Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Microsoft Teams Roadmap - Calling, Conference Recording & More

Today, Microsoft published the much-anticipated Roadmap for many of the features that were discussed during various sessions at Microsoft Ignite 2017. While the Roadmap does provide general guidance, and it can be helpful for many reasons, always remember that actual GA delivery is subject to change due to QA Testing, or other unforeseen circumstances. Diving straight in...

The announcement broke down the various features and capabilities by a few key areas: Messaging, Meetings, and Calling.

Messaging


While Messaging was not really the focus of some of the bigger announcements at Ignite, there are a still a few cool features that we can expect to be delivered soon. The following features are targeted for delivery in Q1 of 2018:
  • Hide Chat
  • Share Chat
  • Mute Chat
  • Messaging Policies
  • Messaging Retention Policies (the ability to retain for a finite time)
These are small features, but great for organizing your work environment within Teams, and creating a more neat and orderly Chat work space.

There are more components to the Roadmap for Messaging, but I will defer to Microsoft's official announcement (See Below) for those remaining items. I am excited to get to the Meeting and Calling stuff!

Meetings


In my opinion, the evolution of Meetings within Teams provided for some the bigger and more impressive announcements at Microsoft Ignite. Taking a look at this image provided by Microsoft in their Roadmap announcement today, we can see that there are some very exciting new features coming to the Teams client as early as Q4 2017 (tentatively):
























What's slated for Q4?

  • Audio Conferencing in 90+ countries
  • Anonymous Join
  • Interactive Troubleshooting
  • Lobby Support
  • Mute Other Participants
  • Application Sharing
  • Give & Take Control in Sharing
  • Support for meetings in Edge and Chrome browsers
  • Enable Call Quality Analytics
What's slated for end of quarter, Q2 CY2018?
  • Broadcast Meetings
  • Cloud Recording
  • Federated Meetings - Yes, you read that word correctly: FEDERATED.
  • Large Meeting Support (~250 participants)
  • Lobby for PSTN Callers
  • Outlook meeting schedule from other platforms (OWA, mobile, Mac)
  • PSTN Fallback
  • PowerPoint Load and Share
  • Whiteboard and Meeting Notes
  • Enable VTC Interop Services*
  • Skype Room Systems Support*
  • Surface Hub Support
  • Trio 1 Touch Teams Meeting Join*
  • User-Level Meeting Policy
  • eDiscovery enhancements
*Dependent on 3rd Party

As you can see, the Engineering team will be VERY busy over the next several months!

Calling


Finally, we come to the all-important PSTN capabilities within the Teams client. I was very happy to see that we should see this capabilities by the end of CY2017! Again - grain of salt - emphasis place on the word 'should', and of course the Roadmap is always subject to change. Let's take a look at the Roadmap for Calling:





















The above image is a bit more...involved! There is a LOT coming, and this Roadmap will be very important when it comes to planning out strategy with your internal organization or clients. Let's start with what we can expect before the end of CY2017:

Enterprise Calling Features for Q4 CY2017:
  • Blind Transfer
  • Call Blocking
  • Call Forwarding
  • Hold
  • Multi-call Handling
  • Sim Ring
  • Caller ID Masking
  • Speed Dial
  • e911 Support
  • Extension Dialing
  • Translate user input to standard format phone #
  • Suggested Contacts
  • Voicemail
  • Enable Existing Calling Plan Support
Skype for Business Interop & Federation for Q4 CY2017:
  • Skype for Business Online - Teams Calling
  • Teams Interop Policies
Platform & Device Support for Q4 CY2017:
  • Windows, Mac, Edge, iOS, Android
  • TTY Support
IT Pro Capabilities for Q4 CY2017
  • Skype for Business Online - Teams Interop Policies
  • Call Quality Diagnostic Portal
Now, what can we tentatively expect by the end of quarter for Q2 CY2018? It gets pretty exciting:

Enterprise Calling Features for Q2 CY2018:
  • Boss & Delegate Support
  • Call Queues
  • Consultative & Safe Transfer
  • Do Not Disturb breaththrough
  • Distinctive Ringing
  • 1:1 to Group Call Escalation with Teams, Skype for Business, and PSTN Participants
  • Forward to Group
  • Org Auto Attendant
  • Transfer to PSTN Call
  • Hybrid Connection to Teams
  • Out of Office Support
Skype for Business Interop & Federation for Q2 CY2018:
  • Call Support between Teams & Skype Consumer

Platform & Device Support for Q2 CY2018:
  • Support for existing certified SIP Phones*
  • USB HID
IT Pro Capabilities for Q2 CY2018:
  • eDiscovery enhancements
Finally, what will the Calling landscape look like by the end of CY2018 (Q4)? The plan is for these additional Enterprise Voice-like features to be added in to Teams:

Enterprise Calling Features for Q2 CY2018:
  • Call Park
  • Group Call Pickup
  • Location-based routing (LBR)
  • Shared Line Appearance
*Dependent on 3rd Party

Well, this is pretty exciting stuff! Check out the official Roadmap announcement on the TechCommunity here: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Microsoft-Teams-Blog/Roadmap-for-Skype-for-Business-capabilities-coming-to-Microsoft/ba-p/119636/jump-to/first-unread-message

Keep your eye out for some of this awesomeness to start hitting your Teams client this quarter!





Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Re-Branding: Introducing the #TeamsRecap


Well, I finally did it. The #Skype4BRecap has been officially renamed to the #TeamsRecap! As you can see from the image above, I have even embraced the purple.

Admittedly, I struggled with whether or not to do this, as Skype for Business Server 2019 is still slated for H2 2018, per the latest from Ignite, and Skype for Business Online will still be around for some time. However, I came to the realization that when it comes to Skype for Business Server 2019, a LOT can happen between now and the actual release. AND, there is very clear marketing message that Microsoft is pushing 150% with Teams. SO, I decided that with much of my future content probably shifting more and more toward Teams, this was likely the right move.

At any rate, the show is still the same for now: same me, same format, same hat, etc. Again, though, this is for now. I am mulling over changing up a couple things, maybe just a bit, but time will tell with those. In the meantime, I have the latest episode of the #TeamsRecap published to YouTube, and ready to watch! Get caught up on what's new with the Skype UG (HINT: International locations may be in our future!), and get a good recap of all the Teams news from Microsoft Ignite:


Don't forget to Re-Tweet or Share on LinkedIn if you enjoy the show, or find it helpful/amusing!

Josh

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Microsoft Teams & Skype for Business Specific Conference in the US?

On the heels of Microsoft Ignite, and right after UC Day UK just wrapped up in the UK, a small group of individuals would LOVE to know your interest level on bringing a smaller community-based event back onto the scene - one specifically focused on Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams content (Microsoft UC, or IC now). Of course, if the interest level is there, we could actually see something amazing like this come back, in the spirit of what was once the Lync Conference (just led by Community members, rather than Microsoft).

This would be a US-based initiative, much like UC Day UK (now renamed to Evolve Conference) is in the UK. For a brief 1-day period, a poll is being conducted on Twitter to gauge the interest level:



Please, follow this link and take the 2 seconds that it takes to respond: 


OH, and spread the word, get as many people as you can within the greater North American area to respond with their honest feedback! With the right community-backing, a conference that is more tailored to the industry that we all work in and love could become a reality. Wouldn't that be freakin' incredible! 

ALSO, if you see this AFTER the poll closes, please reply in the Comments below and share your thoughts on whether or not you would go for this.

Ok, enough reading. GO! Vote! ;-)


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!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Skype for Business Server 2015 Support for Windows Server 2016

EDIT 06/30/2017 - With the recent release of CU5, and brief waiting period after its release, Skype for Business Server 2015 is now officially supported on Windows Server 2016. Check it out, and happy installing: https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/4015888/how-to-install-skype-for-business-server-2015-on-windows-server-2016.


While Windows Server 2016 has not been a supported operating system for Skype for Business Server 2015, there have been no shortage of people testing out Skype for Business installs on Windows Server 2016. After all, Windows Server 2016 has been out for quite some time now, and many admins are eager to get their shiny new Skype for Business environments up on something newer than an OS with "2012" in the label. 2012 was 5 years ago, after all!

There have been some recent developments in this area, though. While the developments are promising, I still see a bit of personal confusion as to whether or not Windows Server 2016 is actually a supported OS or not. Let's start with what the promising new developments are.

Note: The below paragraph previously reported that we were on CU7, but this was miscalculated, and current CU at the time of publishing this article is actually CU4.

The February 2017 CU, which is actually CU4 if you are counting, includes a very important fix that addresses silent install failures for Skype for Business Server on Windows Server 2016. Good news, right? Here is the link to the February CU for Skype for Business Server 2015:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/3207506/february-2017-cumulative-update-6.0.9319.277-for-skype-for-business-server-2015,-front-end-server-and-edge-server

For the specific KB article (KB3209566) that addresses the above-mentioned fix, check out this link:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/3209566/skype-for-business-server-2015-installer-may-fail-silently-in-windows-server-2016

Ok, great! Time to install on Windows Server 2016, right!? Well, that depends. If you are looking for an announcement from Microsoft that the specific issue with silent install fails has been addressed, then you need to look no further than the above KB. However, if you are looking for a giant green light from Microsoft stating that Windows Server 2016 is supported, that KB article and the associated CU article stop short of saying that.

So how do we find out for sure? Well, we goo look at the TechNet page for Requirements for Skype for Business Server 2015, or course, and drill down to Software Requirements:

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn951388.aspx

Look at the table of supported operating systems, we see the below:




Clearly, Windows Server 2016 is not listed as a supported OS. Further, if you look closely at the text below the box, you see that we are told explicitly not to use an OS if is not listed in this box. However, in the very next box below this we see the following caveat'd Note:


This adds a bit of confusion, doesn't it? It tells us that while Windows Server 2016 is not in the list right now, Microsoft is planning to add it as a supported option with CU 5. If you recall from above, we are currently at CU4, so even though we have a fix in the latest CU for install problems on Windows Server 2016, this has not quite prompted Microsoft to update their support matrix for OS's.

Note: The above paragraph was modified to correct incorrect verbage about the current CU level of Skype for Business server.

This begs the question: Is Windows Server 2016 actually supported for Skype for Business Server 2015 installs, and this TechNet article is just a case of Microsoft documentation not being updated with the most current info, or is the fact that the box is not updated a sign that Microsoft is not ready to give a fully "Green Light" on Windows Server 2016 yet? In either case, what is clear is that if you are in the group of people that really need that explicit Green Light of supportability before moving forward, it does not appear that Microsoft has signaled it yet.

Stay tuned, and I will update this blog post as Microsoft's documentation changes to shed more light on this topic.






Monday, February 6, 2017

Tenant Dial Plans: Custom / Extension Dialing in Cloud PBX (Office 365): A Preview

***

Update: Microsoft "graduated" Tenant Dial Plans from Preview to General Availability (GA) on April 20, 2017. The blog post making this announcement (as well as providing the updated training links) can be found here:

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Skype-Operations-Framework-Skype/Tenant-Dial-Plans-General-Availability-training/ba-p/63604

As the post states, pretty much everything is the same at GA as it was in Preview, so no real news to announce. The one change that they called out was that External Access Prefix is not supported at the time of GA launch. Best of luck on creating your custom Cloud PBX Dial Plans, but be careful!

***

For those of you that have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of custom dial plans in Skype for Business Online, your waiting days are narrowing significantly! Tenant Dial Plans have been introduced into Preview, and Microsoft is accepting applications to the preview program from customers that are under NDA and have a Skype for Business Online tenant in Office 365. First, a brief word on Why this is a big deal and what the desired functionality is that is being achieved.


What's the Deal with Tenant Dial Plans


Almost as soon as customers were able to start using Cloud PBX for placing PSTN phone calls in Skype for Business Online, the topic of customizing the Dial Plan was brought up and echoed across the landscape of users. The issue is that the ability to implement Custom Dial Plans in Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX is not a currently available function. This means that users cannot do extension dialing, or any other custom dialing scenario, outside of the default dialing scenarios that were defined by Microsoft by default. This default dialing behavior is pretty much restricted to dialing a full 10 digits (for the U.S.), or dialing in E.164.

With the ability to customize dial plans and normalization rules built deeply into Enterprise Voice in Skype for Business on-prem, why did Microsoft launch Cloud PBX without this ability from the start. Honestly, I believe the biggest reason is that Microsoft has been trying to change the narrative on how a user should dial their colleagues. With a strengthened unified communications tool homed in the Cloud, Microsoft wants users to start interacting with each by name. For example, when you lookup a user for a chat, or to see their presence, you either go to their contact object in the Skype for Business Contact List, or you start typing their name into the search bar:



Once you see the user you want, you can double-click the user to start a chat, right-click to see their Contact Card, add them to a list, and more. Microsoft wants you to take this a step further. They want organizations to embrace calling a user by "dialing" to be outdated; "so yesterday"; archaic. Get the point? Instead, they wanted organizations to get in the habit of "dialing" by looking up the user clicking to call. See below:







































If I am being perfectly honest, Microsoft is pushing us in the right direction. This is a much simpler way to manage contacts and interact with them. A single approach to all forms of communication. However, this proved to simply be WAY too much change for end users in many organizations. End users want to keep working the way they always have; change tends to throw them for a loop, and it is often resisted. (It would appear that clicking to call a user is such a massive shift in thinking, that it will need to be phased into most organizations in a slower, gentler, more phased approach.)

"End users Want to keep working the way they always have; change tends to throw them for a loop, and it is often resisted." 

This reason is exactly why Microsoft started working on Tenant Dial Plans. The response and feedback on this one area was so great that it became clear that this functionality must follow Skype for Business into Office 365.

Tenant Dial Plans delivers on this need. It allows organizations to create tenant-based Dial Plans, with customized sets of normalization rules, to properly meet the granular dialing needs (wants) of the organizations that have begun adoption of Cloud PBX. In fact, many organizations have held off on adoption, or even exploration, of Cloud PBX due to this feature requirement alone. If an organization needs to have 4-digit-dialing, or 6-digit-dialing, or whatever, they can now achieve that in Office 365 by using Tenant Dial Plans.


Sign Me Up!


Ok, you are convinced. You have been waiting for this, and now want to start testing this out with some pilot users (because you should not be deploying a Preview toolset into Production!). How can you go about getting signed up. To be considered for the Preview, your organization must have a tenant that is currently using Skype for Business Online with Cloud PBX and be under NDA with Microsoft. First go to the Skype Preview website, click on Organization (this is not available to Individuals, check the box next to Tenant Dial Plans, and lastly click Sign Up. You can figure the rest out from there, I think.



Important Points to Remember


There are several important things to remember about using Tenant Dial Plans. I will cover a list of them here in Q/A format, and will also provide a look to a good Skype Academy video in which this information is covered and demoed.

Q: So, how many Normalization Rules can I add to a Dial Plan?
A: Good question! You can add up 25 normalization rules per Dial Plan?

Q: If I create a new "Tenant Dial Plan", will it apply to all of my Cloud PBX users?
A: A Tenant Dial Plan can either be scoped at the Global level, where it will apply to all of your Cloud PBX users, or it can be scoped and assigned at the User level. The below screenshot is from Scott Stubberfield's Skype Academy video demoing Tenant Dial Plans, and lays out the difference between the scopes and types of dial plans nicely:



Q: What about my Cloud PBX users that are in a Hybrid configuration? Do these Tenant Dial Plans apply only to PSTN Calling users, or also to On-Premise PSTN Connectivity and Cloud Connector Edition users?
A: Tenant Dial Plans apply to ALL Cloud PBX users. Regardless of the direction the user's PSTN calls go (Online through Microsoft services, or on-prem through CCE or existing telephony infrastructure), their dialing habits can be supported by Tenant Dial Plans.

Q: Yeah, so I assume that I will be able to manage these Dial Plans and normalization rules in a shiny new GUI, like with Skype for Business Server 2015?
A: Currently, the Preview only provides the ability to create and manage dial plans and normalization rules via remote PowerShell cmdlets; there is no sign of any of this in the Skype for Business Admin Center. Scott Stubberfield mentions a possible distant GUI companion to these cmdlets in the works "down the line" via his tutorial video, but no solid dates or commitments around that at this time.

Q: Do the Dial Plans in Cloud PBX work the same way as they do On-Prem, with the most granularly-scoped Dial Plan taking effect for a user?
A: Actually, no, and this is a good thing. If this were the case, and you assigned a Tenant Dial plan rather than leaving the existing default Service Dial Plan in place, you would have to create normalization rules for all of your user's dialing scenarios. Instead of the most granular dial plan taking effect, Cloud PBX merges the rules for the default Service Dial Plan for the user's location with the rules for any Tenant Dial Plans have been assigned to the user. The benefit to this is that all the normal dialing rules that already apply to Cloud PBX users do not have to be re-created in the new Tenant Dial Plans; instead, the normalization rules in the Tenant Dial Plans can be limited only to the additional dialing scenarios that you want to account for. Brilliant, right?! Below is another screenshot from Scott Stubberfield's demo Skype Academy video shows this concept in a clear and concise format:





Summary


In this blog post I have given a brief introduction to what Tenant Dial Plans is, what it currently looks like in Preview, and why it is freakin' awesome. I hope many of you that have been exploring and testing with Cloud PBX are as excited about this as I am! In the next post, we will go over some of the cmdlets that were introduced for the purposes of managing these new Tenant Dial Plans. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Tenant Dial Plans, check out the Skype Operations Framework training via the Skype Academy:

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Skype-Operations-Framework-Skype/Tenant-Dial-Plans-Preview-training/ba-p/43521

Stay techy, my friends!


Friday, February 3, 2017

#Skype4BRecap - 02/03/2017 - MVP Changes, PSTN Calling in Spain, Tenant Dial Plans (Preview) Training

Two weeks in a row, the #Skype4BRecap has been published on time! Now I just need to keep up the momentum. This week was a big week for Skype for Business and other Microsoft UC community news, so please pardon the fast-speaking; I had a lot of good content to get out in a short period of time! Bigger topics include some major changes to the MVP Award program, General Availability (GA) of PSTN Calling in Spain, and some new video-based training of Tenant Dial Plans (Preview), but you can check out the full list of topics below. Enjoy the episode:


Topics

If you would rather watch the episode at my YouTube channel instead of in the window above, check it out here: https://youtu.be/5lXp9iFnBfE

Stay Techy, My Friends!

Monday, January 30, 2017

#Skype4BRecap - 01/27/2017 - AudioCodes S4BO Certification, S4BSwitcher, Consultative Transfer

Finally, an episode that was published on time! The blog post may have been posted the following Monday, but at least the episode was published Friday morning for the first time in...months! It was quite a busy week to cover, and there were some really good things to take note of. Check out the Topics section below for a complete list of everything talking about:




Topics

If you would rather watch the episode at my YouTube channel instead of in the window above, check it out here: https://youtu.be/GABJ4tm53-I

Stay Techy, My Friends!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#Skype4BRecap - 01/20/2016 - Skype Operations Framework CQD, Avaya Bankruptcy, E911 Fix, January Training

While the episode was a few days late, there was still some really good topics to be covered. While much of the "newsy" attention was given to Avaya's Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing, other great announcements like the launch of the Skype Operations Framework Quality User Experience module took center stage. For a complete listing of topics, see the section at the bottom. And of course, be sure to watch the episode below:



Topics

If you would rather watch the episode at my YouTube channel instead of in the window above, check it out here: https://youtu.be/CdZisP0eHM0

Stay Techy, My Friends!

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:



Topics

If you would rather watch the episode at my YouTube channel instead of in the window above, check it out here: https://youtu.be/Rx2cmO6gjBg

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: https://youtu.be/X4Wie8Z_JtY). 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!