged, and (if you give permission) added to the guide as applicable.

Next week I'll pause the “Path to Lync Server” series again, to bring you a special post. I've been told about a new Lync tool…and I think you'll want to hear what it does. See you then.

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Path to Lync Server – Step 2: Who Wants Which Service?

Last week we discussed surveying your users to see what communication channels they use already. I suggested surveying them to see which of the standards – email, phone, IM, conferencing and document storage – most people prefer to communicate with.

This week we'll take the next step and tackle the question of – “Which communication tools would they use if available?”

The point of this is twofold – you're getting direct feedback from your users on any holes in current communications. And you're also introducing Lync Server 2010 to them as a solution.

User Survey Part 2 – Would You Like the Group Chat or the Video Conference?

As I mentioned last week, this should be the second half of the user survey you do.

Get specific at this stage. Everybody's guessing here, since you're talking about communication channels you may not use now. But it should be educated guessing.

Here's one method I suggest. Present a series of Lync's communication options, and list a good use for each. Then ask employees how likely they would be to use the option – say on a 1-to-5 scale.

Two examples of what I mean would be:

  1. Video Conferencing with Shared Desktop — So a team can stay on topic with their project's current status
  2. Voice Calls with built-in Video — So people can share visual information if/when app sharing isn't available

As a reminder, these are some new/updated services included in Lync Server.

  • Enterprise Voice (PBX phone replacement)
  • Presence Status Updates
  • Public IM connectivity (IM with people on AIM, Yahoo, MSN, etc.)
  • Voice/Video/Web Conferencing
  • Group Chat (I really like this one. Think of it as a super-charged discussion board with internal and collaborative spaces.)
  • Desktop sharing
  • Application sharing
  • Communication on Mobile Phones
  • Voicemails in Outlook (with Exchange 2010)

Know What to Train Users For on Lync

If you get an idea of what people want the most, you can prioritize its setup in Lync Server 2010. And more importantly – you'll know what kinds of training they””ll need.

At this point,you should have a full survey return from your users. You know what they use to communicate now,and what they'll use in Lync Server when it's installed. So setting up training (which we'll cover in Step 8 ) is just a part of the plan later.

What do you think users will want the most from Lync Server 2010? Comment below and let's talk about it.

NOTE: I'll skip posting next week for the holiday. Check back the last week of December though – we'll have a post for “Step 3: Hammer Out Licensing” out on Wednesday!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Path to Lync Server – Step 1: Clarify Your Communication Needs First

Because Lync Server contains an assortment of communication channels, it's essential that you identify which will be the most used. Clarify how your office communicates NOW, so you can provide the same channels with Lync later.

Why clarify communication needs first?

  • It makes people aware of the change.

  • It gives them a chance for feedback about office communication (they might have problems you could fix with Lync).
  • It maps out the office's current communication channels, so future changes can be recorded/planned for.

Survey the office's needs

How does information flow in your business? What channels are used the most? These are questions to answer in Step 1.

Chances are most organizations use the following:

  1. Email

  2. Phone
  3. IM (if used)
  4. Conferencing / Presentations
  5. Intranet / Internal Document Storage

These are the most popular communication channels used. Determine how information flows through them by conducting a short survey. Ask users questions like:

How often do you use X to communicate?

What's helpful about X?

What's not helpful about X?

What would make you want to use X more?

Is there another communications channel you'd like to use more?

You can do this via any of the channels themselves. But I recommend emails first, with phone follow-up on people who don't respond.

You'll also want to ask them about new services available with Lync, at the same time. (Don't want to bug people more than once – your response rate goes way down!) This is just the first half of the survey. It's a good idea to check this, so you can be sure you're implementing communication channels people actually want to use.

Next week we'll cover which communication channels employees might use if they were available.

Questions? Feedback? Am I missing something? Let me know in the comments.

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Lync Server Roles and What They Do

The other day I was reading J. Bruzzese's excellent piece on InfoWorld.com, Microsoft Lync 2010: Finally, a Communications Server Worth the Effort. I happen to agree, but one thing jumped out at me.

The new Lync Server Roles were mentioned, though not in great detail. I thought, “What information is out there on the server roles? I should check.”

So I did. And I found out that while some server roles are discussed a bit, others have been left for IT people to simply figure out at install.

Let me fix that – at least in part. Here's an overview of each Lync 2010 Server Role, focused on their intended function in the Lync family (or “site” as the new terminology goes).

======================

Archiving and Monitoring – Just like the name says. This server role monitors your Lync Server usage. Archiving archives IM conversations, Group Chat and conference logs.

Audio/Video Conferencing – Conferencing is integrated into Lync Server; a separate client (like Live Meeting was) isn't necessary. This server controls that integration.

Central Management – Main configuration server. The Central Management Store provides a master configuration database that sends configuration information out to all the servers deployed.

Director – The Lync Director server regulates user pools. It's usually on the front-end server.

Edge Server – Like they did before, Edge Servers make communications with external users possible. Lync Edge servers have also added DNS Load Balancing (helps reduce the need for Hardware Load Balancers).

Group Chat – The Group Chat feature allows users to discuss topics over time, with those discussions saved and searchable. Think of it like a bulletin board or discussion forum, built right into Lync.

Lync Web Application – Maintains the new Silverlight-based Lync Web App client. In case you conference with non-Lync users who'd like to join in without installing extra software.

Mediation – Handles mediation between servers and gateways. If there's a break in Lync's communication,the Mediation Server Role allows the call to bypass itself and flow from the Lync Server directly to a gateway or IP-PBX.

Reach Application Sharing – As the name implies,this role handles sharing of applications between users while chatting or conferencing. Information was hard to find, but I presume the 'reach' means this role also allows application sharing with third parties not using Lync.

Survivable Branch Appliance
– This role helps keep remote offices connected. If there's a break in communication (say the network goes down), the Appliance Role will route calls through a local gateway out to the public phone network. So calls can continue even while the network's being fixed.

Unified Communications Application Server – This one was the hardest to get specific information on. As you might expect, it helps with recording voicemails & passing them to Exchange. I'll have to go into more detail when it arrives.

Web Conferencing – Provides a foundation for hosting Web conferences (with integrated audio/video from the Audio/Video Conferencing Server).

Rest assured, this is only a preliminary. I intend to get first-hand information on all of these server roles soon. When Lync Server is RTM, I'll be recording everything I can for future posts.

Speaking of, what do you think? “The Lync Insider” or “Lync-Updates”? Which sounds better for an OCS/Lync blog like this?

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

No Response, Please Try Your Call Again

The OCS Insider will be back next week. I'm heading out for a business trip in just a few minutes. I'll be back in time for next week's post.

Speaking of, which of these topics would you like to hear more about?

  • OCS 2007 R2 Support
  • OCS 2010
  • Voice over IP
  • Using OCS for Conferencing (audio or video)
  • OCS-Related Hardware
  • Usability Tips

Leave a comment, or email me and let me know! Catch you all later.

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Is Lack of User Adoption Hampering Your UC Plans?

How familiar is this little IM scenario to you?

Bob's IM: Hey Frank, do you have the project specs ready yet?
Frank's IM: yeah, busy right now can I send it later?
Bob's IM: Sorry Frank, your Presence didn't say you were busy. Later's fine.
Frank's IM: ok
(Frank's Presence status doesn't change at all for the next week. Bob gets his specs the next day.)

What's the problem here? User adoption. Or lack thereof. In this case, lack of adoption of OCS' Presence tool.

One of the biggest hurdles in Unified Communications is getting users to start using it. People “don't have time” or “aren't used to it” (how are you supposed to get used to something if you never use it?).

Why We're Nervous About Switching to Unified Communications

There's a simple reason why people don't want to switch to new technology like UC – we're afraid.

Oh, not of UC itself. It doesn't bite. It's just another manifestation of the human fear of change.

Nothing wrong with that. (Fear of change evolved for very good reasons at the time!) But it does get in the way of adopting newer technologies like Office Communicator or Exchange 2010.

Unified Communications contains new ways for users to communicate among themselves (and with customers). Disrupting the long-standing order of Phone and Email? People are bound to hesitate.

Someone will have to push the office to switch.

If you're the sysadmin or IT manager…that's you. (Sorry.)

Two Ways to Spur Adoption

Make it Dead Simple
Offer a training course. Mandatory.

Provide reference material. (The Unified Communications Strategies blog has solid UC material.)

Indicate what aspects of Unified Communications should be used for which activities. For example, all internal phone calls will be done through Office Communicator. Any non-critical project discussions should use IMs. And so on. Write up the complete list and post it someplace everyone will see it.

Remove Alternatives
Schedule the “old system” for deactivation at some point in the future (say 30-60 days from UC implementation). Now this may not always work – in some cases, the “old system” is the phone!

If adoption is the goal however, you may not have a choice. You'll have to make it difficult for people to use anything except the UC channels.

Remove any old phones. Make a big announcement that everyone will use Unified Communications channels from now on. Change company cellphone plans if necessary.

People will grumble and complain about it for a few days, maybe weeks. But they'll adapt.

I think I'll go into more detail on these next week. In the meantime, how have you spurred user adoption of a new product or technology? Share your story in the comments.

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail