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Enriching your Skype for Business Meetings with the Magewell HDMI to USB Capture Device

Following on from some product reviews of the Magewell HDMI to USB Capture device from MVP’s Matt Landis (http://windowspbx.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/magewell-usb-capture-hdmi-review.html) and Tom Morgan (http://blog.thoughtstuff.co.uk/2016/01/review-magewell-usb-capture-hdmi/) I wanted to create a short presentation on how I use the device in the making of some Skype Show episodes and also how to extract the best possible experience from meetings. I encourage you to read and watch the reviews by Matt and Tom first as they discuss the device characteristics, while this review is intended to be an extension of their hard work.

The presentation isn’t so much a product review, more of a demonstration of findings to help you determine suitability for Skype meetings.

One of the biggest and most complained about limitations for Skype meetings is the inability for the presenter to play media files within wrapped content or using desktop sharing. We now have a solution to show media clip playback within Skype meetings at a reasonable frame rate and quality, and with a little bit of tweaking even sound! I will leave you to decide whether this is worth the investment. Hope you enjoy.

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Skype for Business Online Dial-in Conferencing Settings Export Script

Microsoft having released native Dial-in conferencing into Office 365 to the masses is now taking the world by storm. More and more of my customers are now adopting Skype for Business Online with PSTN Conferencing as their number one choice for Non-Enterprise Voice workloads. When you enable a user for PSTN Conferencing the PSTN number is chosen based on the user’s location. They are also assigned a Conference ID and PIN. This information is emailed to the user by the tenant when they are enabled, like so:

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Skype for Business – Cloud PBX – Real world use

Microsoft will soon be driving that Cloud PBX marketing juggernaut harder than ever, Cloud PBX will be the “Thing that you need”, the answer to all your enterprise voice needs. The best solution, reliable, cost effective and ease of use….. Or so we will be led to believe.

However, while some of this may be true, a lot of it will be marketing hype and perhaps the solution will not live up to what you thought. At least in the short term anyway. Don’t get me wrong, Cloud PBX is a good idea. But we’ve been here before. However, this time, Microsoft have put the investments into their real time media network to now make it happen rather than just doing a global “lab” attempt at it as they did with Lync hybrid voice for instance. Microsoft are proud of their Cloud PBX solution, and so they should be. Being market leaders in UC, and changing the scope and direction of telephony from the front, leading by example and dogfooding their own solutions. Not everyone agrees with them, they don’t always get it right. There have been some very public failures along the way (ahem Windows ME, Vista…). But that’s Microsoft, it’s what they do. It’s the reason you love or hate them. But you cannot deny, their willingness to try new ideas at scale is second to none.

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Skype for Business – Cloud Connector Edition – Is it right for you?

As Microsoft push towards a cloud first / only model for Skype for Business enterprise voice a new server role has come about. Cloud Connector Edition. What is it? What hardware do I need? What are the requirements? What is it used for? Do I need it? What if I already have Skype for Business on-premises? How does it integrate with my legacy PBX? – All these questions are very pertinent and critically, misunderstanding the technology can lead to large scale business impacts if not fully understood. Let’s take a look by answering these questions below.

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Managing SIP Identities in Skype for Business Online

As we prepare for the migration from on-premises Skype for Business to Skype for Business Online, there are a few important considerations to bear in mind before you take the leap. I will be covering these in a series of posts (hopefully), today I want to share with you a common scenario we will face while preparing for migration.

We are well aware of the pre-requisite for Office 365 that demands an Active Directory synchronised user must have a publically routable User Principal Name (UPN). So critical is this requirement that it is now engrained in every consultant’s mind and increasingly customers are becoming more aware of this without us even mentioning it. However, this can often produce its own unique challenges.

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Skype for Business Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling – 5 Steps to Success

We are all waiting with a mix of excitement and trepidation for when Microsoft reveal Cloud PBX generally available. It’s coming, December 1st 2015 will be key milestone date for everyone with an enterprise Office 365 tenant. We are about to experience probably the largest technology shift the IT world has seen since virtualisation became mainstream almost 10 years ago. Telephony has traditionally been an on-premises only solution from every vendor. There have been some attempts (even by Microsoft) to deliver a hosted telephony model in the past that have either failed miserably, or not scalable or reliable enough to support hundreds / thousands of endpoints.

However, all this is about to change as the Microsoft juggernaut is about to unleash it’s latest cutting edge solution – Cloud PBX. Leveraging the power of the infinitely scalable Office 365 platform and the additional horsepower Azure provides, there is absolutely no doubt Cloud PBX will be a massive success for Microsoft, but it will also signal a tectonic shift in the future direction of telephony. Competitors such as Cisco, Avaya, and Mitel to name a few will ultimately have to embrace this technology shift and acknowledge that a hosted PBX model is now the most viable and cost effective solution to deliver enterprise voice capabilities. Microsoft, have just been brave enough to do it first and hats off to them for taking the jump.

In the past, a hosted model hasn’t been the best model to adopt for telephony. The reasons for this were mainly down to scalability, consistency, reliability and of course quality. There was a significant lack of an end to end, single vendor solution that could guarantee all these requirements from the user’s desk to the PSTN over a hosted platform. Microsoft made the decision a few years ago to go cloud first and become less of a OS vendor and align more towards a IaaS and SaaS provider. The service subscription cost model means consistent and increased revenue and Microsoft use this for designing their cloud infrastructure and service offerings without the hindrance of customer on premises equipment or budget. This means Microsoft are able to develop and invest in new features and services rapidly which ensures they stay ahead of the curve. As a result, Office 365 has matured, services that were not possible in the cloud a year ago have now not only been made available, they have surpassed their on-premises equivalent making Office 365 the de-facto choice for many productivity work streams.

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Configuring and Controlling Skype Broadcast Meetings using PowerShell

Skype Broadcast Meetings (BCM) are just around the corner. They will be going live and generally available to all Office 365 enterprise tenants before the 2015 is out. At the moment, the service is still in global preview and I have to say, super excited for when this service becomes production ready. Up to now the integration between BCM hybrid and online only environments is a bit messy if I am honest. Microsoft will be working on making BCM integrate more seamlessly with Office 365 for its GA release (I hope and expect).

However, I was busy updating my Skype for Business Online HLD template I use for work and when connecting to my tenant to grab policy information, I discovered that there are new PowerShell commandlets for controlling broadcast meetings.

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Decommissioning Skype for Business Hybrid and Going Cloud Only

There is a lot of documentation out on the internet on the benefits of Skype for Business and Skype for Business Hybrid, how to configure, how to move users etc. However, there appears to be little information about what to do when Hybrid is no longer required. We have become so focused on what benefits hybrid gives us now and in the future with Skype Broadcast Meetings, Cloud PBX etc that perhaps we have forgotten not everyone needs it. There are still businesses out there who made a heavy investment in on premises infrastructure for Instant Messaging and Presence services only who are now looking at Skype for Business Online as a cheaper alternative due to its OPEX pricing model. For these businesses, they simply want to use hybrid to move users from on premises to the cloud and that’s it. So what to do once we no longer need hybrid – just turn off on premises servers? No.

Unlike Microsoft Exchange Hybrid where the integration is more heavily woven together, Skype for Business Hybrid is actually nothing more than 2 independent federated domains with the additional configuration that they share a common namespace. The sharing of the namespace allows administrators to move users between the two deployments with their data and redirect sign-in requests to the correct deployment. With any Hybrid configuration, the on premises deployment is the source of authority for that service. Therefore, sign-in requests will come to the on premises front end servers using lyncdiscover and SRV records. The on premises front end server is clever enough to realise that the user’s SIP identity and service lives (courtesy of AD) in Office 365 and will issue a redirect to the cloud service from the discovery phase. This allows the user’s client to sign in directly to the online tenant using Microsoft Office 365 URLs.

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Skype for Business – Working With Skype Broadcast Meetings

Having had the opportunity to see Skype Broadcast Meetings in action and come down from the initial excitement, I wanted to take some time to evaluate the feature’s pros and con’s and to try and discover where I see this fitting within businesses. To do this, let’s take a journey from start to finish through the feature, from integration to consuming.

Skype Broadcast Meetings will work with Skype for Business Server 2015 provided that you have an active on-premises to online hybrid. The minimum Office 365 subscription that allows the use of Skype Broadcast Meetings is E3. E1 or Business licenced users will not be able to participate in these meetings. Setting up your on premises Skype for Business deployment with Office 365 is a very straightforward procedure, provided you have all the supported infrastructure and pre-requisites already in place. If you have not got your hybrid in place and you want Skype Broadcast Meetings, please set your hybrid up first. Microsoft have created a stepped guide to this process that can be found here: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Configure-Skype-for-Business-Server-2015-Hybrid-b06ee805-4349-4519-82fb-b06ed57c0bd0

Now you’re on premises identities have been synchronised to Azure Active Directory, Single Sign-On activated and on premises users have been licenced with E3 plans in Office 365, you are ready to start thinking about Skype Broadcast Meetings. First off a couple of myth busters.

  1. Presenters who want to use Skype Broadcast Meetings do not have to be moved from on premises Skype for Business to Skype for Business Online. Therefore, they will not lose any features they currently consume, only add to their productivity toolset.
  2. Skype Broadcast Meetings are not a replacement to dial-in conferences, web conferences, room systems or ad-hoc meetings where both presenters and participants can collaborate interactively. Skype Broadcast Meetings have their own unique placement and does not compete with those technologies, only enhances them.
  3. Not everyone can participate in a Skype Broadcast Meeting. There are 4 types of users in a Skype Broadcast Meeting, Presenters, Producers, Participants and Audiences – There is a difference!

So what is a Skype Broadcast Meetings in one sentence?

A Skype Broadcast Meeting is a special meeting that takes place between presenters and participants that can be aired live to audiences of up to 10,000 across the globe.

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Hybrid or No Hybrid? Skype for Business

One of the key decisions Skype for Business administrators are going to have to make in the near future is whether to implement a hybrid solution or keep it on premise only.

Why is this a more pertinent question for Skype for Business than it was for Lync?

Firstly, the decision to deploy Lync on premise was driven by the simple business requirement of: “Does your business require enterprise voice?” If the answer to that question is Yes, you have no choice but to deploy on premise. If the answer was No, then it is far more cost effective to use Lync Online.

So for the businesses who required enterprise voice, Microsoft came up with the idea that a hybrid deployment could save your business money. How?

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