Friday, January 13, 2017

#Skype4BRecap - 01/13/2017 - MSUC.Chat on Jan 27, Cloud PBX PSTN Calling Dial Plans, Consult Transfer

The news of the week this week by far is the ability to create and configure Dial Plans, with EXTENSIONS, for Skype for Business Online, Cloud PBX, PSTN Calling users! However, that's not the only thing worth mentioning. Check out the video below, and don't forget about the links to the various topics discussed below that:


If you would rather watch the episode at my YouTube channel instead of in the window above, check it out here:

Stay Techy, My Friends!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Plantronics BackBeat FIT Unboxing & Review

This last Christmas I received a Plantronics BackBeat FIT as a gift from my amazing wife, and I was thrilled! Granted, we may have made it easy on each other by creating Wishlists on Amazon, and shopping for each other based on that, that is beside the point.

A little over a year ago I won a Plantronics Voyager Focus UC headset at the Charlotte Skype for Business Users Group, and I was very impressed with it's audio quality, both via speaker and microphone (Check out the #Skype4BRecap Episode where I demo this headset, give my 2 cents: It's comfort level was also unrivaled in my experience, so it has been my go-to ever since. Therefore, when I saw Plantronics had a wireless headset designed for running, exercise, and fitness in general, the drooling began and I knew I had to take it for a spin! Below is my experience with unboxing the BackBeat FIT, and my take on its comfort, quality, and effectiveness.

First, a bit about the BackBeat FIT!

Features & Specs

  • Wireless (wired headsets/earbuds REALLY frustrate me, especially for exercise)
  • Bluetooth v3.0 Capable
    • Streaming Audio (Music, etc.)
    • Phone Call Answer
  • Batter Life
    • 8 Hours Listen Time
    • 6 Hours Talk Time
  • Wireless Range: 33 Ft. (10 meters)
  • Waterproof design (meets IP57 Standard) with additional sweatproof nano-coating - VERY important for exercise!
Moving on, let's open the box and check these things out!

The Un-Boxing

Plantronics not only does an excellent job on the quality of their products, but careful attention to detail is also given on their presentation and packing.

Merry Christmas to me!
Turning the box to the side allows you to get a good, clean view of the headset before even opening the box. You will notice that opted for the Black Core color , but the BackBeat FIT also comes in Power Blue, Sport Grey, Stealth Green, and Fit Fuchsia.

Transparent Side-View
The front of the box is actually a flap that can be opened like the cover of a book. This is really nice, because it lets you get a good look at the entire headset behind the transparent plastic casing without ever having to open the box. The inside flap also demonstrates how the carrying case for the headset can be flipped inside-out to serve as an armband during exercise.

Alright, let's crack open the top, and get this thing open, shall we?! When opening the top flap, you will notice that there are two "webbed" tabs on each side of the top tab that are attached to the top with one side, and to the rest of the box on the other side. This prevents the top tab from being fully folded back, assisting in a clean design and preventing potential damage to the box. There is also a small folded tab for you to grab onto, allowing you to pull out the entire contents of the package smoothly.

Grabbing that small black tab, I gently pulled out the entire contents of the box...

The box should now be fully empty, and we see the exposed headset, which is still very effectively secured in the inner-packaging components. Like I said, Plantronics' attention to detail and quality extends beyond the product to the packaging, at least in this case!

Getting a closer look at the headset in the packaging, we see the multiple points where the headset is secured by the packaging still. Also, though it is a little difficult to see due to the black color of the packaging attached to the main white packaging component, we can see that the bottom black packaging component can be gently disconnected from the small button-shaped corners. The picture above shows the black packaging component still attached at each of the four corners, while the below image shows each of the corners detached.

With the corners detached, the white packaging component can be lifted off of the black packaging component, revealing the headset carrying pouch and paperwork/documentation.

The pouch easily slides out of the black sleeve containing it, and the papers are revealed in a separate slot beneath it.

Unzipping the pouch and pulling it open reveals the USB charging cable (yes, USB only), and the straps for use as an armband during exercise.

To get a the full idea of how this pouch will function as an armband for workouts, simply flip it inside-out. You now have a Green arm-band carrying case that matches the color-scheme of your BackBeat FIT. You will also notice that the black portion of the case, which is now internal, has a slot that provides a place for you to store things like Drivers License or credit cards.

Overall, I have to say I was VERY impressed with the design, quality, and especially comfort level of the pouch. It is also made from fairly stretchable material, allowing it to fit a wide variety of different smart phone types. I have a Samsung Galaxy S6, and while the material did need to stretch a tiny bit to fit around the phone and zip up, it did so without an unnecessary amount of stretching; I was not at all concerned about the fit.

Ok, let's turn our attention back to getting that headset out of the white packaging component. First, the front of the component. As we can see, the headset is being held secure by a point at the top of the neck band, and a point on each of the ear pieces.

Flipping over to the back side, we can see that each earbud is secured snuggly behind the white packaging component.

To start removing the headset from the package, hold it firmly in one hand, while gently using a finger from the other hand to push out the first ear bud from the back of the packaging. Repeat this step on the second earbud.

With the earbuds free, gently pull the headset free from the two bottom tabs (the ones holding down the headset at the base of the ear portion), one at a time. Doing this allows you to pull the headset up past the security tab at the top of the neck portion of the packaging. Given that the material of the band-portion of the headset allows for a little stretching, you could probably free up the top neck portion in the beginning by just stretching it a bit, but I am always a fan of un-packaging devices like this as gently as possible.

We are now free to fully remove the headset from the packaging! This view allows you to see them standing freely in their natural position, as they will be worn.

Here the set is flipped open to get a good look at the design and structure of the earbuds and the entire ear components.

Finally, let's have a brief glance at the many languages that we can learn to operate this headset in:

And there you have it, the headset, pouch, cord, and documentation has all be un-boxed!

Close-Up and Powering On/Off the Device

The below view is a close up of the bottom of the bud that provides the connection for the USB charging component. There is a small ridge that allows you to use a fingernail to pry this open, and then it outer covering slides out of the way of the opening without becoming detached. Would hate to lose the covering! When closed, it seems to hold snuggly in place, but not so snuggly that it is difficult to get back open. Good design!

There is a small ridge that allows you to use a fingernail to pry this open, and then it outer covering slides out of the way of the opening without becoming detached. Would hate to lose the covering! When closed, it seems to hold snuggly in place, but not so snuggly that it is difficult to get back open. Good design!

While my headset came with a big of a charge for initial use, I plugged it in right away anyway, just to get a feel for how the charging process goes. The connection is smooth, easy to connect, and quick clean up when the charging is finished.

As we can see below, we have a nice warm red light on the earbud piece while it is charging:

When ready to power it on, there is a very small shiny black tab at the top of the earbud with the 'phone' button. It protrudes outward from the earbud, ever-so-slightly.

Press and hold this little tab for a few seconds, and the earbud will light up blue for a couple seconds to let you know it has turned on.

In similar fashion, you will hold this same small black tab down for a few seconds to turn the headset off. Once it lights up red for a couple seconds, it has powered down.

Quality Assessment

Physical Quality

As I have mentioned several other times throughout this post, I feel that Plantronics brings a high-level of quality to all of their products, and the BackBeat FIT has not proven to be any different in this regard. From the packaging, to the materials of the device, and even the arm-band pouch, you really get the feeling that no corners were cut in the design and manufacturing of the device.

Audio Quality

Keeping in mind that this device is designed for being light-weight, flexible, and durable to physical activity and sweat, the audio quality is surprising excellent. Obviously it cannot stack up to the crisp and clear quality of something like the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC, but again, it is a different type of device, and that level of quality is likely not possible to achieve in a device designed for fitness and exercise. Those caveats being what they are, the quality on the BackBeat FIT blew me away, and I have been very pleasantly surprised!

Comfort Assessment

Comfort was a huge part of my assessment. I have traditionally found it extremely difficult to find an exercise headset that is supposed to fit around your ears like the BackBeat FIT is designed to do, while still achieving a reasonable level of comfort.

I don't honestly know what Plantronics has done differently in the design of the ear components from other vendors, but I found the BackBeat FIT design to be not only comfortable, but almost unnoticeable, during usage! I have not yet had the change to take it for a run, but I did use it during some extensive yard work, and yes, I was able to assess how they felt with a good sweat worked up, and they maintained a very reasonable comfort level. I'll spare you a sweat-drenched pic, but this shows how the BackBeat FIT looks during wear:

In Summary...

Overall, the Plantronics BackBeat FIT is an incredible wireless headset for exercise and fitness. It's comfort level, audio and device quality, and overall management makes this device entirely worth the list price at Plantronics' site (though you may find a break in places like Amazon, etc.). I will be using this headset for all future workouts for quite some time! If you have one, or end up getting one yourself, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Next up, I need to take this thing for a spin with a Skype for Business call or two. I know the audio might not be quite as good as what I am currently using, but it certainly is more compact and easy to carry for on-the-go conversations!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#Skype4BRecap - 01/08/17 - Q1 User Groups & Events, Skype for Business in the Volvo

This last week I finally got out my first #Skype4BRecap of 2017! It was also the first one after a very busy few weeks over the busy holiday season. Now that Christmas and New Year's are behind me, it is time to get back into the swing of weekly episodes, I would say!


If you would rather watch the episode at my YouTube channel instead of in the window above, check it out here:

Stay Techy, My Friends!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Welcome Microsoft Teams to the Microsoft Collaboration Portfolio!

Today Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, took the stage in New York City, along with Office CVP Kirk Koenigsbauer and other special guests, to make some incredible announcements. Chief among these announcements was the arrival of a new collaboration tool that will compete against the mounting momentum of rival product Slack: Microsoft Teams!

While Microsoft Teams is probably the single biggest announcement in the Skype for Business world since Cloud PBX and PSTN Calling, it is deeply integrated with the whole Office 365 suite, bringing an incredibly powerful collaboration machine to the enterprise that will be tough to ignore.

A Brief Intro to Microsoft Teams

Teams is in Preview starting today, November 2, 2016, and is targeted for General Availability in Q1 of 2017. Jump on that Preview as early as you can.

Let's take a look at that slick interface, and built-in Power BI functionality:

And of course, the Skype for Business integration is deep. We have Presence, the ability to strike out into existing Video/Audio chats, or create new ones on the fly:

The Need

This announcement has been rumored and anticipated for several months now, but the rumors have finally been put to rest. So what are the impacts of this announcement for those of us in that live and breath unified communications, primarily Microsoft unified communications?

First, many organizations have largely and quickly adopted Slack as an easy, convenient, and readily-available tool to meet the need for persistent conversations among teams within its walls (and sometimes outside its walls). Many who are not as familiar with this topic may be quick to point to Persistent Chat within Lync Server 2013 and Skype for Business Server 2015 as a suitable solution. At first glance, yes, Persistent Chat would be a great tool for meeting such a need. Unfortunately, Persistent Chat has not been actively developed for quite some time now, and among it's primary limitations is that it ONLY works on Windows clients. That's right, Mac and Linux users can not take advantage of Persistent Chat, and for some organizations, that fact alone makes Persistent Chat a non-viable option for inner-team chat collaboration.

With the need for persistent chat-like communications among teams with clients of various OS types, and Persistent Chat development not budging to meet this need, organizations began looking for alternatives. Slack happened to be the solution that fit the bill best, and was the easiest for teams to quickly adopt.

This presented a great opportunity for Slack in the market; it had an "in" for taking a larger slice of the collaboration pie. It wasn't long before new features started popping up on the Audio and Video side, which of course, meant stronger competition for Microsoft's Skype for Business and other collaboration tools. Clearly, Microsoft needed to address this, and it needed to do so quickly.

The Office 365 Differentiator

This is where "Teams" comes into play. The beauty of Teams is that it will be made available within Office 365. This means that it will slip nicely into current workflows of the droves of organizations that are already taking advantage of Office 365 for their collaboration needs. It is essentially "Persistent Chat" for the Cloud! 

Purchasing an add-on or additional subscription is VERY easy within Office 365, and assigning it to a user is even easier. This means that the time spent deploying the solution will be greatly improved, in comparison to a completely separate tool.

What about the fact that it is not FREE - that it is a paid subscription, and Slack is free? While it is true that there is a free version of Slack, there are also paid versions of Slack with advanced features and capabilities. Many organizations have opted to pay for these advanced features, and if they can achieve the same functionality while utilitizing their current Office 365 platform, it just makes sense.

The race is now on, to learn as much as we can about this amazing new tool, kicking the tires and learning how it will fit into our organizations at GA. I hope you all enjoyed the presentation from Microsoft today, and if you missed it, be looking for more content. It is sure to come pouring out everywhere!

Stay techy my friends!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Move-CsUser : HostedMigration Fault: Error=(506) - Cannot Migrate Skype for Business User From Online to On-Prem

The Error

I recently had the pleasure of running into this seemingly elusive "506" error when trying to migrate users that had already been configured for Skype for Business Online to a brand new On-Prem environment after configuring Hybrid. I say "elusive" because I could not find a solution on Bing or Google (yes, I started with Bing!). The actual error read as follows:

Move-CsUser : HostedMigration fault: Error=(506). Description=(The user could not be moved because there appears to be a problem with this user account. Please verify the attribute settings on the account and then try again.)

The Scenario

Let's get a good handle on what this environment looked like, and what it was currently at the time of this error, as this information is key. This organization had Hybrid Exchange setup, but all the mailboxes were homed in Exchange Online. They had also been using Skype for Business Online exclusively; there was no on-prem Skype for Business infrastructure. Lastly, Azure AD Connect was properly set up, and syncing without errors. All good and pretty!

Now, the goal here was to implement an on-prem Skype for Business deployment so that users in a particular geography could use the on-prem voice infrastructure. The plan was to implement the on-prem infrastructure, configure Hybrid for Skype for Business, and then move the users in this particular geography to the on-prem infrastructure while leaving all other users in the Online environment. Everything up to the step in which users are moved to On-Prem worked fine.

The Troubleshooting

So, Hybrid was configured, the on-prem environment worked well on its own, and the Online users were registering through the on-prem environment without a hitch. Why then, could we not simply move the users to the on-prem environment? Looking at the above error, the complaint seems to be centered around a problem with attributes. Ok, first thing, go back and ensure that your Azure AD Connect configuration is syncing successfully.

A quick look in Office 365 Admin Center verifies that the sync is happening at regular intervals, and happening successfully. Next, lets go to the actual AADC server, and make sure that the attributes for Skype for Business are all syncing successful...WAIT!!! Of course the Skype for Business attributes are not syncing! Remember, AADC was setup and configured to sync BEFORE the on-prem Skype for Business infrastructure was ever in place! Remember, one of the first things we do when installing Skype for Business Server 2015 is to extend the Schema so that all the new Skype for Business-specific attributes will be present within AD. Since AADC was installed and configured before this Schema Extension took place, AADC is not aware of these new Skype for Business attributes.

So, we go onto the AADC server, and from the START menu we find the Synchronization Service for Azure AD Connect:

Click on it to open up the GUI:

Now, let's navigate to Connectors at the top of the tool, and for each Connector (we'll do both for good measure, but highlight one at a time and perform the action), click on Refresh Schema from the list of action items on the right side of the tool:

Read the warning text, and then click OK to implement the Schema Refresh:

You will then need to provide credentials to connect to the Directory for the specific connector. The below image reflects that we are attempting to connect to the on-prem Active Directory, and the password must be provided. Don't forget to change the User name to a Domain Admin in your org as well; I did not do this for the below image, but did afterwards:

As you can see below, the Schema's are compared, and in the case of my test lab, there were no Schema updates, but in the scenario described in this blog post, you will see the Schema changes that were detected.

The Fix

Ok, once I updated the Schemas I waited for the next sync to occur from AADC, to make sure all the new attributes were synced to Skype for Business Online. However, after waiting for the successful sync, and trying the Move-CsUser operation once again, it STILL failed!

This is the point at which I put in a ticket with Microsoft through the Office 365 Admin Center. As usual, they responded very quickly. After going through the environment together for a while, the Microsoft tech zeroed in on one fact that I did not think anything about when I saw it. First we opened up Azure AD Connect, and then clicked on View Current Configuration:

Finally, something on the next screen stuck out to him. Can you guess what it is from the below image:

Well, if you didn't guess it, welcome to the club. It was the fact that Exchange Hybrid Deployment was disabled! Yep. EXCHANGE HYBRID.

Of course, I argued that this shouldn't matter, as this should be for Exchange Hybrid settings; there is no checkbox for Skype for Business Hybrid. At this point, the tech acknowledged that even though this field is labeled as "Exchange", it actually pertains to the environment as described above as well. Unfortunately, there was no technical documentation to back this up, at least that he knew of, but at this point I figured, "What the heck, what will it hurt to try it at this point?!" Hitting Previous in the Azure AD Connect GUI, I then clicked on Customize Synchronization Options, and then Next.

Of course, we must authenticated again:

After putting in credentials for Office 365, making sure that your on-prem AD domain is already added in, and skipping on down to the Optional Features tab, you will see that the Exchange hybrid deployment checkbox is not checked. (NOTE: in my lab environment, I do not have Exchange or Skype for Business installed, so this option is Greyed out. In the real-world environment described throughout this post, this option is NOT greyed out.) Check it, and then click Next:

On the Ready to Configure screen, make sure that you leave the checkbox checked for starting a sync, and then click Configure:

When the configuration is complete, just click Exit, as seen below, and wait for the synchronization to finish. Depending on the size of your environment, the synchronization could take a while. I want to say it took at least 15 minutes to re-sync an environment of about 1,400 people with all the new attributes.

Now, I wish I had some big fancy finish to this post, but honestly, the fact is that after I enabled Exchange Hybrid Deployment in Azure AD Connect, all the needed attributes finally synced to Office 365, and I was then able to successfully move users from Online to on-Prem. Honestly, I am still a little skeptical, simply because the setting is so blatantly labeled as "EXCHANGE" Hybrid, but I suppose it wouldn't be the craziest thing I have seen from configuration settings on Microsoft products...

At any rate, if any of you find yourselves in this so-called "Reverse Hybrid" process, and get the 506 Error due to attributes being off, it is likely that your Azure AD Connect config needs to be updated to:

1. Refresh Schema


2. Enable Exchange Hybrid Deployment checkbox.

Stay techy, my friends!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

UPDATED: Skype for Business Hybrid Handbook, Version 2.1

I have just published Version 2.1 of my FREE eBook on the TechNet Gallery, the Skype for Business Hybrid Handbook. This is a minor revision, with various updates and tweaks throughout the book. Most notably, though, are the updated Features Comparison sections for both Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX, and Exchange Integration.

If you have never grabbed your free copy of the earlier versions of this eBook, you just may find it to be one of the most comprehensive resources for your various Hybrid needs in the Skype for Business world. If you have downloaded a copy in the past, its time to get the most up-to-date version!

As always, feedback is key. Feel free to let me know what you think here, but also don't be shy about leaving a Rating on the TechNet Gallery site!

Stay Techy, My Friends!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

RESOLVED: Transfer External Call From Polycom VVX Fails in CCE Environment

My Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) adventures appear to be far from over, and that is a good thing in my book. While the thoughts and opinions on CCE and its purpose have been varied, I personally see a lot of geographically-dispersed companies digging right on in, as they are wanting to become full-Office 365 adopters, but must account for the fact that PSTN Calling is still quite limited in its availability across the globe.

As this adventure continues, however, there is obvious product maturity that is taking place, not just on Microsoft's part, but also on the side of the Vendors whose products will integrate with the environment. In this brief post I want to call out a very specific scenario that some Polycom VVX users might find themselves in when they are kicking the tires on a brand new CCE environment. (Yes, this was a painful troubleshooting experience)

The Scenario

Note: This has only been tested on Polycom VVX 500 and 600s, though it may also pertain to the lower-end models, or other Polycom handset series.

Imagine a situation in which you have a Skype for Business user in your CCE environment, let's call them Jim Bob, and they have not adopted the "No More Phones" mentality yet. They have been using handsets for years, and they simply LOVE their Polycom VVX 600. After all, it is a pretty slick handset! At any rate, your CCE environment is set up properly, everything is working, and this user has been otherwise happy as a clam (I want to know who the psycho is that allegedly determined that clams are even generally happy creatures. Seriously, think about their existence; how on earth can that possibly...I digress).

One day, some one external to the company calls Jim Bob over the PSTN, and this call gets routed through CCE and to Office 365. At this point, Cloud PBX knows which endpoints Jim Bob is active on, and dials him on those. This is when his Polycom VVX 600 rings. Jim Bob cheerfully answers the phone, and after a few minutes of stimulating conversation, he realizes that the call actually needs to be forwarded to a colleague in a different department. No problem; Jim will just transfer the call!

The Problem

As Jim moves to transfer the call via the Call Control mechanisms on his VVX 600, he dials the number of his colleague, and goes to transfer the call. Unfortunately, though, the transfer does not go through, and Jim Bob now needs to figure out what to do with this caller! Please note, Jim Bob already confirmed that he was able to transfer a call from another internal user in his Skype for Business Online tenant within the same CCE deployment, so he was completely stumped about why he could not transfer a call from an external user.

The below diagram shows how the initial call came in, how it was routed to Jim Bob, and then how it would have traversed before being successfully transferred to his colleague. It also shows a big red "X" where the call ends up failing (if you do your homework and trace all the logs through CLS Logger on the CCE VMs):

The Resolution

Now, hopefully you found this blog before doing a whole lot of troubleshooting and digging into the logs, because if you did, you will realize that the issue is fixed by something as simple as firmware upgrade. You see Jim Bob's company tries to keep their phones updated with the latest firmware as much as they can, but there was a new firmware version from Polycom for the VVX phones, 5.4.5, that did not get released until October 3, 2016. While Jim Bob was experiencing the issue, this version was still and Beta and not publicly available, making the Call Transfer problem a difficult one to work around.

Version 5.4.5 is certified for Skype for Business, and will most definitely fix this issue if you have come across it. In addition to this issue, there are a good couple of pages of bugs that are addressed in this version. If you have a moment after updating your phone, check out the Release Notes; there is a LOT going on there.

Finally, here is a link to the latest Polycom UC Software Releases:  Please note, you do NOT want to go for 5.5.0; stick with 5.4.5, as it is actually certified for Skype for Business.

Well, I hope this has helped at least one or two of you on the CCE pioneering front! Till next time...

Stay Techy, My Friends!