How to Create a Custom Monitoring Report in Skype for Business (and Lync Server)

Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business, SQL Server 2012

In August I promised a post on creating custom Monitoring Reports. Here are the previous Monitoring Server posts, for reference:
“Which Monitoring Report Should I Use for X?” (Part 1)
“Which Monitoring Report Should I Use for X?” (Part 2)

Time to deliver!

1. Determine which criteria you want to employ in the custom report.

I’d wager your reason is to combine several different Monitoring data into one report. Or to drill down on a specific data point. Either way, start by defining the specifics before you even touch the Monitoring Server.
First, choose from the available Monitoring categories:

  • System health
  • System usage
  • CDR Data
  • Per-User Failed Sessions (Peer to Peer, Conferencing)
  • Diagnostic Data (Peer to Peer, Conferencing)
  • Call Quality
  • User Activity
  • Failed Call Diagnostics

For a list of metrics belonging to these categories, see this TechNet page: Using the Monitoring Dashboard in Skype for Business Server 2015 – TechNet

Also consider time period. Do you want reporting on the past 2 weeks? 30 days? Longer? You’ll have to factor this in too.

Finally, clarify the goal of this report. Do you want to keep an eye on Sales’ call quality? Monitor the system health at a branch location? It helps to write this down & keep it in mind during setup.

For the rest of these steps, I consulted the following posts (and encourage you to do the same):
Lync 2013 – Creating Custom Lync Reports within Monitoring: Northern UC
How to build a custom report for Lync/Skype for Business – Just a Lync Guy

2. Access the Monitoring Reports Page

Do this via the report page’s URL, plus login & password. If you aren’t sure of the URL, use the “Get-CsReportingConfiguration” Powershell cmdlet to locate it.

DO NOT click “LyncServerReports” just yet. What we want instead is the Report Builder.

3. Begin Creating with the Report Builder

If you don’t see Report Builder on the toolbar, either:

  • Report Builder is disabled on the SQL reporting server
  • You don’t have permission to use it
  • You’ll need to install the Report Builder application

If you do need the Report Builder application, download it here: Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Report Builder
(Hopefully we’ll get a new version of this with SQL 2016.)

Use your Monitoring Server Reports URL for its Report Server field.

Once installed/active on the server, select “New Report” in the New Report or Dataset window.  Select “Table or Matrix Wizard”.

On the “Choose a Dataset” screen, select an existing dataset or create a new one. You’ll be prompted for a data source. You’re looking for the SQL DB containing the monitoring data relevant to your goals. (See, told you it helps to know!)

Our Monitoring Server has two data sources – CDRDB and QMSDB. I went with the CDRDB – “Data source associated with the call detail recording (CDR) database” – for now.

CDRDB Data Source

Click OK, and then Next. If prompted for credentials, enter your administrative login & password.

Next you’ll see the “Design a Query” dialog. Here’s where you build up a SQL query using information from the Monitoring data source. Check the options you want in the Database View list, and modify the fields in the Selected Fields list as needed.

(There are many more procedures than I could describe here. Suffice to say that you’ll need a little SQL knowledge to properly build your query.)

Example SQL query code from the "Sample Lync Persistent Chat Archive Report"

Example SQL query code from the “Sample Lync Persistent Chat Archive Report

Click Next. On the “Arrange Fields” screen, drag and drop your fields into rows & columns for an orderly view. Click Next again for layouts and styles (not critical in my eyes, but you may want to style your reports). Click Finish.

4. Test and Upload Your New Custom Report

Afterward, click the Run button at top left to run the report. Doing this now means you can verify the report works as desired, and there’s no errors. If there are, use the Edit button to modify the report’s fields, parameters, etc.

When your custom report is ready, click Save. Place it directly in the Reports folder on your Monitoring Server. (If you don’t see it right away, look under “Recent Sites and Servers”). Now you should see it in your Skype for Business/Lync Reports list!

You can also upload reports from within Reporting Services, using the “Upload File” button.


Which is great, because others have created custom Monitoring Reports already!

Created a Custom Monitoring Report? Add it to the Community Report Repository

Matt Landis collected Monitoring & Archiving Reports in a Community Report Repository:
Skype for Business (Lync) Community Report Repository – Microsoft UC Report

Great if you want direct examples of custom reports. Or if these already do what you’re looking for.

Have you created a custom Monitoring Report? If so, what was the function you wanted? Please comment or email. If the standard reports work fine for you, please share what you use them for too.

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Call for Renaming: Let’s Refer to Consumer-Grade Skype as SkypeC

Skype for Business

If you’ve read almost anything about Skype for Business, you’ve run into a moment of confusion.

You read a certain paragraph, and suddenly think, “Wait, was he referring to Skype for Business, or regular Skype?”

Despite the “for Business,” many blog posts, news articles & so on are referring to the new Skype for Business as just “Skype”. This breeds an immediate and (in my mind) serious confusion.

That’s why I’m using today’s post to call for a new naming convention for consumer-grade Skype.

SkypeC for Consumer

From now on, let’s differentiate between the two products like this.

1. Skype (Consumer Version) is henceforth referred to as “SkypeC“.

Simple and clear. SkypeC = “Skype Consumer”. That’s too many syllables for a quick reference though, so abbreviating it down to “SkypeC” keeps it fast.

Amazingly, this does already exist as a Twitter hashtag – #SkypeC. However, it hasn’t been in regular use for a couple years now. It’s time to resume use. I’ll do so when posting to Twitter from now on. You are welcome to do the same, of course!

2. Skype for Business, if abbreviated, is referred to as “Skype4B“.

This is already used as a Twitter hashtag: Hashtag #Skype4B
I’ve used the abbreviation myself for weeks now. You can even refer to this blog as “The Skype4B Insider”.

Why would we need this though? Why not just stick with “Skype”? As I’ll clarify below, confusion is brewing…there’s a need for clarity.

The Need for Better Naming Convention

Skype. Skype for Business. Similar names, similar features, similar interfaces.

While one is intended for consumer & one for business, that line has blurred for years. How many of us used consumer-grade Skype in the office at one point or another? Thousands have over the past 5 years. I sure did.

Now Skype for Business presents a clearly business-focused product. Will everyone switch? No. So we’ll still have both consumer Skype (SkypeC) and Skype for Business in use around offices. Simultaneously.

This presents not only an adoption roadblock, but a more disruptive concern.

The Concern: Version Confusion

Let’s say you’re in the office one day, and a colleague requests a Skype call. You have Skype for Business, but they don’t. Maybe that department is slow on upgrades, or this person is just comfortable with SkypeC.

Now, these two should communicate just fine, if set up properly. IMs, calls, and even video should work.

But they don’t use the same codecs. They have different security requirements. They have different feature sets. If a Skype for Business user tries to add a whiteboard or invite more people into an Online Meeting, well, you’re in trouble.

The GetApp Lab Blog has a good write-up on differences between Skype and Skype for Business: Skype vs Skype for Business: What’s the Difference? – GetApp Lab

Examples of SkypeC/Skype4B Confusion

While the SkypeC/Skype for Business confusion has gone on for most of 2015, what really spurred me on this idea was the recent announcement of Office 2016.

One of Office 2016’s new features is having Skype for Business bundled in. All the flagship apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint – will access Skype for Business natively. Reading articles about this though, you’d almost swear they don’t mean Skype for Business. They mean consumer-grade Skype.

Why? Because they don’t clarify the version.

Here’s two examples of said confusion:
Five reasons Microsoft Office 2016 is better than Google Docs, and three reasons it isn’t – CNET
“Microsoft also added integrations with its search engine Bing and messaging and video-calling app Skype.”
At a glance you’d think this means consumer-grade Skype, not Skype for Business. But it doesn’t.

Microsoft Office 2016 Adds Built-In Skype, Collaboration Tools – BloombergBusiness
“Microsoft Corp.’s new Office software will incorporate Internet-connected features such as Skype and the Cortana digital assistant in both its cloud and packaged versions…”
Again, just labeling it as ‘Skype’ and not clarifying.

I’m not criticizing the authors of these pieces. They’re doing what they need to, with the tools they have. I’m only referencing the articles as evidence of the need for clarity.

What Do You Think? Start Calling Consumer Skype “SkypeC”?

I didn’t create the #Skype4B Twitter hashtag. It came into being by consensus as an easy-to-understand abbreviation. That’s why I like using it.

I think “SkypeC” works as another easy-to-understand abbreviation. With 1 letter we instantly know which version we’re talking about. Both in the written word and when speaking.

Maybe in the future, SkypeC and Skype4B will merge to a greater degree. Maybe we won’t need to differentiate between versions then. For now though, I think differentiating adds needed clarity.

Do you think SkypeC is useful? Is it necessary or unnecessary? Please comment or email your thoughts.  I really want to hear some feedback on this one!


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Upgrading to Office 2016? Prepare to Reinstall Skype for Business

Office 365, Skype for Business

Office 2016 has been released! Office 365 users can now download & install the latest version of Office. New apps (including Skype for Business), refinements to existing apps, and new co-authoring features abound.

There’s an excellent review of the Office 2016 suite at Microsoft Office 2016 Review – The Verge

Now, every new version has its quirks & issues. This time though, we have an issue that affects Skype for Business.

If you already run Skype for Business before installing Office 2016…Office 2016 will break it.

Why Office 2016 Attacks Your Current Skype for Business Client

Depending on your current version of Office, or certain Microsoft apps related to it, you may see an error when you install Office 2016.
“We need to remove some older apps” error – Office Support

The error triggers if certain Office 2013 components are already installed on your computer: certain versions of Visio, Project, SharePoint Designer, the OneDrive for Business client…and the Skype for Business client. These versions are viewed as “old” by Office 2016 and thus incompatible.

We’ll focus on Skype for Business here (obviously). In Skype4B’s case, Office 2016 may display an error like the one you see here:

Older Apps - Office 2016

Image courtesy of Office Support.

Or it may just remove your Skype for Business client!

Harry John has some additional information on the error, and his support efforts with Microsoft, on his blog:
Office 2016 Install – “We need to remove some older apps” –

Thanks to quick reporting from people like Harry, Microsoft IS aware of this issue & has documented it. However at this time, they can only offer a workaround.

How to Install Office 2016 and Get Skype for Business Back

Microsoft has put up two URLs documenting this error, and their workaround:
Skype for Business is removed when you upgrade to Office 2016 – Microsoft Support
Skype for Business is removed when you upgrade to Office 2016 – Office365 Community

It’s the same on both pages. The workaround involves installing a fresh, updated copy of the Skype for Business client after Office 2016 finishes installing. Versions are found at either of above URLs, listed by language.

(I downloaded the English version copy. Curiously, it’s named as a retail copy. It also reports as 32-bit.)

Essentially, this means letting Office 2016 mangle your Skype for Business, wipe it out, and then start fresh.

Not Perfect, But It Works (For Now)

I couldn’t ascertain that the same issue occurs with the Office 2016 Desktop version yet. Though it’s entirely possible the same error will occur, since its bundled Skype for Business client is newer than the one we’ve used for months.

If any of you plan to install Office 2016 Desktop, please share your experience in a comment or email. (Hopefully it’s a pleasant one!)


Survey: Skype for Business Issues while Running Windows 10

Skype for Business

Last week, Microsoft released a security update for the Skype for Business 2015 client.
MS15-097: Description of the security update for Microsoft Lync 2013 (Skype for Business): September 8, 2015 – Microsoft Support

Make sure you have all prior security updates installed before installing this one! They are linked on the same page, under “More Information.”

I saw a mention of this on Twitter, right after a ZDNet announcement about troubleshooting Windows 10 problems.

Which led me to talking with co-workers. After hearing some of their newer stories, it was time to blog.

I currently run Skype for Business on Windows 8.1. Haven’t switched to Windows 10 yet, but I’m sure it’s coming soon. Many of our customers are in the process of switching to Windows 10 now. We anticipate about half of them will move within the next 6 months.

Like ZDNet, we’re starting to see issues.

Windows 10 vs. Skype for Business?

Swords image courtesy of anankkml at

The Skype4B Issues Appearing on Windows 10

Not all our customers use Skype for Business. Of those that do, most users report no problems. Only a handful have called to report some issue, like:

  • Skype for Business hangs on the load screen
  • Skype for Business client loads, but immediately crashes
  • Random “Microsoft Lync has stopped working” error messages

What we’re finding is that, for a very few users running Skype for Business on Windows 10, the OS was actually the culprit!

In one case, Cortana prevented Skype for Business from receiving calls. The user didn’t need Cortana, so we disabled it (her?). Skype for Business commenced proper operation after a reboot.

Now, these are both Microsoft software applications. They should get along, right?

It appears not. (To some degree at least.) So, with this in mind, let’s do something a little different this week.

Having Skype for Business Issues on Windows 10? Please Vote in Our Survey

I’d like to request all of our readers respond to this survey:

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 2015-09-16 10:25:00
end_date 2015-09-30 10:29:00
Poll Results:
What kind of issues do you see while running Skype for Business 2015 on Windows 10?

Just a few questions. If you’re experiencing something different, please use the “Other” field.

Our reasoning for the survey is twofold. One, if we can identify bugs in communications between Skype for Business and Windows 10, we’ll submit the data (anonymized of course) to Microsoft Support.

Two, the more we know about real-world Windows 10 issues currently popping up, the more we can study them. Try to replicate them in our datacenter. Figure out solutions.

The survey will run until September 30th. After that, I’ll compile the results and bring them to the rest of our Lync/Skype team. Any & all observations reached will go up on this blog.

I’d also appreciate if you share this post on social media. The more respondents we have, the more real-world data we can compare. I’ve added simple sharing buttons to the bottom of this post.

Thank you for participating! If you have questions, please feel free to comment or email me.

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Skype for Business vs. Google Hangouts

Skype for Business

Skype for Business isn’t the only voice/video option out there. But how does it stack up compared to others?

A reader emailed me the other day, asking about Google Hangouts. They were curious if there was a business case to make for using Hangouts over Skype for Business.

Good question! I made note of it for later. Today qualifies as ‘later’, so let’s do a little head-to-head.

Note: This post is longer than most; I didn’t want to go into exhaustive detail, but I did want a thorough comparison. It’s worth the read, trust me!

The Basics: Feature Sets

Google Hangouts Opening Screen

Skype for Business 2015 Google Hangouts
Instant Messaging Instant Messaging
Voice Calls Voice Calls
Video Calls Video Calls
Conferences/Online Meetings Conferencing
Presence Status Presence Indicator
Persistent Chat Group Conversations
Runs On-Site (Server)
or SaaS option (Office 365)
Runs as Web service
and Mobile Apps


From this match-up, the two look almost identical in terms of feature set. Even their branding is similar:

  • Google Hangouts bills itself as “Messaging, Voice and Video Calls.”
  • Skype for Business bills itself as “Secure Unified Communications.”

I do want to point out one notable difference right away. Google Hangouts reflects more of a consumer-friendly branding approach, while Skype for Business focuses just on business use. This becomes more important as we go along.

The Similarities: Features, Goals, Quality

Features. Obviously, these two systems keep up-to-date on their features. One thing I particularly liked was the fact that Hangouts does sync its chat logs between devices. Lync Server 2013 didn’t have this feature–but Skype for Business does now.

Goals. Hangouts and Skype for Business essentially accomplish the same goal: enabling conversations between everyone, anywhere they are.

Voice Quality. I made a couple calls from the Hangouts Web Service (on a Lenovo Ultrabook) to colleagues. Then I made the same calls to the same people on Skype for Business. My stock audio-receptor devices (commonly called “ears”) detected no difference in voice quality. Both times people sounded as clear as your typical phone call.

Video Quality. Likewise, I tested Video Calls through Hangouts and Skype4B. I can see why people like Hangouts for video calls – you can’t get much simpler than clicking “Video Call” and having the call start up.

Start a Hangouts Video Call

Video quality appears just as good as my usual Skype4B video calls. Curiously, one person’s voice actually sounded better while video was enabled! Perhaps that meant more bandwidth allocated automatically.

The Differences: Price, Privacy, Presence

Price. Hangouts is free, but it has limits. Video calls are limited to 10 people. (I don’t know why you’d want to have more than 10 people talking at once, but hey, if you need to!)

Skype for Business is, of course, not free. You’re paying for the software and the hosting, either on-site or Office 365. In return you get every feature you want, with limits you set. Classic Free vs. Paid tradeoff.

User Interface. Google Hangouts is very visual, lots of emoji, avatars, chat bubbles…it’s “fun”. Again, consumer branding. Skype for Business is less “fun”, but it’s clean and works in a business context.

No big deal here. Your preference will dictate which interface type you like more.

Privacy. With Hangouts, all conversation logs are stored on Google’s servers. This, quite frankly, is a huge concern to me. It means Google has access to every conversation, ever.  And it doesn’t use end-to-end encryption.

We’re VERY privacy-conscious here at PlanetMagpie. We’re even leery of customers using Skype for Business 2015 Online, Microsoft’s Office 365 service. For the same reason.

Of course, with Skype for Business Server 2015, your conversation history is stored on the on-site server. Much better for privacy.

Presence. Skype for Business beats Google Hangouts here, in my opinion. Hangouts’ presence indicators are good for seeing who’s available/not available at a glance. Particularly on Android devices.

Hangouts uses a green circle to identify Available contacts (example on right). Very much like Skype for Business does. Custom status messages are available too.

However, you don’t have options for other status types, such as Away or Busy. This is where Skype for Business’ Presence functionality pulls ahead. It has more options: Available, Busy, Do Not Disturb, Away, In a Call, etc. We’ve also covered creating custom Presence status options in the past.


Apps. The Hangouts Extension only works in Chrome. I think that’s a “feature not a bug” from Google, but I prefer using Firefox. I can still use the Web-based Hangouts platform, of course. Minor difference.

In terms of app quality, I’d have to give an edge to Google Hangouts. Their iPhone app is clean and fast. I didn’t try out the Android app, but according to Twitter it’s just as good, if not better.


Final Words: Very Close, Use What Works Best For You

Hangouts is a great quick-and-easy choice for video calls and group chats. I’d say it’s a viable choice for small outfits like startups, local nonprofits or communities. Free, lets you communicate the way you want, and doesn’t get in your way.

In larger business environments however, I’d stick with Skype for Business. It’s better suited for the privacy requirements and enterprise voice/video capability needs.

I know some businesses do use Google Hangouts and like it. That’s great–it does work with Google Apps for Business, so you’ve got plenty of tools at your fingertips. It all comes down to which interface you like & where your privacy settings are.

If you have a Google account, you can access Google Hangouts at:

Which do you prefer using – Google Hangouts or Skype for Business? Are there situations where you prefer one over the other? Please comment or email me what you think.


Response Group Ghosts: How to Banish Deleted Lync Users from Response Groups

Lync Server 2013

I’ve spent as much time as I can this past week responding to reader questions. Still more to research though!

Today I wanted to blog about a curious problem one reader (I’ll call him “Tim”) ran into while managing his Lync Server 2013 server. When Tim removed a user from Lync, the user account lingered in their Response Groups.

Didn’t matter what method he used to remove the user account – through the GUI or PowerShell. Even if the user no longer existed in Active Directory, they still appeared in the Response Group member list. Like a ghost.ghost-2-1174324-639x852  (oooOOOoooo…)

What could cause this? Was Tim missing something when removing the user? Did he have to perform an additional step to remove a user from Lync AND from their Response Groups?

How to Remove a User Account in Lync Server 2013

Let’s back up a step. Here’s the official method for removing a user account from Lync Server 2013:
Remove a User Account from Lync Server 2013 – TechNet

(The process is the same in Skype for Business Server 2015.)

It does stand to reason that removing a user would automatically remove them from Response Groups. At the very least, it should deactivate them from the workflow.

I tested account removal on our own server, after adding a dummy account to one of our Response Groups. But the account vanished from the Response Group after I removed it. (It’s possible that the error didn’t occur because we use Skype for Business Server.)

I’ve no doubt Tim performed a correct user account removal. He’s just getting an unusual result. Why?

Why a User Account Lingers in Lync Response Groups

Asking the rest of our Lync/Skype4B team yielded no other encounters with this “ghost” error. So, to Google I went.

It took a while, but the research did bear some fruit. I came across the following TechNet Blogs post: Lync Server: Event 31137,31138 LS Response Group Service – UC Lobby @ TechNet

From what I can tell, the problem originates from the Lync user’s SIP address getting “stuck” in the Response Group Service. That’s how users are associated with a Response Group – through SIP addresses.

It appears that disabling or removing a user sometimes leaves a “ghost” of its SIP behind. If you see Warnings 31137 & 31138 in the Lync Server Front End logs, you have ghosts. This is a noted error in Lync 2013 – an inconsistent one, but it does happen.

How to Clean Out the Response Group “Ghosts”

Fortunately, there is a solution! The TechNet post references a script which should remove the “ghosts” from a Response Group. It’s located at the Greg in Sydney Blog:
Get-InvalidRgsAgents.ps1 –

From the script description:

“This script searches the Event Logs on the local Front-End server for the most recent instance of each error. It then extracts the SIP addresses, tests their current state and reports this information to screen. If you add one of the “-restore” or “-remove” switches, the script will take action to correct the situation.”

Greg has even provided the PowerShell script in a handy ZIP file for download.

Thanks to Greg and the TechNet team, we have a solution for these Response Group “ghosts”. Another reader question answered!

Have you encountered Response Group “ghosts?” Did you remove them, and if so, how? Please comment or email your thoughts.

I’d like to close this post asking for one thing more. Readers on Skype for Business Server: Do you use (or are planning to use) Video Interop Server, or VIS? If so, I’d like to talk with you about your VIS interest and/or experience. Please email me directly.

Have a fun Labor Day Weekend! And join us back here next week.

1 Comment

Ahoy, Where’s the Post?

Lync Server 2013

No post this week, loyal Lync/Skype4B Insider readers. I’ve received several questions from you – most of which need some testing for me to investigate. So I’m taking a little time to do just that.

I may even get a chance to test some new Skype4B add-ons in the next few days too. If so, you’ll hear all about it on the blog.

As soon as I have more information about your issues, you’ll hear from me. In the meantime, take care this week, and join us back here next week for more!

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The SBC and Its Role in Skype for Business

Skype for Business, Third-Party Lync Products, Unified Communications

Today let’s talk about the SBC.

I’ve mentioned SBCs here in the past, on the Lync Add-On Hardware post last year.

A new prospect reminded me of the SBC, as their situation will require one for interoperability reasons. They have several different types of VoIP phones scattered between 3 locations.

(Disclaimer: PlanetMagpie is a Sonus Partner. We use their SBCs for Skype for Business deployments, as well as our own Skype4B server. They didn’t ask me to write this though!)

That said, the reminder spurred me to a thought. “Have I gone into detail on what an SBC does yet? No, I don’t think so. Well, that’s this week’s topic then.”

What’s an SBC?

SBC stands for Session Border Controller. It’s a discrete hardware device which sits in the edge network. There, it

looks at each SIP packet going between your Skype for Business Enterprise Voice network and the external ISP. It determines which packets should be allowed through, and which route they should take.

Server Rack

What Does an SBC Do?

SBCs provide multiple security and mediation services within a VoIP environment.

Let’s say you have two phones – one onsite in your network, one offsite. Bob at Offsite picks up the phone & calls Jane at Onsite. This VoIP call is called a “session”. The SBC looks at Bob’s incoming call, determines that it’s legitimate, and lets it through to Jane. Hence, “Session Border Controller”.

Taking on this role helps stop a lot of bad things from happening. Within a Skype for Business deployment, SBCs can:

  • Protect the network from Denial of Service attacks, spoofing, and other outside attacks
  • Enable SIP trunking
  • Support interoperability between different endpoints (e.g., different VoIP phone types, as I mentioned in the opening above)
  • ‘Transcoding’ calls – Changing the codec used in a call, depending on the session type (audio, video), device type (tablets, laptops, phones), and bandwidth available

Why Would I Need an SBC in my Skype for Business Deployment?

Does your network suffer break-in attempts or DoS attacks? The attackers will target your Skype for Business network too. No question. It needs protection. SBCs are good for that.

Do your people ever call out? There’s no guarantee the SIP endpoints (VoIP phones) will talk to one another. Each phone can have a different bit rate. And if they do, they can’t connect to one another properly. Unless you use an SBC to bridge them (a process called ‘transrating’).

These are the two biggest reasons for an SBC. More exist, depending on your network configuration & security.

Okay then, what SBC should I use?

Right now, according to the Telephony Infrastructure for Skype for Business page on Office TechCenter, only two session border controllers are certified for Skype4B use.

Oracle Net-Net 3820
Sonus SBC 2000

(The Lync Server 2013-approved SBCs will work too. Here’s the full list.)

The Sonus SBC 1000 will also work for Skype for Business; we’ve tested it and the 2000 in small business deployments. Both of them do the job nicely. For Lync Server, we have several 1000s running at customer sites.

You CAN run Skype for Business (or Lync Server) without a Session Border Controller. It’s not mandatory. But it is helpful.

Want more? Sonus has kindly published a simple guide on using SBCs.
Ebook – Session Border Controllers for Dummies

I also like the Skype for Business guide: Ebook – Skype for Business for Dummies.

Both provide good overall explanations for Skype for Business and SBCs.

Do you use a Session Border Controller in your Skype for Business Deployment? What was the primary reason? Please comment or email your thoughts.  And join us again next week!

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Which Monitoring Report Do I Use for X? (Part 2)

Skype for Business

Continuing from last week!

Before I give a few more examples of using Monitoring Reports in Lync/Skype4B support, let me answer a reader question. This reader emailed me last week after he’d checked his own Monitoring Reports.

His question was basically, “What does this ‘Healer Concealed’ column mean?”

Healer Concealed is a ratio given in Monitoring Reports to help you identify poor audio streams. It’s one of three such ratios – Healer Concealed, Healer Stretched, and Healer Compressed.

Full definitions, courtesy of TechNet:

Healer Concealedhealercolumns
“Average ratio of concealed audio samples to the total to the total number of samples. (A concealed audio sample is a technique used to smooth out the abrupt transition that would usually be caused by dropped network packets.) High values indicate significant levels of loss concealment applied caused by packet loss or jitter, and results in distorted or lost audio.”

Healer Stretched
“Average ratio of stretched audio samples to the total to the total number of samples. (Stretched audio is audio that has been expanded to help maintain call quality when a dropped network packet has been detected.) High values indicate significant levels of sample stretching caused by jitter, and result in audio sounding robotic or distorted.”

Healer Compressed
“Average ratio of compressed audio samples to the total number of samples. (Compressed audio is audio that has been compressed to help maintain call quality when a dropped network packet has been detected.) High values indicate significant levels of sample compression caused by jitter, and result in audio sounding accelerated or distorted.”

Essentially, Lync/Skype for Business tries to “heal” its audio streams when they suffer packet loss or jitter. It reports instances of such so we know where & when these losses occur. That’s why you’ll see the Healer ratio columns on multiple reports – Media Quality Summary and Server Performance, for instance.

Hopefully that answers your question, Dutiful Lync/Skype4B Insider Reader!

Now, on to more examples of where Monitoring Reports can help admins out.

Guests report long delays when joining an Online Meeting

Like last week’s examples, join delays are often the fault of a user’s connection. Online Meetings take a little more bandwidth than audio calls (particularly if you enable video). If users aren’t on stable high-quality connections, they’re increasingly susceptible to delays & jitter.

2015-08-12_10-49-21If the user does have a good connection though, we must search for the culprit! There’s a report for that.

PRACTICAL USE: Open the Conference Join Time Report. This report’s devoted only to how long it takes users to join a conference/Online Meeting. Filters & Metrics Reference on TechNet.

This report will only tell you about join times. Its value is in confirming that users are suffering join delays, and how often. Knowing that, you can also open the Conference Diagnostic Report and compare dates.

User X can’t make or receive calls

The key thing to verify here is whether the user’s audio stream is bad, or if there’s a problem on the server. More often than not, the problem’s on the user’s end.

Next stop? The User Activity Report.

PRACTICAL USE: Ask the user to attempt some calls, both internal and external. Then check their account in the User Activity Report. The Detail view will show you session data, media quality, and gateway information. If you have poor values or holes in the data? User X needs a better connection!

Choppy/jerky videoVideo Call Summary

Most of the time, choppy video is the fault of the computer you’re using. The video driver may need updating, or it may have hardware acceleration enabled. (If so, try disabling it by opening Outlook’s options. Click “Advanced” and scroll until you see “Disable hardware graphics acceleration”. Check the box.)

If you’ve confirmed this isn’t the case, then check the Conferencing Diagnostic Report first. That way you determine whether the conference itself had a connection failure.

Next, open the Media Quality Summary Report. There is a section here dedicated to Video Calls. Details show you packet loss, frame rates, and the relative client health. (The Healer Ratio columns are especially helpful here.)

If you’re still searching for the issue, you can always check the user’s User Activity Report too.

PRACTICAL USE: Video is a complex, bandwidth-intensive communication medium. Errors can have more than one cause; if you only fix one, you may still have problems (and I know exactly how frustrating that is!). Troubleshoot video from the endpoint to the server; checking Monitoring Reports at each stage may let you skip a step if you see no indication of trouble.

It Pays to Familiarize Yourself with Monitoring Reports

Thank you for all the responses to last week’s post! Monitoring Reports are a popular tool, it seems. I’ll address creating custom reports in a future post.

For another Monitoring Reports reference, visit this No Jitter post: Living with Lync: Monitoring Success – No Jitter Blog

And this Inside Lync post: A Primer on Lync Audio Quality Metrics – Inside Lync

Both are a little older, but they’re good primers for understanding the depth of Monitoring Reports.

What’s the most common Skype for Business call issue you deal with? Please comment or email me. Now that Skype for Business has been out a little while, I’d like to hear how it’s working for you.

In the meantime, join us again next week!

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Which Monitoring Report Do I Use for X? (Part 1)

Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business

Finally got a chance to revisit Monitoring Reports this week. I’ve wanted to write about these for a while. They’re a huge help when it comes to technical support – and today we’ll give some examples how.

Lync Server/Skype for Business Monitoring Reports display in 4 main report categories:

  1. System Usage Reports – Shows you activity summaries, phone inventory and Call Admission Control usage data.
  2. Call Diagnostic Reports (per user) – Shows you data on different users’ calls & conversations.
  3. Call Diagnostic Reports – Like the previous section, these reports show you diagnostic reports and summaries of call & conversation activity. But in this case they’re divided up by categories, such as “Conference Diagnostic”.
  4. Media Quality Diagnostic Reports – Shows you performance & quality reports for the servers and endpoints.

Lync/Skype4B Monitoring Reports

Skype for Business Server added some more details to the reports, of course. But for the most part they’re the same as before. These instructions will work for both versions.

Access your Monitoring Reports using the URL you set during Lync/Skype 4 Business setup. Open the Reports Homepage.
*Note: Make sure you have appropriate permissions to the SQL Server database where Monitoring Reports live.

Now, on to the examples. I’m looking at a few typical issues Lync/Skype4B administrators will encounter. As you’ll see, Monitoring Reports provide helpful data to inform the troubleshooting process.

Calls are Dropping

Probably the most common support issue we see. Calls drop for many reasons – some of which you don’t control, like PSTN signal quality or Wi-Fi speeds. But you can still identify those reasons.

First place to go is the Call Diagnostic Summary Report, under Category 3. This report gives you graphs & pie charts showing session types & failure rates.

Here’s an example from our own reports.
Call Diagnostic Summary Report

The peer-to-peer sessions report a 6.64% failure rate. That may seem high, but this report covers 3 months’ worth of data. (Otherwise the rate would have been too low to see!)

PRACTICAL USE: Click the Failure Rate percentage. You’ll find more data on where, when & how many failures occurred. Digging down like this helps you isolate the failure origin & causes.

(In our case, half of these were “Expected Failures” – call failures you expect to happen. Like when a user has their Presence set to Do Not Disturb & someone tries calling them.)

Noise Heard on Calls

Call noise has many potential causes. So let’s open 2 reports here – one for the user hearing the noise, one for their device.

User: Open the User Activity Report under Category 2. The per-user sorting helps us out, letting us search by SIP URI or username to locate the user who’s hearing noise.
Call Diagnostics Per User

PRACTICAL USE: Once you’ve located the user’s recent activity, dig through the data to find the noise’s cause. One click takes you into Session Detail Reports for each record. If necessary, click “Detail” here to access Diagnostic Reports below that. They might have an echo, or signal noise from their connection.
If the user’s activity appears fine, it may not be the connection at all. It could be their headset. We can check that too.

Device: Open the Device Report under Category 4. This report shows you data on the devices used for calls – phone, headset, even a laptop mic!

Here’s part of our list.
Lync Devices Report

Practical Use: Depending on the noise type, high values in the Echo Microphone In & Calls With Echo columns indicate noise leaking into conversations. Use this report to determine if the user’s hearing noise from their own phone/headset.

Internal calls are fine, but calls won’t go out

Uh oh! Head to the Server Performance Report under Category 4. Right away you’ll see a list of Lync/Skype4B servers and their current statuses.

(I can’t post a screenshot of this, since it would have our server names & IPs. Please refer to this TechNet article for a full report description: Server Performance Report in Skype for Business Server – TechNet)

PRACTICAL USE: Check your Mediation Server and/or Edge Servers for high values in Degradation, Packet Loss and Jitter. Yellow highlights mean trouble. If you don’t see all of your Enterprise Voice-related hardware, it’s not working properly. Which is why calls aren’t going out!

Monitoring Reports Give You All Sorts of Troubleshooting Help

It’s important to note that you’re not limited to one method with Monitoring Reports. You can reach the same data from a few different routes, or create your own custom reports. I’ll address those later on.

Spend a little time digging through Lync/Skype for Business Monitoring Reports. The data gathered can help you in almost ANY support situation.

What’s the Monitoring Report you reference the most? Please comment or email. I’m also curious to hear why you refer to that report (if you’re able to share).

I’ll do a Part 2 on more Monitoring Report practical uses, coming soon. Don’t forget to check back next week!

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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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