Month: May 2015

What is this Skype for Business?

If you have not heard yet or been sleeping under a rock, Microsoft has updated Lync and the Lync client but most importantly a brand new name of Skype for Business. In a nutshell, Skype for Business is a re-branded and upgraded version of Lync Server with improved integration with the Skype Network and added new features. The first round of changes started with a Client update that was released on April 14th  2015  by way of Microsoft Office updates, with the second wave for the Skype for Business Server update which was released on May 4th.

However, between the announcement in March and the actual release dates a month later it didn’t leave much room to test the update and prepare users for the impending changes. Depending on the size of the organization this can be challenging and has caused some headaches for administrators like myself as we quickly tried to prepare. Today we will discuss these challenges and things to consider with the new Skype for Business.

Connecting more people together

The Skype for Business re-branding was a great marketing and business move for Microsoft. Leveraging a familiar consumer brand that has already shaped how people communicate and combining it with an existing enterprise unified communications platform, one can only expect an increase in business and easier user adoption. Making improvements and adding new features only sweetens the deal.

The new and improved features include:

  • New User Interface ( UI ) – A new look and feel to the Server and client interface that was inspired by Skype. For those that have used Skype the UI will be familiar, keep in mind this will look different to your users if they currently use the Lync client. The client update affects those using Lync Online with Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Business Premium or Office 2013.
  • The Call via Work – The former Remote Call Control feature that allowed users to make calls via the Lync client using their existing PBX telephony system has been re-vamped with the Call Via Work.
  • Larger Meetings – Broadcast Skype for Business meetings to up to 10,000 people at a time. This is a great way to hold town hall meetings, especially for companies that are geographically displaced.
  • Collaborate More – Meetings will now allow Pre-loaded meeting attachments and have In-call co-authoring. In-call authoring allows multiple people to work together on a single document right from within a meeting.
  • More High availability – There is now support with SQL Server AlwaysOn
  • Better Reporting – Call quality dashboard to provide richer reporting options
  • Modern meetings – Partnering with vendors such as Crestron, Polycom and Smart, the Modern Meetings will be connecting people and businesses together using meeting devices that will operate with the Skype Room Systems. If you are already using the Lync Room Systems no worries it will be able to upgrade to Skype Room Systems.

For those us not on the bleeding edge of change, thankfully Microsoft provided ways to delay the update. You can either block the update from being downloaded from Microsoft updates or use Powershell Cmdlets that would provide administrators to control the updated change to Lync clients.  Lync Servers can be prevented from being updated by not installing the update.

Spoiler Alert for anyone that has blocked the update from being downloaded!

As administrators found out the Powershell Cmdlets was only a half attempt of controlling the client’s interface, use the existing Lync interface or get the new Skype for Business. The update still changed the Lync icon to Skype for Business and the Lync Meeting plug-in button in Outlook was now Skype for Business. Every time you created a new meeting it was now reflected as a ‘Skype Meeting’ and not Lync Meeting.

 

My Skype is Broken!

Since Skype and Skype for Business are two separate products you can run both versions together on the same computer. In organizations that have BYOD or allow non-business applications to be installed on company computers, this could be a headache for the helpdesk. Take for instance a user calls in saying they have an issue with Skype. The help desk will need to remember to identify which version of Skype the user is calling about or they could be troubleshooting the wrong Skype.

Just an In-Place upgrade?

Skype for Business is easy to upgrade to using the in-place upgrade option but there are considerations that should be taken into account when you do in place upgrade. Does your current hardware meet the requirements for Skype for Business? An in place upgrade does not guarantee performance will be the same. The upgrade also adds the call the quality dashboard. A component that was not in the Lync deployments and requires an additional SQL database.

Let’s Skype!

Overall I think it’s a great move on Microsoft’s part with the re-branding, even with it’s a set of headaches, will allow companies to communicate better with each other and their partners they do business with. With some communication and planning an upgrade or deployment of Skype for Business can be successful.

Finding My Inner Goddess

Each and every one of us has a positive energy, a flame inside of us that exudes the greatness within us. It’s part of our beauty, our mind, and our soul that makes each one of us unique. It inspires and pushes us to go beyond our limits to follow our dreams and our passions. It’s our own magical power. The spark that ignites a flame in all of us is our “inner goddess”.

When the spark is lost

We all have this goddess inside of us, hence my alter ego Exchange Goddess. Some are stronger than others, but it’s still there. Our inner goddess helps us fights those battles that we have in our daily lives. Sometimes the battles defeat our goddess, and we give up. There are times when the fighting becomes too much, and we don’t realize that we have lost her. That was the case for me.

I have spoken openly about my struggles with sexism in IT. It is sometimes called unconscious bias or diversity issues, but simply put it is a form of discrimination. For many women in IT this can be a challenging experience, a daily battle that is fought, and I was no different. This type of negative energy can defeat a goddess. It took a friend asking me a question while discussing sexism in IT for me to realize that my inner goddess was lost.

Will you ever be happy in this field? Maybe this is the wrong field for you?

WHAT?! Why was this man asking me this question? I love my work. I love technology. Could this man not see my passion? How dare he ask me this question just because I am complaining about sexism in my field? I was angry. Was this man so naïve living his privileged life, never having to experience any struggles of his own, that he just did not understand?

After dwelling on this question for a few days, I came up with two reasons why he must have asked this question. It was because of who I had become and possibly his own passive ignorance. He was not seeing my passion or my love for technology. That spark, the positive energy inside me, was not burning. He was not seeing my inner goddess because she was no longer there. I had lost her. Misplaced or perhaps lost in my shoe closet. Wherever she was, she was no longer visible or as bright as before.

He saw frustration, anger, and disappointment, but I do not think he quite understood where it all was coming from. I am sure he understood what sexism, gender bias, and unconscious bias are; we have all gone through those HR sensitivity courses, nodding our heads and thinking, “It’s wrong and should not happen.” However, if someone has not experienced this struggle for him or herself or has not had someone close to them go through the experience, it really is hard to truly understand what it means and feels to be discriminated against.

The Journey…

I had to rediscover my inner goddess. Everybody has a different journey. We all have different struggles and a different path to follow on that journey. In my case, I needed to let go of the anger and pain that I had been feeling about how I had been treated. The people close to me know that the last few years have been tough, especially within the last year. I had so much built up anger that I let it consume me. Anger is like a poison that can eat away you and it was starting to do that to me. I was so afraid of forgetting what I had gone through that I kept holding onto the anger. I did not want to forget it. I did not want to repeat it.

But letting go does not mean forgetting. Letting go allows you to move on and find peace within yourself. This allowed me to accept that I could not change what was in the past but I could change my future.

Using Bad for Good

I know that I was not alone and others must have gone through something similar. What about the future for my daughter? Will she have the same struggles when she enters the workforce? I had so much anger that I needed to channel that negative energy into something positive. I wanted to make a difference and perhaps bring about change.

Using that negative energy to create something positive brought about the Current Status, a weekly podcast/webcast that I co-host with two other women, Theresa Miller (@24x7itconnection) and Melissa Palmer (@vmiss33). It’s a show we do live on air with video using Google Hangouts where we discuss technology with various guests in a relaxed setting. There’s even wine on the show. When I had come up with the idea it was to show the world that we, us women, know and can speak technology. We are more than the token female IT person on the team. We are technical people that just happen to be women. We are smart, beautiful, fun, and we are IT professionals. Current Status has become more than what my cohosts or I had ever anticipated. The show is really taking off and gaining traction within the IT community. It is amazing how much support we receive, and we appreciate every bit of it. To read more about our show check out our Current Status page or head over to our YouTube Channel to replay past shows.

That’s what Goddesses do

Beyond the success of the show, the most amazing thing about what has happened is the bond that has formed with my cohosts. I have found my sisters, the “others” that have gone through similar experiences as myself. I have found other goddesses.

If you have the seen the show, you will notice that we have such a great dynamic with each on air and it really is like that off the air too. We are there for each when someone has a bad day at work or when there’s a promotion. It’s just not all business because when I have a bad hair day, I know I can send a group text to them. When I see some really great shoes on sale, and I cannot decide which one to get, they will be there encouraging me all the way. That’s what goddesses do; we support one another through bad and good.

She’s Back…

For my friend who asked me that “awful” question, I have your answer; I am following my passion for technology and yes I am happy. But most of all thank you.

It has been an interesting journey to say the least, but I have found my inner goddess again. That spark that was once burning so bright, that could be felt across the room, is back. It is much stronger and wiser now. She’s back and she’s ready to take on the world. This time she’s brought allies.