PSTN Calling Has a Not-So-Pleasant Surprise for International Callers

While researching a full Skype for Business pricing update, I spoke with a co-worker. He told me something I didn’t know about Office 365’s PSTN Calling. Specifically, a surprise hidden in how Microsoft handles international call rates.

It is possible to find out about this organically. But (and I’m saying this as a writer) the language is obtuse. Essentially, it boils down to…

For international calls, Office 365 PSTN Calling has a nasty surprise. If you’re not careful, the plan will charge you extra fees on top of your monthly rate.

Let’s go through how this happens.

What PSTN Calling Does

PSTN Calling gives Office 365 Skype for Business users the ability to make calls to/receive calls from the PSTN. Like a cellphone plan (the non-unlimited ones), you get a certain amount of minutes for domestic and international calls.

What’s not obvious is that international calls are also subject to per-minute additional rates, depending on how many calls you make.

The two calling plans are (per month):

  • DOMESTIC: 3000 minutes in the US and Puerto Rico, 1200 minutes in the UK
  • INTERNATIONAL: 3000 minutes in the US and Puerto Rico, 1200 minutes in the UK, and 600 international minutes.

Pay attention to that last line. 600 international minutes. That’s per user, but it’s still not a whole lot—10 hours’ call time per month. It’s also pooled at the tenant level…which means it’s possible for one department to make a bunch of international calls & use up another department’s minutes!

If you go over 600 minutes calling overseas, or if you only have a Domestic plan and want to call internationally, you’re kind of stuck. No more international calling for you until next month.

Making International Calls
“Wait, what country am I calling? Do we have any minutes left?”
Photo by Kait Loggins on Unsplash

Further details are on the PSTN Calling page.

PSTN Consumption Billing: What’s This?

An alternative to the call plans is PSTN Consumption Billing.

What is PSTN Consumption Billing? Office 365 Help

This is a subscription to give you, for lack of a better term, “call credits.” If the Domestic & International call plans are monthly cellphone plans, Consumption Billing is a pre-paid phone.

You pre-pay a certain amount, held by Microsoft, which is used when callers make international calls (or calls outside their current PSTN Calling plan—it’s possible to use both).

O365 users can either pre-pay a full one-time amount, or pre-pay a minimum balance with an “auto-recharge” option. Auto-Recharge kicks in whenever the minimum balance is used up, refilling it from your payment method.

Now, Consumption Billing isn’t cheap. The minimum balance for less than 250 users is $200. If you wanted to pre-pay the full amount for the same number of people instead, you’re looking at $1,000!

If you don’t have Consumption Billing and you’re on the Domestic plan? International calls will not connect.
If you don’t have Consumption Billing and your users use up the international minutes in their plan? Skype for Business can’t dial out until the next month starts.

Which O365 Plans Offer PSTN Calling?

PSTN Calling is available to the Enterprise plans – E1, E3, and E5. These are the plans you’d want if you’re giving users full voice capability anyway.

Let’s do a stack of Office 365 subscriptions necessary to call anyone, anywhere. We’ll assume 50 users, all on O365 E3 licenses.

PSTN CALLING STACK

  1. Office 365 E3 – $20.00/month x 50 = $1,000
  2. Cloud PBX – $8.00/month x 50 = $400
  3. PSTN Calling Add-On (International) – $24.00/month x 50 = $1,200
  4. [OPTIONAL] PSTN Consumption Billing Subscription (Minimum) – $200.00
  5. Total:
    • With Consumption Billing added: $52.00 x 50 = $2,800.00/month
    • International Call Plan only: $52.00 x 50 = $2,600.00/month
      +International Calling Rates (varies)

(If you used E5 plans, Cloud PBX would come included. But the cost rises from $20.00/month to $35.00/month. Just FYI.)

So we’re looking at $2,600-2,800/month for 50 users to call anywhere. What’s that last part though? Depending on your users’ activity, ‘International Calling Rates’ could come to zero each month. Or you could suddenly find hundreds of dollars added to your bill.

What Happens with International Calls (When You Go Over Minutes)

I’ll break down how it works. Let’s say Shelly in XYZ Corp’s US Operations needs to communicate regularly with their overseas manufacturing facilities. These facilities are located in Germany and China. Shelly has the full PSTN Calling Stack we listed above.

  1. In one month, she spends about 9 hours talking with the Germany & China facilities. For that month, she didn’t exceed the International call plan, so her cost remains at $52.00/month.
  2. The next month there’s some problem with production. Shelly has to make some extra calls to straighten everything out. In the process, she makes 10.5 hours’ worth of international calls.
  3. Shelly has gone over her plan’s limit. What will Microsoft charge her for the overages?
    • Shelly’s calls to Germany (30 minutes)
      International Dial-Out Rate/Minute – $0.021 x 30 = $0.63
    • Shelly’s calls to China (30 minutes)
      International Dial-Out Rate/Minute – $0.04 x 30 = $1.20

Sure, these aren’t run-for-the-hills numbers. But this is one user. Multiply it over 50 (or 100, or 1,000…) and those overages will add up pretty fast.

Plus, the rates aren’t locked. They may change at any time. That means one month’s international bill may suddenly go up, beyond last month’s. Especially if you use Consumption Billing only—the dial-out rates are used for every minute on those calls.

PSTN Calling Extra Rates

Download the current table for international dial-out rates here (PDF). [Current as of July 12, 2017.]

I should point out a big caveat before finishing up though. If users are homed in the same country, even though one person is traveling internationally, their calls to co-workers are considered domestic.

A Thousand Tiny Costs Adding Up

Extra fees on international calls isn’t a huge emergency. Some of you already knew, or at least came across it before. Nevertheless, it’s an important topic about which to blog.

My co-worker spent months working with Office 365 before he came across the international call rate structure. “Bit of a surprise,” as he phrased it. The customer whose Office 365 tenant he was setting up when he found it? A 200-plus-employee tech hardware manufacturer with an overseas satellite office.

They had no idea what was in store.

What’s your experience been with PSTN Calling for international calls? I’m especially curious if anyone’s run up against the call limits already.

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MS Teams Updates: Guest Access, Educational Resources, and a License Rumor

Hope all of you had a great 4th of July!

Just a quick post today, while we continue work on some bigger stuff.

Microsoft Teams has come up on social a lot lately. Some important information administrators should know, whether or not you use Teams now. So let’s recap.

External User/Guest Access: Still Waiting

First up – no, Teams didn’t get Guest Access in June. We’d all hoped for it, but a Microsoft rep posted on UserVoice to expect delays.

External Access and Federation – MicrosoftTeams.UserVoice.com

Teams Guest Access Status Update

Guest Access will allow non-Office 365 users to join your Teams channels. I commented the other day that this will end up as a make-or-break element for Teams adoption. Judging by the comments on this thread, it seems I was right. We’re already seeing comments like:

  • Too long of a wait, going with Slack.
  • We couldn’t keep waiting.
  • We have to move on.

I’d like to see Teams have a fair shot at the collaboration marketplace. But Microsoft’s delays aren’t helping anything.

Teams Education: 2 New Resources

Next, something nicer for new (or future) Teams users. Two educational resources have launched to help you get the hang of Teams: Microsoft Teams Education Resource Collection – Padlet.com. This one appears to focus on educational Teams use.

Microsoft Teams Survival Guide – TechNet. More a collection of existing resources really…but an extensive one.

License Auto-Adjust Rumor

Finally, I’ve heard a troubling rumor. I cannot confirm it yet, though I’m trying. If it turns out to be false (and I sort of hope it does), then I’ll remove this section from the post.

The rumor I heard involves Teams use changing your Office 365 license level.

Here’s the scenario alluded to. Person A is an Office 365 user with Teams (let’s say they have an E1 license). Person B is an Office 365 user, but doesn’t have Teams (they have the ProPlus license).

  1. Person A sends a Teams invite to Person B. Or shares some content from one of their Teams channels with them.
  2. Instead of Person A getting an error message, Person B’s Office 365 license changes. It self-adjusts to a level that includes Teams (e.g., Business Premium).
  3. Person B sees the Teams invite/share.
  4. Person B may not be aware of the license change…until they get the next bill.

Right now, Teams is included for these subscription plans:

  • Office 365 Business Essentials
  • Office 365 Business Premium
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5
  • Office 365 Education
  • Office 365 Education Plus
  • Office 365 Education E5

That leaves out:

  • Office 365 ProPlus
  • Office 365 Business
  • Office 365 Government (G1-G5)
  • Office 365 Home
  • Office 365 Personal
  • Office Home & Student 2016
  • Skype for Business Online Plans

(Granted, most of the users on these plans won’t see much of a need for Teams.)

Why the exclusion? It has to do with Exchange. Teams requires Exchange Online available in the Office 365 account. Microsoft requires it for adding connectors – links to external services, like Twitter or Trello.

Since those Office 365 plans don’t come with Exchange Online by default, Teams isn’t included either.

Again, I hope this was just a rumor. Maybe someone experienced a glitch and spread the word out of frustration.

If you have heard anything about this license auto-adjust, please comment and update me! I’d love confirmation, one way or the other.

If it’s false, then we can all breathe easy.
If it’s true, then it’s something we should all know about.

Until next time, everyone! I promise, we have some good Skype4B material coming up.

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Poll Results: Some Organizations DO Still Use Lync Server!

We’re working on a big post (again!). It’s directly in response to a reader comment, and deals with a critical part of Skype for Business adoption.

In the meantime, as I promised, here are the results of the Lync Polls I conducted.

On-the-Blog Poll Results

Lync Server Poll Results June 2017
(I’m obscuring actual vote numbers on request.)

58% of the blog poll votes went to “We moved to Skype for Business Server.” No big surprise there. Several votes went to Office 365’s Skype for Business Online, too.

What I found curious was that 25% said they still use Lync Server!

Spiceworks Poll Results

If you’re a Spicehead too, here’s the URL for the voting results over there:
https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/2003305-are-you-still-using-lync-server
All responses voted for: “No, we moved to Skype for Business”

Thanks to everyone who voted.

So, what do the results tell us? Most Lync users moved to Skype for Business, and are doing just fine.

A larger-than-expected percentage still use Lync Server though. I did get a little feedback on this…the main reason? Corporate inertia. Management doesn’t want to invest the time & money to move from Lync to Skype for Business.

For those in such a situation, if you want to move to Skype for Business? You have several ways to demonstrate its value to Management.

  1. Start up an Office 365 trial in one department (maybe IT?). The fastest method, and the closest to Server deployment. Then you can show Management how the workflow benefits from it.
  2. Federate your Lync Server with a colleague’s or vendor’s Skype for Business Server. Might take some asking around, but eventually you’ll find one. That way you can show the differing experiences between Lync and Skype4B.
    • We actually convinced a customer to move to Skype for Business this way…just by using our own Skype4B Server. I’m not opposed to doing so again, if it’ll help you!
  3. Ask to sign up for a Microsoft Teams trial. It’s obviously not the same, but it’s a simple way to show how Microsoft has updated their software since Lync.
  4. Request a live Skype for Business demo from an IT agency. May not change anything, but at least Management gets to see the Skype for Business UI at work!

Lync Users: Lync Server 2013 IS Still Supported, So You’re in Good Shape

If you’re honestly happy with Lync Server, then more power to you! Just keep the server secure and up-to-date. Lync Server 2013 will receive mainstream support until April 2018. It doesn’t reach end of life until April 2023.

We’ll have the next big post coming up as soon as possible. Don’t forget to join us again next week!

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Teams Updates and a Lync Poll

Yes, we’re talking both Teams and Lync today. Old and new.

First, the Teams part. Microsoft continues to expand Teams’ capabilities as the weeks progress. I saw a tweet yesterday from Randy, of the “Randy’s Lync and UC Blog,” talking about the MS Teams May 31 update in his latest post.
Microsoft Teams Update 31st May 2017 – Randy’s Lync and UC Blog

Naturally, I went & had a look.

Current MS Teams Updates, as of June 8

The Teams May 31 update included:MS Teams Settings

  1. Invite people to Teams via chat: Sending non-Teams-users a message will automatically email them with a New Message notice. The email also includes a Teams signup invitation.
  2. [Coming Soon] Manage app behavior on startup: Adding 3 new settings to the Microsoft Teams Settings/Application window. These settings give you options for launching and closing Teams.
    • Teams launches automatically when the computer starts.
    • Teams launches automatically, but stays in the background. (Teams defaults to starting in the foreground otherwise.)
    • Teams keeps running even if you close the window.

Randy reported that he already saw this update in his Teams app. Checking Twitter, I found the same thing for most other users. So I’d consider this a ‘live’ feature.

Yesterday, June 7, saw another update. From the Microsoft Teams Release Notes:

  1. Improved files experience: Look and feel for your OneDrive file library in the Files app is updated to match the Files tab in Teams’ channels. Cosmetic stuff.
  2. [Coming Soon] Group Chat Naming: Gives you the ability to name a group chat even before you send any messages. When you create a new chat, you’ll have an Expand icon, which when clicked, shows you a name field. Using this, you can fork an older chat into a fresh conversation, and differentiate between the two.

I don’t see this naming option yet, so it is still coming. Seems useful though…how many of us have needed to revisit an old topic? Different names give us an easy way to start fresh, without starting over.

Now, we are in June. So I hope the external-user access functionality is almost ready…

Poll: Still Using Lync Server?

Let’s close out today with a poll.Teams, Skype, or Lync?

I read through my social media yesterday, checked some notes…and a question hit me. I saw a post about someone still using the Lync app on their Mac, even though the company had moved to Skype for Business last year. (They apparently didn’t know about the Skype for Business on Mac client.)

I thought, “How many people are still using Lync Server in 2017?”

I would hope the answer is “very few” or “none.” But this one tweet illustrated otherwise. So I dug around, looking for statistics on current Lync usage. As in, businesses or organizations still using Lync Server 2013 in recent months.

I used to sing the praises of Lync Server on this very blog. And for the time, I was justified–the software had immense power, enabling almost every possible communications medium.

Technology waits for no one, however. Nowadays the Lync system is out of date and a bit troublesome to use now. Especially when you have multiple alternatives (all of which are more recent and safer to use!): Skype for Business Server, Skype for Business Online, MS Teams, even Slack or Workplace.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find many hard numbers on current Lync usage. At least so far. No big surprise; even Microsoft pushes anyone still on Lync to upgrade.

So let’s gather some! I’d like to ask you, our readers, what you’re using. Please select a result from this poll.

Are you still using Lync Server (as of June 2017)?

(Comments are welcome, of course.)

I’ve posted a similar poll on Spiceworks, if you’re a Spicehead like me: https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/2003305-are-you-still-using-lync-server

I’ll pool all the resulting data in a future post. In the meantime, thanks for responding!

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Attendant Pro Review: The 2017 Edition

New Features, More Power in Latest Attendant Pro

Last year I did a two-part review of Attendant Pro, made by Landis Computer. Those posts remain some of my most-trafficked.

Software Review: Attendant Pro Part 1
Software Review: Attendant Pro Part 2 – Quick Access Shortcuts

Landis got back in touch the other day, asking if I could review the latest version. “Of course!” I said. (Might have said that out loud too…)

Why not? It’s a great add-on for Skype for Business users. Especially those who must manage a lot of calls, like receptionists or call centers. If there’s a new version, that means more features to work with.

Attendant Pro Logo

I’ve submitted my feedback to the Landis team. The following review is edited from that feedback (all IP & related data removed, as I always do). Yes, it’s time for the big review I promised!

What Attendant Pro Does

For the 5 of you who haven’t read my original review yet (click the links above to see them!), Attendant Pro gives the Skype for Business user a console wherein you can take calls, set up scripts for fast actions (like transfers to specific people), and even control Skype for Business through special hotkeys called Quick Access Shortcuts.

As I said then, it’s “Do call management simple, do it right.”

Attendant Pro Main Window

The latest update dropped on May 4, 2017: Attendant Pro Q2-2017 Update

That makes 4 updates since my last review. In that time, Landis has added quite a few features. Features to keep up with Microsoft’s own Skype for Business-related releases…and in one case, surpass them.

New Attendant Pro Features: MP3 Recordings, UI Selector, Analytics

Last time Landis posted videos to describe the features. This time, we have posts on the Attendant Pro Blog describing the new features.
Attendant Pro June 2016 Update
Attendant Pro Sept 2016 (Q3-2016) Update
Attendant Pro Jan 2017 (Q4-2016) Update
Attendant Pro Q2-2017 Update (May 2017)

(The video playlist for Attendant Pro is right here, in case you want another look. Still helpful! Attendant Pro for Skype for Business (Office 365, Lync) Training – LandisComputer YouTube

There’s a huge assortment of features…Transfer Advisor, Dynamics 365 (CRM) integration, color coding…but I’d like to talk about three in particular. The Analytics Dashboard, MP3 Call Recording, and the UI Selector.

Analytics Dashboard

What it Does: Records & displays KPI data on call activity. Analytics are collected within the app and displayed in Excel; no extra server or Office 365 license required.

User Benefit: Businesses can collect the call data, and use to improve services or make predictions. Which makes this feature particularly valuable for call centers. (Remember the line you always hear when calling Customer Service? “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes…”)

These reports/graphs are enabled out of the box:

  • Today key performance indicators
  • Date Range key performance indicator
  • ACD Activity Chart
  • Transfer Type Chart
  • Incoming versus Outgoing Calls
  • Call Volume by Hour
  • Call Volume by Day

Analytics Dashboard

How to Activate:

  1. In the main Attendant Pro screen, look down at the bottom right corner.
  2. You’ll see three icons—Total Calls Today, Average Time to Answer, & Average Time to Handle Call. Click whichever you want.
  3. Excel will open & display an Analytics Dashboard file.

(Analytics are enabled by default. But if yours aren’t working for some reason, you can reactivate them by checking the “Enable Call Detail Recording” box under Options > Reporting.)

MP3 Call Recording

What it Does: Compresses call recordings into MP3 format.

User Benefit: Attendant Pro previously recorded calls in WAV format only. Which is good for clarity, but not so good for file size. MP3 is more efficient, especially with large call volumes.

How to Activate:

  1. Open Attendant Pro Options.
  2. Select “Recording.”
  3. Choose an active Recording Mode with the top dropdown menu—On Demand, Always Record (Can Stop), Always Record (Can’t Stop).
  4. Click the “Select Upload Folder” button. Choose the folder where you want call recordings to go.
  5. Check the box next to “Compress to MP3.” Click OK.

UI Selector

What it Does: Lets you change Attendant Pro’s User Interface with a click.

User Benefit: You can match your UI to the system used—Lync, Skype for Business, or Teams. As Paul from Landis put it, this makes Attendant Pro “feel less like a separate program, and more like an extension of [users’] current workflow.”

How to Activate:

  1. Open Attendant Pro Options. You should be on the “General” tab (if not, click it).
  2. Look in the group of dropdown menus for “User Interface.”
  3. Click the dropdown and you’ll see four choices: Lync 2013, Skype for Business 2015, Skype for Business 2016, and Microsoft Teams.
  4. Click to select the user interface you want. Click OK at the bottom. Marvel at how similar Attendant Pro now looks like your favorite chat platform!

UI Selector in Attendant Pro

**This is the feature surpassing Microsoft. Landis’ app now gives you control of the UI…does Microsoft do that?

Final Note: Call Quality

You might think using Attendant Pro would hurt call quality. Another app, another layer through which the data stream filters.

I’m happy to say, that is not the case. I did several test calls, in several different situations, all of which I’d used for calls previously. Here’s the list of my test calls.

  • Internal Network, to Skype for Business Contact (P2P)
  • Internal Network, to Skype for Business Contact (on Cell)
  • Internal Network, to non-Skype for Business Contact
  • External/Outside Network (Wi-Fi) to Skype for Business Contact (P2P)
  • External/Outside Network (Wi-Fi) to non-Skype for Business Contact (on Cell)

All calls originated from this laptop: ThinkPad P40 Yoga, Windows 10, Skype for Business 2016

Difference? Nothing at all. Same call strength & clarity. Attendant Pro’s Analytics Dashboard showed the exact same times, proving zero lag between the client and the call. Attendant Pro is a “single pane of glass” both in terms of call management, and response time.

Already THE Call Manager, and it Keeps Getting Better

IMPORTANT: If you previously used Attendant Pro and want to upgrade to the latest version (1.0.6337.15048 at time of posting), make sure you uninstall the old version first. I wound up with two versions on my machine, without realizing it! This may not happen to you, but just in case.

Also, this may cost you your preconfigured Quick Access Shortcuts. Take a screenshot of each beforehand, so you can quickly recreate them.

At this point, I feel confident in saying Attendant Pro is THE call manager for Skype for Business. This is the gold standard. It even works with Teams, too, which can only help drive further adoption (and more features!).

The customers we’ve set up with Attendant Pro always comment on how simple the interface is. One even asked if this product “really worked,” because they thought it looked “too simple.” We only had to show her a few Quick Access Shortcuts. Her eyebrows indicated how (pleasantly) surprised she was.

To try out Attendant Pro, visit https://www.landiscomputer.com/attendantpro/.

EDIT: I heard back from Matt Landis, owner of Landis Computer! I’d asked him where his company plans to go with Attendant Pro in the future. He gave me this quote:

“Looking to the future, one area we plan to focus on is continuing on the track of making Dynamics 365 / CRM, Skype for Business, and Cloud PBX one seamless and integrated experience. Not CRM call pop, but Dynamics merged into Skype for Business’ call handling experience.

Also, we continue to invest heavily in making Attendant Pro have a Skype for Business look & feel that is fresh and clean, so users can just turn on the power features as they need them.”

Thanks Matt!

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Troubleshooting Reference for Skype for Business File Transfer Issues

In my last post, I mentioned a co-worker alerted me to problems with file transfers in Skype for Business failing.

I did promise to do a post on her situation once we resolved the issue. Well, we resolved it!

I documented the troubleshooting steps we took. Many didn’t help our problem, but they might help yours. Like most technical issues, what fixes one instance may not fix another.

The Problem: Skype for Business Locks Up When Files Sent to the User

From the co-worker’s original email:

“Almost every time someone sends me a document through Skype [for Business], it locks up. I have to shut it down through Task Manager. It’s happened since Lync, and was never fixed. Not sure what it is, but maybe you could find something on it?”

A very specific circumstance. What happens if she sends files through Skype4B? According to her, it would work sometimes, but not always.

File Transfer Troubleshooting Steps

First, make sure file transfers are enabled for the user! I covered this in the last post, under the “When to Turn File Transfer Off” section. All the troubleshooting in the world won’t help if your user has file transfers disabled.

Now, assuming file transfer is enabled (it was for the co-worker), let’s proceed with troubleshooting.

Step 1: Check the Logs for Errors

On a Windows system, you’ll find system logs in the Settings (Windows 10)/Control Panel (Windows 7/8).

The Skype for Business client also records logs, if you have it set up to do so. Here’s how to check that.

  1. In the Skype for Business client, click Tools –> Options.
  2. The Options window will open, showing the General Options. In the third box, titled, “Help your support team help you,” you’ll see two logging options. One is a dropdown menu titled, “Logging in Skype for Business” with three choices: Off, Light, and Full.
    • This was pre-set upon install, but you can change it with a click. We set all customers to Full by default.
  3. Where do you find these logs? In the Tracing folder. You’ll find this at “C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\[16.0 or 15.0]\[Skype for Business or Lync]\Tracing.
  4. The other logging option is a checkbox for, “Also collect troubleshooting info using Windows Event Logging.” This tells Skype for Business to feed logging data to Windows’ event logs.

Turn on Logging in Skype for Business

Event Logs for Skype for Business

We pored through these logs. I found several instances of Skype4B starting properly, closing properly, one or two “Error: Improper Shutdown” messages…but no explicit file transfer issue. The shutdown errors could have been the file transfer freezing Skype—but they could also have come from my co-worker force-quitting after the freeze.

Once we knew her logs were running, we tried a test. I sent her two files via Skype4B Conversation – a simple image, and a big Word document. Of course, Murphy’s Law being what it is, they worked perfectly!

While we waited for another instance of the error, we tried the next step.

Step 2: Run Diagnostics

Next, we ran DirectX Diagnostics (dxdiag.exe).

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This has nothing to do with Skype for Business. Why even try? Normally I wouldn’t have…but my co-worker said something that prompted us to. She said she recalled the screen flickering when the freeze occurred. Not always, but often enough that she remembered.

That could indicate a video issue. Quick, easy (and built-in) way to check for those is DirectX Diagnostics.

Running DirectX Diagnostics is simple on any Windows PC. Click Start, and enter “dxdiag” (no quotes) into the search box. Click the “dxdiag.exe” result.

The DirectX Diagnostics tool opens up, and runs a scan on your video and sound components. If all’s well, you’ll see results like this:

DXDiag Screen

Which we did. On to the next idea.

Step 3: Third-Party Block

If file transfer is enabled, and the client appears not to have any serious problems…was something ELSE blocking Skype for Business file transfers?

I turned to Almighty Google to check. Soon enough I found a possibility—Malwarebytes. If Malwarebytes Home or Premium is running, it could see Skype for Business file transfers as a malware vector, and block them.

The solution? Updating the Skype for Business client. More on that in a moment.

There’s also a workaround: adding Skype for Business as a “Web Exclusion” within Malwarebytes*.

  • Open Malwarebytes.
  • Click the Web Exclusions tab.
  • Click the “Add Process” button.
  • Enter the Skype for Business .EXE file path.
  • Save, and restart the computer.
Malwarebytes Web Exclusion
Web Exclusion set for Skype for Business in Malwarebytes Premium.

Skype for Business 2016 freezes on a computer that has Malwarebytes is installed – Microsoft Support

*IMPORTANT: This does NOT work on all versions of Malwarebytes. Check your version.

We use a corporate site license for our Malwarebytes, so users don’t have admin control on their local machines. Including my co-worker’s. Next!

Step 4: Video-Based Screen Sharing Getting in the Way?

I came across this troubleshooting idea in a very roundabout manner. Several support threads and some comment-sifting brought me to a comment on a Jeff Schertz blog post from 2015. The post is on Video-Based Screen Sharing (VBSS), an improvement to Skype for Business’ screen sharing capabilities.

The post itself is stellar. But how does it relate to file transfer freezes? That comes from a comment left by “Tsuyoshi” in March 2016. They gave a way to disable VBSS via two registry edits. Jeff added them to the post under an update at the bottom.

For 64-bit Skype for Business on a 64-bit Windows OS:
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Lync]
“EnableP2PScreenSharingOverVideo”=dword:00000000

For 32-bit Skype for Business on a 64-bit Windows OS:
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Lync]
“EnableP2PScreenSharingOverVideo”=dword:00000000

Value must be set to zero.

According to some other commenters, VBSS had interfered with file transfers on their computers. Disabling it, as with this registry edit, fixed the problem.

We tried it. Unfortunately, it didn’t help. But we did finally get an error message related to the file transfer freeze!

When we saw that? Well, we knew what to do then.

Step 5: Does the Skype for Business Client Have All its Updates?

Spoiler: This is what solved the problem.

As with pretty much all software these days, you need to keep Skype for Business up-to-date. Windows as well (as we’re unfortunately seeing with the WannaCry ransomware attack).

surprised dog photo
OH NO! Photo by mdalmuld

We have Group Policies in place to control updates & patches. But it turned out that this co-worker had recently replaced her computer with a new one. We’d imaged her last computer, and loaded the image onto the new one.

In the process, she somehow missed out on the latest updates.

Once we found that out, we quickly applied all available updates related to Skype for Business. I don’t know which of these two updates fixed the file transfer issue…but one of them did!

  1. Skype for Business Update KB3115087 (June 2016)
  2. Security Update for Skype for Business KB3191858 (April 2017)

Full List of Recent Skype for Business Updates (in case you need them!)

After a reboot, we repeated the tests. Every file, from Word to PDF, came through without a trace of freezing. We have a very happy co-worker right now.

Step 6: Uninstall/Reinstall

When all else fails, try uninstalling the Skype app entirely & reinstalling fresh. Tedious and frustrating, but like updates, sometimes it’s critical.

We did not need to uninstall/reinstall Skype for Business in this case. But I’m putting it in as the last step, because that’s where it should be in troubleshooting efforts. If a simpler option is available, take it.

Supporting Skype for Business is complex. This should make it a little easier.

I wrote these in steps for easy reference. They aren’t necessarily linear, or even necessary to all troubleshooting cases. For instance, about a year back we had a customer with a consistent error—every time he left a Skype Meeting, the client would crash. Checking the system logs immediately told us the cause: severe delays in the client’s responses. Which led straight to an uninstall/reinstall.

Whether you’re a frequent reader or you just dropped by from Google, I hope these steps help speed up your support process!

What Skype for Business support issue did you have the hardest time with? Please comment or email. (Venting is OK…so long as you fixed it!)

By the way, I’m still testing the third-party app I mentioned in the last post. A review post is forthcoming, but I want to run the app through its paces first.

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What’s Involved in a Skype for Business File Transfer

Skype for Business on Mac finally got file transfer capability in April. Then, just last week, a co-worker asked me about a thorny issue they’ve had with file transfers intermittently failing. (I’ll cover this in its own post once we’ve fully diagnosed and fixed the problem.)

Both these items led me on a stroll through the technology behind file transfer in Skype for Business. I consider the ability to send/receive files a fundamental function…and I’m certainly not the only one. Comments on SkypeFeedback.com and Office 365′ Feedback Forums echo its importance among my fellow Skype4B users.

Let’s take a dive into what goes into file transfer, shall we? It doesn’t need much configuration…but like air, you notice when it’s not there!

Where Can You Transfer Files in Skype for Business?

File Transfer is a basic part of Skype for Business, both Server and Online. As the Skype admin, you control whether users can or cannot send files to one another, and through which tools.

The most common file transfer method is through Instant Messaging (or “P2P File Transfer”). However, you can also share files in a Skype Meeting.

File Transfer is enabled by default. But in case yours is turned off and you want it on, here’s how.

How to Enable File Transfer

What’s the fastest way to enable Skype for Business file transfer is…use a PowerShell cmdlet! Specifically, this one: Set-CsFileTransferFilterConfiguration – TechNet

Conferencing Policy OptionsOnce enabled, you can customize file transfer options through PowerShell, or through the Control Panel. I like the Control Panel myself.

File transfer in Skype Meetings is enabled by default, as part of the Conferencing Policy with the Set-CsConferencingPolicy cmdlet. If you want to turn it off, run the cmdlet with the “-EnableFileTransfer $False” parameter.
Set-CsConferencingPolicy – TechNet

Going back to IM file transfers, the main option you have in the Control Panel is whether to block all files (essentially disabling file transfer) or block specific file types. Predictably, you find this option under “IM and Presence” in Skype for Business Server.

Skype for Business won’t let you send certain file types, due to malware risk. Here’s the full list of files Skype for Business (Server and Online) blocks:

.ade, .adp, .app, .asp, .bas, .bat, .cer, .chm, .cmd, .com, .cpl, .crt, .csh, .exe, .fxp, .grp, .hlp, .hta, .inf, .ins, .isp, .its, .js, .jse, .ksh, .lnk, .mad, .maf, .mag, .mam, .maq, .mar, .mas, .mat, .mau, .mav, .maw, .mda, .mdb, .mde, .mdt, .mdw, .mdz, .msc, .msi, .msp, .mst, .ocx, .ops, .pcd, .pif, .pl, .pnp, .prf, .prg, .pst, .reg, .scf, .scr, .sct, .shb, .shs, .tmp, .url, .vb, .vbe, .vbs, .vsd, .vsmacros, .vss, .vst, .vsw, .ws, .wsc, .wsf, .wsh

IM File Transfer Options

Note the bolded examples. Nobody can send .exe files? That’s because they’re blocked by default! (Don’t try to ZIP it up either; Skype will see into the ZIP and refuse to send.)

Once file transfer is enabled and blocked file types are set, you’ll need to make sure the appropriate ports are open on the firewall. Standard configurations will open the ports necessary (but it’s always good to test!).

The default ports used by Skype for Business file transfers are:
(Server)
1024-65535 TCP
6891-6901 TCP

(Online)
443 TCP [Destination]
50040 – 50059 UDP and TCP [Source]
443 TCP, 50000 – 59999 TCP [Destination]
Allow:
*.infra.lync.com
*.online.lync.com
*.resources.lync.com
Office 365 URLs and IP Address Ranges

When to Turn File Transfer Off: When Compliance Demands

Surprisingly, there IS a situation where you would want to turn File Transfer off, and leave it off. When you have to maintain a regulatory compliance standard.

In Skype for Business Online, file transfers within Instant Messaging are considered a “non-archived feature.” That means the feature isn’t captured when you have an In-Place Hold set up in Exchange. Thus the data you would send via file transfer doesn’t get recorded…which can jeopardize compliance.

(Shared OneNote pages and PowerPoint annotations are also non-archived features.)

This option is controlled at the user level. In the Skype for Business Admin Center, under Users, you’ll find the option for turning off non-archived features. You’re supposed to “select this option if you’re legally required to preserve electronically stored information.”

Configure Settings for Individual Users – Office 365 Support

A more detailed explanation for this setting is at: Demystifying a User Compliance setting in Skype for Business Online – Curtis J..

File Transfers Take Some Consideration, But Carry High Value to Users

In most deployments, file transfer is “just another part of the process.” Given the pieces involved though, file transfers do merit a little extra thought during setup. Mostly to make sure they function correctly for all users. Because when they don’t, it doesn’t matter if it’s 50 users or one…you’ll hear about it!

The next post may be a little delayed. I have a special review in the works…a popular third-party app got an upgrade, and I get to test it out!

What’s your File Transfer story? Did you run into a strange problem, or need to change its default setup? Please comment or email. And join us again next time!

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How Do Skype for Business, Teams, and Slack Meet Compliance Regulations?

We recently talked about SOX compliance in our regular newsletter, “WOOF!” The full article is here: 5 Big Benefits Your Company Gains from SOX – WOOF! March 2017

(Yes, there are actually benefits to SOX compliance. Weird, huh?)

It made me think of how I (very briefly) mentioned compliance in The Security Behind 6 Business Chat Apps (Including Skype for Business). Have I ever examined Skype for Business on its compliance? Not in detail, I hadn’t.

Well, since I’m thinking about it, why not? Let’s see what I can find on compliance!

What Do I Mean by Compliance?

Compliance is a term for your business meeting certain legal requirements. When it comes to communications, compliance means maintaining records of conversations, in case legal entities (e.g. government) need to review those records in an audit or lawsuit.

That means the records must include chat logs, voicemail, voicemail transcripts, and emails. Anything your employees used to communicate and direct business activity.

Library of Compliance Regulations
“Compliance requirements are clearly stated in Volume XIX Section 14, Paragraphs A-F.”
“Wait, where?!”

Several compliance standards exist: SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley), HIPAA, EUMC (EU Model Classes), ISO 27001, etc. If you have to meet one, keeping those records is now a legal requirement. Only option you have is, which solution do you go with?

There are far more potential solutions out there than I could cover in one blog post. For today, I’m covering four communications tools: Skype for Business (Server and Online), Slack, and Microsoft Teams. Let’s see how they stack up.

How Slack Meets Compliance Regulations: Compliance Reports

Good news, Slack users. Your choice of chat app has built-in compliance…and it has since 2014.

Slack has a Compliance Reports feature, which allows you to export all team communications, thereby satisfying compliance requirements.
Slack announced Compliance Reports in a 2014 blog post: Slack’s policy update: What it means for you (November 2014)

Compliance Reports is part of the Slack Plus plan. It’s available to Team Owners. The catch is, it’s NOT enabled by default. You have to request Slack enable it. (The procedure to do so is in the blog post.)

Also, Compliance Reports is NOT retroactive. Once it’s active, it begins archiving channels, private messages, edit history…from that point forward. So if you’re already using Slack, and want to add in Compliance Reports? Better copy out all the old conversations, just in case.

How Skype for Business (Server) Meets Compliance Regulations: Archiving Menagerie

Ah, my old friend. How’s your compliance?
Very good, thank you. Just needs some setup.

First, the Exchange Server. Exchange has well-developed compliance features. So much so that Exchange 2016 will archive some Skype for Business content within its own In-Place Archiving feature:

“You can archive instant messaging conversations and shared online meeting documents in the user’s primary mailbox. The mailbox must reside on an Exchange 2016 Mailbox server and you must have Skype for Business Server 2015 deployed in your organization.”

In-Place Archiving in Exchange 2016 – TechNet


Next, Persistent Chat’s Compliance service. Once activated, this service maintains an archive of Persistent Chat messages, as well as activities. When people join/leave chat rooms, upload/download files, etc.

Setup is relatively simple. You only need to use one cmdlet, configured by identity or instance.

Set-CsPersistentChatComplianceConfiguration [-Identity ] ((COMMON PARAMETERS))

or

Set-CsPersistentChatComplianceConfiguration [-Instance ] ((COMMON PARAMETERS))

Parameters available are as follows:

  • AdapterType – Lets you specify the adapter type (XML default).
  • OneChatRoomPerOutputFile – Lets you specify that separate reports to be created for each chat room.
  • AddChatRoomDetails – Records details about each chat room in the database. Disabled by default, since it can inflate the database with lots of activity.
  • AddUserDetails – Records details about each chat room user in the database. Also disabled by default, for the same reason.
  • Identity – Lets you scope compliance settings for a particular collection (Global, Site, Service levels). Global is the default.
  • RunInterval – Dictates the amount of time before the server creates the next compliance output file (default: 15 minutes).

Thirdly, Archiving Server.
Does your Skype for Business deployment include an Archiving Server? If not, and you have compliance requirements, you should do so right away. (Here’s how to deploy an Archiving Server if you don’t have one yet.)

Archiving Server maintains an archive containing:

  • Peer-to-peer instant messages
  • Conferences (meetings), which are multiparty instant messages
  • Conference content, including uploaded content (for example, handouts) and event-related content (for example, joining, leaving, uploading sharing, and changes in visibility)
  • Whiteboards and polls shared during a conference

My old post on what Archiving Server archives. (Hmmm, I should update that one…)

Once this three-part setup is complete, your Skype for Business Server is keeping track of its conversations. Add a good backup system, and you should be fully compliant in case of audit (or litigation).

How Skype for Business (Online) Meets Compliance Regulations: Trust and eDiscover in the Cloud

As Microsoft says in the Office 365 Admin’s Security & Compliance menu:

“It’s your data. You own it. So we’ve developed features that let you take charge of how and when it is stored, used, and retained or removed.”

Office 365 Trust Center, Compliance

I view Skype for Business Online the same way I do Slack. The records themselves are archived and available. However, since Office 365 products are cloud-based, eDiscovery becomes much more important. You’ll need to locate & extract content as-needed in the event of an audit.

Fortunately, Microsoft put up a slew of information about O365’s eDiscovery capabilities: eDiscovery in Office 365.

For instance, the Content Search tool will search mailboxes, public folders, Skype for Business conversations, and more. Then you export the results (in different formats, like a PST for each mailbox or individual messages) and incorporate the files into your audit process.

How Microsoft Teams Meets Compliance Regulations: Information Protection…But is it Complete?

The Teams FAQ reports that Teams does retain all messages. We also have this:

What forms of information protection does Microsoft Teams support?
Archiving, Content Search, eDiscovery, legal hold, and audit logs are available via the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center for chats and channel messages, OneNote content, OneDrive for Business files, and SharePoint content.

At the same time, compliance tools are listed as “Working on It” here:
https://microsoftteams.uservoice.com/forums/555103-public/suggestions/17030296-compliance
Commenters spoke urgently of the need to confirm Teams’ compliance policies.

Now, that could just be out of date. The FAQs are maintained, so they’re likely the latest-and-greatest information. Especially since Teams is an Office 365 product, which is compliant with several industry certifications anyway. The same eDiscovery tools available to Skype for Business Online, are available to Teams. At least according to Microsoft.

Compliance or Lawyer Visit
You don’t want a visit from someone wearing these. Stay compliant!

My Verdict: All Will Meet (Most) Compliance Regulations As-Is

In terms of compliance “thoroughness,” I’d rank these in the following order:

  1. Skype for Business Server. The most work to set up, but the most control over archiving.
  2. Slack/Skype for Business Online. Less work involved, since most of the archiving is done for you, and retrieval features are available. That said, these do use cloud services, which places (most of) the data outside your network.
  3. Teams. I put this one last because it’s still so new. It does fall under Office 365’s Trust Center guidelines, and does facilitate archival. But since it’s in early adoption stages, the need to verify compliance hasn’t come up in large numbers yet. Will Teams fully satisfy legal compliance for the businesses who use it? I think it will…but we may have a few businesses hitting bumps when they begin an eDiscovery process.

How big of a factor is legal compliance in your communications choices? Please comment or email. I’m also curious to note which type of compliance hits your business the most (if you’re able & willing to share, of course).

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Teams vs. Skype for Business: Which to Choose?

A tug-of-war is brewing among Microsoft users. (I wouldn’t call it a ‘war’…we’re all reasonable folks, right?)

The question is, which app do we use: Skype for Business, Teams, or both?

Different Apps for Different Communications

Looking at them in terms of approach, Teams and Skype for Business are quite different.

SKYPE FOR BUSINESS: A server-based or cloud-hosted platform meant to replace phones, give the office full Meetings capability, and connect a suite of communications tools to Office apps & email.

TEAMS: A cloud-hosted chat-based communications tool (with extras, like Online Meetings), adding onto the existing toolset. Also connects with Office apps.

Office Chat
The online equivalent of this should be just as easy to arrange. Photo by Chris Hunkeler

Ostensibly, each element in those descriptions would influence a business’ decision to adopt. You might even consider using both, given their respective strengths.

Problem is, there’s also lots of overlap. Too much to make a decision easy.

If you’re looking at Teams and currently use Skype for Business:
You might think, “We already have most of the tools. Why add more?”
Hearing from users who have both, we know that they experience 2 sets of notification alerts. They’re often confused over which tool to use for calls or meetings. They also have 2 sets of conversation history to deal with (1 stored in Outlook, the other in Teams’ channels).

If you’re looking at Teams and don’t use Skype for Business:
You may ask, “Do we want to try out this chat app instead of Slack/Hipchat/Workplace?”
Teams is good to start with, IF you already use Office 365. But even then, you’ll still need a phone for PSTN calls. You can use cellphones of course, but those offices with phones already (either PBX or VoIP) can’t power them with Teams.

This leaves users with a befuddling choice. One we’ll address later in this post. But first, let’s imagine a scenario…what if you combined the two?

Is Integration Possible? Yes…But the Form it Takes Determines Usability

Because Teams and Skype for Business overlap so much—on chat, PC calls, online meetings—the biggest difference between them is the few features the other DOESN’T have.

If you were to enhance one of them, including all of the other’s features? They would look like this.

Teams Enhanced: Calls can go anywhere (including the PSTN). Chats and Meetings with internal & external users, in the same number of steps. Presence status indicates when someone is active on their computer, not just in Teams (Displaying Status in Teams – MS Tech Community).

Skype for Business Enhanced: Persistent Chat acts more like Instant Messaging. Total control of chat within Skype for Business client. Closer/native switching between Persistent Chat & other services (e.g. conferencing).

Could the two integrate? Yes. Would that result in the ‘enhanced’ versions I mentioned? Possibly, depending on the avenue taken.

Right now, I can see two such avenues:

  1. Integrate Teams’ chat space into Skype for Business. Matt Landis has illustrated this wonderfully over at his blog: A Concept for Integrating the Skype for Business & Microsoft Teams User Experience
  2. Build the remaining Skype for Business tools into Teams. Many users are clamoring for this over in the Teams forums: How can we make Teams Better? – Complete Skype for Business Integration into Teams

Neither seems easier than the other, from a development perspective. But both are desired. Users see two types of communications platforms, each missing something the other has, and want those other features.

Teams Could Not Replace Skype for Business (but Skype for Business Could Improve by Integrating Teams)

In terms of integration/replacement between Teams & Skype for Business, I’m going to make another prediction. I predict that SOME form of integration will occur between them within 2 years. Could be as simple as linking Presence; could be as dramatic as merging the two services entirely.

I like Matt’s approach. It patches Teams into Skype4B, acting as a replacement Persistent Chat. As chat is one of my favorite features, this would give Skype for Business a big usability boost.

I looked at the Office 365 Roadmap for any indication of where Microsoft’s going with Teams. Unfortunately, I found nothing specific about Teams feature add-ins or integrations. If anyone from Microsoft wants to weigh in, I’d love to hear it!

So ends my thoughts on integration. But before I finish up, let me address the choice you’re waiting on. When you’re faced with Skype for Business vs. Teams, which is the better choice?

Which Should You Choose, Skype for Business or Teams? Here’s How to Decide

Your existing business communications will contain a number of factors. Weighing these factors will help you decide which platform to use.

These questions should identify those factors. They presume that you are not currently using either Skype for Business or Teams, but want to choose at least one.

Chat Apps

  1. Number of cellphones: What percentage of employees have cellphones now (for business use)?
  2. Are office (desk) phones already in use? Yes/No
  3. If Yes, do they use a PBX or Voice over IP?
  4. Does your business have more than one office, remote workers, or both?
  5. What is your staff’s preferred communications method (besides email)?
  6. Do you use Office 365? Yes/No/Planning To

Use Teams if you gave the following answers:

  1. Percentage is close to 100%
  2. No, or Yes if #3’s answer is Voice over IP
  3. If #2 is Yes, Voice over IP
  4. Remote workers, or both
  5. Instant Messaging, Skype (consumer), texting, or chat (and you don’t already use Slack or Workplace)
  6. Yes, or Planning To

If your answers are different, use Skype for Business. You have communications needs Teams cannot (at this time) fulfill.

Above all, Teams needs the ability to communicate with users outside your organization. Without this, it’s fundamentally hamstrung and unable to mature. It IS coming, but we’ll see how well it works when it arrives.

I hope this is helpful. But always factor in your current IT systems & network capacity when deciding!

What enhancement (if any) would you like to see in Microsoft Teams? Please comment or email your thoughts.

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How to Calculate the Bandwidth You’ll Need for Skype for Business

More than once, the first call we get from a new Skype for Business customer involves bandwidth. Namely, the customer doesn’t have enough of it.

Lack of bandwidth manifests in frustrating ways with Skype for Business: video freezes, abrupt Skype Meeting departures, sudden voice garbling (I’ve heard this called “demon wailing”), and the always-irritating dropped call.

When customers call with these issues, they often think Skype for Business is broken. It’s not…it’s just bandwidth-choked. Additional configuration, or a better Internet connection, and voila! Skype is doing great!

Bandwidth allocation is critical to Skype for Business planning. You’ll need to calculate bandwidth needed for each user before deployment. (You can do it after deployment, but it’s messier. Not recommended.)

What’s the Minimum Bandwidth Needed?

According to Microsoft, the minimum bandwidth requirements for Skype for Business (Server) deployments are:

Provision the network links to support throughput of 65 kilobits per second (Kbps) per audio stream and 500 Kbps per video stream, if they are enabled, during peak usage periods. A two-way audio or video session uses two streams, so a simple audio/phone connection will require 130Kbps to cover each stream. Video will likewise use 1000 Kbps total to carry an upstream and downstream connection.

To cope with unexpected spikes in traffic and increased usage over time, Skype for Business Server media endpoints can adapt to varying network conditions and support three times the throughput for audio and video while still maintaining acceptable quality.

Plan Network Requirements for Skype for Business 2015 – TechNet

For those of us who live in the real world, those are obviously minimum numbers. Day-to-day Skype4B usage needs more available bandwidth to comfortably handle office communications.

Calculating bandwidth requirements is an early step in the Skype for Business (or Office 365) deployment process. Before you calculate though, you’ll need to map out the user requirements. Can’t determine bandwidth for all users, if you don’t know how many users you’ll have on the system!

To determine user requirements, list out all these factors:

  • Number of sites
  • Number of users
  • User types: Desktop, mobile, in-office, remote, audio-primary, video-primary, heavy chat, light chat, administrators, etc.
  • Tools used (Video, Skype Meetings, VoIP, Response Groups/Call Queues, App/Desktop Sharing)
  • Estimated traffic numbers (based on the number of simultaneous users)

Okay, now we have some idea of scope. Let’s start on bandwidth.

Choose your Bandwidth Calculator

I went scavenging for the existing bandwidth calculators. I expected to find one…but I found three! Each serves its own specific purpose, though you can use all of them together to weigh your options.

The numbers I entered are based off existing Skype for Business customers. I changed a few to avoid any risk to their security. As a result, the bandwidth requirements don’t 100% match real-world usage. Just so you’re aware.

Skype for Business Bandwidth Calculator/”The Monster”
First and foremost is the Skype for Business Bandwidth Calculator spreadsheet.
Interactive spreadsheet stepping you through the bandwidth numbers needed.

This thing is a monster. It’s the digital equivalent of an airplane’s cockpit – dozens of switches, all jumping out at you simultaneously.

Make sure you download & read through the User Guide as well. It points out several notable things:

  • Only WAN bandwidth is modeled. LAN bandwidth isn’t factored in.
  • Each Site only has one WAN link in the calculator.
  • A “central Site” is assumed to have a PSTN connection, and hosts either a Skype for Business Server Front End pool, or a Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition.
  • The calculator doesn’t account for situations where users are using the PSTN at another location (e.g. branch site) for some or all of their calls.
    • This could come about due to a dial plan configuration, or a PSTN failure at the users’ local site. Such a situation tends to happen when a critical failure occurs; make sure you consider those when planning.

I entered 2 central sites and 1 branch site, all on-prem. A 50Mbps Internet connection for the San Francisco Site, and a 5 Mbps connection for Ventura (Oakland is associated to San Francisco). The central Sites have a total of 70 users and 3 administrators; Oakland has 15 users. WAN link speed is 50 Mbps; half of that is allocated to RTC traffic, for experimentation’s sake.

RESULTS: On the Aggregated Results tab, I see that Skype for Business only needs 703 kbps (1%) of the San Francisco WAN link, and 2580 kbps (5%) of the Internet connection. At the Ventura site, it needs 1066 kbps (4%) of the WAN, and 2528 kbps (25%) of the Internet connection.

Skype for Business Bandwidth Calculator

(In reality, it will likely need more bandwidth than that…particularly for smooth video conferencing. But I now have a hard-number baseline for my bandwidth estimates.)

Office 365 Planning Tools
Network Planning and Performance Tuning for Office 365 – Office Support
You’ll find several resources for Office 365 network planning on this page, including tools. No surprise, since O365 is cloud-based and needs plenty of bandwidth to function as fast as native apps.

Spiceworks and TechNet users recommend the Exchange Client Network Bandwidth Calculator for O365 bandwidth planning. This is also a downloadable Excel spreadsheet. It’s dated—the latest Outlook version listed is 2011 for Mac—but it’s much simpler and faster than Skype for Business’ calculator. I didn’t even need a user guide (which is good, because it doesn’t come with one!).

I entered 1 Site, Heavy use, with 5 users on Outlook 2011 for Mac, 35 users for Outlook 2010 Online, and 20 users for OWA 2010. Results?

Office 365 Bandwidth Calculator 1
Less than 1 MBits/sec needed. I think most office connections can do that.

It even gives expected peak usage times too.

Office 365 Bandwidth Calculator 2

Again, this calculator is out of date. But something’s much better than nothing, and the results from this make for an at-a-glance foundation while you’re estimating traffic.

Please consult the best practices and references also listed on the above-linked page. They recommend doing a pilot deployment as a test. We often set up 5 users in Office 365 pilots; it’s enough testing to find and fix any bandwidth issues before site-wide deployment.

Teams Bandwidth Calculator
This is for Microsoft Teams, not Skype for Business. But it’s a much simpler tool than the Skype for Business Bandwidth Calculator. Just enter in some user numbers, choose an expected traffic level for discrete services (such as Conference Video Usage), and hit Calculate. Each row represents one Site.

Teams Bandwidth Calculator 1
Teams Bandwidth Calculator 2

With Teams, my numbers indicate that I’d need 3.566 Mbps. Also quite doable.

An interesting point here: The numbers don’t quite match up, but we see that Teams wants more bandwidth than Skype for Business does. I think this occurs for two reasons:

  1. Teams contains many of Skype for Business’ highest-bandwidth tools – Video, Meetings, and Calls.
  2. Notice that the WAN impact is very small; 0.058 Mbps. Teams uses Internet bandwidth much more than WAN. I believe that’s because Teams interconnects with other Office 365 services in real-time. As such, it needs a higher bandwidth allocation to “keep talking” with Microsoft servers and other client computers.

As such, I find this Teams calculator particularly useful. It’s less specific, but it’s really fast and bone-simple to use. Good way to get the network planning ball rolling.

(Can we get something like this for Skype for Business too? It would save so much time…)

You’ll find the calculator at: https://www.successwithteams.com/BandwidthCalculator

Use Bandwidth Calculators Early & Often in the Skype for Business Deployment Process

One last thing: If you’re wondering about bandwidth requirements for a conference room system? The SmartTech Knowledgebase has kindly posted a detailed answer. Their estimate reflects their own SMART Room System product, of course. But that only lends credence to their 20 Mbps bandwidth requirement. Good to know if you’re equipping a conference room with Skype for Business.

Network bandwidth requirements for SMART Room Systems with Skype for Business – SmartTech

The great thing about calculators like these? You’re not wedded to the first result. Test different numbers of users, activity requirements, etc. Running a half-dozen possibilities gives you more detailed bandwidth projections for the future.

Test several models out. It only takes you a few minutes per calculation (even with “The Monster”). Then you can continue, better-informed, with the deployment process.

How do you prefer to calculate bandwidth requirements? Please comment or email. I’d love to get some more tools for comparison testing, if they’re out there.

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