Tag: lync server 2010

How to Train Users on Skype for Business

I covered training in the past, for Lync Server, a few times.
The latest post is: 7 Questions from a Lync Training Session

But I haven’t posted about training for Skype for Business use. Until now.

I intend this post as a guide for building your own Skype training. Don’t follow the form exactly; you might gloss over something your staff or customers want to address further. Instead, think of the following as a skeleton – with some meat on it – from which to build your own training sessions.

Part 1: Major Points to Cover in Training

When starting a Skype training session, I first introduce myself, and state what we’re all here for. Then I use a lead-in to get the trainees talking (that way I’m not “talking at them” the whole time).

Depending on the audience involved, I’ve used these as lead-ins.

  • How many of you use “regular” Skype?
  • By now you’ve had a chance to play with Skype for Business. Any questions before we start?
  • What we’re covering today is a complete communications system. Skype for Business contains a set of communications tools…some you may know about, some you may not.

Then, I move into these major points.

  1. Skype4B Features: Instant Messaging, Presence, Enterprise Voice/VoIP, Conferencing, Persistent Chat
    • Common questions I get here: What is Presence? What’s VoIP? Does this change how we make calls? Is this like Shoretel/RingCentral/Citrix? Prepare short qualifying answers for these.
    • Example: “Presence is a status indicator. It tells everyone if you can talk right now, or if you’re in a call. You use it to tell others when you’re busy or not.”
  2. Meetings Capabilities: Video, Desktop Sharing, PowerPoint Sharing, Whiteboard
    • Most people aren’t interested in Polls, so I stopped including them.
  3. UX Differences in Skype for Business vs. other Tools
    • For some, the popup windows Skype creates when a phone call starts are distracting. You’ll want to make users aware of where each communication tool appears on their computer, and why it’s doing that. (A good way to justify these popup windows is to say that they give you the opportunity to expand the conversation further. Add video, or share a file.)

Part 2: Intro to Hardware Used

PolyCom CX600This part’s highly adaptable, for obvious reasons. The hardware one customer uses is different from what another customer uses.
We often install these:

  1. Polycom CX600 phones. PolyCom CX600 Quick User Guide (PDF)
  2. Polycom RealPresence Trio Hubs for conference rooms.  (Review Part 1) (Review Part 2)
  3. Headsets vary between Jabra and Plantronics models.

Normally I refer trainees to the User Guide after going through the hardware’s purpose and functions. Then I show how to use the hardware when performing Skype tasks.

Part 3: How to Perform Basic Tasks in Skype for Business

It’s at this point where I preemptively apologize. Some trainees already know the basics, and if I don’t warn them ahead of time, they can lose interest in the training when I cover those basics again. But I have to cover them–at least one person in every training session doesn’t know the basics!

So I spend a few minutes on how to:

  • Send an IM
  • Change your Presence status (make sure to point out the difference in Busy vs. Do Not Disturb)
  • Make a Call (via desktop client first, then via whatever phone or headset they have)
  • Schedule a Meeting
  • Join Meetings

Part 4: How to Use the Skype for Business iOS App

This is really popular! Every time I get to talking about the app, someone interrupts me to ask for it on their phones.
I cover what it does: Access Skype Contacts, make calls, check voicemail, join meetings
And what it doesn’t: Schedule meetings, call someone back who left a voicemail, see Contact Cards.

Skype for Business on iOS is Good, Not Perfect
Mobile Client Comparison Tables for Skype for Business – TechNet

Since it’s very difficult to showcase a phone screen in the middle of a group training session, I always say I’ll meet with individuals who want the app afterward. Invariably, someone wants me to run them through it at their desk.

Part 5: Q&A

Conference Room

Daunting!

There’s always questions. Normally I take questions throughout the training; people are always curious about something. However, some dedicated time at the end gives me room to answer questions in more detail, or to prompt users for post-training questions.

Common questions I receive at this stage:

  • What if we have two meetings scheduled at the same time?
    (In reference to booking a RealPresence Trio.) I told them that one meeting would get the time, but the other wouldn’t have the Trio available.
  • Can we park calls?
    Call park is a stalwart of old PBX days. It’s no longer necessary, since you can easily transfer calls within Skype. I tell users that Call Park does exist within Skype for Business, but it’s not enabled by default. We only enable it on request.
  • How do we mute everyone [in a meeting]?
    For some reason, people like making other people quiet down! I point out the Mute All option in a Skype Meeting (it’s under “Actions” in the People menu), and on devices like the RealPresence Trio Hub.

Training Helps Us Make Skype Usable for Everyone

I’ve done quite a few training sessions this summer. We’ve had lots of new Skype for Business (server and hybrid) installations complete. Once we’re close to finishing, we ask the customers if they’d like training, or reference documentation (we make 2-8 page “QuickCards” for these). Often customers opt for training, which we’re happy to provide.

During the last session I had (just last week) someone commented, “this (Skype for Business) is really tech-heavy.” I responded with, “That’s true, it is. There’s a lot of meat to the system. If you spend a little time with it, you’ll see how useful it becomes.”

She appeared to like the idea. I installed the iOS app on her phone, at her request, 30 minutes later. Taking Skype from the desktop, with all its power, and moving it onto a very familiar platform (her phone) made it more reachable for her.

Which is the whole point of our training. Skype for Business is a powerful and complex system, yes. Our primary training goal is to make it useful for each customer, in their own day-to-day work activities.

Do you train users on Skype for Business? What kinds of questions do you hear from users? Please comment or email them, even if they’re off-the-wall. Especially if they’re off-the-wall; I love those!

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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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Moving Versions or Staying Put: How Should You Prepare for Skype for Business in 2015?

Look out, Christmas is coming at us!

At several of our clients’ offices, plans for 2015 are in full swing. People are considering what to do next year, where to spend their budgets, what software to update.

With each new year we see new Microsoft software. In the case of Lync Server though, the change is more pronounced. A full rebranding, new features, interconnection with the 500+ million Skype user base…this is a BIG change coming. 2015 Planning Commences!

How should businesses approach Skype for Business? Should they wait, or jump forward? At what point should they transition–and does their current communications software factor in?

After reading some blog posts & reader emails, as well as brainstorming and staring at our own Lync Server a while, I came up with the following recommendations. Each recommendation depends on what version of Lync Server you’re running now (if any). I’ve even included some thoughts for Skype users too.

If you run Lync Server 2010…

According to Monday’s No Jitter post, in-place upgrades aren’t available from Lync Server 2010 to Skype for Business.

No big surprise; the hardware requirements rose between Lync 2010 and 2013. Lync Server 2010 users actually have a unique opportunity: They’ll have to upgrade either way, so moving straight to Skype for Business is a viable option. (If any businesses do this, I’d appreciate an email. Would love to hear how the transition goes for you.)

There’s only one caveat: make sure your Windows Servers are up-to-date before you try any upgrades. In fact, I’d say build a 100% fresh server group and test on there.

If you run Lync Server 2013…

Make sure you have your Cumulative Updates, but otherwise, you have the luxury of time. Lync Server 2013 will remain usable for a while.

We even received a new feature this past week – video calling between Lync and Skype clients.

Start a Skype for Business evaluation when scheduling/budget permits. I’m hoping to do this by summer 2015.

If you are evaluating Lync Server 2013 (and like it)…

Plan to deploy when you’re ready. Don’t worry about, “Should we wait for Skype for Business?” Go ahead and implement Lync. The hardware used can (at least as far as we know) be re-used when you do move to Skype for Business. No need to rush.

If your office uses Skype…

A change from Skype clients to Skype for Business Server is arguably the largest change on this list. Your users would gain a lot of functionality–and a whole new level of complexity to their communications.

If you do plan to transition in 2015, begin advising users of the change as early as possible. Invite test user groups to evaluate Skype for Business – more than once, if you can. You might even direct users toward this blog! I will endeavor to provide useful transitioning content next year.

If you do not have either Lync or Skype…

Interested in the Unified Communications world, huh? Glad you could join us!

2015 will provide you with a choice: Deploy Lync Server 2013 or Skype for Business Server 2015. If you choose Lync 2013, you can begin evaluations right now. If you want Skype for Business, you’ll have to wait a while until we at least see a beta version.

If you have no Lync experience, I would suggest going for Skype for Business. Use the first half of 2015 to read up on Voice over IP, Lync Server’s main Server Roles, blogs discussing Skype for Business features, etc.

===========

I hope these recommendations help my readers (and your businesses) plan well for 2015. Remember also that we should see a new version of Exchange Server in 2015 too. Lots of changes for which we must plan!

Next week we’ll close out 2015 with a reader survey and Q&A. If you have questions you’d like answered about Lync, Skype, Exchange or Unified Communications in general, please comment or email them to me. See you then!

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How to Record Calls in Lync and Skype – And Where Recording Should Go in 2015

In my recent news alerts, I saw mention of a new third-party Lync Server 2013 product. (You’ll see it below; it’s the one from Actiance.)

Reading the news article I thought, “They must be incredibly disappointed. All that work to add something to Lync Server, and Microsoft is changing it into Skype for Business in a few months!”

Which got me thinking more about one of the functions they added: Recording voice calls in Lync.

Recording Calls in Lync

Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Recording conversations is nothing new – but it can be a pain to organize, depending on your platform. I’ve touched on the subject with Lync before–but not for a while. Now seems like a good time to revisit.

You Can Record Lync Meetings

First, the positive: Lync Server DOES allow you to record Lync Meetings natively. The “Start Recording” option is located under More Options in the Lync Meeting window.

Record and Play Back a Lync Meeting – Office.com

(For you Office 365 users, Recording is also available in Lync Online.)

Recording one-to-one voice calls however, is not a native Lync function. You can trick it with a little something Matt Landis wrote about in 2012:
Lync User Tip #20: How to Record Lync to PSTN Calls (With No Addon) – Windows UC Report

But otherwise, you’ll need to use an add-on.

How to Record Calls, in Lync 2013 or Skype

Developers have had years to build add-ons for voice recording. Now Lync Server has several robust third-party solutions available. For example, Verba Technologies’ Lync Call Recording (I mentioned this back in August).

A newer contender is Actiance’s Vantage for Lync. It’s a multi-platform solution, capable of recording conversations and much more. I’ve requested a demo & will report on my findings when it arrives.

Here’s an Actiance datasheet on Vantage for Lync.

Like Lync, Skype has multiple third-party methods of recording voice calls. More than Lync in fact. Skype.com even has a list of add-ons available!

How can I record my Skype calls? – Skype Help
CallNote and MP3 Skype Recorder are highly-reputed for PC; Mac users appear to like Vodburner.

Recording Should Go Native in 2015

Users of Lync 2013 and Skype have options for recording voice calls when businesses require it. Since both will experience an incorporation (at least partially) in next year’s Skype for Business, what should happen with recording?

I think most industry experts – not to mention millions of users – want recording built in.

It makes the most sense. Recording calls fulfills regulatory and recordkeeping requirements for corporations. Clearly the demand is there from everyday users of both Skype AND Lync. Plus, Skype for Business will “blend together” features such as Lync’s Contacts list and Skype’s Directory.

Microsoft, if you’re not already building recording into Skype for Business, here’s your opportunity. You have plenty of options:

  • Extend the Recording Manager’s functionality to include Lync Calls.
  • License or buy one of the available Skype third-party add-ons.
  • License recording technology from Verba, Actiance or another vendor with Lync call recording capability.

The technology is out there. People want to use it. You’re shaking things up with a new version anyway. Here’s a glaring chance to give users what they want.

Do you record calls through Lync or Skype? What do you think of your solution? Please comment or email your responses.

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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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Examining Lync's Connection Tools: OCSUMUtil

Apologies for the late post this week, readers! We’re engaged in some server moves & updating. I don’t have a whole lot of time available. But the blog must go on!

We’re continuing our “Examining Lync’s Connection Tools” series this week with OCSUMUtil.exe.

What Does OCSUMUtil Mean?

It stands for ‘OCS Unified Messaging Utility’, which I believe is its original name. However its official name – at least according to TechNet – is “Exchange UM Integration Utility”.

Many people refer to it as just ‘OCSUMUtil’, so we’ll do that here.

What Does OCSUMUtil Do?

Its primary purpose, as you might guess, is aiding in Lync/Exchange Unified Messaging integration. It does this in two ways:

  • Creating Active Directory contact objects for Auto Attendant and Subscriber Access numbers used in Enterprise Voice.
  • Verifying that each Enterprise Voice dial plan matches its corresponding Unified Messaging dial plan. (According to TechNet, this is only necessary if you’re using an Exchange Server earlier than Exchange 2010 SP1.)

This has been its purpose since OCS 2007 days. In fact, I think it’s the longest-used connection tool in our series.

(If I’m wrong, please comment and set us all straight!)

How Do You Use OCSUMUtil?

Instructions for its use in a Lync Server 2013 deployment: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg398193.aspx

When you implement Unified Messaging, you’re essentially connecting Lync Server and Exchange Server together. They will coordinate communications data like voicemail, Auto Attendant activity, etc. The PluralSight blog has a good listing of the features involved in Unified Messaging. I’ll give more detail on this topic later.

By using the OCSUmUtil tool, you’re facilitating the creation of connections between Lync Server and Exchange Server. It’s not the central component of integration, but it’s very important to Subscriber Access (which allows people to access their voicemails) and Auto Attendant (which answers & redirects certain calls for you).

You’ll run OCSUMUtil from the /Support/ subfolder on the computer where you installed Lync Server. When the tool is open, you’ll click ‘Load Data’ to find your Exchange forest.

OCSUMUtil.exe
See Blog.Schertz.name for the full image.

  1. In the SIP Dial Plans list, select the UM dial plan for which you want to create contact objects. Click Add.
  2. In the Contact box, either use the default organizational unit, or click Browse to search for another one with the OU Picker. I’ll presume you want to use the default, since most admins will.
  3. In the Name box, either accept the default dial plan name or enter a new one. (For example, if you’re creating the Subscriber Access contact object, name it “Subscriber Access”.)
  4. Enter a new SIP address for the contact object in the SIP Address box (or accept the default).
  5. In the server list, select the server where you want to place the contact object (either Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition’s Front End pool).
  6. In the Phone Number list, select “Enter phone number” and enter a standardized phone number.
  7. Select the type of object you want in the Contact Type list.
  8. Click OK to finish creating the object. Repeat these steps for any more contact objects you need to make.

For another perspective, see the Lync and Exchange UM Integration post by Jeff Schertz. As is his usual, he talks in good step-by-step detail about using OCSUmUtil in the course of a Lync Server 2010/Exchange Server 2010 integration.

Potential for Error

While you can encounter an error just about anywhere, I noted in my research that OCSUMUtil has a higher-than-average potential for error. If either Lync or Exchange UM are not properly configured prior to using OCSUMUtil, it will give an error. Also, if you configure OCSUMUtil incorrectly, it will error out.

Handy for troubleshooting, but it does mean you have to go back & fix things. I haven’t personally encountered an OCSUMUtil error, but searches have told me of a couple types:

  • If you select the Director (or the Director is selected by default) in Step 5 above. It must be a front end server.
  • If there is no number (or an incorrectly-created number) in Exchange for Auto Attendant or Subscriber Access.

Next time, I’ll blog either about our last connection tool, Online Directory Synchronization…or some hands-on updating work. Check back here next week to find out!

Have you encountered an error while using OCSUmUtil? Or did it go smoothly? Either way, share the experience with us!

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Lync Clients Have a Graphics Bug! How to Patch the Hole

There’s a new security flaw in Lync! Microsoft announced it yesterday, with a couple workarounds. Both are easy to implement, so let’s not waste any time.

Where It Is: Code for Graphics Handling

The flaw is located in the TIFF graphics handling code of both Lync clients, as well as Windows Server 2008 and Office 2003, 2007 and 2010.

What It Can Do: Let Remote Code In

TIFF graphics files, if made in a certain way, could allow for a remote code execution by an attacker.

By itself this is not a network-wide threat. But even a small door left open can bring trouble.

According to ITNews.com, attacks are already occurring in Southern Asia and the Middle East. Emails with specially-crafted Word attachments are opening user access to outside attackers, compromising local security & allowing a potential hole into networks.

Let’s all avoid that unpleasant possibility, shall we?

How to Patch the Security Flaw: Two Workarounds

Two workarounds are available to prevent any exploits. These work for all affected systems, but I’m focusing on the Lync 2010 and 2013 clients (this IS a Lync blog!).

The first option is disabling the TIFF codec on computers running Lync 2010 or 2013.
You can use a Fix It Microsoft has provided here (the quickest solution):
https://support.microsoft.com/kb/2896666

Or disable the codec manually. If you want to do that:

  1. Open the Registry Editor.
  2. Add a new registry entry under: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftGdiplus
  3. Create a DWORD value for the TIFF code by creating a registry entry under the Gdiplus subkey, named DisableTIFFCodec.
  4. Set the value of the DisableTIFFCodec registry entry to 1. Close Registry Editor.

(If you want to enable the TIFF codec again later, just change the entry’s value to 0.)

The second workaround option is deploying the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). Download EMET version 4.0 here.

It should auto-configure once installed, so you won’t need to do anything else. Refer to its documentation if you need to manually configure.

Both workarounds are listed under “Suggested Actions” of this bug’s TechNet Advisory. Along with extra instructions, a FAQ and a full list of the software affected.

You can do both if you’d like. It won’t hurt anything.

Microsoft will include a patch in the next security update, no doubt. But in the meantime you can use these to protect any systems you’re concerned about.

I know a lot of people still use the Lync 2010 client and Office 2010. I’d prefer you continuing to use them without worrying about the next email attachment coming in.

Any other day, I’d recommend you updating to Windows Server 2012 and Lync 2013 to avoid security issues. But this flaw affects 2013 too…as well as 3 versions of Office!

So take a moment and apply your choice of workaround. Patch the security hole before someone else finds it.

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The Two Types of Response Group Management (and When to Use Them)

Response Groups help facilitate call transfers within Lync’s infrastructure. They let you direct calls to where the caller needs to go: Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Support, etc.

They do require a little setup time, to organize agent groups, create workflows and so on. So their management is a necessary component of Lync Server administration.

Here’s how they work.

30-Second Response Group Overview

You (the Lync administrator) set up a Response Group for a group of people in your organization. Sales, for example.
Someone calls the Sales office.
Since the number they called is set up with a Response Group, the call is routed to one of the right people (called an “Agent”).
Who gets the call depends on the Response Group’s selected routing method (Serial, Longest Idle, Parallel, Round-Robin, Attendant). If no one is available, the caller is placed in a queue.

Pretty simple, right? Good caller management, entirely configurable by you.

Response Groups have stayed pretty much the same from Lync Server 2010 to Lync Server 2013. Except for one area: Management.

How Response Groups are Managed in Lync Server 2010: 1 Administrator Role

For Lync 2010, you had one administrative role: CsResponseGroupAdministrator. This role could create and modify Response Groups, its agent lists, queues and workflows. Every Response Group setting was available to configure.

However, other administrative roles could also modify Response Group settings. The CsVoiceAdministrator, CsServerAdministrator, and CsAdministrator roles all could. And these were all all-or-nothing roles; you couldn’t set much in the way of granular permissions.

It worked, but only just. If you had multiple administrators, you could lose track of Response Group configurations quickly.

Call Management in Lync Server 2010 (TechNet)

To improve things, Microsoft changed the administrative structure for Response Groups in Lync Server 2013.

How Response Groups are Managed in Lync Server 2013: Manager & Adminstrator roles

You have two management choices for Lync Server 2013 Response Groups: A Response Group Manager role or a Response Group Administrator role.

What’s the difference? An Administrator can do everything for any Response Group, just like its 2010 counterpart. But Managers can only manage Response Groups to which they are assigned. And even then, there are some settings beyond a Manager’s control.

For example:
–Managers can’t create or delete a workflow.
–Managers can’t modify some Response Group settings, like their SIP URI or phone number.

Response Groups in Lync Server 2013 (TechNet)

When to Use the New Manager Role

Some good practices we’ve determined, when it comes to Response Group management:

  1. If you have more than 3 Response Groups, use Managers for each one. (Fewer than 3, just stick with the Administrator role.)
  2. Install a Manager at any branch sites, in case you must troubleshoot call routing errors.
  3. Use Managers for critical Response Groups.

Wait, why did I say use a Manager role (lower-security) on a critical Response Group?

Because essential Response Groups – such as Help Desk or Sales – need immediate support if they don’t function properly. If calls aren’t making it through, someone has to fix that Response Group ASAP.

It’s best to have more than one person available to do so – if the Administrator isn’t available, a Manager better be.

Which I think is at least half the reason Microsoft added the Manager role – you can share responsibility & support between people.

Response Groups are a setup-once-and-watch-it-work sort of functionality. It’s only when calls fail to route that you need management. Having someone to call if the administrator is unavailable means you can repair incoming call management again.

How does your organization use Response Groups? Do you use Managers? Let us know!

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Auditorium Chat Rooms: How to Use Lync's Built-in Podium

Like all of Lync’s services, chat rooms underwent a change going from Lync Server 2010 to Lync Server 2013. Group Chat, a basic saved-chat-room function, grew into Persistent Chat, a stronger and more tightly-integrated tool.

I covered Group Chat in 2011, in my “20 Tasks Every Lync Administrator Should Know” series. Persistent Chat got a two-part overview in May: What it is and how you use it (Part 1), and 8 potential uses for chat logs (Part 2).

There’s one thing I didn’t cover in all this. The Auditorium Chat Room.

Auditorium Chat is an “e-Podium”

In Persistent Chat Part 1, I pointed out an important distinction between IM conversations and Persistent Chat Rooms: IM is private, while Persistent Chat is not (by default).

Auditorium Chat takes this one further.

In a Chat Room set to Auditorium Mode, only certain users (listed as Presenters) can post messages. All others just read what the Presenter says. Once the chat is done, it’s saved like all other chat room logs.

Remember attending lectures at school? The professor stands at a chalkboard or a podium and teaches everyone in the audience?

Same principle. It’s just done through Lync.

Uses for Auditorium Chat Rooms

There are as many uses for an Auditorium Chat Room as there are for normal chat rooms. However, an Auditorium Chat is best used when you have a structured presentation to give.

Also, consider these two factors:

  1. The primary function of Lync Chat Rooms is to create a lasting reference. Instant Messaging is great for on-the-fly conversation; a chat room log, you’d want to keep for others to check later on.
  2. Persistent Chat logs can be set to Open, Closed or Secret.

We can identify certain roles using these factors…types of presentations well-suited to Auditorium Chat mode. Here’s a few examples.

Auditorium/Open: Announcements, Company Seminars/Training
Auditorium/Closed: Internal Documentation, Project Management
Auditorium/Secret: Change Log, PR Talking Points

How to Create Auditorium Chat Rooms

Auditorium chat is available in both 2010’s Group Chat and 2013’s Persistent Chat.

How to create them in Lync Server 2010: Setting Who Can Post Messages in an Auditorium Chat Room

How to create them in Lync Server 2013: TechNet OR Lync Condition Blog

Quick Tip:  A normal chat room may be changed to Auditorium mode in its “Manage Rooms” options. But creating fresh chat rooms for Auditorium presentations is simpler.

Have you used an Auditorium Chat Room? For what purpose?

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The Difference Between Dial Plans and Voice Routes

I have a small confession to make.
Sometimes I mix up dial plans & voice routes in my head.

They aren’t the same thing. Yet I still do it.

In fact they’re not even the whole picture, when it comes to creating and transporting calls in Enterprise Voice. You also have voice policies, which set options such as forwarding and delegation.

But voice policies are defined by features available to a call. Dial Plans and Voice Routes dictate how a call is processed. So, mild confusion now and then.

And where’s there’s confusion, there’s blog potential!

Let’s clarify the difference between these two Lync elements. What a Dial Plan is, what a Voice Route is, and how to tell them apart. In case I’m not the only one (and I’m pretty sure I’m not).

What a Dial Plan Is/Does

A dial plan is a named set of normalization rules. It translates phone numbers for a certain location, user or Contact Object into standard E.164 format.

(E.164 format looks like this: +15102220000)

There are two primary purposes for a dial plan: To translate international phone numbers, and to translate internal extensions to standard phone number format.

An example: Let’s say your office uses 4-digit extensions for each employee. So if you want to talk to Dan in Sales, you dial 9551. In Lync, a dial plan tells the server to interpret 9551 into Dan’s full number (maybe it’s 510-222-9551, or +15102229551 in E.164).

Lync routes the call to Dan’s Lync phone, and you two start talking.

Lync Server gives you 4 levels at which to use a Dial Plan:

  • User – the plan is assigned to a specific user or object
  • Pool – the plan covers a service, e.g. PSTN gateway or Registrars
  • Site – the plan covers all phones in a Site location
  • Global – the default plan for the entire Lync Server infrastructure

As you can see, these plan levels narrow their scope from bottom to top. If a user has a User-level dial plan assigned, its normalization rules apply instead of a Site dial plan.

The New-CsDialPlan cmdlet will create a new dial plan. Once created, you should add at least one normalization rule, using the New-CsVoiceNormalizationRule cmdlet.

An overall reference for Lync’s Dials Plans: Dial Plans and Normalization Rules – TechNet

What a Voice Route Is/Does

A voice route specifies how Lync Server handles outbound calls. These routes rely on logic defined for each set of destination numbers listed in your dial plans.

A voice route must contain:

  • A name (you can add a description too, but it’s not required)
  • A regular expression matching pattern, that identifies destination phone numbers to which the route is applied. As well as exceptions to which the matching pattern should not be applied.
  • One or more trunks you’ve assigned to the route.
  • The PSTN usage records that users must have in order to call numbers matching the regular expression.

An example: You’ve made your call to Dan, and the dial plan has normalized the number to +15102229551. A voice route is in place on the Front End Server, which knows that all 510 numbers are located in the Seattle office. The route directs your call through the trunk which will send the call off to Seattle.

Voice routes come into play after a dial plan has normalized whatever number you dialed. They take the “fixed-up” call, check records to see which trunk is best suited for it, and off it goes.

“Choose the trunk with the closest gateway to the location of the destination number, in order to minimize long-distance charges.” Rule of thumb from Microsoft. Good advice.

Reference for Lync’s Voice Routing: Voice Routes – TechNet

Why & Where you Might Confuse Them

Both dial plans and voice routes interplay (along with voice policies) in between users making a call, and that call connecting to its destination. Because they are both involved in establishing a phone call, I found it easy to confuse their two respective functions. (Sometimes!)

One Way to Remember the Difference

After thinking through a few metaphors, I came up with this comparison:

Dial plans rebuild the number you’ve dialed.
Voice routes point the call in the right direction after its rebuild.

Think of your call as a car in your garage. You add fuel and drive out onto the street (Dial Plan). A street sign tells you where the highway is (Voice Route). You drive off.

 

That’s it! Hope this post helps with any confusion on how calls are sent out. In the future I’ll do a post on Dial Plans’ normalization rule structure. And one on Voice Routing regular expressions.
Which would you like first?

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