17 Reasons to Hold Off on Using Teams for Voice Calls (Until Mid-2018)

After reviewing the new calling capabilities added to Teams last month, I have to say…moving to Teams in the next few months is a bad idea.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Introduction of new calling features is great! However, we have holes in the deployment. Holes which put Teams in a precarious situation. Its feature set expanded…but not enough to take over for Skype for Business.

In case you missed the December announcements: Microsoft added calling tools to Teams, so that Teams users could make & receive phone calls from within the client. In order to use these tools, you need two Office 365 services:

  1. Phone System (formerly known as Cloud PBX). This comes with E5 licenses, but you can buy it as an add-on to other plans.
  2. A Calling Plan (formerly known as PSTN Calling). We covered Calling Plan rates (and an international surprise) back in July 2017.

You would need these services to make/receive calls in Skype for Business Online as well.

Calling Features in Teams Now
Some of Teams’ new calling capabilities.

Adding voice calls to Teams makes perfect sense—it can’t absorb Skype for Business without them. But this wasn’t a complete move. The next batch of updates won’t come until mid-2018.

Meanwhile, Teams is stuck in a sort of productivity limbo. It’s able to do some things Skype for Business can do…but not enough of them. Phone calls through Teams, coming from Skype for Business (or any full-featured VoIP provider), will frustrate users and slow down work.

Let me illustrate why I’m taking this position. I know it may not make sense for a Skype for Business blog…but I promise, there’s a good reason!

The 17 Calling Features Missing from Teams – As of January 2018

Brian R., an author at the No Jitter blog, put together an exhaustive list of call features available between Teams’ new Phone System, Skype for Business Online, and Skype for Business Server with Enterprise Voice.
Teams Phone System: Back to Call Feature Drawing Board – No Jitter

I looked at some other sources to verify this, including the Office 365 Roadmap. Brian most definitely did his homework…the post is superbly thorough!

crashed rocket photo
Oops. Forgot a few things.
Photo by tobo

His list does tell us which calling capabilities are now in Teams. Here are the major ones: Call Forwarding/Hold/Transfer, Voicemail, Do Not Disturb, Suggested Contacts, and E911.

However, in the same list we also see some painful limitations to Teams’ calling rollout. Several features are still missing. Features that I discussed with our team.

We all agreed – these missing features would prohibit Teams adoption for pretty much all of our customers.

Here are several which stood out. Along with why they put the brakes on Teams voice call adoption.

  • No Consultative Transfer. One of our customer’s front desk personnel rely on this feature. They currently use Skype for Business Online. Without it, they would dump the whole service tomorrow.
  • No USB Devices. Which cuts headsets like my Jabra Motion Office out right away.
  • No IP Phones. Every Polycom phone we’ve deployed becomes useless. How is anyone supposed to make calls?
  • No Transferring Calls to PSTN Numbers. Want to transfer a call to your cell? Too bad!
  • No Boss/Delegate. Without this one feature, two of our customers could not function day-to-day.
  • No Call Waiting or Music on Hold. These don’t even have an ‘expected’ date. Is Microsoft just dropping them for Teams?!

Brian marked a total of 17 features as, “expected mid-2018” or “expected late 2018.” 26 other features are simply marked “No.” As in, “No, these features are not coming to Teams. Don’t hold your breath.”

I hope the ‘Expected’ features are deployed in the promised time frames. That would at least give users something to wait for!

Teams Still Handles Chat. Don’t Rely on It for Voice Calls Just Yet.

Can your business still use Teams? Of course! It still has its chat and conferencing capabilities. If you’re already on Teams, you can proceed normally. Maybe try out the new calling tools, if your tenant has Phone System and a Calling Plan.

But relying on it as a phone system is premature. It’s not ready for that yet. Not until all of the above features (and a few more besides) are implemented and working.

We’re STILL waiting on Guest Access anyway…

Which feature would you NEED to have to use Teams for chat and voice?

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What to Do When Skype4B Conversations Take Weeks to Appear in Outlook

You have a normal conversation in Skype for Business via Instant Messaging. The next day, you need to check the status of a task. You recall you mentioned this task in yesterday’s conversation. Better go check it in Conversation History.

Outlook is already open. You click the Conversation History folder and…wait, where’s the conversation? The last one you see is dated 2 weeks ago!

We ran up against this issue with a customer’s Skype for Business deployment. They had a server deployment, up and running since 2016. The Conversation History “delayed appearance” only started this past fall. Even more confusing, it didn’t occur for all users.

Work Conversation in Skype4B
“I KNOW I talked to Beth yesterday…”
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

The Cause: A Low Threshold for Conversation File Size

We checked all the obvious things, of course. But those were all clear. Only after testing & reviewing the Conversation History logs that did appear, followed by some MS research, did we find the cause.

Lync Server 2013 had an issue with long conversations. If a conversation’s history file ended up over 1MB in size, Lync Server could not upload the file to Exchange Server. This bug persisted into Skype for Business Server.

So if you end up having a long conversation with co-workers, plus a few images & documents shared around, your conversation grew past the server’s (tiny) 1MB limit!

The Solution: A Fix for Lync/Skype for Business Server, Then an Exchange Server Workaround

Microsoft did release a fix for this: KB3101496. It’s a security update issued November 10, 2015. Link to the update below.

This isn’t the only fix though. In fact, it might not even work for you. Not to worry…if it doesn’t, we have an alternative! The clever engineers posting on this thread determined it:
Lync 2013 Conversation History not taken from History Spooler by Outlook 2013 when bigger than 1 MB – TechNet

It’s an edit to an Exchange web.config file. Though from the thread and our own experience, we advise approaching the problem in this order:

  1. Apply the update first. Wait a few hours to determine if it took effect.
  2. If the update doesn’t work, use the following workaround.

Conversation History Bug Fix (KB3101496):

Security Update MS15-116 and MS15-123 for Lync 2013 (Skype for Business)
If your Skype for Business Server doesn’t already have this through Microsoft Update, you can download it here.

If Conversation History in Outlook doesn’t start updating within a few hours (happened for us after Hour 3), then try the web.config workaround.

Exchange Server Web.Config Workaround:

  1. Access your Exchange Server. Make sure you have write permissions.
  2. Navigate to the Exchange installation directory, e.g. C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server.
  3. Open the version folder.
  4. Open the ClientAccess folder.
  5. Open the exchweb folder.
  6. Open the EWS folder.
  7. Edit the web.config file found here.
  8. Within the <appSettings> node, add the following line:
    <add key=”XmlMaxBytesPerRead” value=”1000000″ />
  9. Restart your IIS server.

Again, wait a few hours. The conversations should start trickling into Conversation History, in groups of 10 or so. You may need to restart Outlook & the Skype for Business client a few times to get everything.

Sometimes Conversation Logs Delay Their Appearance. Call Them Out on Stage with These Fixes!

This is an issue which can fly under the radar. Our customer saw no error messages, and had no Outlook crashes related to it. They only noticed when someone did exactly what I portrayed earlier—tried to check a previous Skype4B conversation via their Outlook Conversation History.

Take a second to review your Outlook Conversation History. Hopefully this bug doesn’t affect you…but it doesn’t hurt to check!

Have you experienced a Conversation History “delayed appearance” in Outlook, or something similar?

 

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2018 Begins, OCS Ends

Welcome to 2018!

We’ll have a full post up soon. Before that though, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge a milestone coming very soon.

OCS 2007. Office Communications Server. The first iteration of what has now become the Skype for Business ecosystem. This landmark software (problematic as it was) will at last reach End of Life on January 8.

Office Communications Server End of Life Roadmap – Office Support

damaged speaker photo
Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

I seriously hope nobody still uses OCS! But if you (somehow) still do, you’re in dire need of an upgrade. End of Life doesn’t mean the software suddenly shuts off. But it does mean you’ll have no support on which to fall back if there’s a problem.

The Best Upgrade Path for OCS Users

For OCS users (as well as older Lync 2010 users), the fastest upgrade path is the best one. Since OCS-grade server hardware won’t comfortably support Skype for Business Server, you’d have to buy new hardware anyway. That would put you on this upgrade path:

OCS → Lync Server 2010 or 2013 → Skype for Business Server 2015

Instead, I recommend moving to the cloud. Set up a new Office 365 tenant with Skype for Business. Fewer steps, shorter launch time, MUCH cheaper up-front licensing cost…and you can use Teams!

2017 Reader Poll Results

Let’s cap this post with the poll results from December. For Poll 1, asking readers what they use for business communication now, the #1 answer by far (25 votes) was: Skype for Business Server. A distant #2 (10 votes) was: Cellphones.

For Poll 2, asking what changes do you see your organization making in 2018, the #1 answer (10 votes) was: Moving to Office 365/Microsoft Teams. Close after that (9 votes) was: No Changes.

Good results! I like that so many readers appreciate their Skype for Business Servers. Thanks to everyone who voted.

Hope everyone had a safe New Year, and great things in store for 2018. I know we have great things planned for the blog, so join us back here next time!

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Skype4B Insider Poll: What Does 2018 Have in Store for Your Business Communications?

Once again, we find ourselves at the end of a busy, change-packed year. The whole Unified Communications market reshaped itself in 2017…and we’ve got much more coming. Let’s take a look over all of it.

The Tide of 2017 UC Changes

  1. Microsoft Teams entered the market, and took off
  2. More Skype for Business competitors entered the market & gained popularity (e.g. Workplace)
  3. Office 365 continued to gain new tools, and improvements to existing ones
  4. Microsoft decided, instead of integrating Teams functionality into Skype for Business, to fold Skype for Business into Teams!
  5. Skype for Business Server users got a consolation prize in the form of one more server version: Skype for Business Server 2019
  6. The birth of “Intelligent Communications” as Microsoft advanced their all-cloud service offering for end users
  7. New devices flooded in – headsets, softphones, full conferencing systems, etc.

We did several Office 365 Skype for Business deployments: most Hybrid, though one was fully Cloud-Based. So far only one customer has expressed interest in Teams. They are currently trying it out among a handful of personnel.

I’ve enjoyed some great conversations with Skype4B vendors this year. Doug at Sennheiser, Lisa & Adam at Polycom, Alex at Event Zero, Matt at Landis Computer…always glad to talk with you. Hope next year brings all of you some great developments!

2017 Reader Poll – Your Business Communications Now and in 2018

I realized I didn’t do an end-of-year poll in 2016. My oversight! Let’s rectify it with a reader poll right now. Let’s hear what you have to say about business communications.

 

What do you use for business communications (phone, IM/chat, video, online meetings) now? Please select all relevant answers.

 


What changes do you see your organization making to their business communications in 2018?

 

These polls will run until January 3rd, 2018. Then I’ll go through the results, like usual. Your feedback (and sharing the post around) is appreciated!

Is your answer not listed? Please leave it in a comment below (or email me here if you prefer).

Happy Holidays! Join Us Back Here in January

This blog grew more than ever before in 2017. For that, I owe all of you, our readers, a big Magpie thank you!

happy black lab photo
Photo by m01229

(Don’t worry, no muddy paws come with it.)

As always, if you have a topic you’d like to see addressed in 2018, please share it with us.

We’ll see you back here in January. Until then, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Will This Become the “Teams Insider” Blog?

Short post this week. I’m preparing a year-end poll for next week, so make sure to stop by before you head out for the holidays!

The Blog Title Will Not Change as Teams Grows (But We’ll Have More Teams Content)

An astute reader sent me this question…

“Now that Teams will get all of Skype for Business’ features, will you focus on Teams in the future?”

They didn’t sound terribly worried…just wanted some clarification. After all, we did change the blog name from “Lync Insider” to “Skype for Business Insider” in 2015, when the software changed.

However, we’ve decided to keep the blog as it is. For two reasons:

  1. While Teams IS gaining importance & market share, it’s still limited to Office 365 users. Skype for Business doesn’t have the same limitation. It will still need attention & support.
  2. Skype for Business will live on as Skype for Business Server 2019. (I’m very much looking forward to that!)

That said, we will have more Teams posts on the blog going forward. You’ve seen (and hopefully enjoyed) the Teams-related posts this year. As the software matures, I’ll continue to play with it, test out new features, look for solutions to issues, etc.

Bridge to the Future of Skype4B
Bridge to the future, for both Skype for Business and Teams!
Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

I’m also talking to some of our vendors & partners for additional device reviews. Those remain some of the most popular posts. Plus I like trying out the cool hardware.

New Domains for Teams Fans

Following the blog’s renaming, we picked up a new domain to match it: skype4businessinsider.com. Now that Teams is here to stay, we wanted to do the same for Teams fans.

I’ve just purchased two new domains:

  • MSFTTeamsInsider.com
  • MSTeamsInsider.com

They aren’t pointed to the blog just yet. But they will be shortly.

If you’re a Teams fan, you can use these URLs to reach the blog, just like you would skype4businessinsider.com. Please share them around!

Teams Gets Calling to External Phones Already!

I’ll close out today with a link:
Microsoft Teams gets calling to external phone systems functionality – ZDNet

The first part of Teams gaining Skype for Business functionality has just arrived. Now Teams users can make calls from within the Teams client! You will need the Phone System add-on (formerly Cloud PBX) and a Calling Plan (formerly PSTN Calling). Otherwise your calls won’t go anywhere.

No Call Park yet. Or calling from Teams to Skype Consumer. Oh well, something to look forward to!

Don’t forget to check back next week for our year-end poll. Until then…
What do you think about Teams getting external calls so quickly?

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3 Ways to Protect Teams Users from Malware-Infected Files

safe and secure photoThe more Teams grows, the more we need to keep its users safe. Fortunately, we keep gaining ways to do that.

Office 365 continues to gain security enhancements. We’ve just had one such enhancement released for MS Teams users. In light of the development (which I’ll clarify below), I thought I’d talk a little about how to protect Teams users from malware.

I’ll break this into three parts. Two parts on Office 365 configuration, one on user education (because that’s just as important!). The end result? Some extra background protections in your Teams channels, smarter users, and fewer malware risks.

Part 1: Enhance the Default O365 Anti-Malware Protection

O365 comes with anti-malware protection built in. It’s managed, like many other security tools, through the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center.
(You can also use the Exchange Admin Center. You’ll reach the same screen under Protection/Malware Filter.)

Now, you don’t HAVE to change the default anti-malware settings. But I personally think the default values are a little too lax. If you too find them insufficient, here’s how you bump them up.

  1. Log into Office 365 Security & Compliance Center. You must use a Global Administrator or Security Administrator account for this.
  2. Click Threat Management in the left nav.
  3. Click Policy. You’ll see the Policy sections.
  4. Click the “Anti-Malware” box. You’ll see the Anti-Malware Policy box.

    O365 Anti-Malware Policy Settings
    The default anti-malware policy. Observe the details on the right.
  5. Click Edit (the pencil in the toolbar) or double-click the Default policy. A new window will open.
  6. Click Settings on the left.

    O365 Anti-Malware Settings Options
    Default anti-malware policy settings.
  7. Read through these settings. Change what you feel will benefit your organization. For instance, activate the Common Attachment Types filter to block suspicious file types (e.g. NotaVirus.vbs, ImportantDocumentHonest.reg).
  8. Click Save when done. The window will close, and the Default policy’s details will update.

 

Part 2: Activate Advanced Threat Protection (ATP).

Advanced Threat Protection adds more to O365’s anti-malware protection. Essentially, it identifies malware-infected files and locks them. Preventing users from downloading or opening said files, and releasing the malware.

ATP was just released to General Availability for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams. Microsoft says it will deploy to all E5 Office 365 tenants over the next few weeks. (Other Enterprise subscriptions can buy ATP as an add-on.)

Helpful stuff. However, it’s not enabled by default. You must flip the proverbial switch once it’s ready. Here’s how to do it.

(Prerequisite: You must have Audit Logging enabled. Instructions for doing so: Turn Office 365 Audit Log Search On or Off – Office Support)

  1. Log into Office 365 Security & Compliance Center. You must use a Global Administrator or Security Administrator account for this.
  2. Click Threat Management in the left nav.
  3. Click Policy. You’ll see the Policy sections.
  4. Click the “Safe Attachments” box. (If you don’t see this yet, it hasn’t activated for your O365 tenant. Come back tomorrow.)

    Safe Attachments Box for ATP
    Advanced Threat Protection for Teams, right here.
  5. Check the box for “Turn on ATP for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams.”
  6. Click Save.
  7. Get some coffee & wait. ATP will populate for all user accounts within 30 minutes.

Once ATP is active, you should see a new option for viewing detected malware files. It’s under Threat Management/Review…a box labeled “Protection Status.” From there you can view reports on any infected files grabbed & locked down by ATP.

More details about the Protection Status reports here: View Information about Detected Files – Office 365 ATP For SharePoint, OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams

 

Part 3: Train Users to Watch Out for Malware-Infected Files Anyway

These systems do a lot to keep us safe. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Malware will keep trying to find a way in.

Maybe on an infected USB drive someone brings into the office. Maybe a new ransomware app sneaks under O365’s radar. Whatever the entry vector, assume your users are cyberattack targets and act accordingly.

Teach them how to recognize the signs of a malware infection. What a phishing email looks like. How to verify suspicious files (without opening them). The more users know about malware, the less likely you are to have any trouble with it.

 

A Little More Security for Teams. A Little Easier Breathing for System Admins.

Obviously there’s more you can do outside the Office 365 tenant. Firewalls, desktop-level anti-malware, etc. So long as they don’t interfere with one another, you’re just improving overall security.

Since we don’t have full Guest Access for Teams yet, now is the right time to enhance your malware protections. Before someone from outside your nice safe network drops in for a chat!

Have you experienced any malware in Teams?

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Where Skype for Business Fits in Digital Transformation

Has your company undergone digital transformation? If you implemented Skype for Business, then the answer is (partly) Yes.

Since the holidays are here, I thought back over the business year. Much has happened. We’ve had several big Skype for Business deployments. Businesses converting from old phone systems to VoIP. As I’ve said before on the blog, that’s not a small step. Many related systems within a business have to change—to transform—in the process.

Chances are you’ve heard the term “digital transformation” before. I had too, but wasn’t always clear on its meaning. (Truth be told, I’m still not clear. But I think that’s because I keep finding definitions!) I thought, “Digital transformation couldn’t occur without changes in communication. How does Skype for Business fit?”

Let’s figure this out, shall we?

What is Digital Transformation?

The term “Digital Transformation” gets bandied about frequently nowadays. It’s apparently been around a while, but someone coined & popularized the term in the past few years. (Like the whole “cloud” thing. We started hosting servers for customers several years before the term “the cloud” became popular!)

We have several possible definitions. I like the definition given by Dion Hinchcliffe, a technology strategist, in this 2016 InfoWorld article:

Digitization was “paving the cowpath,” using digital tools to automate and improve the existing way of working without really altering it fundamentally or playing the new rules of the game. Transformation is a more caterpillar to butterfly process, moving gracefully from one way of working to an entirely new one, replacing corporate body parts and ways of functioning completely in some cases to capture far more value than was possible using low-scale, low-leverage legacy business.

That gives us a standard in one hand, and Skype for Business in the other. How would a business use Skype for Business/Teams to “replace corporate body parts and ways of functioning?”

Nine Ways Skype for Business (and Teams) Enables Digital Transformation

Looking back over some of our customers’ Skype for Business deployments, I came up with several major points. How they “replaced body parts” and the results they gained. Here are 9 illustrated examples.

A. Replacing the old desk phone with a smarter phone/headset/both. One of our deployments still had 25-year-old phones in their offices! Old, old PBX. Installing wireless headsets instead allowed the workers to move away from their desks more often.

Old Phones
Not quite this old. But close!

B. Supplementing emails/Post-Its with chats/IM. Yes, we actually had a customer still relying on Post-It notes to convey information. (Even passwords. We quickly disavowed them of that particular practice!) Skype’s IM let them do this with quick chats. Big timesaver.

Skype for Business Chat in Office
Yes, they’re chatting on Skype. With one another.

C. Increasing the number of communication options others have to reach you. Nobody wants a phone call in the middle of a meeting. This is one hazard to Skype4B, as the client is on your laptop. However, Skype4B also gives people the option of sending you an IM or chat request instead. (Just make sure your Presence isn’t set to “Do Not Disturb!”)

D. Tracking more conversations. Since Skype for Business/Teams logs conversations, you have a running record. I can’t count the number of times I’ve relied on Conversation History for that last bit of information needed.

E. Separating communications from workflow (if needed). In our Lync Server days, one customer went all-in on the IM tool. They did financial consulting, so they needed to concentrate for long periods. A phone’s ring broke said concentration almost every time. Coupled with Presence, they could block distractions until they finished their workflow.

F. Democratizing meetings. Anyone can call a meeting in most cases. But with a tool like Skype for Business/Teams, meetings:

  1. Don’t have to be formal.
  2. Can take place from anywhere, anytime.
  3. Can take place over chat! (I like this option. Less intrusive.)

G. Plug customers into the same communications system. Federation and Guest Accounts speed up customers’ ability to get a hold of you. If your business deals with any type of emergency, those seconds count.

H. Introducing businesses to cloud services (via Hybrid deployments). We had a customer terrified of all things cloud. They were in a very old-school, slow-to-change industry. But their phone system was ancient and badly needed replacing. thunderstorm photoWe showed them the numbers on doing a hybrid Skype4B configuration…email on-site, O365 Skype, and some backups to our datacenter…and they bit. It gave them a pain-free way to embrace the cloud, not lose any stability, and gain modern communications tools.

I. Adding flexibility to all of your operations. Teams absorbing Skype4B only ups the flexibility everyone has. For example, a construction-industry customer wanted a way to review progress on their many projects. (Most of which were on remote job sites with limited bandwidth.) Without having to drive to one location, or limit to audio, or buy an expensive video conferencing system that wouldn’t work half the time.

Skype for Business took care of it (with some help from the RealPresence Trio). Teams is next on the deployment schedule; they’ve already talked about using it for “project check-ins” with on-site supervisors.

Pretty safe to say that Digital Transformation and Skype for Business go hand-in-hand. In fact, if I were to list out the elements necessary for digital transformation, this would be it:

  • Communication (Skype for Business)
  • Backups/Data Protection
  • Project Management (tools like Asana, Trello, etc.)
  • Cybersecurity Protection

Improving the existing way of working without really altering it fundamentally. Voila.

Where does Skype for Business/Teams fit as transformation continues?

Of course, 2018 will see businesses continuing along the path of digital transformation. Incorporating new ways to analyze customer behavior, change up their marketing, build software, and more.

We’re close enough to the end of the year for me to speculate a little. What kinds of technologies are coming up, and where does Skype for Business/Teams fit in with them?

Just scanning the headlines, I see technologies like Big Data, IoT, blockchains, and AI. (Tech never slows down, does it?) I’m going to leave Blockchain, AI, and Big Data aside. They don’t really affect Skype for Business, nor does it affect them. Instead, I’ll focus on IoT (Internet of Things).

Now, Skype-C already works on millions of mobile devices. Microsoft continues to sharpen the bandwidth requirements for audio/video calls through Skype-C, and Skype4B.

Could it minimize bandwidth enough to enable Skype for Business/Teams on IoT devices? Yes, in some form or another. It’s certainly possible to take a Skype Meeting on your fridge’s touchscreen.

I suspect Microsoft will try to make Teams usable on the IoT level. The question will be…would you WANT to use Teams on IoT devices?

I don’t know what you wear around the house. But I would NOT be considered “professionally attired” when standing in front of my fridge at 7AM. Chat with colleagues over Teams? No thank you. That particular “digital transformation” I’m okay skipping over.

Skype for Business/Teams works well as a Digital Transformation Foundation

Skype for Business/Teams remains in an excellent position to continue growth. Next year, and the year afterward. Basing your own digital transformation on it would serve you quite well.

Learn more about digital business transformation at: Online Guide to Digital Transformation – i-Scoop

Where does Skype for Business/Teams fit into YOUR digital transformation? Please comment or email your thoughts. Plans are good too.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers! Hope you have a safe trip, good times, and not TOO much food.

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A Trio of Technical Teams Tips

treasure hunt photo

Today I’m going to meander through Teams. Let’s see how many useful tips I can dredge up!

These are several questions which arose in my mind while playing in Teams. Both in the client, and in its Office 365 backend. As a result, I cannot promise a logical flow of information.

But it’ll be an adventure! And you might just find something useful.

1. How do I chat with an external Skype for Business contact when I’m on Teams?

A common question. One that will slowly become redundant, as well. But still quite useful for now!

As longtime Skype for Business users, we know the term needed here: Federation. The Office 365 admin must enable federation between your Teams tenant & your contact’s Skype for Business (Online) tenant.

Thankfully, we have fewer headaches setting up federation than we used to on Lync. The steps for doing so are right here: Allow Users to Contact External Skype for Business Users – Office Support

Essentially, you add their domain to the “Blocked or Allowed Domains” list in the Skype for Business Admin Center. Wait 24 hours. Make sure the firewall isn’t blocking your ports. And voila!

(If the external contact is on Skype for Business Server user though, this won’t work. Such contacts are not part of Office 365, and as such, are considered “external users.” Teams still doesn’t support external users. Microsoft, we’re waiting here!)

2. When should I use the Teams browser app/desktop client?

Teams has several client apps!
Get Clients for Microsoft Teams – MS Docs
A browser-based Web app, a desktop client, and mobile apps. So which do you use?

The Web app has one major limitation:

“At this point, the web client does not support real-time communications (i.e. joining meetings and having one-to-one calls).”

The mobile apps CAN facilitate audio calls. However, they don’t allow for adding or discovering teams.

This makes the desktop client essential if you want to use all of Teams’ tools. The mobile apps are a close second, and the Web app a close third.

I would presume that Microsoft will add real-time communications into the Teams Web app as the Skype4B integration proceeds. But for now, we have a distinct difference between the two.

3a. Teams Settings: How to Preserve Messages

Then I found myself in the Teams backend. Now, this is not just one single menu in Office 365. Teams’ controls, like most other O365 apps, are spread through its admin menus. Not impossible, but you sometimes have to hunt for things!

Fortunately, one such setting isn’t hard to find. Namely, the option to allow users to delete their Teams messages or not. Why do this? Simple—regulatory compliance. Turning message deletion off preserves all Teams messages in the cloud. This eliminates one potential source of lost communications…which can really gum up compliance audits!

  • Open Office 365 Admin Center.
  • Click Settings.
  • Click Services & Add-Ins.
  • Select “Microsoft Teams” in the list.
  • Open Teams’ Messaging menu.
  • Click the “All users to delete their own messages” switch to turn it OFF.
    Users Cannot Delete Teams Messages
  • Click Save.

This is turned ON by default. If you don’t have to worry about compliance requirements like SOX, you’re fine. If you do, better turn this off. (We check this with all Office 365 customers.)

3b. Teams Settings: How to Make Groups into Teams

(Ooh, bonus tip!)

I already had a Team set up in my demo account. But as I wandered, I came across the Office 365 Groups menu. Hmmm, I wondered. What’s the difference between an O365 Group and a Team anyway? Aren’t all Teams Groups, and all Groups Teams?

The answer is no. Creating an O365 group does NOT automatically make it a Team. To make a Team from a Group, you must go into Teams and add the Teams functionality to the existing group.

Here’s how to do this. (These steps assume you already created the Office 365 Group.)

  1. Within Teams, select the Teams menu. Click the “Add Team” button at the bottom.
  2. Click “Create Team.”
  3. You’ll see this window. What we want is at the bottom (highlighted in red): “Add Microsoft Teams Functionality.”
    Add Teams Functionality
  4. Click this link. You’ll see a list of groups that don’t have Teams functionality added yet.
  5. Click the appropriate group (you’ll see I clicked my “PM Tester 2 Group”).
    Choose Your Team
  6. Click the “Choose Team” button.
  7. Teams does its thing, and poof! A new Team now shows up. Proceed to add people & channels as you like.
    New Team Created

Plenty More to Discover in Teams

I realize the tips in this post might look a bit random. Honestly, that’s because they are. Like many of you, I’m feeling my way around Teams every chance I get. We still use Skype for Business Server in-house, so I’m sneaking off the reservation to play around in Teams. All for the sake of this blog!

Do you have a Teams question to which you can’t find an answer? Please share it with us! Let’s find you a solution.

 

P.S. – To the readers who asked me to do a Fuze vs. Skype for Business comparison? Unfortunately I have not been able to secure a demo from the folks at Fuze. I did comb through its feature set, reviews, and industry sources. Took plenty of notes. But without a demo, it would not be an authentic comparison.

If you would like me to publish those notes anyway, I’m happy to do so (with that caveat). Please comment or email your thoughts.

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The Skype Operations Framework Turned into FastTrack’s MyAdvisor!

I look away for one minute and Microsoft changes out the entire Skype Operations Framework.

Now the SkypeOperationsFramework.com URL forwards to: https://fasttrack.microsoft.com/microsoft365/capabilities?view=voice

Go ahead, click it. See for yourself. (But do come back—we have more to discuss!)

In light of the coming transition from Skype for Business to Teams, it seems Microsoft has begun to phase the SOF content into a new format. Unfortunately, we’re at early stages right now. Finding things is a little confusing.

MyAdvisor Resource Guide

I went through the MyAdvisor pages. Here’s what I could dig up. Hopefully it helps you out as we continue the transition.

Current URLs for MyAdvisor/Skype Operations Framework Content

If you arrive at FastTrack via the old SkypeOperationsFramework.com URL, you’re plopped right in the middle of FastTrack. You’ll need another click to reach MyAdvisor.

This is where SOF users should go first. MyAdvisor focuses on Cloud Voice for Teams and Skype for Business (for now). It contains deployment scenarios, feature guidance, a training library, partner references, and the Network Planner. Like SOF, it personalizes deployment guidance based on your input.

The old “Get Started” SOF page does still exist, partially, within MyAdvisor. You can even reach the “Get Deployed” and “Cloud Migration” Customer Journeys:
Get Deployed Customer Journey
Cloud Migration Customer Journey

However, the only way to reach these pages is through the old SOF links. They do not appear linked on current FastTrack pages. (You’ll find more of said links in my last SOF post.)

If you’re involved in either of these journeys now, save all the information you need from these pages! I suspect they will vanish soon.

Now, a few Teams links.

SuccessWithTeams.com now forwards to Microsoft Teams Documentation and Practical Guidance. As you’d expect from the title, the new page has documentation and guidance on Teams, including the transition from Skype for Business.

They’ve also made it harder to download the Teams client! You can still reach the download from FastTrack, but it’s several clicks down. Save yourself the time and go straight to https://teams.microsoft.com/downloads.

Finally, we have a new FastTrack page: Get Started on Your Microsoft Teams Journey. A transitional resource, built solely to help those moving from Skype for Business to Teams.

Evolving Guidance & Training Resources – Is Bigger Better?

The whole thing looks like a glorious mess, doesn’t it? Some instructional material does remain the same; I’ll clarify what in a moment. As well as what’s murky or missing (as best I can tell).

But first, let me elaborate on something. FastTrack has existed for a while now. (See this 2016 article: Microsoft FastTrack: Partner Friend or Foe?)

Microsoft decided that it should consume the SOF. Two big resources melding into one. FastTrack and SOF are “evolved” up to Microsoft 365/Azure/Dynamics 365 in the process. Which IS in keeping with Microsoft’s cloud-first, service-based approach.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen what happens when you do this…the result can end up a labyrinthine, hard-to-navigate swamp. The Teams transition intrigues me. This part of it makes me wary though.

What’s the Same – Training Material, References, Cloud-First Direction

The style may have changed, but most of the substance is still there. With the FastTrack MyAdvisor (and FastTrack in general) you can expect:

  • Lots of resources for training & reference
  • Guiding paths for onboarding and supporting new users
  • Angling you toward specific products – before, it was the cloud or hybrid versions of Skype for Business. Now it’s the cloud-first Microsoft 365, Azure, or Dynamics 365.
  • Partner match-up. I do like that it takes advantage of the new Partner Center.

MyAdvisor Features Chart

In the same vein, we see a greater emphasis on Teams. More documentation now is great for admins and power users…it calls back to the Skype Operations Framework’s original purpose. Still, the shift produced some major changes.

What’s Different Now – Cloud Emphasis Stronger, Hybrid Disappearing

Obviously, the biggest difference is that FastTrack does not focus solely on Skype for Business. MyAdvisor does centralize on “Cloud Voice” (adding Voice and Conferencing to Teams). However, I find this line from the first FAQ question a little off-base:

“The Skype Operations Framework (SOF) provided guidance to help customers and partners roll out and operate Cloud Voice capabilities. This framework has now evolved into Practical Guidance for Cloud Voice as part of FastTrack.”

The SOF did much more than talk about Cloud Voice. They had whole pathways mapped out for doing hybrid Skype for Business deployments. Well beyond just the Cloud Voice aspect. I may be splitting hairs, but reframing like this just rubs me the wrong way (and I’ll bet I’m not the only one).

Secondly, FastTrack is focused on MS 365, Azure, and Dynamics 365 (in that order, I’d say). The MyAdvisor page is actually hard to reach organically…you have to do this:

  1. On the FastTrack homepage, click “Microsoft 365” in the nav bar.Cloud Voice Icon
  2. Scroll down to the “Supported Capabilities” section. Click the “Voice” icon.
  3. Scroll down on the “FastTrack-supported capabilities” page until you see the blue “MyAdvisor” box.
  4. Click the box. The MyAdvisor page will (finally) open.

As I said before, we should remember that the whole resource library is in transition. Now that MS plans to move Skype for Business into Teams, and push Microsoft 365 to the front of its sales efforts, the whole FastTrack site will update rapidly. This entire post may end up out-of-date by January!

FastTrack Q&A – Where to Find What

I need documentation on Teams. Where do I look?
Head over here: Microsoft Teams Documentation

What about Skype for Business training material?
The MyAdvisor will direct you. You can also search through the Microsoft Tech Academy.

I had a SOF certification. What happened to it?
According to MyAdvisor’s FAQs, it’s still intact and valid. Log into FastTrack with the same Microsoft Account credentials, and you should see it.

We heard about Skype for Business becoming Teams. What do we do?
We’re early in the game on that one. Best thing to do now is keep on top of the process. Microsoft just released a roadmap PDF showing the schedule & order of Teams receiving Skype4B features: Roadmap for Skype for Business Capabilities Coming to Microsoft Teams – MS Tech Community

I was following the old Skype Operations Framework for our deployment. We’re in the middle of things. What do I do?
First, talk with your Microsoft rep. They should have some direction to give you.

You can also go to one of these pages (depending on which Customer Journey path you took) and download the available assets:

I cannot guarantee these will remain live, so grab the assets while you can!

We’re looking at deploying Skype for Business Server soon. Will this FastTrack help me?
Yes, from a planning standpoint. Use the MyAdvisor tool to find the most current guidance content. (But check back on it regularly, as this content will change soon!)

Where Will the FastTrack Behemoth Guide Us?

In my Skype Operations Framework 101 post, I said the SOF was a useful roadmap if you were going cloud-only on Skype for Business.

Now that we know Skype for Business will absorb into Teams, this new FastTrack resource feels constricting. “Hybrid” is gone; now we have “side-by-side” Skype4B/Teams configurations that are marked as “steps in the journey.”

I came across a rather funny closing note. Over in the SOF section of SkypeFeedback.com, the latest post says simply, “Waste this App.”

It appears Microsoft is doing just that.

What do you think about the FastTrack absorbing the Skype Operations Framework? Please comment or email me your thoughts.

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Device Reviews: Sennheiser Presence UC ML, SP 20 ML, SD Pro 1

As I said the other day, Sennheiser kindly sent us some headsets for testing. Not just the MB 660 though…no, we got several more!

More than I could review on my own. So I passed the others to co-workers. I asked them to use the headsets for a few weeks, and then give me their impressions.

Here are the results. Since I have three devices under review in one post, I’ll compress each review a little bit.

Presence UC ML: The Road Warrior’s Headset

SPECS: The Presence UC ML is a single-ear Bluetooth headset for mobile use. It’s the “pack of gum” type that sits right on your ear. It comes with a USB dongle for plugging into a computer. The ML version is rated for Skype for Business, though the entire Presence line will cooperate with mobile phones.

The Presence UC ML features multi-device connectivity, SpeakFocus (your listener hears your voice instead of traffic sounds), and up to 10 hours call time on 1 charge.

Sennheiser Presence UC ML

USER’S EXPERIENCE: I gave this to Mike, our Creative Director. Mike tried it on his Macbook, but it didn’t want to work. He could receive calls with it, but his voice never rose above a whisper. I don’t know if this was due to his using a Mac, or a configuration issue. (When I can get him to bring it back, I’ll try the dongle out on my Windows laptop.)

Using it with his phone however was a whole other story.

“Using this [the Presence UC ML headset] was superior to my phone,” he said. “Between holding the phone to my ear and using the headset, the headset was clearer in every respect. Plus I didn’t have any pressure on my ear. I actually forgot I was wearing it!”

Mike rides a motorcycle to the office. I’d called him one day and chatted for a moment about a project. Moments later he walked in the door. He’d put the Presence on inside his helmet and talked to me while riding. I didn’t even know he’d done that until he told me. His voice came through so clearly—while inside a motorcycle helmet speeding down the freeway—that I thought he was still at home!

BEST FOR: The Presence UC ML is very much an on-the-go headset. It’s compact, light, and keeps up good clear sound for hours. Road Warriors, we have your headset.

PRESENCE UC ML – Sennheiser

SP 20 ML: The Speakerphone/Hockey Puck

SPECS: The SP 20 ML is a Skype for Business speakerphone. Like the Jabra SPEAK 410, it’s a large speaker that sits on the desk/conference table. Except it does much more.

Sennheiser SP 20 ML

The SP 20 contains its own battery, which it charges via the USB cable. It has both a USB connector and a 3.5 connector, which allows it to plug into a computer, tablet, even your phone. The SP 20 has call control and volume buttons on its top surface. Skype for Business will auto-detect the device with no configuration necessary.

USER’S EXPERIENCE: This one I tested myself. I used it for some basic one-on-one calls, three- and four-person conference calls, and even played some music for a while. (Okay, until my co-workers started throwing crumpled-up paper balls at me.)

The SP 20’s sound clarity is stellar. Not just for hearing other people, but for my voice reaching them as well. We had a conference call with a colleague in Illinois, and he sounded so clear I almost forgot he wasn’t in the same room!

I credit the sound quality to the fact that the SP 20 uses more of its surface area for speaker/mic coverage. You see this in the photo above. Not only is the top surface working as a speaker/microphone, so is the underside of the lip.

That said, all this speaker surface does come with one warning: the SP 20 ML is VERY sharp at picking up sound. As such, turn it up to 100% at your own risk. We had a conference call where one of our callers kept leaning into their own speaker when talking. We could tell each time…because their voice got so loud that the sound hurt!

BEST FOR: Small office conferences. The SP 20 ML does one thing, and does it very well. I’d expect sound quality for such devices to improve over time. But they really pushed for clarity with this one.

SP 20 ML – Sennheiser

SD Pro 1: The Call Center Workhorse

SPECS: The SD Pro 1 is a wireless single-earpiece headset which connects to a cradle. It’s part of Sennheiser’s SD series. The SD Pro 1 has a noise-canceling microphone on a boom arm. The headset incorporates call controls directly on it; you can answer or end a call, mute, and adjust volume with a tap.

The SD Pro’s battery gives you 8 hours of talk time (in wideband mode; 12 in narrowband mode) per charge. To recharge, you just put it back on the cradle.

Please Note: There are TWO versions of the SD Pro 1. One is rated ML, one is not. We had the one NOT rated ML.

Sennheiser SD Pro 1 Side View

The wireless range on the SD series headsets ranges from 180-590 feet. As I understand, our tests only took the SD Pro 1 from one part of the office to another, representing about 100 feet. Still, no reported static or dropped calls.

USER’S EXPERIENCE: I gave this headset to Hannah, our Office Assistant. She manages most of our incoming calls, as well as customer follow-up and scheduling.

Perhaps fittingly, Hannah gave me her impressions in a phone call. I’ll record them here in question/answer format.

  • Sennheiser SD Pro 1 Front View“How would you rate the headset in terms of comfort?”
    Answer: 8/10. Sometimes it starts sliding off my head and I have to keep readjusting it. Could be I have a weird shaped head. But that’s okay, it’s pretty comfortable.
  • “When using the headset with Skype for Business, do callers sound as clear as a regular phone call, less clear, or clearer?”
    Answer: As clear as a regular phone call, definitely.
  • “If you use the headset with your phone via Bluetooth, do callers sound as clear as holding a phone to your ear, less clear, or clearer? What about another Bluetooth headset – worse or better?”
    Answer: I did try this, and it does sound as clear as holding the phone to my ear. I have used another Bluetooth headset before—this one is pretty much the same.
  • “How easy are the headset’s controls to learn & use?”
    Answer: They are pretty easy to learn. I always forget which direction to push the switch to raise the volume though!
  • “What would you say to someone considering this model of headset?”
    Answer: It is a great headset, with easy controls, but you have to be aware of how it will interact with your phone systems. I have to click certain buttons in a certain order to be able to answer a call in the way that I prefer to have it answered.
  • “What drawbacks have you come across while using the headset?”
    Answer: If I don’t answer the call with the correct button order, the call does not display on my monitor correctly. This gets irritating, because then I have to transfer calls on the phone [my desk phone] instead of doing it via Skype on my computer. Slows down the transfer process a bit. That is probably the only issue I have.

BEST FOR: Call center and front office workers. The SD Pro 1 does well with just about any phone system, but I’d recommend you use it with non-Skype for Business systems (Cisco, Shoretel, etc.). If you’re on Skype for Business, the SD Pro 1 ML should do the trick.

Why do I recommend this headset for call center workers? Because of the cradle. The SD series headsets all use the same cradle. Which means it’s easy to charge any SD headset on any cradle. Even someone else’s! (Though you might want to ask first.)

SD PRO 1 – Sennheiser

The Right Headset Depends on You (But these are all good choices!)

Now that the communication platforms available to businesses are growing like crazy, headsets like these become essential. You don’t even need a desk phone anymore…just the right software on your computer, and a nice headset.

I’d feel comfortable recommending each of these to a customer. Which one would depend on the customer’s individual needs. Do they focus on conferences? The SP 20 ML. Are they always on the go? The Presence UC ML. Just need a general headset for a bunch of office workers? The SD Pro 1.

You can find all of these headsets over at Headsets.com.

Do you have one of these Sennheiser headsets? Please comment on your experience!

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