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! – 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 – 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.


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.


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

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:

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:

(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.


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:

Or one of the packages in this Lync Server 2013 Update:

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 EnableSkypeUI Where Art Thou? – Kloud)

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How to Change the Lync 2013 Client Into Skype for Business 2015 (With One Cmdlet)

Lync 2013 Client, Skype for Business

Ladies and gentlemen, Skype for Business is arriving now!

The April 14th Microsoft Update contains the Skype for Business client. You can download it here:

With this update, Microsoft gives us the choice of displaying the new Skype for Business 2015 client interface, or continuing on the Lync 2013 UI. Depends on your users – are they quick to adapt? Are they familiar with Skype? If so, you can safely switch them to the new UI.

Otherwise, it might make more sense to keep them on Lync for now.

Switching between interfaces is done through PowerShell. With a few cmdlets you control which client version your users see.

How to Change Between Lync & Skype4B Clients

CsClientPolicy is the cmdlet we’ll work with for changing between Lync 2013 and Skype for Business 2015. Here’s how you make the magic happen.

To change All Users to Skype for Business UI:
Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity Global -EnableSkypeUI $true

To change All Users to Lync 2013 UI:
Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity Global -EnableSkypeUI $false

What if you only want to change the UI for a certain group of users?
It’ll only take 2 extra cmdlets, in the same sphere.

First you create a new client policy by which to identify this group of users. Let’s call them “SkypeTesters”.
The cmdlet will look like this:
New-CsClientPolicy -Identity SkypeTesters -EnableSkypeUI $true

Then you collect users & assign them to this new SkypeTesters policy. You can collect users via department, AD group, etc. I’ll use a Marketing Department for this example.

To collect users: Get-CsUser -LDAPFilter “Department=Marketing”
To grant them the new client policy & enable Skype for Business UI: Grant-CsClientPolicy -PolicyName SkypeTesters

(Of course you can pipe these two cmdlets together & save time. I split them up just for clarity’s sake.)

More instructions on UI switching are available on TechNet: Configure the Client Experience with Skype for Business – TechNet

NOTE:  According to this page, the Skype for Business Client even works for Lync Server 2010! I didn’t expect that, but it’s a nice surprise. Any 2010 users out there, please consider an update soon. Comment or email if you have questions about it.

What if I use Lync Online?

Not to worry! Lync Online users will still get the Skype for Business UI (though it might take a little longer). You’ll also use PowerShell to switch the interface, but the cmdlets & switches are a little different.

To enable Skype for Business UI for all users, you’d enter this in Remote PowerShell:
Grant-CsClientPolicy –PolicyName ClientPolicyEnableSkypeUI

To keep the Lync UI for all users:
Grant-CsClientPolicy –PolicyName ClientPolicyDisableSkypeUI

To enable Skype for Business UI for a single user:
Grant-CsClientPolicy –PolicyName ClientPolicyEnableSkypeUI -Identity [User’s Name]

Additional switches & details: Switching between the Skype for Business and the Lync client user interfaces – Office 365 Support

Microsoft is phasing the Skype for Business client into use over the next couple months. I didn’t find a specific schedule, but most sources say it should arrive both for Lync Server 2013 and Lync Online/Skype for Business Online users by the end of summer.

There’s one easy way to tell if you’ve received the upgrade (note: this is for Lync Server 2013 users). Do any of your users’ clients report that their taskbar icon changed to Skype’s – but the client still looks like Lync?

Voila, you have the Skype for Business update. Just need to turn on the UI.

New Skype for Business Users: Please send in your thoughts & impressions of the new client! I’d like to hear what my readers think of the changes.

Next week, we’ll talk versioning and upgrade priorities. See you then.


Are Lync Conversations Preserved by eDiscovery?

Lync Server 2013, Security

If you’ve followed political news lately, you’ve heard about Hillary Clinton using a private email server during her term as Secretary of State.

Not only did this throw suspicion on her actions in office, it illustrated several dangers in using personal email for work purposes.

We wrote a newsletter article on the dangers. You can read it here: Corporate Lessons from the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal – PlanetMagpie WOOF!

I bring this up here because there’s one specific danger that relates to Lync Server environments: the question of eDiscovery.

What is eDiscovery?

A simple (but clear) definition of eDiscovery is:

“The process of finding, preserving, analyzing, and producing content in electronic formats as required by litigation or investigations.”

(Courtesy of “Intro to eDiscovery in SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync 2013″ – Office Blogs)eDiscovery Papers?

Pay special attention to the last part: “As required by litigation or investigations.” eDiscovery is a legal protection. Businesses use it to preserve records in case they’re needed by law enforcement or the courts.

Many larger businesses must keep records in paper format in case of litigation. eDiscovery occurs for the same reason, just in electronic formats. (Using personal email for work escapes eDiscovery—which is why it’s dangerous to businesses.)

What kind of records are kept? Typically emails, office documents, database data, sometimes videos and internal webpages.

That brings us to records from Lync. Are those considered “legal records” by eDiscovery? And if so, what do we have to keep?

The Legal Value of Lync Conversations

On Microsoft platforms, eDiscovery runs primarily on Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Office 365. You’ll find more details on the versions and how they operate here:
eDiscovery FAQ – TechNet

Down a little ways you’ll see the question, “Does the eDiscovery Center work with different product versions?” In its chart, we see “Lync 2013 (when archived in Exchange 2013)” listed. It’s included in Search, In-Place Hold and Export categories.

It looks like Lync Server is included in eDiscovery all right—via Exchange. The question is, if Lync records are considered legally valuable…which records is it preserving?

Which Lync Records are Preserved by eDiscovery?

The answer to this question took a little digging for me to clarify. I’ll save you that trouble.

  • Archived Lync instant messages are preserved through In-Place Hold. (In-Place Hold is present in Exchange Server, which stores the Lync messages.)
  • Documents shared during Lync Meetings are also archived in Exchange mailboxes, and thus protected by eDiscovery.
  • Lync phone calls and video are not included in eDiscovery.

It goes back to what can & can’t be archived by Lync. If we go back to What Archiving Server Archives…and What It Doesn’t, we find that this list pretty much matches the record types preserved by eDiscovery.

Remember though, Archiving is not enabled by default. You must enable it, and configure it properly, if you want to/need to archive Lync records for eDiscovery. Defining Your Requirements for Archiving in Lync Server 2013 – TechNet

A quote from this page: “The archiving database is not intended for long-term retention and Lync Server 2013 does not provide an e-discovery (search) solution for archived data, so data needs to be moved to other storage [in Exchange].”

The MS Exchange Blog has a thorough article series discussing Exchange’s eDiscovery features.
Exchange 2013 In-Place Hold and In-Place eDiscovery (Part 1)

Lync cooperates with eDiscovery for IM conversations and meetings. Factor this into your Records Retention.

As of yet, I’ve heard nothing on whether Skype for Business will alter this eDiscovery preservation method. Offhand I’d say no. The content archiving process is relatively straightforward, and we aren’t getting a new Exchange version (yet).

All the same, I want to stress the importance of preserving Lync conversations for legal discovery. If you’re in a business which must keep records for Legal, take a look at these statistics: Overview of Microsoft Office eDiscovery with Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync 2013 – Quentin on Compliance, eDiscovery

90% of corporations were involved in litigation last year! Yikes. Now that we know Lync conversations are included in eDiscovery (if you configure Lync to archive with Exchange), maybe we can breathe a little easier.

More on eDiscovery, courtesy of Electronic Discovery

How do you preserve records for legal purposes? Please comment or email your experiences. This is a meaty topic; I’d love to hear how you tackle it.

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How to Add DNS Suffixes to Edge Server – and Why Lync Needs Them

Lync Server 2013

I had a post scheduled talking about eDiscovery. But I got an email from Larry, our senior Lync team member, describing a Lync troubleshooting project he’d just finished for a client.

Well, we just have to document that one for our readers, don’t we?

The Scenario: Everything’s Installed, But is Edge Configured Properly?

Larry was on-site with a client who had some Lync Server 2013 components already installed. However their Edge Server was not communicating with the Front End. What was the problem?

He found no issues on the Front End Server itself. (FYI: Lync Server 2013 Enterprise Edition, Enterprise Voice and Monitoring roles installed.)

So he looked at the Edge Server. It must have a configuration issue, but what kind? He logged directly into the Edge Server and looked through its properties. The Lync Server software was up & running, DNS names were in place…

Wait a second. The Edge Server had a local name only (“companydomain”). What about its suffix?

The DNS Suffix: Necessary for Lync Server Topology

A DNS suffix is required for Edge Servers to communicate with the rest of Lync Server. Topology Builder requires a FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name), but by default Edge Servers use short machine names.

Configure the DNS Suffix for Edge Servers – TechNet

The client’s Edge did not have a DNS suffix. This must be why the topology couldn’t communicate with it. We had to add the suffix.

Here are the steps to adding a DNS suffix on an Edge Server:

  1. On the Edge Server, click Start, right-click Computer, and select Properties.
  2. Under “Computer Name, Domain, and Workgroup” settings, click Change Settings.
  3. On the Computer Name tab, click Change.
  4. You should see the “Computer Name/Domain Changes” screen. Click the More… button.
  5. The “DNS Suffix and NetBIOS Computer Name” window will pop up. In the Primary DNS suffix of this computer field, type the name of your internal domain (for example,
  6. Click OK to close the windows.
  7. Restart the computer.

DNS Suffix

(Apologies for the blurring. I used a testing server to create the screenshot, so there’s little risk of hacking. But, better safe than sorry!)

*Important Note: Make sure you restart the server before going any further! Larry did not immediately restart after implementing the DNS suffix (the client asked a question). It took him a moment to realize that THAT’S why he still had communication issues.

Add DNS Records for Edge Lookups

Once the DNS suffix had been added & Edge Server restarted, Larry was able to add the Edge to the existing Lync topology. Time for configuring some DNS records.

DNS records are required for external DNS lookups, perimeter networks and internal client lookups. Some of this was already in place, but Larry had to reconfigure so Edge was fully supported in the Lync architecture.

Here are details on DNS for Edge Servers in Lync Server 2013: Configure DNS for Edge Support in Lync Server 2013 – TechNet

The steps to creating a DNS SRV record:

  1. On the DNS server, click Start, & open Control Panel.
  2. Click Administrative Tools, and then click DNS.
  3. In the console tree for your SIP domain, expand the “Forward Lookup Zones”. Right-click the domain your Lync Server 2013 uses.
  4. Click Other New Records.
  5. Under “Select a Resource Record Type”, type Service Location (SRV), and then click Create Record.
  6. Provide the necessary information to populate the DNS SRV record.

Then, to create a DNS A record:

  1. Follow Steps 1-3 above to reach the Forward Lookup Zones on your SIP domain.
  2. Click New Host (A).
  3. Provide the necessary information for the new DNS record.

Lo and behold, communication worked between Edge and Front End! The client was happy.

DNS Suffix: A Small Addition, but Critical to Edge Communications

If you have trouble with your Edge Servers not cooperating with the Front End, make sure they have FQDNs in place. Otherwise DNS won’t understand proper lookups, and your topology won’t function.

Have you encountered a DNS error with your Edge Server? If so, please comment or email your story in. Did you solve it? Was it a DNS suffix issue, or something else? I’d love to hear about it.

Speaking of hearing about it, I’m a little behind on responding to reader support questions. Not ignoring anyone, I promise. Just wanted to reassure everyone.

Join us here again next week for that discussion on eDiscovery.

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Skype for Business Gets New Name

Skype for Business

Today I’m able to make a big announcement…I’ve received inside information about a last-minute Skype for Business name change!

I talked to a Microsoft consultant earlier via untraceable cellphone. (He had a weird British accent.) He revealed that Microsoft is aware of people’s frustration with the long name.

I mean, Skype for Business Server 2015? Office 365 Skype for Business? Pretty long. Say them ten times fast and watch co-workers give you funny looks.

With all this in mind, Microsoft has chosen to simplify the naming conventions. We’re very proud to be the first to announce the new names.

  1. The main server product will be: Business Skype (or B.S.).
  2. Office 365 Skype for Business will now be named Business Skype For Users 365 (B.S.U. 365).
  3. The new client will be named All Business Skype (All B.S.).

The insider said that the Business Skype functions haven’t been changed. Just the B.S. name. This way MSPs can communicate the value of B.S. to their customers more easily.

“Talk with co-workers over B.S. all day!”
“Yes, your home Skype will connect to B.S.”
“If you use All B.S., you can call customers or talk with them online. Whichever way you prefer to B.S.”

April Fool!

…In case it’s not obvious yet, APRIL FOOL!

Had to do something when the posting schedule fell on April 1.

Now, if you’re reading this AFTER April Fools’ Day, here’s a bit of more serious news:

Skype for Business Client Rolling Out April 14, Server May 1

What’s new in Skype for Business and how you can take control of updates – Office Blogs

The Skype for Business Team just posted an announcement and an Office Mechanics video.

Skype for Business will roll out on April 14th as an Office 2013 Update. This is the client, whose Technical Preview I raved about last week.

They’ve also given instructions for controlling the update, both for Lync Online and Lync Server 2013. If you’d like to delay Skype for Business rollout – say until you have a Skype for Business Server deployed? – all it takes is some PowerShell cmdlets.

On May 1, the Skype for Busines Server will be released. Definitely looking forward to that one.

(I hope this wasn’t an April Fools’ joke too…)

Check back next week for a serious – VERY serious, certainly – post on Lync/Skype for Business. In the meantime, have a fun April Fools!


A Week with the Skype for Business Client

Skype for Business

It has now been 1 week since I installed the Skype for Business Technical Preview client. Here’s what I learned.

Services Tested

I’m using a Lenovo Ultrabook Helix. Prior to installing Skype for Business I used Lync 2013 on this machine. The upgrade went through with no errors and a single reboot.

In the past week I’ve conducted:

  • 9 IM conversations
  • 4 Enterprise Voice calls
  • 1 Lync Meeting/Skype Meeting
  • 2 Persistent Chat sessions
  • 2 file transfers
  • 1 Video chat/call (as a test)

Overall, I’m surprised at just how similar to Lync 2013 this client is. Aside from the UI change, this operates so closely to Lync that I’m tempted to call it just a cosmetic update.

But that’s not entirely the case. True, we’ve talked more about backend changes than client-based on the blog (and I look forward to examining those in detail later on!). But the Skype for Business client has a few changes of its own.

Improvements over Lync, & What’s the Same

The following is a list of observations recorded throughout the week. Every time Skype4B 2015 did something different from Lync, or I caught myself performing a task exactly as I did in Lync, I made a note.

  1. IM windows are saving their sizes & screen positions now! This always bugged me with Lync; it kept forgetting my window sizes.
  2. The main client window stretched to a full-screen vertical column on load. I prefer a smaller “floating” window, but this isn’t much of an irritation. Adjustable anytime.
  3. Moving the Presence indicator to a circle at bottom-right is growing on me. I liked the left-side vertical bar, but the circle provides a slightly-faster recognition of Presence status.
  4. The custom Presence statuses I set back when I did this post: Lync Add-Ons: Lync Custom Status Tool
    were preserved in the update! I still have “Wrestling a Wolverine” and “Assisting a Customer” (those ARE two separate things, I assure you…) among my Presence choices.
  5. There is a brief hesitation between clicking the Skype taskbar icon and the window popping up. Lync did the same thing. (I think it’s system-related.) No change in behavior here.
  6. File transfers to Lync 2013 users will break sometimes. It’s not consistent, and likely caused by the Technical Preview interfacing with a previous version (Lync 2013), but I’m noting it here.
  7. I like how quick in-window file transfers are to initiate.
  8. Options menus are almost exactly the same. (Seriously, I’m not finding any differences aside from the name “Skype for Business” where “Lync” was.)

Skype for Business Client

Crashes/Hangs/”Not Responding”

I only experienced two instances of crashes, hangs or the dreaded “Not Responding” error.

  1. In Options, when clicking from “Video Devices” menu to “Audio Devices” menu (this temporarily enabled my webcam until closing Options).
  2. When adding video to my test video chat/call. The call froze and I had to reconnect. Once I did, it worked fine.

This suggests that the video portion of Skype for Business still has a few bugs.

Frankly, I expected MORE bugs in a Technical Preview. The fact that I only had these 2 issues was both perplexing and encouraging. My thought process went like this: “Okay, there’s one issue. Same issue from another angle too. Wait, is that it? Everything else is working fine. It’s a beta, there has to be…nope, that works too!”

DELAYS: Occasionally I did notice a slight delay in conversations. They only occurred when adding services (e.g. file transfers, video) to an existing IM conversation. Most likely a result of network hiccups, possibly sprinkled with a bit of inter-version communications. It was not significant enough to frustrate me or cause me to note them as a bug.

Final Impression: Can I Keep Skype for Business?

I’m impressed by how smooth the Skype for Business client has been. The Technical Preview is scheduled to end April 30 (Skype for Business 2015 is slated for release sometime in April). I will be sad if I have to switch back to Lync 2013, even if it’s only temporary.

In fact, let me make a recommendation. If you do use Lync Server 2013 now, and you plan to upgrade to Skype for Business? Transition the clients first. This client app will work with Lync Server, and it gives you time to familiarize users to the new UI.

Have you tested the Skype for Business Technical Preview yet? What were your observations? Please comment or email.


Skype for Business 2015 Client Technical Preview Released: Why I’m Celebrating AND Concerned

Skype for Business

On Monday, Microsoft announced a Technical Preview for the Skype for Business client! Yay!

This means 2 things: One, we have 1 month to go until Skype for Business Server is here. Two, I can test out the Skype for Business interface.
The client is installing now. I’ll do a proper review next time, after I’ve had a few days to really explore its ins and outs. For now, let me give you a few first impressions:

  • Look & feel doesn’t appear much different. This might be intentional – I don’t use Skype too often, but Skype for Business is easy to recognize anyway. Microsoft WAS smart in that their UI functionality appears to emphasize clicks more than touch. I do have a touchscreen laptop, but I still prefer my mouse.
  • I don’t like the ‘bubbles’ in IMs. I know it’s a Skype feature and millions of people will recognize it…I just don’t like how they look.
  • File transfer IS a bit faster, at least from my perspective.
  • Options menus don’t appear to have many changes (if any). Good for Lync users; they’ll have some extra familiarity.

Skype for Business IM Window

If you want to try the Skype for Business Client Technical Preview, here are some links to help:
Evaluate Skype for Business Client – TechNet Evaluation Center
Skype for Business client on Lync Server resources: Awareness and readiness planning- Office Support

Check back next week for a more thorough review.

Office 365 Skype for Business Users Will Get Enterprise Voice

VentureBeat also has a post with timely #Skype4B details: Skype for Business will offer phone numbers to Office 365 users, available in preview this summer – VentureBeat

From the article:

“Skype for Business will offer Enterprise Voice in Office 365 with PSTN calling and conferencing. The functionality will first become available as a technical preview in the U.S. this summer.”

Honestly, I’m of two minds about this. Of course, adding PSTN calling to an Office 365 service is extremely helpful for Office 365 users. That part is great!

I commented in the past about Lync Online being “near-crippled” without PSTN calling. It appears Microsoft does intend to fulfill its PSTN promise…by introducing it in the next version.

This is where I become a little paranoid. It makes me think that Skype for Business 2015 may be the last version available for on-premise installs.

Will Skype for Business & SharePoint Move to Cloud-Only Soon?

Where does that come from? I’ll explain. See, Office 365 getting PSTN calling is one part of my concern. The other is the rumor I’ve heard that SharePoint is going cloud-only.

We do know that the next version of Visual Studio is moving to the cloud. Some developers are frustrated by this decision. I can’t blame them. I don’t work with Visual Studio myself, but I know people who do. Not having a local environment to work & test within means fundamental changes to their work style.

Will SharePoint take the same road? I’ve seen chatter indicating as such, though Googling doesn’t give me a specific yes/no announcement. Yet.

SharePoint Online does already exist. Just like Lync Online. Which will soon become Skype for Business Online, with pretty much every feature its on-premise sibling has by the end of the year…

See why I’m concerned?

We’ll have to wait and see. If you’ve heard information for or against this idea, please share it with us.

In the meantime, excuse me…I have a new Skype for Business Preview to play with.

Are you trying out the Skype for Business Technical Preview? What are your impressions so far? Please comment or email! I’d love to hear others’ experiences.

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  • About the Lync Insider Blog

    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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