Microsoft Skype for Business Server, previously called Lync Server and, before that, Office Communications Server, is a meld of an enhanced Lync Server 2013 with the popular Skype client interface. From Lync Server, Skype for Business gets advanced unified communications features including presence, instant messaging (IM), A/V calling and conferencing. These functions surface seamlessly in Office desktop and Office 365 applications such as PowerPoint and Outlook. Lync Server also brings tight integration with core Microsoft collaboration platforms including Exchange and SharePoint, as well as the enterprise class availability and recoverability of Microsoft SQL Server. Skype for Business 2015 provides the option of deploying the older Lync client so organizations migrating from a Lync Server environment can control the pace of their transition to the Skype client experience.
In addition to providing the familiar Skype user interface (UI), enhancements incorporated in Skype for Business Server 2015 cover voice and video support, mobility, management of local and hybrid server deployments, and multi-factor authentication. Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants offer remote and on-premises consulting services for organizations of any size to assess the benefits of migrating to Skype for Business from any version of Lync Server or Office Communications Server. Progent can help you plan an on-premises, cloud-based or hybrid topology; integrate Skype for Business with SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint Server and Office or Office 365 applications; configure and test high-availability and disaster recovery mechanisms; interface Skype for Business with your PBX system and PSTN connection; and integrate third-party platforms such as Cisco UC and Cisco Video Interop Server (VIS). Progent's certified network security consultants can help you design and validate a security environment for your Skype for Business deployment that is compliant with regulatory requirements.
Skype for Business Server lets you set up two pools in different locations to back up each other
Enhanced Features of Skype for Business Server 2015
Skype for Business Server 2015 is available as an on-premises server, a cloud-based subscription service, or a hybrid solution. Skype for Business also comes in the Standard and the Enterprise Edition. The Enterprise Edition offers enhanced availability, larger scale, extra conferencing features, and other capabilities unavailable in the Standard Edition.
Voice and Video Enhancements
Improvements to Mobile Device Support
- Rate My Call: The Rate My Call feature, available for on-premises deployments of Skype for Business 2015, allows administrators to find out how users assess the technical quality of audio and video calls. After finishing a call, users can take a survey with a star system to rate technical issues that include distorted speech, electronic feedback, background noise, etc. Survey results are collected in SQL tables accessible through SQL queries.
- Video Interop Server (VIS): The Video Interop Server (VIS) is a new standalone server role available for on-premises installations of Skype for Business. The VIS can connect a Skype for Business Server deployment to third-party teleconferencing platforms such as Cisco/Tandberg video systems. The VIS can process incoming calls from a Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) system that are carried over a video SIP trunk. To learn more about Progent's consulting services for SIP trunks and the Cisco CUBE session border controller, see SIP and CUBE infrastructure solutions: SIP trunks and Cisco CUBE integration expertise.
For high availability, Video Interop Servers can be configured for VIS Pool Failover. If the primary VIS pool pointed to by the video gateway stops working, failover can occur as long as the video gateway has defined trunks to at least two VIS pools. To learn about Progent's support for telepresence platforms, see immersive telepresence consulting.
Skype for Business Server supports third-party teleconferencing systems such as Cisco/Tandberg video systems
- Call via Work: The new Call via Work feature of the Enterprise Edition of Skype for Business allows clients to make voice calls that are routed through their PBX or PSTN phones. Call via Work supports a smaller feature set than full Enterprise Voice or remote call control. Supported functions for Skype for Business clients using Call via Work include click-to-call, presence, user search, IM, application sharing, file transfer, and single-click conference join.
Management of On-premises Servers
- Conversation History and Log Data: Updated mobile clients for Skype for Business can now access conversation history, missed instant messages, and call log data.
- Access to Conferencing Features: Conferencing features previously restricted to desktop clients are now available for mobile clients. These features include asynchronous navigation of shared PowerPoint decks, the ability of a presenter to manage access to shared PowerPoint content, and the ability of presenters to accept or reject attendees, a feature known as "lobby management."
- Enhancements for Androids: Skype for Business on Android has been brought to parity with Skype for Business on iOS and Windows. Features now available to Android users include the ability to continue or re-join conversations, enable certificate and passive authentication, invite other users to a conversation, initiate group conversations, join a meeting without being a Skype for Business user, activate a smart phone UI on an Android tablet, and add or remove conference attendees.
Support for Hybrid Environments
- In-place Upgrade: The new In-Place upgrade feature allows you to migrate from a basic Lync Server 2013 deployment to Skype for Business Server 2015 while preserving your initial hardware investment. This one-click process automatically copies certificates, uninstalls server components, upgrades on-premises databases, and installs the roles for Skype for Business Server. The Move User option accomplishes the upgrade without imposing downtime. However, In-Place upgrade can not be used for migrating high availability or disaster recovery mechanisms and your existing hardware may not deliver the performance you want with Skype for Business workloads.
- Improved Front End Server Management: Two cmdlets streamline the process of installing patches or performing other maintenance tasks by allowing you to move a server's workload temporarily to other servers in a pool, take the target server out of service so you can perform the maintenance, and then failback the updated server. You can then repeat this process until you have updated all the servers in the pool, eliminating downtime.
- Improved Front End Server Cold Start: A new cmdlet makes it easier and more reliable to cold start an entire Front End server pool. The cmdlet confirms that each Front End servers in the pool meets the required conditions before trying to start it. If any problems are encountered, the cmdlet performs a diagnosis, notifies you of the details, and recommends remediation procedures. The cmdlets can also restart the pool without activating problematic servers.
- SQL Server AlwaysOn Support: Lync Server 2013 supports database mirroring and SQL Server clustering for high availability and disaster recovery. Skype for Business 2015 adds support for SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups and SQL Server AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances. AlwaysOn Availability Groups are not supported with Persistent Chat Servers. For a description of Progent's consulting support for SQL Server AlwaysOn technology, see SQL Server 2016 integration support and SQL Server 2014 consulting.
- Control Panel Enhancements: The Skype for Business Server Control Panel and Admin Center now allow administrators to manage a hybrid deployment, move local users to Skype for Business Online or move cloud users to on-premises, and detect and filter hybrid users from on-premises users.
- Dual On-premises and Cloud Management: Skype for Business Server now enables the administration of hybrid users via the Control Panel for properties manageable on-premises and via Admin Center for properties manageable from Skype for Business Online.
- Password Synchronization: Skype for Business Server 2015 lets you use Password Synchronization with DirSync for synchronizing on-premises AD passwords with the online tenant, eliminating the need to configure Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) for federated authentication. If you want to implement multi-factor authentication it is necessary to deploy ADFS.
Enhancements to Skype for Business Clients
- Integration with Exchange and SharePoint: Skype for Business 2015 allows you to use the Office 2013 Active Directory Authentication Library for implementing multi-factor authentication for Exchange and SharePoint.
- Integration with Skype for Business Web App client: The multi-factor authentication feature in the Skype for Business Web App client is now supported.
- Geography-based Identification Options: You can configure your Skype for Business environment to have different authentication methods (for example, multi-factor or integrated Windows authentication) based on geography. Multi-factor authentication is seamless whether users are hosted in a local Active Directory or in Office 365 Azure Active Directory Online. (Learn about Progent's Microsoft Azure planning and cloud integration consulting services.)
The Skype client user interface adopts the look and functionality of the commercial version of Skype with similar access to the Contacts list, presence indicators, buttons and icons, and app sounds. The Skype client UI in Skype for Business also provides quick access to features familiar to Lync Server 2013 users and adds enhancements including the ability to call using a PBX-attached desk phone for audio, Skype directory integration, the Call Monitor feature, the Rate My Call survey, plus emoticons.
You can configure your PBX system with Skype for Business to allow users to use the Skype UI to search for and call people within your organization using the desk phone for audio. In addition to providing high-quality audio, PBX calls placed from the Skype for Business client offer IM, desktop and app sharing, and file attachments.
Skype for Business Server 2015 and Skype for Business Online users with the new Skype client can perform a Skype Directory search to find any of hundreds of millions of people who have a consumer Skype account (not Skype for Business users). For fast results, you can use a person's Skype ID and location, email address or Microsoft account. You can easily add people you find to your contact list, trade IMs, see their presence status, and have an audio or video call. The Skype Directory search feature is not available from the Lync UI with Skype for Business Server 2015.
The Call Monitor feature familiar to Skype users is included with Skype for Business. Call Monitor lets you switch instantly between a full or compact display of the Skype for Business window, depending on your level of participation in a call.
On-premises deployments of Skype for Business Server 2015 support the Rate My Call feature, which allows administrators to poll users about call quality, access standard reports, and capture survey data for custom analysis. To gather the data, users are prompted after a call to take a brief survey and rate a selected list of items such as Echo or Pixelated Video according to a simple star system.
The Skype for Business Server 2015 client offers faster access to call controls than in Lync Server 2013. For calls made through the public switched telephone network (PSTN), the dial-pad and call controls remain on display for the entire call. For other calls, users can access the dial-pad and call controls in a single click or tap.
The Skype for Business 2015 client supports the same collection of emoticons as in the consumer version of Skype, and users have the option of disabling them.
How Progent Can Help You Configure and Manage Skype for Business
Skype for Business Server impacts most of your IT infrastructure and, if optimally configured, every person in your organization. This critical platform for collaboration requires a broad array of IT skill sets that cover networking, applications, communications, disaster preparedness, telepresence, mobility, and data security. Products that can be integrated with Skype for Business Server come from virtually every major vendor in the industry. To deploy Skype for business in a way that maximizes business value requires a tour de force of interoperability. Progent is structured to provide the range of consulting and troubleshooting skills needed for a successful Skype for Business deployment. Progent can provide timely and affordable access to subject matter experts to help you through occasional technical roadblocks or provide comprehensive project management outsourcing or co-sourcing to make sure you follow leading practices while creating your Skype for Business solution.
Skype for Business Server consulting services available from Progent include:
Progent's Cisco-certified CCIE network consultants can assist you to design and configure your networking environment so it delivers the performance and resilience you need for your Skype for Business deployment and Progent offers Cisco unified communications (UC) integration services to interface Skype for Business with Cisco Voice over IP and video conferencing platforms. Progent's information security experts can assist you to follow leading practices to create a compliant security strategy for your Skype for Business unified messaging ecosystem.
- Determine your goals for Skype for Business
- Review your existing IT resources
- Help you decide whether to build a local, cloud, or hybrid ecosystem for Skype for Business
- Design a cost-effective migration plan
- Plan a topology with capacity to support your current and anticipated workloads
- Set up Front End, Back End and Edge servers
- Configure and test firewalls, load balancers, reverse proxy servers and PSTN gateways
- Design and implement mechanisms for high-availability and disaster recovery
- Deploy Mobility Services and Persistent Chat servers
- Configure AD DS and DNS
- Resolve issues with certificates
- Implement and test IM, Presence, Conferencing, and Enterprise Voice
- Provide BYOD support for Skype for Business by offering Apple iPhone integration, Android phone and tablet configuration help and RIM BlackBerry expertise
- Configure archiving and monitoring
- Integrate Skype for Business with SQL Server, Exchange UM, SharePoint Server, and Office or Office 365 including PowerPoint and Outlook
- Create an infrastructure monitoring solution by providing System Center 2016 Operations Manager consulting or Operations Manager 2012 integration
- Create and validate a security and compliance strategy
- Produce full documentation of system architecture and services provided
- Provide custom webinar training for groups and individuals
- Provide continuing consulting, development, and troubleshooting support
Save Time and Money with Progent's Remote Consulting
Progent has almost two decades of experience providing advanced online consulting and troubleshooting support to organizations of all sizes. Online consulting saves time and money by avoiding the costs and delays associated with travel. Progent's ability to provide the services of a consultant with task-relevant expertise helps clients complete IT projects on time and within budget. Progent has delivered online consulting and troubleshooting support to organizations in every state in the U.S. (see to Progent's customer testimonials). Progent's consultants, software developers and troubleshooting experts include one of the largest independent teams of Cisco CCIE-certified network consultants in the U.S. and are available for projects of any size. When the job requires it, Progent can provide on-premises support in major metropolitan areas across the U.S.
Contact Progent for Skype for Business Support
To find out more about Progent's consulting services for Skype for Business, call 1-800-993-9400 or visit Contact Progent.