Record Your Skype for Business Calls with Atmos

Skype for Business, Third-Party Skype for Business Products, Voice over IP

A few weeks back, I got an email. It was from Ryan at CallCabinet, a call recording solution provider in Florida.
Ryan told me about Atmos, one of their products, made for recording Skype for Business voice calls.

He’d seen my prior reviews of Skype-related products, and asked if I’d like to try out Atmos. Great idea! I’m always happy to try out new software.

Ryan kindly set me up with a full demo account. Last week, I installed the Atmos app on my laptop & conducted a week-long test. Here are my findings.

What Atmos Does

Atmos records voice calls. It has three integrations right now – for Asterisk, mobile, and Skype for Business (also supports Office 365). No server access is required to run Atmos, and you don’t need any additional hardware.

It works by running a small app in the background, which performs the recording & transmits it to your CallCabinet account on their cloud servers. Recordings are not stored on your local computer.

Installation process is a little more involved than, “download this app & run it.” You must create a new CallCabinet account, which generates two numbers: a Customer ID and Site ID. These connect your desktop Atmos client to your CallCabinet account.

Nice way of doing it, I think. Avoids the need to configure servers. (It works through a VPN too!)

Once the Atmos app is installed, it quietly does its job without bothering you. No popup notifications.

Atmos Popup Notifier

The CallCabinet Recordings Dashboard

The Atmos app is only half of the solution. The other is the web-based dashboard where your call recordings are stored. To access that, you’ll log into your CallCabinet account.

Atmos CallCabinet Site Login

Once logged in, you see a Homepage with statistics on your recent calls. Switch to the Calls window…and there’s the list of your call recordings.

Call Recording List in Atmos

From here you can play back the recording (the Play icon to the left, blue square), or download an MP3 (the Download icon on the right, red square).

I’ve played every recording on this list back. The clarity is great–no echo, only one instance of voice glitch, and the recordings captured every second of the call.

Atmos Features I Like

The Atmos solution is focused on one thing only: call recording. I always like it when software does one job and does it well. Atmos definitely does it well.

They do have some backend features I like too. Features useful for maintaining an office’s safety, like:

  • Recordings are stored using 256-bit encryption
  • Atmos dashboard is compliant with regulatory legislation
  • Redundant backups

When I talked with Ryan, he mentioned upcoming features like screen capture, analytics, and reporting. I’m curious about the analytics & reporting myself. Always like looking at the numbers!

Results: A Clean Solution if You Need to Record Your Calls

One of the terms I like to use when describing software is “clean.” To me, “clean” software is focused on its goal both in content and in visuals. Its UX is easy to figure out. The feature set isn’t overloaded.

Based on this demo, I can say that CallCabinet’s Atmos Skype4B Recorder is definitely “clean.” Setup is fast, no server configuration required. The dashboard uses HTML5, which makes for high-contrast, easy-to-read windows. The pricing is very reasonable for what you get (rates as low as $18 per user per month for 1,000 hours, with unlimited storage for up to 5 years).

Atmos Call Recording Software – CallCabinet.com

Do you record your calls? With what software? Please comment or email your app of choice. I still have a little time on this demo; if we have a few other contenders, I’m happy to do a compare-and-contrast!

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Skype for Business Preview on Mac: Testing Stage 1

Conferencing, Skype for Business

Last month I blogged about the new Skype for Business on Mac preview program. I got into the testing beta, and received the Stage 1 Meetings client a short time ago.

Today I document Stage 1 of my testing to date. So far, the new Mac client is shaping up as a MUCH better app than Lync for Mac.

Release Notes for Skype for Business Mac Preview (Stage 1, Meetings) – Office Support

Following the criteria I set last month, here are my testing observations.

Starting the Test

For this and future tests of the Skype for Business Mac Client Meetings Experience, I used an older iMac desktop (still running El Capitan). The computer has 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. It connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi.

In my previous post I noted three things I saw in the Mac Preview content:

  1. No toolbar with Present options along the bottom
  2. Mac uses the Picture-in-Picture viewing mode
  3. Borderless Meeting display

I quickly found that 2 and 3 are accurate. 1 was a little off; there is a Present option, but it’s limited. Explanation below.

Installation Process

Installation took only a moment. Download the preview client .app file and click to install. I was pleased to see an update notice right away: Microsoft had pushed out a couple of new versions just in the few days between my download and the install!

Skype Meeting Preview Update

Login requires the same information as any other Skype4B client: username, password, and (depending on your server setup) domain.  I needed to enter my domain in the following format: “DOMAINNAME\chris.williams.”

Skype Preview Login

Another helpful thing I noticed: This Mac has the Lync for Mac client installed. Once I finished my test, I shut down the preview client and opened Lync for Mac. Installing the Skype for Business Preview client did not affect the Lync client.

Meeting Functions

Stage 1 is focused on Meetings. Joining them, scheduling them, voice & video, and content sharing. My test results, then, consisted of running through the preview client and verifying how much function I had for each Meetings aspect.

Scheduling: I was not able to schedule a meeting from the client. But I was able to join a scheduled meeting by clicking it.

Skype Meeting Calling In

I’m also able to adjust my Presence status, which I didn’t expect to have just yet.

Presence on Skype Preview for Mac

I was also able to invite people into the meeting once created.

Invite People to Skype Meeting Mac

Meet Now: I had a co-worker initiate a Meet Now & invite me. He did so, but I didn’t see any notice on the Mac. I did hear my everyday computer – which also has Skype for Business installed – signaling me that I had a Meet Now invite.

*Note: Ringing/showing invites to the most recent login is typical Skype4B behavior. In this case it did not occur. That may be due to the Mac client’s preview status. I’d assume as much anyway.

Voice and Video: Speaking in a Meeting on the Preview was no different than voice on my regular computer. Same with video – in fact, to my clearly-not-a-designer’s eye, the video looked sharper on the Mac than my PC!
See below for quality results.

Content Sharing: I could present my Desktop. However, I found no other present options in the menu. No big surprise; I expect these to trickle in between Stage 2 and 3.

Mac Present Desktop

Meeting Quality

Okay, Meetings do work. How about their quality? A Skype Meeting is no good if you can’t see video, or the call drops randomly.

Video: No problems here. Video renders smooth and clear–like you’d expect on a Mac. Here’s a capture from my video feed.

Skype Video on Mac

Handsome devil, aren’t I?

Responsiveness: Comparable to my regular computer. Which itself is encouraging, since my regular computer has better specs than the test Mac. Since this is a Mac-only version of the Preview, I could not test it on other devices. (Come to think of it, I haven’t received a download for the iOS preview client yet…)

Voice Quality: Comparable to my regular calls. I conducted a test call with a co-worker and a customer, neither of whom knew I was calling from a different computer.

Limitations

Since this is a Stage 1 client, we expect plenty of limitations. And as expected, I had absolutely no access to Contacts or the Phone. But they are in the client window already. You see this screen if you click them:

Mac Preview Only

Also, I did not see a screen sharing option. According to the Release Notes linked above, we should be able to “Share your screen in the meeting.” But I did not have the option. Maybe it wasn’t developed enough for Stage 1? I’ll monitor the updates in case Microsoft slips it in before Stage 2.

Test Results: A Strong Foundation for the Rest

The new Meetings Preview client has its limits. It’s not usable as a Lync for Mac replacement yet. But it signifies a strong foundation on which to add more functionality.

Stage 2 of the Mac Preview, Messaging & Contact Lists, is expected in about 4 weeks. I’ll upgrade the preview client once we get it and do another test.

Mac users! What would you say is your biggest frustration with Lync on Mac? Please comment or email your thoughts. As the preview proceeds, I’d like to try testing common issues.

Join us again next week!

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How to Open Your Skype Meetings to the Public (But You’ll Risk Security)

Conferencing, Skype for Business

At one point or another, we’ve all used the Meet Now tool in Lync/Skype for Business. It’s convenient—one click and you have a ready-and-waiting meeting space. Pull it some co-workers and you can discuss the current project right away.

This is possible because Meet Now is, in a sense, a low-security tool. It bypasses some Skype for Business security, starting up a public meeting that’s open to everyone. No lobby. Come right in.

I bring this up because recently, we had a customer ask us about their Skype Meetings. Essentially, they wanted to take the Meet Now security level and apply it to all of their future Skype Meetings.

No waiting in a virtual Lobby.
No authentication before joining.
Open to everyone.

The first thing we did was tell them two things. One, we could do this. Two, we did not recommend doing it!

Public Meeting Access = Potential for Security Issues

There’s no setting for “totally public” meetings via PowerShell or the Control Panel. But it IS possible to manually configure Skype for Business like this.

The question is, should you?

Allowing anyone to join a meeting, at any time, with no access restrictions introduces all of these security risks.

  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Introduction of dangerous code
  • Theft of intellectual property
  • Compliance violation

We recommend AGAINST this course of action. But if you do want to configure your Skype Meetings as totally public – and you understand the security risk this creates – here’s how to do it.

How to Open Skype Meetings to the Public

If you only want to set an individual Skype Meeting as public, all you need to do is modify its options.

When you create a new Skype Meeting, click the Meeting Options button in the ribbon.

Skype Meeting Options Button

The Options window will open. You’ll see Permissions by default. There are two choices:

  1. A new meeting space (I control permissions), and
  2. My dedicated meeting space (less secure).

Option 2 uses the same meeting space on the server every time. It also grants everyone in the organization Presenter access.
Skype Meeting Options - Less Secure
Note that the option to control who has to wait in the lobby is grayed out.

Option 1 uses a new meeting space on the server. This is more secure, but it also enables you to control who has to wait in the lobby. If you select “Anyone (no restrictions)” then nobody does. Everyone gets in right away, express lane, no waiting.

Skype Meeting Options - More Secure
This is the option we recommend customers use.

Finally, if you want to use the same settings for all of your future Skype Meetings, click the “Remember Settings” button next to the OK.

=====
Remember, this only works for this one Skype Meeting. To make all Skype Meetings totally public by default, you’ll have to modify your Skype for Business Meeting Policy.

First, determine whether you’re changing Meeting Policy Options globally, or by site.

To modify globally, the PowerShell cmdlet to employ is: Set-CsMeetingConfiguration
To modify by site, the cmdlet is: Set-CsMeetingConfiguration -Identity site:[SITENAME]

More on Set-CsMeetingConfiguration from TechNet.

These are the parameters to use.

AssignedConferenceTypeByDefault. True/False. If set to True, scheduled Skype Meetings are set as Public – the conference ID and meeting space URL are the same every time. Just like “My dedicated meeting space” above. If set to False, scheduled Skype Meetings are private, with a new meeting ID & URL each time (just like “A new meeting space” above).

Default is $true. This is a default with which we don’t agree; we prefer (and recommend) customers set to $false and use new meeting spaces each time. But if you want public meetings, you can leave it on default.

Example: Set-CsMeetingConfiguration -AssignedConferenceTypeByDefault $true

PstnCallersBypassLobby. True/False. Should you automatically admit dial-in (PSTN) attendees? No Lobby? If set to True, then attendees calling in go right into the Skype Meeting. If set to False, then PSTN attendees arrive in the Lobby.

Default is $true. Again, a default we recommend changing for security. But if you want the convenience of no lobby waiting, then set to $false.

Example: Set-CsMeetingConfiguration -PstnCallersBypassLobby $true

AdmitAnonymousUsersByDefault. True/False. Will you allow anonymous users into your Skype Meetings? If set to True, then yes, anonymous users can come right in. If set to False, anonymous users are shut out at the door. Default is $true (grumble).

Example: Set-CsMeetingConfiguration -AdmitAnonymousUsersByDefault $false

If you wanted to combine all these parameters, the statement would read like this (assuming a global policy change):
Set-CsMeetingConfiguration -AssignedConferenceTypeByDefault $true -PstnCallersBypassLobby $true -AdmitAnonymousUsersByDefault $true

skypemeetingoptions_cmdlet

Further details on these parameters at Andrew Morpeth’s blog: Lync 2013 Meeting Options Policies – UC Geek

Use Caution When Changing Meeting Policy

Once again, we recommend against opening all Skype Meetings to the public. Sure, doing it occasionally for important discussions is fine. Leaving all Skype Meetings open by default, however, invites security breaches you won’t even know about until it’s too late.

Normally, we change all of these options for customers before finishing deployment. We inform the customer, of course, and if they do choose to re-enable an option in Meeting Policy, we advise them of the security risk. That’s our job.

Have you ever experienced a security issue from your Skype Meetings? If so, please comment or email your experience. I’d like to examine this angle further. See what more we as admins can do.

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Update on the iOS “Missing Message” Bug

Instant Messaging (IM), Lync Mobile, Skype for Business

Last October I reviewed the Skype for Business iOS client. Three readers commented about a bug they experienced while using it.

“Whenever I miss a conversation (why is it missed?) I can see the first few words of the message I missed but when I click on it, I can’t see the rest. I can never see the full message. Where does it go?”

“Nearly every day, I will see that I had a message come in, and I will only see the first few words. “Hey, Liza! It’s really important that we—” and then when I tap into the conversation, it’s gone. Unrecoverable.”

“I have the same frustrating problem — I will miss a message, but when I go to open it I can only see the first few words followed by “…”, then I click on it and it brings me to a new message screen. I can never see my missed messages, which is the whole point of having this app in the first place.”

I promised to investigate, and so I did. Unfortunately, I don’t have many answers.

Three Parts Investigate, Only One Part Success

I took three paths to investigate the missing-message issue.

  1. Examine app reviews for other user impressions,
  2. Do some more support research, and
  3. Try to duplicate this in our office.

First up, review. How widespread is the issue? How many people does this affect? I checked reviews on the App Store and Microsoft-related forums, like this one: iOS Client for Skype for Business 2015 – SkypeFeedback.com

“Missed messages vanishing” is mentioned in both places. As are other sync issues such as voicemail. In fact the limitations are clearly wearing on iOS users. Makes me wonder how the new Mac client will turn out after the preview releases.

Research: From the bug description, it sounds like a failure of Server-Side Conversation History. Which informed my search. Is your Conversation History fully enabled? If you’re not sure, here’s how to check: Enable Server Side Conversation History – Martin Boam’s Microsoft UC Blog

I did find this note on an Office Support page:

“Note: Conversations that were accepted on other Skype for Business (Lync) clients but were missed on your mobile device don’t appear in the Chats tab.”

Might explain some instances of this happening. I’m sure it doesn’t explain all, though. It didn’t explain mine!

Duplication: I was logged into Skype4B on my iPhone, but answered a new message on my laptop. Sure enough, I saw a “Missed” conversation on my phone’s Chats tab. And it contained the message contents when I checked it 15 minutes later. Hmmm.

Skype for Business iOS Missed Message

In fact I could not duplicate the “missed message” issue no matter what. We tried two other iPhones, one 5 and two 6s in total. I even removed the Skype for Business client and reinstalled fresh.

We definitely have a bug here. But it’s not consistent.

Is the Bug Already Updated?

Skype for Business on iOS received updates recently – the latest of which came on May 2 (described as “general bug fixes”). My client automatically updated before I tested for the missing-message bug. So did the other iPhones I tried. This might be the reason why I didn’t have any trouble.

(By the way, I mentioned in the review that you couldn’t see a contact’s Contact Card in the iOS client. You can now–just tap a contact and tap their name. You’ll see a “See Contact Card” option drop down.)

iOS Contact with Contact Card

I know losing a message for any reason is frustrating. Right now, the best I can do is advise a safer practice:

  1. Use the iOS client for calls and meeting reminders. Unfortunately, this bug means it’s a bit unreliable when it comes to Instant Messaging. Still works, yes, but if you want to share important information with colleagues, use the Call button.
  2. Update your iOS client to the latest version, and keep it updated. Even general bug fixes can have a big help.

If you’ve updated your Skype for Business iOS client to the latest version, do you still see the “missing messages” bug? Please comment or email me your experience. If Microsoft fixed this bug, then we’re all a bit better off! If not, the bug needs reporting.

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Skype for Business Preview on Mac Coming Up. Join Me in Testing!

Skype for Business

Skype for Business is (finally) coming to Mac.

This week, Microsoft updated its timeline for the new Skype for Business Mac client. It has 3 previews coming up, with an RTM date in Q3. You’ll find the details at ZDNet: Microsoft closing in on Skype for Business for Mac public preview 1 – ZDNet.com

And on the Office.com Blog’s April 2016 update: New to Office 365 in April—Skype for Business Mac Preview, bringing collaboration to the forefront in Office and more – Office Blogs

Looks like they’re planning to build the Mac client out in stages.
Stage 1: Meetings. Starting with Meetings means Microsoft is tackling the service with the biggest bandwidth requirement first. Smart. Meetings have the most moving parts, which means the most bugs to hammer out.

Stage 2: Messaging, Contact Lists. 4-6 weeks after Preview 1. Messaging is relatively simple by comparison to Meetings. But it (and Contact Lists) are crucial components to iron out.

Stage 3: Voice. 8-12 weeks after Preview 1. The Mac users I know pride their machines on simplicity (and not without merit). For this client to work on Mac, voice MUST be easy to use. Otherwise the whole client is handicapped.

Skype for Business Preview on Mac

I borrowed this image from the Office Blog to point something out. If this is what we expect for Preview 1, then I note a couple of differences between Skype Meetings on Mac and on PC.

  1. No toolbar with Present options along the bottom
  2. Mac uses the Picture-in-Picture viewing mode
  3. Borderless Meeting display

Nice clean start. Which, according to Mary Jo at ZDNet, is the whole point. “Microsoft isn’t simply retrofitting the Lync for Mac product base, officials said. Instead the team has built the Skype for Business for Mac client from the ground up, they said.”

But Wait! The Preview has Arrived!

The ZDNet article updated only hours after publication. Microsoft has begun the preview!

Naturally I raced over to the preview site: https://www.skypepreview.com

I signing up for the following:

  • iOS Mobile
  • Skype 4 Business Mac Client Meetings Experience (a Mac meetings-only client)

(I wanted to sign up for the “New firmware for Polycom VVX Phones” too, but our new phones haven’t arrived yet…)

Hope to hear back very soon.

Why am I talking about this now? Because I’ve decided to conduct a little blog experiment.

When I’m accepted, I intend to document all my Mac testing in blog posts. Devices in use are my iPhone 6, one MacBooks, and one desktop Mac. I may even try Skype for Business out my personal iPad (an iPad 2 – older, but good for perspective).

Initial criteria are as follows.

  1. Meeting Functions (scheduling, voice, meet now, content sharing)
  2. Meeting Quality (is the video smooth, good voice quality, app responsiveness on each device)

As the next 2 previews come out, I plan to document the changes and how my devices react to them.

Great fodder for the blog, right? But I’d like to go even further. I want to hear from you!

Join Me in Testing – Preview Skype for Business on your Mac and Share Your Findings

If you sign up for any of the following at https://www.skypepreview.com:

  • Cloud PBX
  • PSTN Calling – Geo. Expansion
  • Cloud Video Interoperability Service
  • Skype Meeting Broadcast Enhancements
  • Android Mobile

Please contact me. I’d like to interview you as the testing progresses. I can even help you out with your testing.

The point? Document everything here on the blog. Multiple user experiences of Skype for Business on Mac. Valuable information for potential Mac customers, and for Microsoft’s testing team.

My standard guest policy applies: First name only. Business name only published with your express permission. No personal and/or proprietary information is ever shared on this blog, or with any other party. I don’t even add you the Skype4B Insider mailing list (unless you ask me to!).

Join us back here next week! What will we have – another Skype4B for Mac update? A good how-to post? You never know until you click.

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SQL-Active Directory Mismatch Prevents Skype4B User Login

Reference, Skype for Business

User accounts. They seem like simple things, don’t they? Enter your email and a password, log onto Skype (or your laptop, Outlook, etc.) and start work.

But we know better. In reality, every user account has several moving parts behind it. Server names, Active Directory credentials, database entries…all interconnecting behind the scenes. Making your login process the usual 5-second time-to-get-going routine it is.

Until one of those parts breaks.

An SID Mismatch Lurking Between Database and Active Directory

The other day, our Skype for Business team assisted a customer who couldn’t login to their Skype account. The password was correct. The user account shows as valid in Skype’s Control Panel. Where’s the issue?

Since the user shows up in the Skype4B Control Panel, we went to the logs. Soon we found a telling error:

“Failed to authorize user credentials
User Token SID S-XXXXXX did not match DB SID S-XXXXXXX”

An SID mismatch. What would cause that?

In this case, the most likely reason was old Lync information.

User Replicator Issue in the Database, Maybe From In-Place Upgrade

A few weeks prior, we’d performed an In-Place Upgrade for this customer. Lync Server 2013 on-prem to Skype for Business 2015 on-prem. The upgrade itself went all right – a couple snags with Exchange, which we smoothed out.

However, it appears another error had surfaced. We checked our runbooks; no previous incidents like this. So we searched online. We came across this post from Mostafa, a Lync/Skype for Business consultant in Germany:

Lync/Skype for Business – LS User Replicator Event ID 30020 – The Lync Dude

We tried the PowerShell cmdlet indicated in the post: Update-CsUserDatabase

Sure enough, we got the same error message.

“Event ID 30020, source ‘LS User Replicator’
User URI is already being used by another valid user in the database…”

Error 30020 User URI Duplicate

So what we had was a user account with some conflicting information between Active Directory and SQL Server. Residual information from Lync 2013 days, it appears, got stuck in the server database.

How? Not sure. Possibly a bug in the In-Place Upgrade. We made note to report it to Microsoft. But first, we needed to fix it!

The Solution – Modify SQL Database. Success, But There was a Snag

The blog post indicated a solution. Careful though – it involves directly modifying SQL databases. Chances of breaking the database, and your Skype4B right along with it, are significant. Make a FULL backup before trying this.

  1. Disable and delete the user from your Skype for Business Control Panel. Note down the user’s SIP address.
  2. Login to the Front End Server.
  3. Start SQL Management Studio.
  4. Connect to the RTCLOCAL Instance. (THIS is where it gets risky!)
  5. Run the following query against the RTC database: Execute dbo.RtcDeleteResource ‘[the user’s SIP address]’
  6. Restart the following services on the Front End:
    • Master Replica Agent
    • Replica Replicator Agent
  7. Wait a few minutes.
  8. Recreate the user account in Skype for Business Control Panel.
  9. Wait a few more minutes for full replication.

We hit a snag though – the process didn’t work for us! Even after several tries.

So we called Microsoft Support. We shared the SQL solution. Shouldn’t this work, we asked? Yes, said the Support rep, it should. Let me try it.

We granted the Support rep access. He logged into SQL, tried the query…and it worked.

Everyone blinked at each other for a moment. The same process, the same database, and the same access permissions. Nobody could explain why it worked when the Microsoft Support rep did it, but not when we did. Even the Microsoft rep admitted he wasn’t sure why!

But, no matter how, the fact is that it did work. We recreated the user’s account, and there were no more login issues.

Editing SQL a Last Resort, But for an ID Mismatch Like This One, It Worked

Bit of a mystery, start to finish. We did report the initial issue to Microsoft, of course. The rep said they had a similar bug logged (possibly by Mostafa).

I’m documenting the experience, mysteries and all, for our fellow Skype4B pros. If you do encounter a user account which mysteriously refuses to log in, may this post help you fix it!

Have you encountered a user account issue that required editing SQL to fix? Please comment or email. I’m curious what other issues like this (if any) exist out there.

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What to Do If Your Skype Meeting Configuration Doesn’t Update

Conferencing, Reference, Skype for Business

We may have found a new bug in Skype for Business Server. It’s located in one of the fields in your Skype Meeting invite.

First, some background:
When we set up our Meeting Invite in Lync Server 2013, it contained three lines under the “Join by phone” section:

  • PlanetMagpie Dialin [link]
  • Our Local Dial-in Access Number
  • “Find a local number” link

The thing is, the “PlanetMagpie Dialin” link didn’t always work. We logged it as an issue, but didn’t fully investigate before moving to Skype for Business.

The other day, we decided to update the Skype Meeting invite. In order to do this you must make changes in the Skype for Business Control Panel:

  1. In Conferencing, under “Meeting Configuration”
  2. In Conferencing, under “Dial-In Access Number”

Meeting Configuration lets you add personalization through a logo & custom text. Dial-In Access Numbers lets you set the phone number with which users can call into the meeting. You also set the number’s display name.

From TechNet:

“When you deploy dial-in conferencing, you need to set up phone numbers that users can dial from the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to join the audio portion of conferences. These dial-in access numbers appear in meeting invitations and on the Dial-in Conferencing Settings webpage.”
Manage dial-in conferencing access numbers in Skype for Business Server 2015 – TechNet

That’s where we noticed something different. We could not change the Display Name.

The ‘Display Name’ field itself had stopped cooperating.

DisplayName Field Not Required

Optional, but not updating

(Likely) Cause: Bug in ‘Display Name’ from Lync Server Days

In Lync Server 2013, under Dial-In Access Numbers, the Display Name field was recommended but not mandatory. This is where we put the “PlanetMagpie Dialin” name referenced above.

When we upgraded, “PlanetMagpie Dialin” remained in the Display Name field. Skype for Business did its job, and preserved our dial plan information during In-Place Upgrade.

We edited the Display Name, as well as the logo & footer text under Meeting Configuration. But the changes didn’t populate to the Outlook meeting invites. Even trying the recommended cmdlet – Set-CsDialInConferencingAccessNumber – didn’t work.

Likely reason? A bug involving the ‘Display Name’ field. When Microsoft built Skype for Business, the upgrade carried dial plan information through. It appears that our upgrade also carried the bug over!

So we had an un-updated meeting invite, despite the server showing all the changes we wanted. How do we fix it?

Solution: Delete & Recreate the Dial-In Access Number

As with many troubleshooting episodes, the old “rip & replace” worked. Here’s what we did.

  • Confirmed the Meeting Configuration has the values you want.
  • Switch to the Dial-In Access Numbers window.
  • Open the dial plan you have in place now. Take a screenshot of it. Click Cancel.
  • Click Edit. Click Delete to delete the dial plan.
  • Now the server needs to refresh. The fastest way to do this is to open Management Shell and enter the following cmdlet:
    Invoke-CsManagementStoreReplication
  • Wait a moment for the changes to replicate. You can check the status with this cmdlet:
    Get-CsManagementStoreReplicationStatus
  • When it displays “True” the changes have replicated. Return to the Control Panel.
  • Still in Dial-In Access Numbers, click New.
  • Using the screenshot you took, re-enter the same dial plan values.
  • Click Commit.
  • Once again, open Management Shell and enter the following cmdlet:
    Invoke-CsManagementStoreReplication
  • As before, you can check the status with:
    Get-CsManagementStoreReplicationStatus
  • Wait for it to display “True.” Then you’ll know the new dial plan is published.
  • If you want to double-check, open Users in Skype for Business Control Panel. Open one or more User accounts and confirm that your dial plan name appears for them.
  • It may take a little longer for the meeting invite to update on all client computers. This took a while for us – long enough to grab lunch, in fact.

Once the updates populated, I checked our meeting invites.

Meeting Invite, No 'DialIn' Text

See? “PlanetMagpie Dialin” vanished, but the call-in number remained.  All other changes appeared too.  Meeting invites up-to-date!

Uncommon Bug, But Deserving of a Skype4B Insider Post!

We aren’t sure this is an official bug. I didn’t locate specific mentions of it in TechNet. We’ll report it, of course, just in case. Even the rarest bug deserves reporting.

In any event, since it IS a Skype for Business issue, we must document it on the blog! Hope it helps you, if you’ve reached this post and have a similar issue messing up your meeting invites.

Have you encountered issues with Meeting Configuration or Dial-In Access Numbers? If so, please comment or email what happened. I’d love to hear about it.

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Auto Attendant Failing? Your UM Dial Plan Can’t Have Spaces in its Name

Exchange Server 2013, Reference, Skype for Business, Unified Communications

We encountered a tiny issue the other day. It did exactly what tiny issues do – caused a lot of trouble!

Auto Attendant DiagramOur team was finalizing a new customer’s Skype for Business implementation. They set up the servers; all good. They set up user accounts; no problem. They tested connections on user machines; everyone can talk to one another.

Then we did some test calls from outside their network. Exchange’s Auto Attendant should pick up and offer us some departmental choices.

But it’s not picking up.

Ten-second rundown: The Auto Attendant is part of an Exchange Server component called Unified Messaging. Unified Messaging (or UM) gives you access to voicemails in your inbox, and it allows you to create Auto Attendants for managing call transfers. You use an Auto Attendant-type of system whenever you call a business and hear, “Press 1 for Sales, Press 2 for Support…”

In this case, our customer’s Auto Attendant would not activate at all. We checked server logs and found no errors. The customers could still get their voicemails. Everything was configured properly. So what’s causing the problem?

It took us a little time to find the answer. Which, it turns out, was tiny!

Unified Messaging Dial Plans Cannot Use Spaces in Their Names

The issue originated in the UM Dial Plan. Specifically, its name.

When we set up the UM Dial Plan for this customer, we called it, “CustomerName UM Dial Plan.” Which, it turns out, is the wrong syntax to use. Because it has spaces in it.

The issue originates in Exchange Server 2013. It prevents Lync (or Skype4B) users from calling an Exchange UM Auto Attendant, if there are spaces in the Auto Attendant’s Dial Plan name.

(Please note: We think this issue is still present in Exchange Server 2016.)

Why such an issue exists, I’m not sure. But it does.

So, simple fix, right? Just rename the Dial Plan?

Unfortunately not. You can’t change a Dial Plan’s name once it’s created. We had to create an all-new one, an exact duplicate of the first (without the spaces in its name!), and then delete the old Dial Plan.

On top of that, we’d have to disable all the users’ Unified Messaging mailboxes, and then re-enable them with the new UM Dial Plan. All for a couple of spaces.

The Fix: Create a New UM Dial Plan, Enable All Users for It, Then Remove Old UM Dial Plan

Naturally, we consulted the Almighty Google and The Most High TechNet for answers. We found them on a couple blogs.

First off, Michael Epping’s post on Concurrency.com titled, Change Users’ Exchange UM Dial Plan. He describes the exact problem we encountered. He also provides a solution.

The quickest and cleanest way to do this is through PowerShell. Creating a new UM Dial Plan, disable all users’ UM mailboxes, re-enable the mailboxes with the new Dial Plan, and then removing the old Dial Plan.

2016-04-07_10-51-34

We followed Michael’s process exactly, and he’s done a good job documenting it in his post, so I won’t copy everything over. He deserves the clicks. What I will do is highlight the steps involved for disabling and re-enabling the UM mailboxes.

NOTE: Make sure you create a new UM Dial Plan before you do this!

  1. Run the “Get-UMMailbox” cmdlet to export primary SMTP addresses, SIP resources and extensions.
  2. Open the exported list in Excel. Select the extensions column. Click Text to Columns in the Data tab.
  3. Select Delimited if it’s not already. Click Next.
  4. Check Semicolon under the Delimiters. Click Next.
  5. You should have a column with SIP addresses and one with extensions. Remove the column with SIP addresses.
  6. Highlight Cell D2. Enter the following text. Replace “UMMailboxPolicy” with the name of your UM Mailbox policy.
    =CONCATENATE(“Enable-UMMailbox -Identity “,A2,” -UMMailboxPolicy Lync -SipResourceIdentifier “,B2,” -Extensions “,C2,””)
  7. Highlight D2 again. Click the lower-right corner square. Drag it down to recreate this command for each user in the list.
  8. You should end up with a list of “Enable-UMMailbox” commands for each user.
  9. Copy all of Column D. Paste into Notepad or another text editor.
  10. Make sure the first line, above all the commands, says this: “Get-UMMailbox | Disable-UMMailbox”
  11. Save the script as a .ps1 file. Michael named his “Redo-UMMailboxes.ps1.” We named ours “UMDialReset.ps1.”
  12. Copy the .ps1 file to your Exchange Server. Run script in PowerShell.

Again, please check Michael’s post for additional details.

I’m also including a PowerShell script we used to remove the old UM Dial Plan. This comes courtesy of Ibrahim Soliman’s Blog.

$UMDialPlan = “”
Get-UMMailboxPolicy | where {$_.UMDialPlan -eq $UMDialPlan} | FL Name, UMDialPlan
Get-UMMailboxPolicy | where {$_.UMDialPlan -eq $UMDialPlan} | Remove-UMMailboxPolicy
Get-UMHuntGroup | where {$_.UMDialPlan -eq $UMDialPlan}
Get-UMHuntGroup | where {$_.UMDialPlan -eq $UMDialPlan} | Remove-UMHuntGroup
Get-UMService | where {$_.DialPlans -contains $UMDialPlan} | FL Name, DialPlans
Get-UMService | where {$_.DialPlans -contains $UMDialPlan} | Set-UMService -DialPlans @{Remove=”$UMDialPlan”}
Get-UMService | Get-UMCallRouterSettings | where {$_.DialPlans -contains $UMDialPlan} | FL Identity, DialPLans
Get-UMService | Get-UMCallRouterSettings | where {$_.DialPlans -contains $UMDialPlan} | Set-UMCallRouterSettings -DialPlans @{Remove=$UMDialPlan}
Remove-UMDialPlan -Identity $UMDialPlan

As with all PowerShell scripts, verify this will work with your current topology before executing it.

Avoid Spaces in Dial Plan Names, and You Won’t Have to Replace Them

The name of a Unified Messaging Dial Plan, stored on an Exchange Server, seems an unlikely place for a space to cause problems.

Yet that’s exactly what happened here. Once we’d removed the old dial plan, added a new one & re-enabled the users’ mailboxes, Auto Attendant behaved perfectly. The customer had their, “Press 1 for Sales, Press 2 for Support.”

It’s always the one thing you didn’t suspect, isn’t it?

If you’re setting up Skype for Business, just as a precaution? Avoid using spaces in your dial plan’s names.

Have you encountered a strange error related to spacing in Skype for Business? Please comment or email in what happened. I always like documenting these errors, in case someone else needs the help later on!

 

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Is Microsoft Positioning Office 365 as the Future of Cloud Voice & Video?

Conferencing, Office 365, Skype for Business, Voice over IP

MS Bolsters Cloud Video, International Meetings and Cortana with New Skype for Business Online Features

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced the next steps for Skype for Business Online. New features, expansions of existing services, and a big step forward for cloud-friendly business users.

It also colors in Microsoft’s 2016 plans when it comes to the Skype4B platform. They want a bigger share of the cloud voice & video space, of course…but the focus is more on Office 365, and less on Skype for Business Server.

What’s Coming – Cloud Video, Cortana as Attendant, More International Meetings

Some of the new features or updates Microsoft announced at Enterprise Connect 2016:

In the Meeting

“Are we both in the same meeting?”
Photo courtesy of stockimages.

Cloud Connector Edition of Skype for Business Server.
This is a pre-configured set of images to run Skype for Business as virtual machines. It facilitates a hybrid setup – on-premises Skype for Business, connecting your office’s existing phones to Office 365.

New Virtual Auto Attendant.
Cortana comes to Skype! The new Auto Attendant is built into Cloud PBX, enabling automated call handling. With speech recognition, of course.

It was hard to find information on this, beyond the overview description. Easy to find requests for it though! Seems like Cortana’s inclusion in Windows 10 drove a lot of interest toward adding her into Skype for Business.

Expanding PSTN Conferencing.
60 countries now. 100 by June. More PSTN Conferencing means international conferences using Office 365 natively. No long-distance charges. (Wait, do we even have those anymore? I’m getting old…)

Cloud Video Interoperability.
I mention this because Polycom is helping Microsoft out on it. They’re integrating Office 365 into their RealPresence Group products, expanding the devices usable with Skype for Business meetings. Not only RealPresence, but other video conferencing hardware from Polycom, Cisco, etc. Stuff that’s already out there, in use.

For the rest of the features, check out the UC Geek’s rundown on the Enterprise Connect announcements. Andrew has plenty of screenshots and nice detailed lists. Worth a look.

Where Will This Take Office 365?

From the look of it, Microsoft is angling for dominance in the “cloud voice” and “cloud video” spaces.

We see a huge emphasis on voice and video with these new features. Both of those services need infrastructure behind them…worldwide infrastructure. Microsoft is preparing such infrastructure, and bringing in partners to expand it even further.

Good moves, especially with the growing customer base in Office 365. VoIP, video and meetings all in 1 place for 1 monthly cost. Makes sense for a lot of small businesses! But it leaves me with a concern about Skype for Business Server.

In the Meeting Too

“Yes, I’m in the meeting too.”
Photo courtesy of Chaiwat.

What Does This Mean for Skype for Business Server?

Skype for Business Server 2015 continues to receive updates. A new update just came out on March 18, in fact: Skype for Business Server 2015 Cumulative Update KB3061064 – Microsoft Support.

That said, aside from the Cloud Connector Edition (which creates a hybrid Skype4B), I don’t see a lot on the horizon. Maybe they’re just tight-lipped about feature additions to Skype4B Server?

Focusing on new cloud features IS in line with Microsoft’s announced strategy, true. I just don’t want them to neglect Skype4B’s server-based users. I’m sure a bunch of us would like Cortana handling our calls too!

Will Office 365 Win Out Over Skype for Business Server? We’ll See.

Of these new/updated features, Cloud Video Interoperability and Unified Management services interest me the most. I’m a big fan of analytics (see my posts on Monitoring Server Reports). More analytics data for Office 365 users? Yes please!

Working with existing video conferencing hardware makes perfect sense, too. Saves on expense, time and frustration. Hmm, maybe I should ask my friends at Polycom for an interview…

Will these new features influence you more toward using Office 365, or not? Please comment or email your thoughts.

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Can’t Add New Users to Persistent Chat Rooms? Approve Them in the Skype for Business Control Panel

Persistent Chat, Reference, Skype for Business

My manager asked me to add a new user to one of our Persistent Chat rooms. Since we hadn’t used this particular room yet, I was happy to do so. (It meant starting up a new project!)

However I encountered a minor issue…in the form of an “Invalid Member” message.

Persistent Chat Invalid Member

Now this was curious. I had no trouble adding the new user as a contact, or talking with him on Skype. Why would Persistent Chat have any objections?

Time to investigate (and document along the way)!

Check if Users are Enabled for Persistent Chat

The particular person is a new hire. Is their account set up in Active Directory? Yes.
Are they able to use Skype for Business? Yes.
Am I able to add someone ELSE to the Persistent Chat room? Yes.

So is the problem with the user account, or Persistent Chat itself?

Let’s check to make sure the user account is enabled for Persistent Chat. You can do this via the Control Panel or the Management Shell. I like the Control Panel myself, but if you prefer the Management Shell, this is the command you’ll use:
Set-CsPersistentChatRoom
[This configures the settings for an existing room, and lets you assign users or groups to the room.]

In the Skype for Business Control Panel, click Persistent Chat. You’ll see four menu options: Category, Add-In, Persistent Chat Policy, and Persistent Chat Configuration.

Under Persistent Chat Policy, we have a Global policy and a Pool policy. Both have Persistent Chat set to Enabled. Which means new users should have Persistent Chat access. Hmmm.

Over to the Category section. We have one pool. I open the pool.

Ahh, what’s this? We defined membership by individual users! If your account isn’t on the Allowed Members list, you don’t get to use Persistent Chat.

Persistent Chat Category

Let’s see what happens if I add the new user, using the “Add” button. (When you click it, you see this “Select Allowed Members” screen.)

Select Allowed Members

I enter the user’s first name, click Find, and there he is! A quick OK, and he shows up in the Allowed Members list. Click Commit to save. All done in the Control Panel.

Now let’s see if I can add him to the Chat Room. First, I open the Chat Room from Skype4B. Then go to More Options and click “Manage This Room.” (You must log in again, of course.)

Manage Chat Room

Then I see the “Edit a Room” window. Under “Members,” I enter the new user’s name, and then click the Check Names button on the right.

No “Invalid Member” error!

I click Commit Changes, and voila!

Chat Room Updated!

Unable to Add Users to Persistent Chat? Check Your Allowed Members List

I’ve also come across a similar issue, where admins aren’t able to add users to Persistent Chat rooms. It comes from adding “Domain Users” to the Allowed Members list.

I found the solution on Georg Thomas’ blog: Persistent Chat, Unable to resolve names or add Members and Managers: Invalid members – Georg Thomas on Skype for Business, Lync and Universal Communications

If you did use “Domain Users” in the Allowed Members list, user names won’t resolve when you add them to a chat room. You’ll have to add individual users to the Allowed Members list (like we do), or use an OU.

Good catch there Georg.

How’s your experience with Persistent Chat? Great value-add, or do you forget it’s there? Please comment or email your thoughts.

 

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