Skype for Business Server 2015, formerly called Lync Server and Office Communications Server, brings the familiar Skype user interface (UI) to an enhanced version of Lync Server 2013 to provide a state-of-the-art platform for unified communications and collaboration. Skype for Business Server and Skype for Business Online support the full Lync feature set for real presence, IM, audio and video conferencing and calling as well as the seamless integration of these functions within Office desktop and Office 365 applications including PowerPoint, Word, Excel and Outlook. Enhancements include improved voice and video capabilities, expanded mobile device support, streamlined management of on-premises and hybrid environments, and multi-factor authentication.
Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants can provide expert online and onsite consulting and troubleshooting support to help you evaluate the costs and benefits of upgrading to Skype for Business from any release of Lync Server or Office Communications Server. Plan can help you weigh the relative advantages of a local, cloud, or hybrid deployment and can assist you to plan and execute an efficient migration to Skype for Business that expedites your return on investment. Progent can help you integrate Skype for Business with SQL Server, Exchange and SharePoint and with Office and Office 365 applications as well as with your in-house PBX, your PSTN gateway, and telephony systems such as Cisco UC and Cisco/Cisco/Tandberg telepresence platforms.
Progent can help you design and implement a cost-effective topology for Skype for Business that provides high availability and disaster recovery, test and validate your communications security strategy, and provide custom training to individuals or groups. Progent's consultants are available for short-term tasks to help you resolve specific technical roadblocks or Progent can provide comprehensive project management outsourcing and co-sourcing.
New Features of Skype for Business Server 2015
Skype for Business can be deployed as a subscription-based cloud model (Skype for Business Online), a fully-owned on-premises model (Skype for Business Server), or a hybrid model. The Standard Edition supports most features except advanced fault tolerance, and the Enterprise Edition offers enterprise-class availability, greater scale, and additional conferencing capabilities.
New Voice and Video Features
Enhanced Support for Mobile Devices
- Video Interop Server: The new standalone Video Interop Server (VIS) is a server role designed for on-premises deployments and allows Skype for Business Server to interoperate with third-party teleconferencing platforms, initially with Cisco/Tandberg telepresence systems. The VIS can manages incoming calls from the Cisco Unified Communications Manager transported via a video SIP trunk. To achieve a high level of availability and disaster recovery, multiple VIS servers can be set up in failover pools. In case the primary VIS stops working, the failover mechanism can keep the system operating if the video gateway has defined trunks to two or more VIS pools. To find out about Progent's consulting support for telepresence systems from Cisco and other vendors, refer to Progent's immersive telepresence consulting services.
Skype for Business Server's Video Interop Server (VIS) allows integration with Cisco video conferencing platforms
- Call-Quality Data Collection: On-premises deployments of Skype for Business Server 2015 also support the new Rate My Call function. At the end of a call, the user is asked to take a quick survey of call quality. A simple star system allows the user to rate items such as muffled speech and echo. The survey responses are held in SQL tables that admins can access to compile call-quality reports.
- PBX Integration: The new Call via Work capability supported by the Enterprise Edition of Skype for Business enables users to control their PBX phones from their Skype for Business client. Users can rout their Skype for Business calls through their PBX or PSTN phones at the office so they can use the high-quality audio of their work phones and still have access to a rich Skype for Business feature set including click-to-call and click-to-join, real presence, contact search, instant messaging, and shared applications.
New Features for Managing On-premises Servers
- Conversation History: Mobile clients using the Enterprise Edition of Skype for Business can view call logs, conversation history, and missed IMs.
- New Features for Meetings: Some features previously available only to desktop clients are now accessible to mobile users. These include the ability to browse through shared PowerPoint presentations asynchronously with the presenter, the ability of a presenter to control a shared PowerPoint deck, and lobby management for presenters so they can admit or reject participants.
- New features for Android Devices: Android users now have access to the same Skype for Business features as iOS and Windows devices. New features include the ability to continue/rejoin conversations, activate certificate and passive authentication, invite additional people to a conversation, join a meeting without being a Skype for Business client, enable a smartphone user interface on a tablet, and add/remove meeting participants.
Hybrid Environment Support
- In-place Upgrade: The new In-place Upgrade feature allows you to migrate from a basic deployment of Lync Server 2013 to Skype for Business Server 2015 without replacing your hardware. The Move User option avoids downtime. There is also an Offline option. The one-click procedure copies certificates, uninstalls servers, upgrades local databases, and installs the roles for Skype for Business Server. In-place Upgrade does not support advanced high availability and disaster recovery configurations. Also, your capacity planning may suggest that you replace equipment unable to provide the performance you need for your new Skype for Business workloads.
In-place Upgrade streamlines migration to Skype for Business and avoids downtime
- Front End Server Management Improvements: Skype for Business Server includes new cmdlets that simplify the task of patching or otherwise maintaining Front End Servers. You can transfer workloads from one server to others within a pool, deactivate the original server for maintenance, and failback the server you updated. By repeating this procedure you can update all the servers in the pool without downtime.
- Cold Start Enhancements for Front End Servers: Skype for Business Server includes a new cmdlet that streamlines the process and improves the reliability of cold starting a pool of Front End servers. The new cmdlet checks prerequisites for each of the pool's Front End Servers before attempting to start the server and runs a diagnostic if any problems appear. The cmdlet also sends you an alert and suggests mitigation steps. If it is safe to do so, the cmdlets can reactivate the server pool without restarting the server or servers with problems.
- Support for SQL Server AlwaysOn Technology: For enhanced availability and disaster recovery, Skype for Business 2015 introduces support for SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups as well as SQL Server AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances. Persistent Chat Servers do not support AlwaysOn Availability Groups. To learn about Progent's consulting services for SQL Server AlwaysOn technology, visit SQL Server 2016 integration support and SQL Server 2014 consulting.
- Control Panel and Admin Center Enhancements: The Control Panel and Admin Center can be used to manage hybrid deployments, move users between on-premises and cloud hosts, and detect and filter hybrid vs. on-premises users.
- Dual Hybrid Management: For hybrid deployments, Skype for Business Server allows you to manage on-premises properties from the Control Panel and Skype for Business Online properties from Admin Center.
- Password Synchronization: Admins can use Password Synchronization with DirSync for synchronizing on-premises Active Directory passwords with the online tenant so you do not have to set up AD FS for federated authentication. For Multi-factor authentication you do have to configure Active Directory Federation Services.
Enhancements to Skype for Business Clients
- Integration with Exchange and SharePoint: You can use the Office 2013 Active Directory Authentication Library for configuring multi-factor authentication for Exchange and SharePoint.
- Integration with Skype for Business Web App client: Skype for Business multi-factor authentication supports the Web App client.
- Geography-based Identification: You can use different authentication methods with Skype for Business, including multi-factor authentication, determined by geography.
The new user interface for the Skype for Business client has a look similar to the consumer version of Skype familiar to hundreds of millions of users. The older Lync UI, which is being phased out, remains available as an alternative for Skype for Business Server 2015 so organizations migrating from Lync Server to Skype for Business can manage the transition of their users to the new Skype client experience. In addition to providing easy access to traditional Skype functions like the contacts list, presence indicators, buttons and icons, the new Skype for Business client UI incorporates all the communication and collaboration features previously associated with Lync and adds new features such as the ability to make a call that uses audio from your desk phone, integration with Skype's worldwide directory, emoticons, plus integration with the new Call Monitor and Rate My Call feature (described in the previous section).
You can integrate your PBX-attached desk phone with Skype for Business so that from within the Skype client you can search for people inside your organization and call them using the high-quality audio capability of your conventional desk phone. Calls placed from the Skype UI that have their audio routed through your desk phone give you access to core Skype for Business features like instant messaging, desktop and application sharing and file transfer.
The new client UI for Skype for Business (but not the Lync UI) allows users to search the Skype Directory as well as their own contacts. The SKYPE DIRECTORY option in the search box gives Internet-connected users access to over 300 million Skype subscribers. Once you find someone, you can add the person to your contacts, send and receive IMs, see presence status, and make an audio or video call. To get results quickly you can enter someone's Skype ID and location, an email address, or a Microsoft account. Admins have the option of enabling or disabling the Skype Directory search feature according to your search policy.
Contact Search with Skype for Business is integrated with Skype's worldwide directory
The Call Monitor feature that has long been available to Skype consumers has been added to the Skype for Business client. This feature lets you switch easily between a full or compact Skype for Business window so you can actively participate in a call or passively track its progress.
The Skype client UI for Skype for Business provides more convenient access to call controls. If you place a PSTN call, the dial-pad and call controls stay visible for the duration of the call. Otherwise, you can invoke the dial-pad and call controls in one click or tap.
The same emoticons available with the consumer version of Skype are included with Skype for Business clients. Users can disable them if they prefer.
How Progent Can Help You Migrate to Skype for Business
Skype for Business Server and Skype for Business Online are mission-critical platforms that shape the way an organization's people engage with one another and with partners, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Skype for Business harnesses the explosive growth of BYOD computing, integrates a wide range of IT infrastructure and applications from multiple vendors, and demands the highest levels of availability and security. Progent has the services delivery structure and the breadth and depth of expertise to help companies of any size with any aspect of Skype for Business migration, management, expansion, training and troubleshooting. Progent can provide online or onsite support to help you resolve specific technical challenges and Progent also offers full project management outsourcing and co-sourcing services to help you carry out major initiatives.
Progent's consulting services for helping you migrate to Skype for Business include:
Progent's Cisco-certified CCIE network consultants can help your organization configure your network infrastructure to provide the capacity and availability required for your Skype for Business solution. Progent can also provide Cisco UC integration services to connect Skype for Business with Cisco IP voice and video conferencing systems. Progent's certified network security consultants can help you follow best practices to define and implement a compliant security environment for your Skype for Business deployment.
- Help you define your goals for your Skype for Business deployment
- Inventory your current IT assets and define prerequisites for Skype for Business
- Help you determine whether to deploy an on-premises, cloud-based, or hybrid model for Skype for Business
- Create and test an efficient migration plan
- Design a cost-effective topology
- Provide capacity planning support
- Configure Front End Server pools and Mirrored Back End Servers
- Deploy Edge Servers
- Set up firewalls, load balancers, reverse proxy servers and PSTN connections
- Select and implement appropriate mechanisms for fault tolerance and disaster recovery
- Configure Mobility Services and Persistent Chat
- Configure Active Directory Federation Services
- Resolve DNS and certificate issues
- Verify instant messaging, presence, conferencing, and enterprise voice and video
- Provide BYOD support by offering iPhone and iPad integration, Android phone and tablet consulting, and RIM BlackBerry expertise
- Set up archiving and monitoring mechanisms
- Integrate Skype for Business with SQL Server, Exchange UM, SharePoint Server, and Office or Office 365
- Develop a centralized IT resource monitoring solution by delivering System Center 2016 Operations Manager expertise or SCOM 2012 integration services
- Verify security and compliance
- Document solution architecture
- Provide group and individual online training
- Provide ongoing consulting, development, and troubleshooting services
Reduce Costs and Delays with Progent's Online Consulting and Troubleshooting Services
Progent has more than a decade of background delivering advanced remote consulting and troubleshooting solutions to businesses across the U.S. Remote support lowers costs and eliminates travel delays. Progent can draw on a large team of consulting professionals across the country to provide the expertise you need to solve technical problems and complete IT projects quickly and affordably. Progent has provided remote consulting and technical support services to clients in every state in the U.S. (visit Progent's customer testimonials). Progent's consultants, software developers and troubleshooting professionals include one of the largest independent teams of Cisco CCIE-certified network consultants in the country and can provide as-needed help for projects of any size. When called for, Progent can also provide onsite help in larger metropolitan areas throughout the U.S.
Call or Email Progent for Skype for Business Expertise
To learn more about Progent's migration support for Skype for Business, call 1-800-993-9400 or visit Contact Progent.
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