Group Chat is one of my favorite Lync services. Who here hasn’t been hanging around chat rooms for years already? Now we’ve got them in Lync Server.

Lync’s Group Chat works best for project discussions and meetings. Since the chat rooms are logged, it’s a great way to share information among a group, and access it later. As a Lync Administrator, your job is to make sure users can do that.

Need to Know: Initial Setup and Troubleshooting

The good thing about chat rooms is that they tend to work on their own. Most of the work involved with Group Chat will be to set up the chat rooms, and troubleshoot if there’s a problem. The users will handle the rest.

So I’ve divided up the tasks below by Initial Setup and Troubleshooting. There are instructions for setting up, and a few tips we’ve come across. Not a ton–but that’s because Group Chat is pretty well-behaved! Try it out and you’ll see why.

Initial Setup

Access the Group Chat Admin Tool

  • Sign in to the Group Chat Server as an admin.
  • In the Start menu, locate Microsoft Lync Server 2010. Click the Microsoft Lync Server 2010, Group Chat Admin Tool.
  • If this your first time signing into Group Chat, you’ll see a Group Chat Admin Tool Login dialog box. Click “Automatic Configuration” in the Account box.
  • Type your SIP URI in the box (example: “sip:testuser1@planetmagpie.com”).
  • Type your complete user name (including domain) in the Login box (example: “Magpietestuser1”).
  • Enter your password. Click “Log In”.
  • After this, you should only need your user name & password.

Decide on a Category Hierarchy

Categories are how the chat rooms are organized. You as the admin will set them. Before you do, have a hierarchy planned out. There’s a root category (auto-set), main categories, and any subcategories below those.

Categories should correspond to departments in your organization, and/or group functions. For example, a “Finance” category with a “Johnson Inc. Finance Team” subcategory.

NOTE: Settings for the root category will inherit down the tree (unless you specify otherwise, individually). If you want to establish a policy for all chat rooms, do it here.

Create Main Categories & Subcategories

  • Open the Group Chat Admin Tool.
  • In the Chat Rooms list, click the category in which you want to create a new subcategory. (All main categories are subcategories of root.)
  • On the File menu, click New –> Category.
  • Type a name and description for the category. Names cannot have spaces, and must begin with a letter.
  • Specify options that control the behavior of this category:
    • If you want subcategories to use this category’s settings, check the Subcategories and chat rooms must inherit settings box.
    • Leave the Create a new membership list checkbox empty. This will start the chat room with the parent category’s membership list (see “Add Users” below for more on this).
  • Set default options for all chat rooms and subcategories:
    • Click Scoped under Visibility to make chat rooms visible to all users when they search for chat rooms.
    • Click Private to make chat rooms visible only to their members. Only use this if you need to hide certain discussions (for example, when discussing private customer details).
    • Click Yes under Invitations to send out automatic invites for users who are added to member lists.
    • IMPORTANT! Click Yes under Chat History to save the Group Chat content.
    • Last is the File Uploads box. Click Yes if you want to let members post files. If not, click No.

Create Chat Rooms

NOTE: Don’t put any rooms in the root category. Believe it or not, you wind up forgetting it’s there.

  • Click the category in which you want to create a chat room.
  • Click New in the File menu. Then click Chat Room.
  • In each box under Chat Room Settings, either click “Inherit from Parent” to keep the same setting as the parent category, or select a new setting.
  • Type a specific name in the Name box. Be descriptive. You can use numbers, hyphens and underscores here.
  • Type a description in the Description box. Make it specific, so people know this is the place to go for their chat.
  • If you’ll use the chat room for making announcements, click Auditorium in the Type box.
  • If you want everyone to chat amongst themselves, click Normal in the Type box.
  • Enter a topic in the Topic box if you want to (not required).
  • Clear the Create a new membership list checkbox to have the chat room inherit its members from the parent category. Just like we did for the new category.
  • From here we have the Visibility, Chat History and File Uploads boxes. Again, just like creating new categories. Use the same options listed above for chat rooms.

Add Users

Since Lync uses Active Directory like other MS Servers, the user pool is populated by Active Directory Domain Services. Use the Lync Server 2010 Control Panel to enable any users that aren’t showing up.

NOTE: Don’t worry about changing the scope. Stick with putting all users in the root category scope. You can change it later, if security warrants (for example, adding users from outside the organization).

Designate Chat Room Managers

  • Click the chat room you want in the Chat Rooms list.
  • Click the Chat Room Managers tab.
  • Click Add. Then locate the manager’s name using the Search For box.
  • Click Add once you find the user you want to designate a manager.
  • Repeat the search to add more chat room managers.
  • Click Close when you’re done adding names.
  • Click Apply.

Troubleshooting

Disable a Chat Room

• Log in to the Group Chat Admin Tool.
• Click the chat room you want to disable in the Chat Rooms list.
• Click the Disable this chat room checkbox.

Move a Chat Room

In the Chat Rooms list, drag the chat room or category from its current category over to the new one.

Archive an Unused Chat Room

Chat rooms can’t be deleted!  But you can archive them out of sight.

  • Create a new category for archiving. Let’s call it “Junkyard” for now.
  • In the Chat Rooms list, drag the unused chat room from its current category to “Junkyard”.

Remove a Chat Room Manager

On the Chat Room Managers tab, click the name in the list, and then click Remove.

Restart a Frozen Group Chat Server

(This requires you to access the Group Chat Configuration Tool. It’s in the Administrative Tools menu.)

  • Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Microsoft Lync Server 2010, Group Chat.
  • Open the Group Chat Configuration Tool.
  • On the File menu, click Restart Server.
  • Click Yes in the Restart Confirmation dialog box.

That should take care of the everyday admin for Group Chat. For more reference information, check Administering Lync Group Chat – MS TechNet.

Do you use Group Chat? What do you think of it, yea or nay?

Administer Group Chat: 20 Tasks Every Lync Administrator Should Know
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