Friday, September 22, 2017

How-To Video: PSTN Conferencing (Public Preview) in Microsoft Teams

In the final days before Microsoft Ignite, it appears that the Product Team has quietly gifted us with a brand new Public Preview feature: PSTN Conferencing in Microsoft Teams!

Please note, to be able to take advantage of this feature, you need to be licensed for PSTN Conferencing within Skype for Business Online. If you are not properly licensed for PSTN Conferencing, you simply won't see the Dialin Conferencing information in the Meeting Details.

The below video is an brief introduction to this feature, and how to use it. Keep in mind, the PSTN Conferencing settings that have been setup in Skype for Business Online appear to be what is carried over for Teams.


I hope that the above video was helpful in getting you started with Microsoft Teams meetings that have greater capabilities!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Video: Setup & Implement Guest Access in Microsoft Teams

For those of you that did not hear about the long-awaited arrival of Guest Access in Microsoft Teams, I have a two part process that I want you to follow for getting caught up to speed:

  1. Crawl out from the rock that you are living under
  2. Watch the below How-To video!



This video briefly walks through four main components of the Guest Access experience that you will get you working with external guests in Teams. 

  • Enable Guest Access for your Office 365 Tenant
  • Invite a guest to your Team
  • Accept and join a Team as a guest
  • Switching between accounts in Teams
I hope that the video was enlightening and helpful! If you are looking for a brief walkthrough that you can read, and that gives more details on what can and cannot be done as a guest, visit Matt Landis' blog post here:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint Files in Microsoft Teams

The ability to upload, view, and have contextual chat conversations around various Office document types within Microsoft Teams has been great. To me, however, the inability to edit documents within Teams, especially Microsoft Office documents, was quite undesirable.

























To edit Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents in Teams previously, you had to click on the "Edit" button while viewing the document, and then either edit it in the full Office app, or the Office Online version of the app.

Today, I noticed that the ability to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents directly within Teams has been added, much to my excitement! Note, I have verified that this works for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint file types as of the time of this blog post. However, I am not sure about others. I verified that it does not work for Visio drawings, but if it ever does, that would be freakin' sweet!

Check out my video below going over this simple, but very welcome, change to working with Office files within Teams.




Monday, August 7, 2017

Cloud PBX Rebranding to Microsoft Phone System & Early Ignite Observations

The upcoming Session Catalog for Microsoft Ignite has given quite a bit of insight into some upcoming changes or direction for the Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams communities well ahead of the conference itself. While I comb through the list of available sessions to start putting my own Ignite agenda together, there a few things that stood out to me that I thought were worth calling out.

Cloud PBX & PSTN Calling get Name Refreshes

It seems not too long ago that Cloud PBX and PSTN Calling were introduced. As a matter of fact, with less than 10 countries currently available for PSTN Calling today, it seems crazy that a re-name of these services would possibly be in the works. However, a session titled, "Is Voice in the cloud right for you?" (Session BRK2038) suggests that this is indeed the case.

Based on the details of this session, we see that Microsoft apparently intends to rebrand Cloud PBX to "Microsoft's Phone System", and PSTN Calling will get remodeled with "Calling Plan". I know, I was thinking the same thing: Couldn't the Marketing team have thought of anything a bit less...obvious...and a bit more...catchy? ;-) At any rate, like it or hate it, that is what shows up for this session as of the date of this blog post, so don't get too much more attached to "Cloud PBX" or "PSTN Calling". I know it will definitely take some work for me to adjust...

A New Portal: The Networking Portal

Based on session "Network Planning for Real Time Communications with the Networking Portal (Session BRK2031), it would appear that a new portal is in the works. The Networking Portal appears to be built around RTC traffic for both Skype for Business and Teams. Check out the below excerpt from the session description:

"In this session we introduce our newly created Networking Portal - an essential piece of Planning and Operating any Real Time Communications environment, whether running Teams, Skype for Business or both. It will help organize your networking data centrally, such as subnets per location, users per location, etc. It allows import and export of Call Quality Dashboard Sites data and Call Analytics, making it easier to maintain that information. It is also the central point for your Bandwidth Calculations for both Teams and Skype for Business."

This looks like a very intriguing new tool to learn about, and I am really hoping that it will fit nicely into my Ignite schedule.

Teams & Skype for Business Getting Pretty Cozy

When you go to the Session Catalog on the Microsoft Ignite site, you can enter search terms to narrow down the hundreds of available sessions. As of right now, searching for "Teams" narrows down the list to 51 session. Some of these sessions are very strictly built around getting to know Teams better. Some are listed because they are more general Office 365 sessions that include Teams in the description. The resounding theme I am seeing, though, is that MANY of these sessions focus in on both Teams AND Skype for Business, grouping them together in many ways that really make you wonder what the story of these two products will look like after Ignite.

The below sessions all just a small sample of the sessions that I observed this with, and if you visit their links, you might start to observe the same behavior. I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts after checking them out as well:


So, those are some of my initial thoughts and observations about what is in store for us at Ignite in regards to Skype for Business and Teams. What are some of your observations?!


Friday, July 7, 2017

Sonus CloudLink: Call Transfer Failed for PSTN Caller

I came across an interesting issue today with a Sonus CloudLink deployment involving failed Call Transfers of PSTN calls. I'll start with the background on this deployment.

Background


This deployment was fairly straightforward. The organization started out with a fresh Skype for Business Online environment, and no Hybrid was ever involved. All users had E5 licensing with Cloud PBX. The firm had a CUCM device (and another random Intercom device using an FXO port), and they wanted to continue using their voice carrier with their existing DIDs for their Cloud PBX users. They decided to go with a Sonus 1K and CloudLink for the solution.

The journey to the point of our Call Transfer problems was a little longer than it needed to be, as this was my first CloudLink deployment, and there were a few lessons to be learned. Let's suffice to say, the CCE instance was finally installed nicely on the ASM, and calls were flowing quite nicely between all components: CCE, CUCM, and PSTN. All was just peachy. Until we tried to transfer an answered PSTN call to another Cloud PBX user, or their voicemail.

The Problem


To reproduce the issue, I would place a call over the PSTN using my cell phone to a DID that had been assigned to one of the test users that had been migrated from CUCM to Cloud PBX (CCE). The test user account was able to successfully answer the call and have a conversation. However, once the Cloud PBX user tried to transfer this PSTN call to another Cloud PBX user within this same tenant, or to their voicemail, the call would be placed on Hold, and an error message would appear in the Skype for Business client call window stating that the Call Transfer Failed.

Frustrating, but ok. Let's fire up the LX Logging tool for SBC logging, and run the CCE Logging wizard that is provided within the Sonus web interface on a CloudLink device. First, looking at the call in the LX Tool, I saw this entry in the Call Flow:




As you can see, this NOTIFY entry was where the Transfer attempt took place, and we the text:

Subscription-State: terminated;reason=noresource
and...
SIP/2.0 503 Service Unavailable
Well, this had me scratching my head. I wasn't sure what service it was saying was unavailable, or why the call could not be transferred based on this error, and the other messages in that chain didn't help. Taking a look at the CCE logs actually revealed the exact same issue, but nothing else that helped me:





After looking around a bit more, I finally involved the Sonus Support team (who has always been incredibly awesome to me!). After providing my logs, and a Config Backup of the SBC, they were able to spot the issue.

The Resolution


You see, in their documentation for installing and configuring the CCE instance, Sonus strongly suggests that you use the SBC Easy Setup wizard for configuring all your call routing rules, etc., as seen below:



However, I decided to be special, and create all the Signaling Groups, Call Routing Tables, and Transformation rules on my own. This wasn't an issue leading up to the Call Transfer problem, because all of our call routing was working as expected. However, the Sonus Support tech somehow was able to note (probably from the Config Backup) that I had not used this wizard. He then pointed out that one of the things that the wizard does is to create a Split-DNS entry on the SBC itself for the default CCE domain that is created with the CCE wizard (which is sfb-ccedomain.local), pointing this domain name to the IP address of the AD/DNS server that is created as a CCE VM. He stated that without this entry, the SBC was unable to resolve the Mediation Server's FQDN (med.sfb-ccedomain.local).

Now, I was confused why this was necessary for Call Transfers, but apparently not an issue with normal P2P calls, as the Mediation Server's IP address seemed to be sufficient. However, it was worth a try. So, I when into the DNS section on the SBC and created the new entry.


















Then, I went and tested out the PING utility in the SBC's Diagnostics tab, and sure enough, it now resolved med.sfb-ccedomain.local, whereas it could not resolve it before. Brilliant!


































Finally, I went to test transfer, both to a user, and to their Voicemail, and guess what? Yep: SUCCESS! Good way to end a Friday! I hope this helps at least one or two of you on your CCE or CloudLink adventures.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Deltapath's O365 Connector Brings More Options to Hybrid

I recently had the opportunity & privilege to have a long-distance face-to-face sit-down with Deltapath's Founder & CEO, David Liu, to discuss a newly launched product: Deltapath O365 Connector. This product intrigued me, specifically because it provided a creative solution to an issue that I have personally seen several clients try to tackle. In this blog post I will aim to provide a brief overview of some of the features of the Deltapath O365 Connector, and will then go into the specific use case that it solves for that caught my attention.

Deltapath O365 Connector Overview


At its most basic level, the O365 Connector is a physical device that sits in an organization's physical datacenter. It provides connectivity between an organization's Skype for Business Online users and it's on-premises PBX and PSTN services. You may wonder why that functionality is different than CCE or other native hybrid Skype for Business Server solutions, and I will get to that in a minute.

The O365 Connector has multiple roles all wrapped into a single device, including a Session Border Controller (SBC), firewall, SIP Proxy, Call Routing Engine, and even an Endpoint-Provisioning Server. This is a lot to pack into a product, and accordingly, the functions and features of this device go well beyond the specific use case that I want to cover today. For that reason, I will provide a link to the product page so that you can dive a bit deeper on your own, at your own leisure:

https://www.deltapath.com/products/deltapath-o365-connector

Beyond the device's capabilities, Deltapath provides three different versions of its device, allowing organizations of various sizes to get a device that more closely matches its specific needs. The following chart from Deltapath highlights each size of the device, along with corresponding specs:




There are also a number of additional Modules that can be obtained and used with these devices. Per Deltapath's marketing materials, these modules include:
  • Call Conversation Recording
  • Inbound Contact Center
  • Outbound Contact Center
  • Serviced Office
  • Call Billing
  • Alarm Notification & Escalation
  • Building Management System Integration
  • Acute Hospital Communication
The O365 Connector can also be launched in a pair, as a cluster, introducing an element of redundancy.
Lastly, this device can be provisioned and configured with a simple and easy-to-use web GUI interface, easing administration concerns of introducing another device into an already complex on-premises telephony infrastructure.

Again, this post will not be diving into all of these features or modules, but I wanted to call them out for those organizations that may want be looking for these features in addition to the use case that I will be highlighting below.


Enhanced Hybrid Use Case


Consider the following scenario: an organization has an existing on-premises telephony infrastructure, including a PBX and PSTN services, and also has Skype for Business Online users in Office 365 that are licensed with E1 or E3. This organization wants to allow these Skype for Business users to have PSTN calling capabilities, but does not want to upgrade to E5 or purchase Cloud PBX add-on licensing. The reasons for this could be as simple as compliance restrictions of some sort that requires them to keep their PBX functionality on-premises, or a number of other reasons. So, how do they provide these non-Cloud-PBX Skype for Business Online users with PSTN capabilities using their own on-premises PBX and PSTN services?

This is the problem that O365 Connector provides a solution for, presenting yet another way to explore Hybrid for organizations that may not be able to go down some of the other more mainstream paths at this time.

The way that this solution works is actually quite interesting. The O365 Connector device resides in a perimeter network architecture. If used as a firewall, a public IP can be assigned directly to one interface of the device, with the other interface able to communicate with the internal LAN. Otherwise, the device can be behind a firewall, with a public IP NAT translating to the device's external interface on a private network. A public DNS record (for example, ms.demodomain.com) will resolve to the associated public IP of the device, and Office 365 Federation will be configured with the 'ms.demodomain.com' FQDN.

The device can have certain SIP endpoints (like Polycom VVX phones) register directly to it, but for non-SIP devices, the device will communicate with another device, like a Cisco Call Manager or other PBX. When a user from either type of device dials a phone number, SIP address, or an extension of a Skype for Business Online user, the O365 Connector sends the call to the Skype for Business user (it can also do sim-ring if that user also has a non-SIP endpoint).

How does a Skype for Business user dial a phone number, then, since again, they are not Cloud PBX users? Well, the Skype for Business user dials a regularly dialed phone number, or an extension, in the format: '15551234567@ms.demodomain.com', or an extension as '5555@ms.demodomain.com'. This reaches out via federation to the O365 Connector device at 'ms.demodomain.com', and the device will then send the call to the appropriate destination. Example:

Image Courtesy of Deltapath




This may be a bit confusing to read through, so I will refer to this very handy graphic created by
Deltapath to illustrate the various forces at work here:




To help understand each step in a color-coded way, the below Deltapath graphic explains the call flows a bit better:



As you can see, this solution provides a very unique bridge for environments that need/desire to provide PSTN calling capabilities to their Skype for Business Online users, without moving any of their call-control functionality into Microsoft's cloud.

Clearly, there may be a challenge with the fact that dialing is not done via a dialpad by the Skype for Business users. Instead, they must be trained to place these calls by using an email-like format. This does present a learning curve that an organization will have to plan appropriately for. Obviously, this is a fact that will have to be weighed as part of the strategy and decision-making process; organizations will have to decide if the learning curve is acceptable in relation to the unique problem that the device solves for.


In Conclusion...


The focus of this blog post was on a specific use case that the Deltapath O365 Connector provides a unique solution for: Skype for Business Online users, without Cloud PBX functionality, that need PSTN dialing capabilities through their organization's on-premises telephony infrastructure. In this regard, the solution does indeed tell a compelling story. It also helps that the device can meet other needs within the same solution, including things like firewall capabilities and endpoint provisioning. You can get more information about the product at the link provided above, and should even be able to schedule some sort of demo with their team. It never hurts to investigate all your options when 3rd-party tools are needed to fully meet your requirements!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Getting Started: Using the Plantronics Voyager 5200 UC

When I am on the go, and thus not at my home office with my normal recording setup (i.e., Blue Yeti microphone, webcam, etc.), I have found myself recording with my full headset...over top of my cowboy hat. An awkward fit, to say the least, but it worked. I recently got my hands on a Plantronics Voyager 5200 UC (earpiece), and this has made my mobile recording situation a lot more natural.

I created a brief video to serve as a "How to Get Started" tutorial for this device. Please note, this is not a Review at all. It is more of a walk-through of the product in the spirit of learning how to use the device. The video is below, and a link to the video is below the embedded video, in case you would rather view it at YouTube. I hope this helps!


https://youtu.be/eJKBX4oF4iM

Stay techy, my friends!