The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity on the Skype for Business front. If you’ve been busy like me, this post will tell you just what you need to know, clear up some confusion, and get you started with the new Skype for Business client.
A Technical Preview of the new Skype for Business Client is Available
The most significant news is that a Technical Preview of the next release of the Lync client was made available. The new version is rebranded as the Skype for Business (“SfB”) client. Here is what you need to know:
- This is the Lync client under the covers, but it is available with a new optional UI skin that looks like the Skype Consumer client.
- When it is officially released in April, the SfB client will be distributed via a Windows Update (a Cumulative Update in Office 2013).
- When it is released, it is not known yet what the default UI skin will be (the new Skype look, or the Lync look). There are registry key entries and a Lync server side setting that can control which UI is displayed.
- Because it is the Lync client under the covers, it has the look and feel of the Skype consumer client but the security and management controls of the Lync client.
- This Microsoft Office Support Article has some good links to get your users up and running with the SfB Preview Client – Skype for Business change management and adoption.
- Do not confuse this release with the Skype for Business client experience in the Office 2016 Preview – which is a longer leading initiative that will not be released until the second half 2015.
Details of the Technical Preview
- Download for North America: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/evaluate-skype-for-business
- Outside of North America: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/evalcenter/dn917485
- You’ll need to sign-in with a Microsoft Account
- There is a 64 and 32-bit download – I recommend using the one that matches your Office Version
- It is an update to the Lync 2013 client MSI.
- It is a 270 Mb trial which expires May 1, 2015
- I’ve had troubles downloading this in non-IE browsers (“HTTP Error 400. The size of the request headers is too long”). IE seems to work.
- Can I run the Skype for Business Technical Preview with Office 2010? Yes.
- Can I run the Skype for Business Technical Preview with Microsoft Lync Server 2010? Yes.
- Can I run the Lync 2013 Client side-by-side with the SfB Client? No – the SfB client is an upgrade to your existing Lync 2013 client (replaces it)
The new Skype for Business Client, Server, and Online service will be Generally Available in April.
- This is essentially the release date for Skype for Business that we have been waiting for – not far off!
Office 2016 is available in preview is Available
- Microsoft recently announced the Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview.
- Among other things, this preview contains a release of the Skype for Business experience that is different from the Skype for Business client being released in April and in Technical Preview today. It will not be released until the second half of 2015 as part of the next version of Office for Windows desktop.
There is a lot of information available on what the new SfB client UI looks like, changes in functionality from the current Lync client, and how to change the UI look-and-feel between Skype-mode and Lync-mode:
I’ve fielded a lot of questions about the next release of Microsoft Lync Server – rebranded as Skype for Business – in the last few months. The questions have been difficult to answer because public information has been limited up to this point. Microsoft recently announced that Skype for Business Training is being rolled into the Office 365 Summit series.
This training includes information about the next release of Lync (SFB) including the following:
You can read more information about it here: http://blogs.office.com/2015/01/14/skype-business-sessions-now-included-office-365-summits/.
If you cannot attend in person, there are many Skype for Business Webcasts you can sign-up for and attend by registering here: https://infopedia.eventbuilder.com/index.asp?landingpageid=7p1c8p, including:
- New Windows Desktop Experience
- Reference Architecture and Design Considerations
- Manageability Improvements Overview
- In-Place Upgrade Deep-dive
- SQL Always On Deep-dive Wednesday
- Server Core Improvements Overview
- Reliability & Patching Deep-dive
- Hybrid Configuration Deep-dive
- New Meeting & Web Investments Overview
- Video Interop Server Deep-dive
- Lync/Skype Federation (Phase 2)
- Lessons Learned from Preview
- Software Defined Networks (SDN)
- Developer Platform
This training and information will cover some key feature enhancements such as:
- Support for In-place upgrades
- Call via work (expanded)
- SQL Always On
- New Video Interop capabilities
- More Lync/Skype Federation (i.e. ‘’Phase 2”)
- Better support for Software Defined Networking
It is official – the next version of Lync is being renamed “Skype for Business” in the first half of 2015!
The news was released today on Skype’s main blog:
Introducing Skype for Business
“In the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365. We believe that Skype for Business will again transform the way people communicate by giving organizations reach to hundreds of millions of Skype users outside the walls of their business”.
What you need to know:
- There will still be two distinct products: Skype for Business and Skype for Consumers.
- Skype for Business does not “replace” Lync; rather the next release of the on-premises version of Microsoft Lync Server and the Microsoft Lync Client will be renamed to “Skype for Business”.
- The Lync product stays the same under the covers – all the components, technology, infrastructure, and associated capabilities stay as Lync – just the name changes.
- Microsoft will continue to make Skype for Business and Skype for Consumers interoperate (i.e. communicate) with each other – ultimately aiming for a seamless experience whether you are at work or at home. Today instant messaging, audio, and video are supported.
- Skype for Business (aka Lync ) will have the ability to use the Skype Directory directly from the next release of the Lync Client! This will make it much easier to add Skype contacts and communicate with them.
- The new Skype for Business client will visually look more like the existing Skype client (e.g. theme, icons and workflow) but with all the capabilities of the current Lync client.
- Upgrading to the next version of Lync Server (aka Skype for Business) will require no new hardware from a Lync Server 2013 requirements standpoint.
Here is the video introducing Skype for Business: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUetykHsxqQ.
From the Skype blog, here is a screenshot if the ‘new’ Skype for Business client (Lync vNext client):
For more perspective on how this aligns with Microsoft’s Universal Communication strategy see Microsoft To Rename Lync as ‘Skype for Business’ Next Year in Redmond Magazine.
The world of UC and Lync is complex – especially when it comes down to remembering specific details of what configuration is required to enable specific feature sets. One of the goals of this blog has always been to make it extremely easy to remember basic important details at a moments notice.
Recently I had to reacquaint myself (again!) with the steps for enabling a user for PSTN dial-in conferencing.
Once the Lync system is completely configured and able to host PSTN dial-in conferences, the four key requirements you need to remember about enabling a Lync user are:
- They do NOT need to be enabled for Enterprise Voice.
- To DO need a LINE URI set.
- They DO need a Dial Plan assigned.
- They DO need a Lync Conferencing Policy assigned which has “EnableDialInConferencing” set.
- This conference policy also determines whether users can use specific functionality during a conference such as invite anonymous participants. See the Lync Conferencing Policy Parameters for all the conferencing options.
I always seem to forget #2. And for reference, when #2 is not set, but the user is enabled for dial-conferencing, the user will get the following error message when trying to set their dial-in conferencing PIN:
Fully deploying dial-in conferencing for a Lync deployment is a much broader subject – worthy of several blog posts – but from the point of view of enabling a user in a smaller deployment, one of the most important things to understand is the relationship between the Enterprise Voice feature set and the Dial-In Conferencing feature set.
The key here is you that while you do not need to completely deploy Enterprise Voice, you do need enable Lync to receive incoming PSTN calls, configure and assign Lync Dial Plans, and ensure that the Dial Plans have regions assigned to them. The regions associate conference dial-in access numbers with the dial plans.
A good checklist summary for deploying PSTN dial-in conferencing is described in this Microsoft TechNet article: Deployment checklist for dial-in conferencing in Lync Server 2013.
Lastly, be sure that the Online Meeting Outlook Add-In for Lync is deployed and available for your users. This add-in makes it really easy for users to schedule a dial-in conference – the dial-in information is added to the meeting invite when the user schedules a Lync meeting in Outlook. For Lync 2013, the add-in is installed automatically when the full Lync 2013 client is installed. The meeting invitation can be customized (see Configuring the meeting invitation in Lync Server 2013 for more information).
[This is a guest blog post authored by Microsoft PowerShell MVP and expert Kirk Munro. You can reach Kirk through his blog at poshoholic.com or through his Twitter handle @poshoholic].
I am often invited into Lync meetings that I want to passively watch and/or listen to on a second screen while I continue doing other work on my main monitor. Unfortunately, whenever I switch the active application away from the Lync client during these meetings, Lync plays the IM notification chime every time someone else in the meeting sends out an IM to the meeting attendees. On some of these meetings, which have dozens of attendees, there is a lot of IM chatter and these chimes can be very annoying. A portion of the meeting I was passively tuned into last night went something like this:
> “DING! All hotels DING! offer DING! free wi-fi DING! access DING! DING! except DING!…”
I was feeling a little like Captain Hook with a whole lot of clocks ticking nearby. Clearly, something had to be done.
The first step was to verify that I had the correct option set in my Lync options. In the Lync 2013 client, if you open the Options dialog (either by selecting Tools | Options from the menu or by simply clicking on your Lync photo) you will see a section labeled “Ringtones and Sounds”. This section contains the following options:
There are two applicable settings in the options screen shot above:
- “Play sounds in Lync (including ringtones for incoming calls and IM alerts)”. This is a master kill switch for all sounds in Lync aside from the audio streams. That would do the trick, however it is overkill, and I want to be able to hear incoming calls or new IM request alerts when I am just passively listening in.
- “Mute incoming IM alert sounds when viewing an IM conversation”. IM alert sounds are the sounds that I want to disable, so that sounds promising. When enabled however (by default) I still hear the IM alert sounds when the IM conversation window is open. That happens because “viewing an IM conversation” (the last portion of that option label) means this is only applicable when actively viewing a conversation, with the Lync meeting window having focus. If you switch the focus away from the Lync meeting window, you’ll start hearing IM alert sounds whenever anyone sends a message to the IM chat. As I hinted at with my earlier example of a meeting last night with ~100 attendees there can be a lot of chatter (DING! …. DING! … DING!) in the IM window, and the repeated IM alert sounds are very distracting (read: incapacitating) when trying to concentrate on getting something else done while simply keeping an ear open to the meeting discussion.
Neither of these options resolved my problem so I searched for and found a better solution which is fairly simple.
While the Lync options dialog is open, open the Sound setting on your Windows client machine. This dialog should be shown:
Within that dialog, scroll down the Program Events list until you find the events for Lync. You’ll know you’re in the right spot when you see the Lync section header (the selected item in the screenshot shown above). Continue scrolling down in that section until you find the entry called “New Message” and select it. This entry is set to the “LYNC_newim.wav” sound by default (the DING!). Use the Sounds combo box on that dialog to change the sound from the default value to “(None)” (which can be found at the top of the list of values in the combo box). Then click on the OK button to close the sound settings, and then on the other OK button to close the Lync options dialog.
Once you have made these changes, you should be able to passively listen-in on Lync meetings that don’t need your full attention without being distracted/annoyed by the incessant beep if the IM chatter gets noisy. Boy do I ever wish I had discovered this option a long, long time ago.
Important: I should point out that making this change means that you won’t hear an IM alert if you have a chat window open in the background and someone adds a message to that chat. The chat window icon in your taskbar will still be highlighted with a flashing Lync icon when a new IM message is received, but I know that some people want the sound notification as well. You’ll have to decide if that trade-off is worth it. Personally, I can definitely live with it!
Several folks have noticed it’s been a bit quiet on InsideLync over the summer months!
I took a brief hiatus from posting on my personal blog and tried my hand at writing some Lync articles for various publications – mostly centered around Lync cost savings and the future of UC.
Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:
5 Reasons Microsoft Lync Will Thrive in a Post-PC World
CIO TODAY UK – Curtis Johnstone – August 2014
* Note: you have to supply an email address to read this publication. It is a simple one-step process (no email verification) and they do not SPAM you.
How to Gain Insight into the Cost Saving Benefits of Your UC Solution
NoJitter – Curtis Johnstone – July 21, 2014
Three Steps to Understanding the Cost Saving Benefits of Microsoft Lync
UC Insight – Curtis Johnstone – June 16, 2014
Lastly, if you want to gain some perspective on how I was originally drawn to the UC space, you can read this write-up on Dell’s Direct Blog:
The Power of Unified Communications
I hope to resume blogging on various Lync and UC topics later this month!
I discovered a fantastic set of free Microsoft content recently and wanted to share it with my readers. Eric Ligman from Microsoft has put together what he calls the:
Largest collection of FREE Microsoft eBooks ever, including: Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Office 2013, Office 365, Office 2010, SharePoint 2013, Dynamics CRM, PowerShell, Exchange Server, Lync 2013, System Center, Azure, Cloud, SQL Server, and much more
In addition to some good Lync content there are some valuable free resources for Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, SharePoint, PowerShell, and Azure. You can access it all here:
There are ten Lync specific digital publications available. Many of them you have seen before including fellow MVP Matt Landis’ excellent free eBook Microsoft Lync Server 2013 Step By Step for Anyone.
Here is a full listing of the Lync specific content available with the links to download:
- Lync Server 2013 Stress Testing Guide
- Microsoft Lync Room System Deployment Guide
- Lync Right Start Kit
- Lync 2013 Keyboard Shortcuts
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013 Step By Step for Anyone
- Microsoft Lync Server 2013: Basic Administration – Release 2.1
- Lync for Mac 2011 Deployment Guide
- Microsoft Lync Server Resource Kit Tools
- Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Resource Kit
- Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Security Guide
The last InsideLync blog article provided a guide to establishing Direct SIP integration between Mitel Communications Director (MCD) and Microsoft Lync Server 2013.
Once direct SIP has been established, users will likely benefit from simultaneous ring (“SimRing”) integration. SimRing in this scenario means that when a Mitel phone extension is called the call will be “forked” to a associated Microsoft Lync endpoint (which typically belongs to the same user as the Mitel phone extension). This allows a user to receive a call on both their Mitel phone and Lync client in an environment with both Mitel and Lync. Speaking from experience, this is a wonderful feature for users living in a scenario where an existing IP-PBX phone and Lync enterprise voice coexist. It allows the user to receive incoming calls on whatever endpoint is best for them.
To enable SimRing between Mitel Communications Director (MCD) and Microsoft Lync Server 2013 a configuration guide was authored by InsideLync guest contributor and Lync consultant Habib Mankal and is available here:
Here is a hyperlinked table of contents to get you started:
Configuration and Licensing
Class of Service
User and Device Configuration
Personal Ring Group
If you’re looking for an introduction and reference guide on how to establish Direct SIP integration between Mitel Communications Director (MCD) and Microsoft Lync Server 2013, this blog article will help you. Note – Mitel Communications Director (MCD) is the re-branded name for the Mitel 3300 IP-PBX starting in MCD Version 4.
Mitel is a qualified IP-PBX vendor for direct SIP connection, and the last version to be officially qualified was the Mitel 3300 version 184.108.40.206. This guide provides guidance for establishing Direct SIP with the new Mitel MCD Version 6, so it is officially unsupported by both Microsoft and Mitel, but practically it has successfully been used several times.
The Direct SIP Integration between Mitel Communications Director (MCD) and Microsoft Lync Server 2013 guide was authored by InsideLync guest contributor and Lync consultant Habib Mankal and is available here:
Here is a hyperlinked table of contents to get you started:
Table of Contents
Configuration and Licensing.
Class of Service.
SIP Peer Profile.
Lync Server 2013 Configuration.
Adding the Mitel MCD IP-PBX into Lync Server 2013 topology builder.
Create a Dial Plan.
Voice Policy, PSTN Usage, and Route.
Happy SIP Trunking!
I have participated in several Lync meetings recently where an anonymous attendee – an external partner or customer for example – was attending the web conference and the organizer wanted them to share content (an PowerPoint presentation for example) but they could not – the option to “Share” in the Lync Web App client was not available.
This is a quick blog post to show organizers of Lync Meetings how to enable anonymous participants to share content when they are participating via the Lync Web App.
When a meeting is scheduled in Outlook, or an existing Lync meeting is edited, there is a Meeting Options button beside the Lync Online meeting icon that allows the Organizer to change the Online Meeting Options, and these include options for who are Presenters for the meeting.
Here is a screenshot of the create Online Meeting toolbar in Outlook (provided by the Lync add-in):
Clicking on the Meeting Options brings up a dialog which allows the Lync organizer to customize several meeting options – as shown here:
In most Lync deployments, the default setting is “People from my company” which will not allow an anonymous guest to share content.
To allow external anonymous guests to Share content, the “Everyone including people outside my company” option needs to be selected above.
Note: the “Customize access and presenters for this meeting” option must be selected first to change the default options below. Selecting this customize access option will also generate a new Conference ID – i.e. a Conference ID that is different from the same one used for all Lync meetings by this organizer (this Conference ID will show up in the meeting URL but does not really have any other significance from a user perspective).
Tip – if you do not see a “Meeting Options” icon make sure you are in either Creating a meeting or Editing an existing one – the basic Calendar view for example will not show the Meeting Options icon. The ability to create meetings and edit them in Outlook comes from both the Lync Meeting Add-In for Microsoft Office 2013 and the Online Meeting Add-in for Microsoft 2010.
Tip – Why are these options grayed out for me? It is possible that the Lync administrator has disabled the ability for end users to allow some of these options. If so, some of these options might not be customizable by the end user.
If allowing external anonymous participants to present is a default experience you wish to have every Lync meeting, select the “Remember settings” option to make this your new default Lync meeting experience. Note: when you change this setting it will apply for future meetings with your static Conference ID.
Tip – the Lync organizer can promote an external anonymous attendee to a Presenter at any time during the meeting by right-clicking on their name and selecting “Make Presenter” as shown here:
Here we see an external anonymous guest attendee is not a Presenter and does not have any Sharing capabilities:
Here we can see that once an organizer has promoted the anonymous guest to be Presenter, that the guest has Sharing capabilities in the Lync 2010 Web App:
These screen shots show the experience when the external anonymous attendee uses the Lync 2010 Web App (my target audience was still using the Lync 2010 Web App).
The Lync 2013 Web App has a much improved experience and less limitations as outlined in this article on Microsoft NextHop: Lync 2013: The New Lync Web App.
Happy web conferencing!