Browsing the archives for the configuration tag.

Can You Remove the PIN from Skype for Business Dial-In Conferencing?

Conferencing, Skype for Business

One reader entered the following line on our December poll:

“Remove PIN requirement for audio only conferences”

Hmmm. Removing the PIN entirely? I’d never considered this before. Was it even possible?

Time to find out!

First: How to Control PINs in Skype for Business

You enter a PIN when joining a Skype Meeting via Dial-In Conferencing.  It’s your authentication – letting you “in the door.”

Like most Skype for Business functions, PINs are controlled by policies. You can modify the global PIN policy through the Skype4B Control Panel, like this:

  • On a computer that’s a member of your domain, open the Skype for Business Server Control Panel.
  • In the left navigation bar, click “Conferencing”, and then click “PIN Policy”.
  • On the PIN Policy page, click the “Global” policy.
  • Click “Edit”, and then click “Show details”.
  • Here you can edit several PIN characteristics:
    • Minimum PIN Length (default is 5 digits)
    • Maximum Logon Attempts (a check box, automatically determined by default). If you select the check box, you can enter a maximum number.
    • Should PINs expire? A check box for enabling of disabling PIN expiration lets you decide. You can also select the number of days after which PINs expire.
    • PIN History – should users reuse their PINs?
    • A check box for allowing Common Patterns of digits. If you don’t select this, you’re preventing common patterns like “12345” or “44444”. IF you do select this, users can use common patterns for PINs.
  • When you’re done modifying, click “Commit”.
PowerShell PIN Policy

PowerShell warning when changing the PIN length

Or you can use one of the following PowerShell cmdlets.

Get-CsPinPolicy: Returns information about the client PIN.
Grant-CsPinPolicy: Assigns a client PIN policy to a user or group.
New-CsPinPolicy: Creates a new PIN policy.
Remove-CsPinPolicy: Removes an indicated PIN policy.
Set-CsPinPolicy: Modifies an existing PIN policy.

Next: Any Help from TechNet? How about Blogs?

All of this material you’ll find referenced in the Skype for Business section of Microsoft TechNet. Naturally, that’s where I went to look first.

TechNet is a maze sometimes. This search was no different. But I did find several useful resources which detailed working with PINs:
Manage dial-in conferencing in Skype for Business Server 2015
Manage PIN policies for dial-in conferencing in Skype for Business Server 2015
Set a user’s dial-in conferencing PIN in Skype for Business Server 2015

I saw a couple potential loopholes in PIN policy you could exploit, to make PIN use simpler. For instance, setting the global PIN policy to a small number of digits, and not setting user- or site-level policies. Or enter the same PIN for everyone and distribute it.

PINs as a Point of Security – Disable It? Not Likely.

Lock Tumbler NumbersHowever, trying to “cripple” PIN policy undermines a point of security. A PIN is there to protect something – whether that’s your ATM card or your weekly Skype Meeting. As such, I don’t recommend trying to avoid PIN use.

Besides, I found nothing in these TechNet docs which indicated you could turn PINs off. Subsequent Google searches yielded nothing helpful.

What about an add-on? I’ve reviewed a few Lync/Skype for Business add-ons here in the past. Maybe an add-on exists which could modify PIN use on conferencing.

Alas, several frustrated searches later, I was forced to concede. I pored through Office 365 documentation, support threads, and blog posts. Nothing.

So far as I can tell, it is not possible to completely disable PINs from use during dial-in conferencing.

Now, again, that’s not a bad thing. It provides extra security for everything from voicemail access to Skype Meetings. And it is faster than typing in an email & password on your phone!

Other Authentication Standards Growing – Which Will Win Out?

I was left to ponder the original request. What motivated the reader? The convenience of skipping a step? Did they use another authentication method instead?

People are getting used to other authentication methods, both in the office and when mobile. Fingerprint scanning, biometrics, “invisible” backend authentication processes like certificates, etc. More are on the horizon—driven by hackers and malware and the increasing need for securing personal information.

It’s entirely possible that future Skype for Business updates will offer alternate authentication. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Thanks for the poll response! It was an interesting line of thought to pursue. What do you think? If you could remove the PIN requirement from Dial-In Conferencing, would you? Would you prefer replacing it with another authentication method? Please comment or email your thoughts. And join us again next time!

 

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Lync Doesn’t Like a Recreated Active Directory User? How to Fix It

Lync Server 2013

A reader sent in a Lync Server/Active Directory support request the other day. I responded, but they solved it without much input from us (a credit to their fast troubleshooting skills!).

Afterward, we discussed their solution, and I asked if I could publish the issue. They said yes. So here it is!

Deleted a User from Active Directory & Recreated – Now Lync Won’t Accept

Alex’s email started with:

“I’m having an issue with a Lync 2013 server. I hope you can help me with it.”

“I had to delete a user account from the AD and my Exchange 2010. After that I made a new account for the user with the same login ID and email address. After that I’m not able to enter the user into the Lync 2013 server. Is there anywhere in the Lync 2013 I have to remove the user, or what can I do?”

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My initial thought was that both Lync and Active Directory had “ghost” user accounts now. The deleted user account still existed someplace, possibly within the Lync Front End server.

I asked Alex: “Did you remove the user from Lync, as well as AD? It’s possible that Lync retained a record of the user account from before, which it doesn’t now match up to the new account.”

“Look in Control Panel under Users. Remove this user, and recreate the user account. If that doesn’t work, you might try removing the user account from AD, Exchange and Lync in that order and re-creating it again. Tedious, I know, but that way Lync can re-establish its AD integration for the user.”

At this point Alex indicated that he’d resolved the issue. He’d done so “by changing the security settings on the AD account, so it is inheriting all security settings.”

Naturally I was curious for more details. How did he make the security change? Which specific permissions did he modify? Did he remove/recreate the user account first?

A Matter of Domain Administration

Alex was happy to provide. I’ve edited & reformatted his response slightly, below.

“On the domain controller, select the user’s profile. Select the Advanced view. Then I selected the Security tab, and could see that the group “Domain Admins” didn’t have any access to the account. I added the Domain Admins group, and then I made sure that all rights were inherited from the parent folder.”

“After this all my problem with Lync was solved. It also solved the problem we had with ActiveSync to Android Phones. ActiveSync to iPhone was working all the time, but not to Android before this operation.”

Makes sense. If the Domain Admins have no access to an account, they can’t authorize it for access to other services—like the Lync Server.

To check this myself, I went into our Active Directory through Active Directory Users and Computers. (This is not the exact way Alex indicated; I wanted to see if I could achieve the same end from another route.)

I made sure to select “Advanced Features” under the View menu. Then located a user, and opened the Properties window.

Sure enough, there’s a Security tab in this window. Click it, and you should see something like this:

userindomainadmin

(The login I used for this screenshot did not have full admin privileges; accordingly, it has grayed-out elements.)

This particular user is a member of Domain Admins, and has Full Control. Which means they are configured properly. If they were not, the highlighted line would not be present. Then I’d have to click the “Add” button and add permissions.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an Android phone on hand to test the sync. But it’s always nice when a fix for one issue resolves another too!

If you do face a situation where you need to delete a user & re-enter them, I’d suggest creating a slightly different AD username first. That way you’re sure the new account has no “ghosts” lurking amid the servers. But if you do need to recreate the exact user account, I hope Alex’s quick fix helps you!

Thanks to Alex for agreeing to share his issue with us.

Have you encountered a similar issue between Active Directory and Lync Server/Skype for Business Server? If so, please comment or email. We’d love to hear the details!

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Skype for Business Cumulative Update 1 Hits: New SLA Feature, Plenty of Fixes

Skype for Business

At last! Skype for Business has a full-fledged Cumulative Update!

Like its Lync predecessors, CU1 contains a group of updates, some of which were previously available on their own. The CU’s KB number is 3061064. You’ll find its download page here: Skype for Business Server 2015 Cumulative Update KB3061064 – Microsoft.com

CU1’s KB page with installation steps is here: Updates for Skype for Business Server 2015 – MS Support

The esteemed Greig in Sydney Blog has a thorough rundown of the Cumulative Update (with my kind of dry wit) right here:
SfB 2015 CU1 Server Update – November 2015: Greig in Syndey

What Do We Have in CU1? Fixes, Removals and Additions

With Greig’s help, let’s look at some of the updates included.

  • There are updates for Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition’s Front End and Back End, Edge, Persistent Chat, Mediation Server (standalone), Director and Video Interop Server (VIS).
  • This is primarily fixes, such as an issue stopping Windows 10 Edge users from joining Skype Meetings via the Web App (3095143).
  • This update removes a feature! Server-side Conversation History is removed from branch site deployments. Boo! (Yes, it’s still available in main server deployments and local machines. This isn’t a big loss. Still, leave us our Conversation History!)
  • We have new PowerShell cmdlets:
    • Add-CsSlaDelegates
    • Get-CsGroupPickupUserOrbit
    • Get-CsServerPatchVersion
    • Get-CsSlaConfiguration
    • New-CsGroupPickupUserOrbit
    • Remove-CsGroupPickupUserOrbit
    • Remove-CsSlaConfiguration
    • Remove-CsSlaDelegates
    • Reset-CsNotificationQueues
    • Set-CsGroupPickupUserOrbit
    • Set-CsSlaConfiguration

What’s “SLA”?

SLA in the above cmdlets stands for “Shared Line Appearance“. This is a new feature, which allows Skype4B devices to share calls via workgroups. Useful for a call center or customer service. These cmdlets let you administer the SLA feature within Skype for Business.

SLA3140-1–Image courtesy of Kressmark.Blogspot.com.

Matt Landis has SLA setup details on his blog: Setting Up Skype for Business Shared Line Appearance – Microsoft UC Report

The Kressmark Unified Communications Blog also has a diagram & details about Shared Line Appearance from the Ignite 2015 sessions: MS Ignite BRK3140 – The Voice of Skype for Business: Kressmark Unified Communications

From Greig’s description and Matt’s write-up, SLA sounds quite promising for call management. However, SLA suffers from one flaw right now – it’s limited to Polycom VVX phones. I spoke with some fellow IT pros at our last Lync User Group meeting about these phones–apparently quite a snazzy line of multi-functional VoIP devices. Looking forward to testing one as soon as I can.

This also means the Skype for Business client doesn’t work with SLA yet. Problem. Yes, we still have delegates and Response Groups to manage calls through the client (they even get some fixes with CU1). But not bringing a new feature to the client software first strikes me as a little experimental. Something like, “Let’s try this new feature on a specific device group, see what its users think, THEN push it out to everyone else.”

Update Your Skype for Business Servers to Cumulative Update 1 As Soon As You Can

Microsoft Update won’t auto-install CU1; you must do so manually. Consult the CU1 KB page for the installation procedure. It varies depending on your server edition and how many servers you run.

If we run into any snags with our CU1 update, I’ll document it here. If you encounter any CU1 issues, please comment or email & let’s see what we can do.

Also, what are your thoughts on Shared Line Appearance? Must-have? Don’t-need? Let’s hear it.

Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving! We’ll see you back here in December.

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Can Skype for Business Contribute to Big Data Research?

Skype for Business, SQL Server

Analysis has been part of the Lync Server family pretty much since the beginning. How else will you know to troubleshoot a SIP trunk or softphone, if you don’t have some form of data on where the problem is?

In recent years though, we’ve seen the arrival of Big Data. Going beyond server logs to huge data warehouses. Algorithms poring through exabytes. Insights teased out for many a scientific or commercial purpose.

Some Big Data research goals I’ve seen include:binary_file

  • Analyzing marketing campaigns
  • Predicting customer behavior
  • Improving scientific research processes
  • Finding inefficiencies in operations

It got me wondering. Skype for Business generates a fair amount of data. What kind of value could it contribute to Big Data research?

More Than Monitoring

In a sense there’s already a Big Data engine within Skype for Business Server – the Monitoring Server. It collects data on the other servers and Skype4B clients. Call Detail Recording (CDR)? Quality of Experience (QoE)? The Call Quality Dashboard? All a type of data analysis.

I’m thinking bigger than Monitoring though. Every bit of data generated & stored by Skype for Business and its dependencies. Conversation logs, call data, SIP traffic, bandwidth monitoring, server use records, and so on.

If you put all these together, what would be the best Big Data purpose for which to use them?

I’d have to say the last one strikes me as the one best suited for Skype for Business data: Finding inefficiencies in operations.

Analyzing these data can tell you if:

  1. There’s a correlation between your website’s uptime and customer support calls?
  2. Your recent beta launch took off, according to call workflow activity?
  3. Inter-department conversations alert you to an internal management issue?
  4. Marketing’s claim of 20% brand awareness growth matches to Sales’ incoming call volume?

And so on.

So there’s at least a business case for adding Skype4B data into Big Data research. The question now is, how feasible is it?

How Skype for Business Could Contribute Data

Skype for Business is a Microsoft server app. So of course its default database server is MS SQL Server. Running Skype4B Enterprise Edition requires multiple SQL servers in fact – Front End, Persistent Chat, Archiving, Monitoring, and any mirroring you want. (Standard Edition uses SQL Express.)

SQL Server databases are relational. In some Big Data articles I’ve read, relational databases are considered inferior for Big Data applications. The reason being that Big Data takes multiple disparate data sources, tosses them in its blender, and whips up some results. The inherent tabular structure of relational databases complicates making matches to other data types.

Not sure I believe this. Besides, it doesn’t mean SQL Server data is unusable. Far from it! You’d just need the proper tools to either convert the relational data, or analyze it as-is.

In terms of tools, I went looking, but quickly got lost among the many Big Data technologies! Hadoop, Odata, Spark, R…suffice to say there’s options out there to make use of your Skype for Business data.

(In fact SQL Server 2016 will include R, which should make Big Data analysis much easier.)

I did find a third-party solution called PowerView from UnifySquare. PowerView collects Lync Server 2013 data (website says it’s also Skype for Business 2015 Ready) into a central warehouse usable for Big Data queries. It also generates visual reports & dashboards, to make use of the insights you’ll find.

There’s also the PowerBI initiative from Microsoft. Among PowerBI’s listed connections are “SQL Database Auditing,” “Azure SQL Database” and “SQL Server Analysis Servies.” I see no reason why it couldn’t use Skype for Business databases as a data source.

I’m sure many other third-party Big Data platforms exist, which can incorporate Skype for Business data sets. If you know of any, please share!

Have you employed Skype for Business data in a Big Data query? What tools did you use? Please comment or email.

 

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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.

2015-10-07_9-17-57

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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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 – GreginSydney.com

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.

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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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The Story Behind Adding Skype Contacts into Skype for Business

Skype for Business

“How do I import Skype contacts into Skype for Business?”
“Do I have to use Skype and Skype for Business at the same time?”
“I have hundreds of people added on Skype. How do I get them into Skype for Business?”

This is one of the most popular topics I’ve run across for Skype for Business. It’s also one of the most frustrating.

It sounds like the easiest things in the world, right? You have X contacts in Skype (consumer). You want to add them to Skype for Business. Take them from one, pop them into the other.

Except it’s not easy. It’s pretty much the opposite.

Skype Contacts in Skype for Business: The Basics

One of the most trumpeted new features for Skype for Business (both Online and Server) was the ability to access the Skype Directory.

To do this, you had to make some configuration changes in each version.

SKYPE 4 BUSINESS SERVER – Front End & Edge Server must be configured to access the Skype Directory. We covered this in last month’s How to (Re-)Enable Skype Directory Search in the Skype for Business Client post.

OFFICE 365/SKYPE FOR BUSINESS ONLINE – In the Office 365 Admin Center, you must enable Public IM Connectivity under “External Communications”. Support reference: Let Skype for Business Online users communicate with external Skype for Business or Skype contacts – Office Support

With these changes you can search for, and communicate with Skype (consumer) users. But what if you have dozens, even hundreds of business contacts in Skype already?

Methods of (Attempted) Contact Import

Exporting from Skype has been a simple process for a while. In the Skype client, click Contacts. Move to Advanced, and click “Backup Contacts to File…” Name the backup file, save it to a location of your choosing, and done. You now have a VCard (.vcf) containing your Skype Contacts.

However, getting these contacts into Skype4B? Not so simple.

According to several sources (such as this Skype discussion thread), there is no contact import feature in Skype for Business at this time.

Undaunted, I brainstormed on the issue a while. Eventually I thought of investigating a workaround using Outlook. Maybe if I added Skype Contacts into Outlook as Address Book Contacts, I could bulk-import them into Skype4B.

(There IS a folder in Outlook’s Address Book titled “Skype for Business Contacts”. Sadly, it’s read-only.)

I got as far as importing the VCard into Outlook (here’s an import process how-to, if you’d like to try). I have 4 test contacts from Skype added into my regular Outlook Address Book.

At this point I had something strange happen. I started typing my test contacts’ names into the Skype4B search box – and they appeared! For a second I was elated. Had my workaround actually succeeded?

Unfortunately, when I tried to add them to my Contacts List, I saw this error message:

Skype4B Cannot Add Contact

No luck. Other contact types worked fine…just not the imported Skype contacts.

So What CAN We Do? Add Skype Contacts One at a Time

We can still add Skype contacts one at a time. Tedious, I know, but it does work.

If your Skype for Business Server (or Office 365 account) meets the above requirements, start typing in the Skype4B search box. Directly under it you’ll see these options:

Skype Directory Option

Clicking “SKYPE DIRECTORY” will search the full Skype Directory for your search term. In this case I started typing “Josh”, my friend’s first name, and received a long list of Joshes’ Skype accounts. You can search using names, Skype Names, email addresses, phone numbers and even a contact’s location.

Once you see your contact, all you have to do is right-click and add them to one of your Contact Lists.

Since this is a one-at-a-time process, I suggest doing this on an as-needed basis. I also suggest emailing or IMing your Skype contacts beforehand to explain what you’re up to. (If they already have you added on Skype, a second contact request might confuse them.)

I wrote up a short message you can use for this purpose.

Hi [CONTACT NAME],
I’m adding you on my Skype for Business account. You’ll see a contact request from me in a moment. It may look like a duplicate contact on your end.
Just wanted to let you know ahead of time, so you’re not confused. Thanks for understanding.
–[YOUR NAME]

Skype Contacts in Skype4B: Doable, But an Incomplete Feature

I was hoping for a clever little workaround which enabled all of us to grab Skype Contacts and toss them into Skype for Business. Unfortunately, no such workaround revealed itself.

Like many of you, I’m surprised Microsoft hasn’t included this functionality in Skype for Business. I hereby call for it to take a top spot on the Feature Requests list!

Do you use Skype (consumer) and work with business contacts there? Please comment or email me you thoughts. And join us back here next week, of course!

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Skype4B Features: Server-Side Conversation History

Skype for Business

Back in January I went through Lync 2013 for the iPhone. One of the issues I noted was that my phone’s Conversation History only showed those conversations I had using the phone. Also, these conversations didn’t show in my laptop’s Conversation History.

From my post:
“However, this made me think of a would-be-nice for the Skype for Business iPhone client…access to full Conversation History within the client. I don’t know how many times I’ve consulted Conversation History for dates, numbers, etc. If I could do that on my phone & find conversations from my laptop? Major timesaver.”

A Refreshing Walk Through Lync 2013 for iPhone (1-22-15)

Ladies and gentlemen…I called it.

One of the new features in Skype for Business Server 2015 is the Server-Side Conversation History.

Server-Side Conversation History: The Details

As I noted previously, Conversation History in Lync Server 2013 was device-specific. It stored a record of your conversations in the Lync 2013 client, and in an Outlook folder labeled “Conversation History”, depending on which device you used for that conversation. You’re on a laptop, you get a log in the Conversation History folder. You’re on your phone, you get a log in your phone’s Lync client.

Now with Skype for Business, instead of device-specific storage, all Conversation History is stored server-side. Which means that all your devices can see the same Conversation History.

Skype4B Conversation History

You do need Exchange Server 2013 or Exchange Online. And it must be set up for integration with Skype for Business Server. After that, all it takes is a PowerShell cmdlet.

How You Set Up Server-Side Conversation History

I checked our Skype for Business server. As I suspected, Server-Side Conversation History was deactivated by default.

Fortunately, it’s easy to activate (provided you have Exchange set up & integrated). Credit to these two blog posts for their clean & clear instructions.

1. Skype for Business Enable Server Side Conversation History – Martin Boam’s Microsoft UC Blog
Martin’s article has a step-by-step procedure using the Set-CsClientPolicy cmdlet. He also has instructions on integrating Exchange, if you haven’t done that yet.

The enabling cmdlet format goes like this:

Get-CsClientPolicy -Identity Global |Set-CsClientPolicy -EnableServerConversationHistory $true

This is one of two ways; #2 below has the other way.

2. Skype for Business Server 2015 – New Commandlets – Randy’s Lync and UC Blog
Randy’s post has a full list of the new Skype4B cmdlets. The three directly referencing Server-Side Conversation History are:

  • Get-CsConversationHistoryConfiguration – Shows you the Conversation History configuration settings.
  • Remove-CsConversationHistoryConfiguration – Resets the Conversation History configuration.
  • Set-CsConversationHistoryConfiguration – Modifies the Conversation History settings. This is Way #2 to activate Server-Side Conversation History.

Using these cmdlets, the format would be:

Set-CsConversationHistoryConfiguration -Identity “Global” -EnableServerConversationHistory $True

(Please note: These cmdlets modify the Global client policy. If you want to limit Server-Side Conversation History to certain groups, use that group’s identity for the -Identity parameter.)

Victory for Mobile Skype4B Users!

The move to Skype for Business 2015 contains many usability improvements. Most of these expand Lync 2013’s capabilities (Call via Work) and/or blend in Skype functionality (Rate My Call).

Server-Side Conversation History’s biggest help is in mobile user experience. Now I have access to my conversations – ALL my conversations – on my phone, wherever I am. I see all sorts of benefit to different professionals: Support tracking, IT management, project collaborations, sales/marketing lead tracking, and so on.

Now if only we’d get a new Skype for Business iOS/Android client…
(One IS coming, in the “next few months” according to Microsoft. Sigh.)

Do you use Server-Side Conversation History? If so, please comment or email how you use it in Skype for Business. I’d love to gather & compare some use cases in a future post.

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Skype4B Features: Rate My Call

Skype for Business

One of the most frequent questions we get about the new Skype for Business is, “What’s this ‘How was the call quality?’ box that keeps popping up?”

That’s the Rate My Call window. It’s a method for Skype for Business to collect & analyze call data. After a call, users are shown a small prompt asking them to rate their call’s quality using stars and some checkboxes. It looks like this.

Rate My Call Window

The user checks a box if there was an audio issue (they heard a weird background noise, for instance), and selects how many stars they rate the call’s quality out of 5. There are also options for video issues too, if you used video on your call.

A pretty standard rating system. Rate My Call then records the data in 2 tables in the Monitoring database.

  1. [QoeMetrics].[dbo].[CallQualityFeedbackToken] – Results of token polling by users
  2. [QoeMetrics].[dbo].[CallQualityFeedbackTokenDef] – Token definitions

Because of the data storage & back-end requirements, Rate My Call is limited to on-premise deployments (sorry Skype for Business Online users!).

How to Configure Rate My Call

Rate My Call is enabled by default in on-premise Skype for Business. It’s set to display the Rate My Call window 10% of the time.

You do have the option of adding “Custom User Feedback” – inserting a field for extra feedback – but this is disabled by default. If you want to enable Customer User Feedback, just use this cmdlet.

Set-CSClientPolicy -Identity [PolicyIdentity] -RateMyCallAllowCustomUserFeedback $true

Additionally, you can change the percentage for displaying the Rate My Call window with the same cmdlet. This example would change the percentage from 10% to 50%.

Set-CSClientPolicy -Identity [PolicyIdentity] -RateMyCallDisplayPercentage 50

(I don’t recommend bugging users that much though. No more than 25% of the time would be my suggestion.)

How to Access Rate My Call Data

You can access the data through SQL queries, and the Call Quality Dashboard.

Example SQL queries are listed at the bottom of this page: Rate my Call in Skype for Business Server – TechNet

Of course, you can write your own queries too. Or you can set up the Call Quality Dashboard for a more visual reference.

Fair warning: Deploying Call Quality Dashboard is a lot of work. You need SQL Server, IIS, SQL Analysis Server, a pre-existing QoE Metrics database, and a fair bit of configuration. Here’s a deployment guide: Deploy Call Quality Dashboard for Skype for Business Server 2015 – TechNet

Once Call Quality Dashboard is deployed & configured, you can access it at: http://[SERVERNAME]/CQD

Is it worth it? Enterprises will think so. Like most Monitoring Server Reports, the Call Quality Dashboard gives you detail-rich QoE (Quality of Experience) reports. Do users in Sales report that audio quality’s poor? You’ll see this in one of the created-by-default reports. Does the Front Desk report call echo (…echo…echo…)? It’s in the report. And of course you can create your own QoE reports too.

More help with using CQD Reports: Use Call Quality Dashboard for Skype for Business Server 2015 – TechNet

Using Rate My Call: The Biggest Value

Now, the big question: What’s the big value in Rate My Call? Why did Microsoft include it in Skype for Business?

My opinion – Rate My Call is a way to crowd-source your network maintenance.

Think about this. Audio/video calls use a lot of bandwidth – which means they’re very sensitive to network issues. If their quality drops, it means something’s not working well enough. You can treat this like an “early warning system” for network problems.

If you have a large number of users voting about how good/bad their call quality is, you’re able to collect a large aggregate of data. Big Data for your office’s calls. You examine this data, and find places where there’s a weak link.

That weak link might be a configuration problem. It might be a bad Ethernet cable. It might be a dying router. No matter the cause, you know something’s up. So you fix it now, restore call quality, and avoid the potential for more serious failure later.

If you’re installing Skype for Business Server, let me recommend an “introductory period” for Rate My Call.

  1. Use the PowerShell cmdlet above to alter Rate My Call’s display percentage to 25%.
  2. Notify all users of Rate My Call’s existence, and ask them to rate all their calls (including video!).
  3. Continue tracking at 25% for 2 weeks.
  4. Reset display percentage to 10%.
  5. Examine the QoE reports for this period, using whichever method you prefer. If you see low quality measurements, you know where you have to check.

Do you plan to use Rate My Call? If so, please comment or email with your thoughts & what kind of environment you have. I’d like to hear what quality elements people are tracking.

And join us again 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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