How to Set On-Hold Music in Skype for Business

Skype for Business

Today we have a very important how-to. A critical service is discussed. I know you’ve all been waiting to learn…

…how to set your “on hold” music.

See? Told you it was important.

In all seriousness, “on hold” music isn’t a critical service to Lync/Skype for Business. But Music On Hold is useful for a good customer experience. Which is, in fact, where the idea came from.

What Brought This On? The Customer Has Needs!

One of our newer customers made some changes to their Lync Server 2013 system. Among other changes, they added a new phone number for their Sales department. Naturally, they wanted this number to have hold music to keep callers on the line.

They were smart and looked into what was needed for hold music; when they called, they asked about Music On Hold. But they weren’t sure if Music On Hold (or “MOH”) was enabled for the new line or not. So they asked us.

Good thing, too…it wasn’t. Call Park wasn’t active.

Music On Hold in Lync/Skype4B: The Background

Still on hold...

Still on hold…

Music On Hold/MOH is part of the Call Park function. It’s a longstanding component of Lync, around since Lync 2010, happily doing its job in the background.

(Quick Overview: Call Park lets Enterprise Voice users put a call on hold [“park it”], and either retrieve it from another phone or forward it to another user. All the while, Music On Hold plays, getting a song stuck in the caller’s head for the rest of the day.)

You’ll find details on Call Park in Skype for Business here: Plan for Call Park in Skype for Business 2015 – Skype for Business TechNet

Call Park comes with Enterprise Voice, and should be activated when Enterprise Voice is set up. However, the Music On Hold may not be pre-set. If not, you’ll need to enable it.

There are 2 ways to enable Music On Hold. One at the client-level, one at the policy level.

  1. In the Lync/Skype client, click Options. Under “Ringtones and Sounds” you should see an option to “Play music on hold”. If you’re able to check the box, do so and click the Browse button to select a music file. Click OK.
  2. If “Play music on hold” is grayed out, the Lync/Skype4B administrator has designated this to occur through a Client Policy.

I prefer Method 2 anyway. It works for all users (and can be adapted for Response Group members). While I do prefer Management Shell for admin tasks, the fastest way to enable & set Music On Hold is through PowerShell.

How to Set Music On Hold

We have three PowerShell cmdlets for you today. These three and a music file are all you need.

Set-CSClientPolicy Global -EnableClientMusicOnHold:$TRUE

–This enables Music On Hold across all users. (Our customer had this set to FALSE and didn’t know it!)

$a = Get-Content -ReadCount 0 -Encoding byte “C:\MoHFiles\happymusic.wma”

–This retrieves the music file (notice the format; we’ll talk more about that in a moment), and assigns the file to the $a variable.

Set-CsCallParkServiceMusicOnHoldFile -Service ApplicationServer:entvoice01.yourdomain.com -Content $a

–This assigns the $a variable (referencing the happymusic.wma file) to Music On Hold for the YourDomain.com domain’s Enterprise Voice pool. Use the FQDN of the server where Call Park (Enterprise Voice) is running.

There are additional parameters available, of course. Confirmation prompts & the like. Full cmdlet details are here: Set-CsCallParkServiceMusicOnHoldFile Cmdlet – Skype for Business TechNet

Matt Landis also has an awesome Q&A blog post on MOH:
Questions About Microsoft Lync Server and Music on Hold – Microsoft UC Report
It targets Lync Server, but from what I can tell, the information still applies to Skype for Business for the most part.

FORMAT: The recommended format for Music On Hold files is “Media Audio 9, 44 kHz, 16 bits, Mono, CBR, 32 kbps.” I’ve seen references to using .wma or .wav. Either file type is probably fine.

To create the music file or convert it to the recommended format, you can use Microsoft’s Expression Encoder 4, or another audio tool like Audacity.

Where Should I Get Music for MOH?

Now here’s the trick, right?

You could always convert an MP3 of your favorite song. But you’d have copyright issues to deal with right away. (Besides, your customers may not share your musical tastes.)

The rest of us are left hunting for a royalty-free, or cheap-to-buy, music option. Let me help you with that.
Makerbook.net – Audio

Makerbook.net is a directory of audio resources. It’s a phenomenal resource for creative work – they have resources for photos, icons, fonts, video – and audio tracks.

I’ve gone through all of the sites on this list. My favorites are Bensound and the Vimeo.com Music Store. The free tracks are either fun or relaxing. The paid tracks are good-quality. Most are perfectly suitable for Music On Hold.

Is Your Music On Hold Enabled?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the original Music On Hold blog post:
Music On Hold for Lync Clients – Ken’s Unified Communications Blog.

Written back in October of 2010, it remains one of the most-linked-to posts on MOH, period. Its cmdlet references are 2 versions old, so be careful there. But otherwise, it’s an excellent starting point for the Music On Hold function.

Have you installed Skype for Business Server 2015 yet? If so, please comment or email on your experience. I’d like to collect a group of Skype4B experiences & wrestle some good data out of it (anonymously, of course).

Join us back here next week for more Skype for Business topics!

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Skype4B Features: Call Via Work

Skype for Business, Voice over IP

The biggest change in Skype for Business 2015 from Lync Server 2013 is the new user interface. Familiar to Skype users; minor learning curve for Lync users.

However, that’s not the only thing that’s new. We’ve already talked about integration with the Skype Directory…and there’s more.

This post is the first in a new post series on Skype for Business’ new features. We’re starting with a big one – Call Via Work.

Calling from...work?

What Call Via Work Is

Call Via Work replaces Lync’s Remote Call Control (RCC). I didn’t do too much with RCC, but Call Via Work intrigues me.

Essentially, Call Via Work enables integration between Skype for Business and a PBX phone system. Calls begun in Skype for Business ring a PBX phone – yours and the other party’s.

Why would you want to do that? A very good question. We’ll see what we can determine for an answer. But first, let’s talk about how Call Via Work, er, works.

How it Works

Call Via Work is part of Skype for Business’ Enterprise Voice role. It works by “bridging” two calls together into one.

  1. Let’s say Bob wants to call Sharon, one of his customers. He has her added as a contact in Skype for Business. Sharon uses a PBX phone system at her office. Bob also has a PBX phone available.
  2. He clicks her contact & selects the phone icon. The client initiates a call request to the Skype for Business Server.
  3. The server’s Mediation Server role sends a call to Bob’s phone. Caller ID shows a special number, called a “Global Phone Number”, so Bob knows this is not someone else calling. He picks up the phone.
  4. Sharon receives the call on her PBX phone. Skype for Business “bridges” the two calls.
  5. Bob and Sharon start talking normally. Aside from Bob having to pick up the phone *after* initiating the call, everything proceeds like a normal phone call.

Uses of Call Via Work

Obviously, a legacy PBX system is involved when using Call Via Work. In fact, not only does Call Via Work enable calls to PBX phones, but it also gives PBX users:

  • Click-to-call (Audio going through the PBX phone)
  • IM integration, Presence & user search. A TechNet piece cites as example, adding audio to an IM session, with the audio coming through PBX phones.
  • The ability to add IM, application sharing, and file transfer to a Call Via Work call.
  • One-click Meeting join (which I’d say is the most valuable capability, after voice calls)

It isn’t quite the full Lync/Skype4B experience. But it’s more than an old PBX has by default.

So what’s the best use of Call Via Work? I can think of two.

  1. Easier communication with customers/partners who still use a PBX.
  2. Transition Aid from an on-site PBX to Skype for Business. More on this later.

However, there’s a lot users need to know before you implement Call Via Work. Much of which involves its limitations.

What Users Need to Know

Call Via Work is a stealth function. It’s meant to do a job quietly, without messages or warnings. But users will need to know some things about it–otherwise it might cause confusion and disrupt calls.

What Call Via Work does. While the process is intended as transparent, users should still know what’s going on with their PBX calls. I wrote this post to help with exactly that. (Don’t forget to share it around!)

The Global Number. When you initiate a call using Call Via Work, Skype for Business shows the person called a certain number, which the administrator sets.

(The process for setting a Global Number is documented under “Deploy Call Via Work” here.)

This means a user’s direct number WILL NOT DISPLAY. Users must know the number, and that it will display in place of their own, so nobody’s left confused after a Call Via Work call.

Finally, Limitations. Yes, Call Via Work has limitations. Many of them in fact:

  • If a Call Via Work user has set up Call Forwarding to the Global Number, and someone tries to invite them to a Meeting by phone number, the invitation won’t reach them. The forwarding blocks it. Solution: Tell users to invite Meeting participants by name.
  • E-911 and malicious call tracing are NOT available during Call Via Work calls.
  • Call Via Work users can’t use Delegation, Team Call, or Response Groups. (Serious drawback in my book.)
  • Call Via Work users can’t record a Meeting, mute a call, hold or transfer the call, or use Call Park. (Ouch.)
  • Users can’t access PBX voicemail through Call Via Work.
  • Call Via Work users can’t escalate a voice call to a Meeting with video/whiteboards/PowerPoint.
  • You can’t add more people to a call when using Call Via Work. It’s just you two.
  • No support for deskphone pairing or VDI plugin pairing.
  • If you make or answer a call using your PBX phone (not the Skype for Business window), you won’t have a log of the call.
  • And finally – if your PBX system does not support “REFER with Replaces”, you’ll see this happen. While on a Call Via Work call, if you transfer the call from the PBX Phone, the call window will remain on your Skype for Business window. If you close the call window, the call between the transfer target and the transferee ends.

Lot of limitations users need to be aware of.

Deployment Prerequisites

Enabling Call Via Work
In order to deploy Call Via Work, you must:

  • Deploy a Mediation Server and an IP-PBX gateway.
  • Ensure any user enabled for Call Via Work has Direct Inward Dialing (DID) on their phone.
  • Enable Call Via Work users for Enterprise Voice.
  • Configure their Skype for Business DID number to match their PBX phone’s DID number.
  • Select “Automatic Configuration” in the users’ Skype for Business client’s Advanced Connections options. This is under the Personal menu in Options, by clicking the “Advanced” button.
  • Enable Call Forwarding and Simultaneous Ring for every Call Via Work user.
  • Enable Dial-In Conferencing and Conferencing Dial-Out for every Call Via Work user.
  • Disable Delegation, Team Call and Response Groups for every Call Via Work user.

Final Thoughts

So why WOULD you want to use Call Via Work?

I think Call Via Work is very useful in a transition environment: Going from PBX to Skype for Business Enterprise Voice.
–It allows you to continue using existing hardware.
–It slows the training schedule.
–You have time to notify any customers or partners who might be affected. Without ruining your ability to call them!

However, for the long-term, I suggest enabling Call via Work only for those people who need it. Such people include sales staff calling businesses you know use PBX phone systems, legacy hardware/software testers, etc.

Because of its limitations on the user’s Skype4B call capabilities, Call via Work can hinder some communications. It’s useful, definitely. But it comes at a price.

If you’d like to read more about Call Via Work, the Mastering Lync Blog has a good rundown too: Call Via Work – Mastering Lync.

Do you use Call Via Work in the office? Planning to? What’s your experience with it? Please comment or email. And join us again next week!

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How to (Re-)Enable Skype Directory Search in the Skype for Business Client

Skype for Business

We have Skype for Business Server 2015 up & running in the office! Testing is proceeding apace. Today’s post comes from the first thing I noticed.

One of the new features is integration with the Skype Directory. You can now add Skype users into your Skype for Business client. All it takes is a search.

Except my searches didn’t yield any Skype Directory results. Just the usual “My Contacts” and “Chat Rooms”.

I asked Larry about this. He confirmed that Skype is listed in our SIP Federated Providers. The Skype for Business Server installation went (fairly) smoothly. Edge services are working. What gives?

Skype? Hello, Can You Hear Me?

There’s a note on this TechNet page, as follows:

If Skype for Business Server is already configured to connect with Windows Messenger by using Public Instant Messaging Connectivity (PIC), your deployment is already configured for Skype connectivity. The only change you may want to consider is to rename your existing Messenger PIC entry as Skype.

Apparently our pre-existing configuration to federate with Windows Messenger should be enough. But it’s not. Skype Connectivity requires a little more work to behave properly.

After consulting TechNet further, and a few of our fellow IT bloggers, we made the following changes.

How to Re-Enable Skype Connectivity – IF You Have PIC Provisioned

Before anything else: Communication with public federated providers requires PIC (Public Instant-Messaging Connectivity) provisioning. If you’ve federated your Lync Server with providers like Yahoo or AOL already, PIC is provisioned.

The following instructions work ONLY if you already enabled PIC for your Lync Server, pre-Skype for Business upgrade.

  1. Step 1: Enable Skype-Skype Federation on your Edge Server. Open Topology Builder to access the Edge Server. You’re looking for the Enable Federation screen (like this).

    Enable Skype Federation

    Image courtesy of TechNet.

  2. Step 2: Verify that Ports 4443 between Front End/Edge, and Port 443 outbound on Edge are open & working. 4443 is the same port used by CMS; it should already be open, but check anyway. You’ll need to check your firewall for Port 443 outbound.
  3. Step 3: Remove and re-add Skype from the SIP Federated Providers list in Skype for Business Control Panel.
    • Click the Skype entry.
    • Click Edit -> Delete.
    • Click New -> Public Provider.
    • In the new provider window, enable these options.
      • Check the box for “Enable communications with this provider”
      • Provider Name: Skype
      • Access Edge service (FQDN): federation.messenger.msn.com
      • Default verification level: Select “Allow users to communicate with everyone using this provider”.
    • Click Commit.
  4. Step 4: Restart Front End and Edge. Very important! If you don’t restart the services on Front End and Edge, the Skype Directory remains inaccessible.
  5. Step 5: Log out & log back in on your Skype for Business client.

That’s all. The old “yank it out and redo it”.

skypedirenable

(Note: This can be done in PowerShell as well. However the cmdlet is long and cumbersome. You’ll find it in the cited pages below, if you prefer that route.)

If you don’t have any federation/PIC enabled, you have a few more steps to take. Please follow the full/”from scratch” steps listed on these pages:

The same search functionality is available in Skype for Business Online. I haven’t worked with this yet, so I’ll direct you to the TechNet and UC Guys posts linked above for the how-to.

After we re-entered Skype as a SIP Federated Provider – and restarted the servers – guess what? Skype Directory names flooded into my search results. Exactly as expected.

What Skype for Business Server feature would you like more information about? Please comment or email. I’ll keep all requests in mind while digging through the new server.

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How to Sell Skype for Business (to People Who Hate Skype)

Skype for Business

At a recent Meetup, someone commented on the irony of Microsoft pitching “Skype for Business” to IT admins…who’ve hated Skype for years.

It’s true, too. Skype has a sordid history in the office. Many businesses outright block Skype, for some pretty good reasons:

  1. It’s a bandwidth hog
  2. It’s a potential security hole for hackers/malware to get in
  3. Messages not trackable by other applications (e.g. for compliance purposes)
  4. It allows for unregulated file transfers
  5. Employees can waste work time chatting with friends

(We’ve encountered problems stemming directly from #1 and #2. Let’s all thank our good friends at Malwarebytes for providing such a thorough malware removal app.)skypeforbusiness-nooo

These troubles have resulted in many different methods of blocking Skype from the office network.

  • Blacklisting via third-party apps or AD policies
  • Software auditing
  • Removing installation privileges from local machines
  • Port blocking
  • And I’m sure there are more out there!

Thanks to the name similarity, we now have a question to ask.

Will IT pros give Skype for Business a fair chance?

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

It’s common for people to see two similarly-named things and assume they’re similar in makeup. Sometimes it’s even true. But while Skype and Skype for Business have similar names, they are indeed two different products. At least for now.

Skype for Business has a larger feature set. It takes network security into account, and integrates with Active Directory. You can even run Skype and Skype for Business alongside one another (at least for now).

Nonetheless, some IT pros will see the new Skype for Business logo and flail their arms. “AAH! Skype! Kill it!”

Honestly, I don’t blame a lot of IT managers, sysadmins and support staff for not liking Skype. It does have plenty of issues. But we mustn’t let a consumer-grade app’s history obscure the benefits of a similarly-named, much-more-capable system like Skype for Business.

Let’s talk about how to overcome the mental hurdles. How we can sell Skype for Business to the skeptics.

Sales Points for Pitching Skype for Business (even Anti-Skype IT Pros Can Appreciate)

I’ve created some marketing points from an IT perspective. These are written to appeal to good reason, proper network administration, and balancing between user experience & smooth-running servers.

Some of them have come from our discussions with new Skype4B customers. Others I’ve worked up fresh for the blog. You are free to use them whenever they help out (though we do appreciate links in return!).

When trying to sell Skype for Business 2015…

  1. Use a Lync Comparison. Since Skype for Business is built primarily from Lync Server 2013’s foundation, it’s not the same thing as Skype. Its feature set alone makes for a very different (and much more controlled) system. Plus, Lync’s major sales points still hold true.
    • Full communications suite, operating within the office network
    • PSTN call capability without a big expensive PBX
    • No need for third-party video conferencing or chat software
    • Conversations protected and searchable later
    • Choose which communication medium (phone/IM/conference/chat/video) works best at the time
  2. Much Better Bandwidth Management. According to the Skype FAQ, Skype needs anywhere from 100kbps to 1.5Mbps per user for calls! (The higher end includes video.) While this isn’t terrible with today’s network connections, your ability to control its bandwidth is limited.
    Conversely, Skype for Business Server 2015 has lower bandwidth requirements, AND it incorporates bandwidth control measures directly within it!

  3. Presence Indicators. If someone’s chatting with a friend on Skype, you don’t see any indicators of their status. If they’re using Skype for Business, you DO see their Presence status (“In a call”). Good way to keep people on task.
  4. Contact Governance. Yes, Skype for Business allows access to the Skype Directory for adding contacts. (I have some posts forthcoming on this topic.) However, administrators can monitor this, and use policies to govern who can add whom.
    Gee, Mary has 160 contacts on her Skype for Business client. But her team has only 10 members. Time to adjust her contacts list…
  5. Try it Out in Office 365. Still wary of Skype for Business? Try it out for yourself! Use an existing Office 365 account, or sign up for a dedicated Skype for Business Online account. It’s $5.50 a month to try out the full feature set. Pretty cheap way to see what’s new & exciting.

Have you tried to sell a Skype-skeptic on Skype for Business 2015? Please comment or email what you said, and what (if anything) worked.

Or, if you’re on Spiceworks, post to my topic! Link below. I’d love to hear how the discussion’s going.
Have you tried to sell Skype for Business to someone who hates Skype? – Spiceworks.com

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Why You Need a Computer Without Lync 2013 Admin Tools to Run Skype for Business’ In-Place Upgrade

Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business

A few days ago, we cleared some time. Ready to test the new In-Place Upgrade by upgrading our in-house Lync Server 2013 to Skype for Business Server 2015.

(Details, once again: System is a single Lync Server 2013 Standard Edition with one Edge Server and a SIP Trunk for Enterprise Voice. SQL Server 2012 backend database.)

Almost immediately though, we hit a snag and had to stop. Reading our documentation, we came across a requirement that almost seemed to contradict the whole notion of an “In-Place” upgrade.

In-Place Upgrade Can’t Run on a Server with Lync Core Components or Admin Tools On It!

I’ll quote the TechNet page Upgrade to Skype for Business Server 2015 for an explanation.

Step 1: Install Administrator tools and download topology
Connect to computer in the topology that does not have Lync OCSCore or any other Lync components installed.

According to Microsoft, Lync 2013 Admin Tools cannot be installed on the Lync Server before Skype for Business In-Place Upgrade proceeds.

You’ll also find this referenced on other Lync blogs with Skype for Business Server install walkthroughs.

  1. Mark Vale’s Blog: Skype for Business Server In-Place Upgrade Step by Step. Under Front End Server Pre-Requisites, “A server or workstation without Lync 2013 Admin Tools installed.”
  2. Jaap Wesselius: Upgrade Lync 2013 to Skype for Business 2015 Step-by-Step. Under Upgrade Process, “It is not possible to install these on the existing Lync 2013 server, so a (temporary) server needs to be used. It is important that this server does not contain any Lync 2013 binaries.”
  3. Guy Bachar’s “Just a Lync Guy” Blog: Lync Server 2013 Standard to Skype for Business Server 2015 Standard In-place Upgrade (Offline Method). Under Step-by-Step Upgrade, “Connect to a computer which is part of the domain but does not have any Lync core components or admin tools installed on it.”

The important question: Why?

Image from Microsoft TechNet/Skype for Business.

Image from Microsoft TechNet/Skype for Business.

What is Microsoft up to with this snag?

We might have a partial answer in a related issue.

LRS Admin Tool Not Compatible with Skype for Business – The Old Version, Anyway

As it turns out, you can’t have the LRS Admin Tool running on the Lync Server either. According to the Plan to Upgrade to Skype for Business Server 2015 page:

Be sure to uninstall LRS Admin tool for Lync Server 2013 before running In-Place Upgrade. The LRS Admin Tool for Lync Server 2013 cannot coexist with Skype for Business Server 2015. After running In-Place Upgrade install the new LRS Admin tool, see Microsoft Lync Room System Administrative Web Portal for Skype for Business Server 2015.

So a new version of the LRS (Lync Room System) Admin Tool is available in Skype for Business. They want you to remove the old version first, to avoid conflicts. Okay. That makes sense.

Is this the case for the Lync 2013 Core Components/Admin Tools too? Another version conflict? Does Skype for Business’ new Administrative Tools conflict with Lync’s?

After some more digging, I determined this is indeed the case.

  1. Skype for Business’ Administration Tools need to replace the Lync 2013 Admin Tools, in order to begin In-Place Upgrade.
  2. If the Lync Admin Tools are NOT removed, you could end up with an error which halts In-Place Upgrade.

#2 is important. Take a look at this recent TechNet support thread: Upgrade to Skype for Business Server – TechNet Support Forums

Reply #10 contains some screenshots and a description of the error you’d hit with Core Components. The error text is as follows:
“The MSI OcsCore.msi returned error code 1603, log file location: C:\Users\LYNCADMIN\AppData\Local\Temp\OcsCore.msi-[2015_05_14][19_15_33].log”
(You’ll see different date & number stamps in the log filename.)

Reply #10 was able to fix this by using Revo Uninstaller on Lync’s Core Components…but was immediately faced with another installation error. Troublesome.

And seemingly avoidable, if you remove the Lync Core Components/Admin Tools first.

What We Recommend – Use a Fresh Server or Desktop for Installing Administrative Tools

But what if your Lync Server is a Standard Edition like ours? The Core Components are on the same server as the Front End Role – it’s rather hard to do an In-Place Upgrade like that!

The alternative (and what we’d recommend if you’re starting an In-Place Upgrade) is:
Don’t use a computer with Lync Core Components or Admin Tools on it.
Instead, use:

  • A fresh Windows Server (no Lync Server 2013 components installed) added to your domain, OR
  • A desktop already on the domain.

Not entirely sure why Microsoft couldn’t auto-remove Core Components right before installing Skype for Business Administration Tools. For whatever reason they opted not to.

But that’s why we have blogs like this one – to help the rest of us work with Lync, now Skype for Business, and its related tech.

Speaking of blogs, if you’re eager to do an In-Place Upgrade, I recommend reading all 3 of the above-referenced blog posts. Mark, Jaap and Guy all did a great job of laying out step-by-step walkthroughs.

Have you done a Skype for Business In-Place Upgrade? How did it go? Please comment or email me your experience. Every installation is unique; I’d love to hear what happened for yours.

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Pricing for Skype for Business 2015: 3 Scenarios

Skype for Business

Last week we discussed Skype for Business 2015 on-prem licensing. That’s half the equation. The other half is that bane of Microsoft administrators everywhere…license costs.

To prepare for this post, we dug through our Microsoft Partner documentation and spoke with our suppliers. Which is where we hit a caveat – depending on which supplier we would order Skype for Business 2015 from, we got slightly different pricing.

As such, I’m quoting MSRP pricing here. Depending on your supplier, your pricing may vary.
I intend this post as a “standardized reference” for U.S. IT Pros. We’re glad to inform your purchasing decisions…but always get a final quote before agreeing to buy!

Skype for Business costs HOW much?! -Image courtesy of Phaitoon on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Please also note that this information is accurate as of May 25, 2015. According to one supplier, Microsoft will raise their on-premises User CAL pricing by 13% on August 1, 2015. The list price for Device CALs will not change.

Microsoft may change its pricing again at any point in the future. (If this does happen I’ll try to update the post and remind everyone.)

That’s it for the disclaimers. On to the pricing!

The Pricing Scenarios We’ll Use – Office 365, Hybrid, On-Premise

Just listing off some numbers is boring. This is the Lync/Skype4B Insider – we don’t do boring.

So for this post, we’ll show you Skype for Business 2015 pricing in 3 different scenarios.

Scenario 1: 25 users. Office 365 account/Skype for Business Online.
Scenario 2: 25 users. Full on-premise Skype for Business Server 2015.
Scenario 3: 25 users. Hybrid deployment; Office 365 for primary Skype for Business services, on-premise Skype for Business Server for Enterprise Voice.

Scenario 1: Office 365

This is the easiest to identify. We even have two options: a standalone Skype for Business Online plan, or bundled with Office 365.

Standalone Skype for Business Online Plan Pricing:
Online Plan 1: $2.00/user per month
Online Plan 2: $5.50/user per month
With 25 Users: Online Plan 1 costs $50/month. Online Plan 2 costs $137.50/month.

Office 365 Pricing (with Skype for Business Online included):
Enterprise E1: $8.00/user per month
Enterprise E3: $20.00/user per month
With 25 Users: E1 costs $200/month. E3 costs $500/month.

This scenario works for: Small/new businesses, cloud-friendly businesses.

Scenario 2: On-Premise/Skype for Business Server 2015

Since we learned last week that a license is required for every Front End server in Skype for Business Server 2015, let’s assume 1 Front End in our On-Premise scenario.

  • 1 Front End Server License (MSRP) – $3,646.00
  • 25 Standard User CALs – $36.00 each, or $900 total
  • 25 Enterprise User CALs (Conferencing & desktop sharing) – $124.00 each, or $3,100 total
  • 25 Plus User CALs (Voice & call management) – $124.00 each, or $3,100 total

Total: $10,746.00

This scenario works for: Enterprises, businesses who want Persistent Chat and/or on-site data storage.

Scenario 3: Hybrid (Office 365 with a Skype for Business Server running Enterprise Voice)

In this scenario you could use either E1 or E3 for Office 365. I’ll use E3, assuming you want full hybrid capabilities.
25 Office 365 users, E3 plan – $500/month, or $6,000/year.

Skype for Business Enterprise Voice is installed on-premise.
1 Front End Server License (MSRP), required to establish Enterprise Voice functionality – $3,646.00
25 Plus User CALs (for Enterprise Voice) – $124.00 each, or $3,100 total
Total (for 1 year): $12,746.00

This scenario works for: Cloud-cautious businesses, businesses with an existing Exchange Server or Office 365 accounts.

Which Scenario Will You Use to Transition?

Remember these scenarios discuss licensing prices only. Hardware and implementation costs are not included. Which is why, while the Hybrid scenario appears the most expensive in terms of licensing, it may wind up saving you money on hardware. Depending on your office network.

Of these 3, which looks like the scenario you would use to transition your business to Skype for Business 2015? Please comment or email. I’d love to know your thoughts on the new pricing too.

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Licensing for Skype for Business 2015: The Details

Skype for Business

Back in November I asked the question, “Will Skype for Business have the same CAL structure Lync Server 2013 does?”

Turns out that yes, it will!

Now that Skype for Business Server 2015 is on its way out into the world, I decided to look at its licensing. Surely by now we’d know what kind of licensing you must use.

And to a large extent we do. I came across several pages, Microsoft and otherwise, with licensing details.Skype4BLicensing2

Skype for Business team here at Microsoft. Ask us Anything! – Reddit.com: An entire Reddit discussion with the Skype for Business team. Wherein they answered a lot of questions, from licensing to security to “Why does Skype not close when I click the X?”

The licensing topic itself is a little buried, so you can head to this link instead for that: Skype for Business Licensing: The Issues – Mirazon.com. A nicely-collected summary on licensing structure.

To make it even easier for our readers, here are all the details I’ve collected.

The Skype4B Licensing Details

For on-prem versions, Licensing for Skype for Business Server stays the same as Lync Server 2013.

  • Each Front End server requires a server license.
  • Each user (or device) requires a standard CAL.
  • Add an Enterprise CAL for conferencing & desktop sharing, a Plus CAL for voice & call management, or both.
  • Client licenses are required for using the Skype for Business client. (These are included in Office 2013 Professional Plus, too.)
  • You’ll find a Licensing Guide on the Skype for Business IT Pros page.

Do you have Software Assurance? Then your licensing is taken care of. From Microsoft’s Skype for Business FAQs Page:

“How do current customers get Skype for Business?
Current Lync Server customers with Software Assurance will have rights to deploy Skype for Business. Office 365 customers with Lync Online will receive automatic updates as part of the subscription service.”

For Lync admins, this is good news. No huge licensing changes means a simpler upgrade path. Fewer hassles to deal with. Those of us with Software Assurance are in great shape too.

The Bad News

You knew it was coming. Fortunately, the bad news doesn’t have to do with licensing itself, but with license costs.
Pricing is still hard to obtain.

As anyone who’s worked with Microsoft software knows, nailing down pricing for licenses is a bit…challenging. (Okay, it’s like trying to keep 10 cats in a full bathtub.)

I’d planned to have pricing details available for you in this post. But I’m still chasing down the numbers, and I didn’t want to hold this licensing information back that long.

So now you know what we’ll blog about next week. Shhh, don’t tell…wait, no, tell everyone you know!

Have you installed Skype for Business Server 2015 yet? Testing or production, either way. I’d love to hear your experiences so far, with licensing and everything else. Please comment or email your thoughts.

And don’t forget to come back here next week!

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Which Skype for Business Product Should You Use?

Skype for Business

Skype for Business is looking like a complete ecosystem – software products covering all platforms. Desktops, laptops, phones, tablets, cloud. “Unified Communications” seems to have given way to “Universal Communications”.

Businesses have a real choice for their VoIP phones, chat, conferencing, etc. these days. If you’re going with Skype for Business, you have a decision to make – Skype for Business Server, or Skype for Business Online?

Feature Comparison

In the past, Lync Online had limits. It was missing PSTN connectivity, Enterprise Voice features & Persistent Chat.
Why Doesn’t Lync Online Include Persistent Chat? 4 Reasons
Reader Question: Call Transmission in Lync Server vs. Lync Online

That’s changing with Skype4B Online.
Skype-for-Business-logo-FI

office-365-logo2

Baked-in Enterprise Voice and PSTN Connectivity are coming with Skype for Business Online’s rollout. Which makes Skype4B Online into what many people originally thought Lync Online/Office 365 would become: a full-fledged cloud-based communications platform. UC as a Service.

Lync Online to Become Full-Fledged Hosted UC Service – NoJitter

Feature-wise, this makes the two Skype for Business platforms are very similar. Add in Exchange Online and your users may not be able to tell the difference.

Skype for Business Service Descriptions (Server and Online) – TechNet

The Differences: Support and Scale

All that said, I still think there’s even more value to Skype for Business Server 2015. You have more control over support, features unique to the Server version…and there’s the question of scalability.

Scaling up on Office 365 is pretty easy – have more users? Buy some more Business or Enterprise licenses.
(Note: Skype for Business Online is available with Office 365 Business Essentials, Premium, and Enterprise E1. But it doesn’t have PSTN capability at these levels. If you want to make calls out, you’ll need the ProPlus or Enterprise E3 levels.)

However, you’re paying more every month for users this way. You don’t with Skype for Business Server – you instead buy a one-time CAL, add users in Active Directory & enable in Skype4B.  (Thanks to Brad for the CAL reminder, below.  I’ll come back to this topic.)

Remember how I mentioned Lync Online didn’t have Persistent Chat? Turns out Skype for Business Online won’t get it either.

According to this plan comparison, Persistent Chat and dial-in audio conferencing are only available in Skype for Business Server 2015. (Enterprise Voice functionality is listed as server-only too, but the NoJitter article talks about Microsoft phasing Enterprise Voice into Skype for Business Online over time.)

I’ve said before that I’m a big fan of Persistent Chat. So this news really disappoints me. Skype for Business Online users are missing out here. Server users aren’t.

Finally, support. All Office 365 plans include phone & web/email support from Microsoft, plus the Office 365 Community. However, if you still need support beyond this, you’ll have to pay for either Premier Support or work with a Microsoft Partner.

Server 2015 support has similar options – Microsoft’s knowledge base, standard Microsoft Support, and working with a Microsoft Partner for advanced support needs.

Either way, you’d end up working with a Microsoft Partner (like us!).

Which Version to Use, by Business Size/Type

All that said, here are my recommendations for who should use which version of the Skype for Business product.

Skype for Business Server 2015:

  1. Enterprises
  2. Multi-Location businesses
  3. Cloud-Cautious businesses (security & uptime are critical, or you must keep data in-house due to regulations).
    1. A hybrid environment is also possible. We’ll discuss these options in a later post.
  4. Businesses who use (or want to use) Persistent Chat, Dial-In Audio Conferencing & E911.

Skype for Business Online:

  1. Small businesses without an Exchange Server
  2. New businesses/startups (until the company grows)
  3. Organizations using a group of online communications tools already – WebEx, Join.Me, Jabber/Google Talk, HipChat

(I reserve the right to modify these recommendations later, as we see more of the rollout!)

While cloud-based services definitely have value – we host our own private cloud for customers, in fact – there’s still plenty of case to use an on-prem version.

Which Skype for Business product are you considering? Please comment or email with your thoughts and reasoning.

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Lync Web App Doesn’t Like Chrome (or does Chrome Not Like Lync Web App?)

Lync 2013 Client

While running a test on our Lync Conferencing, I came across a curious little error.

The Meeting itself worked fine (of course!). Logging into it from Internet Explorer, no problem. Logging in on Chrome? Hmmm. Well, the computer downloaded the Lync Web App plugin. But I see no prompt saying it’s been installed.

I check the computer’s Event Viewer – Lync Web App Plugin installed successfully. Yet Chrome didn’t give me a prompt?

I switched to Firefox. Even re-downloaded & re-installed the Lync Web App plugin. It sweeps right through install and brings up the Lync Meeting.

So no issues with the Lync Web App plugin itself, right? We have some sort of issue with the Google Chrome browser.

When I commented on this to my co-worker, he mentioned a Microsoft Update made within the December 2014 Cumulative Update. Here’s the details:

“Google Chrome no longer supports Lync Web App” message when you join a Lync meeting by using Google Chrome – Microsoft Support

Evidently, after you install the December 2014 Cumulative Update, you can see this error in Chrome when you try to load Lync Web App:

Lync Web App on Chrome

Image courtesy of Support.Microsoft.com.

You can still copy the meeting URL and switch to another browser.

Microsoft also recommends installing an additional update from December 31 (direct download page) as a fix.

However, I did not see this message at all. Lync Web App would not come up in Chrome, yet I see no indication of why on the Meeting page.

Under “More Information” there’s a link to the Chromium Blog from late last year. The post linked talks about Google removing NPAPI plugin support.  The Final Countdown for NPAPI – Chromium Blog

What Does NPAPI Have to Do with Lync Web App?

Here’s the overview on NPAPI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPAPI

It’s an old plugin architecture, used for over a decade now, and in many forms. You’ll find NPAPI plugins in use for Java, Flash, Google’s own Google Earth…and Microsoft Silverlight.

Yes, the same Silverlight you need to run Lync Web App.

The Google announcement stated that in its April 2015 Chrome release (version 42), NPAPI support in Chrome is disabled by default. It can be reactivated, but in September 2015 NPAPI support goes away permanently.

I went back & checked. Sure enough, I had Chrome 42 running. That was why I couldn’t load Lync Web App in Chrome…they don’t like each other anymore!

Would an HTML5 Lync Web App Resolve This?

Google essentially made an executive decision against NPAPI and in favor of HTML5. Now that is their right; HTML5 is a promising technology. And given that they made the original announcement in late 2013, they did give lots of notice so vendors could change their plugins.

Microsoft has at least issued a server-side fix to help. If you’re a Lync administrator, make sure you have the December 31st Update installed.

But a move from NPAPI toward HTML5 raises another question. What about Skype for Business’ web app? Would IT work in Chrome when it’s here?

What about Skype for Business Web App?

I read through some updated documentation about the Lync/Skype for Business Web App. I wanted to see if Microsoft plans an HTML5 version of its plugin.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much. One may be in the works – there’s this mention on the Skype Blog of a “Skype for Web” launched in beta November 2014. But for now the documentation only contains updates discussing the name change & the new Skype-integrated features.

I did find a list of supported platforms though: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg425820%28v=ocs.15%29.aspx

(The last modified date is April 13th. I’d have thought that meant they updated it to mention Windows Server 2012, and up-to-date version numbers on the browsers…)

Anyway, the important point: The “32-bit Version of Chrome 18.x” column says NO on Lync/Skype for Business Web App support, while the Internet Explorer 11 and “32-bit Version of Firefox 12.x” columns say YES.

Chrome Does Not Like Lync/Skype for Business Web App. Plan Accordingly.

Judging by the recent comments on the Chromium Blog post, I’m not the only one who’s not too happy with Google over this. Deprecating support for a widely-used plugin is their right, and it’s not hard to see why.

That said, this essentially means we have to tell clients not to use Chrome in the office. It doesn’t support Silverlight, Java, Flash, etc. as of last month. Anyone joining their Lync Meetings must be informed of this too – if they normally use Chrome, and try to join a Lync Meeting with Lync Web App? They’ll hit a snag.

What’s your opinion on Google deprecating support for NPAPI plugins? Please comment or email. And don’t forget to join us again next week!

P.S. – We’re making some changes on the blog to welcome in Skype for Business. I want to hear everyone’s thoughts as the changes roll out.

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Management Shell Showing a Blank Window? A Bug’s Stopping PowerShell From Loading

Lync Server 2013

Only a few more days until Skype for Business Server 2015 is here! We’re eagerly prepping a virtual server for testing.

Is anyone seeing Skype for Business Online in their Office 365 accounts yet? If so, please comment or email. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the transition experience.

In the meantime, we have another troubleshooting post for today. This one’s on PowerShell – or more specifically, Lync Server Management Shell.

NOTE: Today’s issue took place on Windows Server 2012 R2. You’ll see why that’s important in a moment.

While working on a client’s Lync Server Front End, Larry kept noticing that he would load the Lync Server Management Shell…but he didn’t receive a command prompt. Only an empty black window would pop up.

Removing & recreating the shortcut didn’t help. Larry confirmed that the Management Shell and Control Panel showed no errors. What was causing this?

Discussion amongst the Lync team found none of us had encountered this before. To the search engines!

The Culprit: The Shortcut Target String

Microsoft Support Forums didn’t yield an answer in the first couple searches. But they did lead us to a fellow IT consultant’s blog, over in the UK:
Lync 2013 Powershell – Blank Screen: MSV Blog

Matt posted about the very same PowerShell error last year. Interestingly, he notes that he didn’t get a Management Shell prompt “from time to time.” It would seem that this error is sometimes “overcome” by the OS, allowing it to run PowerShell properly.

That suggests the problem isn’t with PowerShell itself, but with something calling it. And indeed, that’s what Matt discovered. His Lync Server Management Shell shortcut target was missing something:

powershell.exe -noexit -command “cd $env:UserProfile; Import-Module ‘C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Lync Server 2013\Modules\Lync\Lync.psd1′

Can you spot it? Look at the end of the string. A single quotation mark…but no closing quote for the one before “cd $env:UserProfile”.

We checked the client’s Windows Server again. Sure enough, its Management Shell shortcut didn’t have a closing quote either.

We added the quote back into the Management Shell shortcut, like so:

powershell.exe -noexit -command “cd $env:UserProfile; Import-Module ‘C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Lync Server 2013\Modules\Lync\Lync.psd1′”

Then unpinned the shortcut from the taskbar & repinned. Poof, PowerShell came right up.

Kudos to Matt for his sharp eyes! Please visit his blog for more detail on this error & many other Microsoft-related troubleshooting posts.

Where Does This Bug Come From?

Matt believes this is a Windows Server 2012 R2 bug, as it didn’t occur consistently among his Lync Server2013 installations. I’m inclined to agree, though I can’t fully dismiss a Lync Server bug, for one reason. PowerShell is not limited to Lync Server, but it’s the Lync Server Management Shell shortcut which “hosts” the bug.

Either way, it was likely introduced by a recent Microsoft Update. Since Matt’s post is dated March 2014, it could be this Windows Server 2012 R2 Update: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2928678

Or one of the packages in this Lync Server 2013 Update: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2863908

We’re not 100% sure. But the important thing is, if you keep your Windows Servers up-to-date (which you should always do), you may encounter this error with PowerShell.

And thanks to Matt, we have a quick solution.

As we saw with last week’s Skype4B UI post, PowerShell continues its importance in the next version of Lync. Have you experienced a PowerShell error? If so, please comment or email with the details.

(P.S. – A couple people commented that they could not find the “EnableSkypeUI” parameter! Here’s a post to help you out, courtesy of Blog.Kloud.com.au: EnableSkypeUI Where Art Thou? – Kloud)

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    The Lync Insider/Skype4B Insider is a blog about the technology we use to communicate in business today. Here we talk about Microsoft's Skype for Business Server 2015, Lync Server 2013, Unified Communications, Voice over IP and related technologies like Exchange Server. Written by Chris W., MCSE in Communication and PlanetMagpie IT Consulting's Tech Writer.
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