Whats new in Skype for Business

Good Morning

Below is an interesting article about Skype for business and what it entails. We the MVP’s have been given the ok to publicly talk through what Sfb (as its know) has to offer.

This is an interesting read i wanted to share with you.

http://microsoft-news.com/take-a-look-at-the-upcoming-skype-for-business-client-on-windows/

Modality Systems ‘a PGi Company’ Announcement

Following yesterday evenings late announcement that Modality Systems has been acquired by PGi. For those who are unaware PGi is one of the largest conferencing companies in the world. More of PGi here http://www.pgi.com

This is a great opportunity for Modality Systems to grow into areas quicker and greater than ever before. If you want to read the full information around the acquisition goto  https://www.modalitysystems.com/news/pgi-acquires-modality-systems.

But, what does this mean for Modality the company and me/us the current employee’s.

Well firstly for the company this is a massive opportunity to branch into areas with assistance of PGi for global reach and one in which we can almost triage the top major companies of the world on Unified Communications. Does this mean that Modality of old will change? Absolutely not !! in fact both Modality and PGi want to promote the Status Que and in truth why would you change a rockstar company? (If its not broken don’t fix it) as they say.

As for the Modality Systems employee’s? ‘same old, same old’ we are still the same company with no hieratical differences in management, staff and the quality we provide to our customers both old and new. AND we are continuing to press ahead with an already roadmap’d recruitment drive within areas of Support, User Adoption, Consultancy Roles both in the UK, Australia and US. I must say there is no better time to join this new and exciting chapter in the Modality life. If you are interested in bettering your career, please reach out at iain.smith@modalitysystems.com

It really is exciting times for me and all the employee’s at Modality with some nice planned changes already afoot in the coming months i.e.: New office location relocation in London, potential new office in the north of England, headcount doubling by the end of the year.

I would like to congratulate Modality Systems and welcome PGi to what you will see is a brilliant company acquisition.

Sennheiser DECT D10 ‘The Class Changer’ Headset

D-10-USB---Product-shoot-04 copy

Firstly I would like to say happy new year and welcome to my first review of 2015.

This review in particular I’ve been looking forward to writing as its one I think changes the DECT headset market.

As you will be aware I’ve reviewed other DECT headsets in the past including Sennheiser’s other offering the DW Office so when I got the D10 I did think why would Sennheiser bring another variant of the same type of device into the product line? Well be assured this isn’t another skew on the DW Office and is in fact a unique device in its own right.

With all my reviews, my first point of call is ‘what is it to be benchmarked against’. To do this I looked at the headset features then tried matched them against the competitor’s offerings. Well this in itself became a small challenge as Logitech has the H8020 DECT headset which almost fits the bill. Plantronics doesn’t really have any desk type (Stand Based) DECT headset with the Savi Range being the closest solution. Then lastly Jabra was the nearest match with the Pro9xxx range of DECT headset but this is twice as expensive to buy. This got me thinking, has Sennheiser ‘backed’ the wrong horse in this race or was the other vendors behind the curve.

Well let’s see.

Like other reviews I continue to bleat on about how none scientific approach to testing I do. (no I don’t have a sound booth, nor a room with formed triangles stuck to the walls). Instead my testing is one which a normal user would have at there disposal. eyes and ears.

As usual I have split the review into the segments of benchmarking below, but for 2015 there is a new benchmarking test called ‘what lies within’.

–     Audio Quality (Lync Audio Calls)

–     Features

–     DECT Range

–     Battery Life and charging time

–     What lies within

–     Price point and availability

Firstly lets start off with the Audio Quality.

As with what now is tradition with Sennheiser’s products both in the UC and Consumer markets, the Audio quality is exceptional with crystal clear HD sound for both inbound <listening> outbound <speaking>. What was interesting is the sound was that good on one call I could hear the callee breathing into their headset (it was another manufacturer headset which I wont comment on ) AND they said they wasn’t wearing it to close to their face/mouth.

With the sound quality so good, it got me thinking, could I think of another headset which has better sound quality? Actually I can’t as the Senneheiser D10 is up there with the best in class.

Features

SlimLine Design

The D10 come with a sleek slim desktop charging stand which clip two parts together to my a kind of X shape bracket angle. The main part of the based unit is formed of black matt polyurethane, and the bracket arm is a block of milled aluminum. The base unit with the headset on stand takes up very little desk real estate and looks smart and welcoming.

USB Charging 

Having only USB charging is one of the differentiators between this and the Jabra 9xxx series as the Jarba DECT headset does require an external power source to charge the headset meaning another plug socket as well as a USB connection is needed. More on the charging time further down within my review.

Audible Ring sound from the Base unit

FINALLY, I thought we were never going to see a DECT headset with a base unit ring alert option made again. As a consultant this is one of the biggest bugbears of end users; not being able to hear the phone ringing. If this was manufactured 12 months ago, I could have literally sold 2500 of these to two customers. In the end they had to go with the Busylight options, which they still think, isn’t ideal.

Multi Pairing option or (supervisor silent listening)

Like the DW office the D10 has the capability to allow upto 3 people to bridge into the call via the base unit. Again this is another perk of the Sennheiser range and one I know is a benefit within contact centre scenarios.

DECT Range

The DECT range is excellent on these D10, with literally one of my customers walking down a floor and walking 100 metres from his desk and the call was still current and connected. Very impressive

Battery Life and charging time

12 hours of talk time from a full charge AND without the requirement for socket power charging as all the charging is done via the USB connection.

A power boost change 20mins gives the headset 3 hours of talk time in my test.

Lastly a feature that Sennheiser calls Activegard? I had to look this up as it’s something new to me in the headset world. In short it means it protects the user from someone screaming/shouting or some other instant loud noise being sent down the headset. In truth this is something which I haven’t experienced as an issue before so I can really comment on if the headset does what it says.

What Lies Within

So to put a bit of meat around this new 2015 feature is to take apart the device to see how they have been manufactured. The reason for doing this is its ok on day one when you the customer receives your nice new shiny headset, but what is the affect 3 months down the road of daily use if the devices is poorly assembled at manufacturing. Its worth noting i will not embarrass manufactures with pictures (and believe me i could on many devices) on the innards of the device, but i will be clear on if i think the device will stand the test of time.

So how does this compare when i looked within the D10. Im pleased to say this device is built to last. 🙂

Price point and availability

RRP on one of these devices is £179.99, however you can get these for around £135.00 through distribution.

The D10 is available now for selection and purchasing

Link http://en-uk.sennheiser.com/d10

Whats in the Box

Headset
Base station
USB cable
Headband (detachable)
1 bendable ear hook (mounted on headset)
Printed Quick Guide
Printed Safety Guide

My own internal questions and thoughts

Could Sennheiser make or made this device any better?

I don’t actually think they could have made this much better as it’s one of the best devices for both build quality, sound, features and price I’ve ever used and tested. I can see this being one of the main product lines for Sennheiser in 2015.

With my arm forced up my back (military style), my only enhancement which is not unique to the D10 or Sennheiser, but one of a general observation, is the fact we are coming into a stage in the headset cycle where these endpoints have to be diversely mobile. What I mean by this is we as users want the beauty of being able to roam to the far flung corners of the office while still connect via DECT to the call. Yet in the same breath, we also want the flexibility that we can if we want to walk with our laptop in hand and the device is clever enough to realise this a switch to using Bluetooth seamlessly instead OR if we was on a call at our desk have the ability to flip to the Bluetooth option and which was paired with our Mobile/Cell phone and for the call continue without a blip. OR another scenario would be if we was on a DECT call and we drifted out of range of the base station, the headset device was clever and it automatically transferred the call to you Mobile/Cell (again which was Bluetooth’d to the headset). ?not wanting much am i.

What is the market place and which type of customer would this device be suited for?

I personally wouldn’t ring fence this to a certain user group as I don’t see more of a benefit over another group or personnel department. That said in many call centre and administration type roles I can see this being a perfect winner. For example, how many times do you get a call via lync when you are writing or not paying attention and the computer your using doesn’t have a ‘ringer’ in the PC (now 99% of new desktops don’t have a internal sound/speaker)? Well with the D10 them days are gone as the base ringer now alerts you to the call. OR the base unit LED lighting provides awareness to the ringing call.

Would I recommend it to customers?

Synopsis

So were does that leave me with the D10? It’s fair to say this device now honors the primary place on my working office desk and now the go to device of choice. The DW Office has now been retired to my homelab.

In terms of ‘lync star’ rating, what does this device deserve and why? For the features, sound and price point and market awareness, it s with pleasure and for the first every headset review I would like to award the Sennheiser D10 the full 5 stars.

star.jpgstar.jpgstar.jpgstar.jpgstar.jpg

Simply put this is an excellent device and one I would highly recommend. Remaining vendors you are playing catch up.

Lync Server Update Improves Lync Web App Experience for Google Chrome users

Recent and upcoming Google changes to the Chrome browser affect the Lync Web App on both Mac and Windows platforms, and require us to make changes to Lync Server and Lync Online in order to deliver a great experience for Chrome users.  We have begun making these changes, and expect to complete them in the first quarter of 2015; in the meantime, when needed, we will provide users with manual work-around instructions as part of the meeting join experience.

For Mac users:  Google discontinued support in October for the 32 bit version of Chrome on Mac.  Because the existing Lync Web App works only in the 32 bit version of Chrome, Mac users must for now use either Safari or Firefox to join a Lync meeting.  When joining a Lync meeting, users with Chrome set as their default browser will see a message instructing them to copy the Lync meeting URL, open Safari or Firefox, and paste the meeting URL into the new browser window.  The Lync meeting will then begin.  We plan to remove this manual step for Chrome users by adding support for the 64 bit version of Chrome early in 2015.

For Windows users:  The most recent update to Lync Server 2013 (Cumulative Update 5.0.8308.857) provided manual work-around instructions to Windows users with the 32-bit version of Chrome set as their default browser, even though the 32-bit version of Chrome is still supported on Windows.  On 12/31/2014, we released a new update to Lync Server 2013 (Cumulative Update 5.0.8308.866) to remove the manual work-around instructions and to allow the Lync Web App to run in Chrome as it did previously.  We encourage administrators to apply Cumulative Update 5.0.8308.866 as soon as is practical to avoid the manual work-around.  We have already begun applying this update to Lync Online.

What’s next?  As noted above, we plan to add support for 64 bit Chrome on Mac early this year.  We are also working on solutions to minimize the impact on Chrome users with the planned deprecation of the so-called “Netscape Plug-In API”, or NPAPI, targeted by Google for April, 2015.

Modality Systems – 3rd Annual Lync Event – Further information

Following on from my previous blog about our 3rd Lync Event we have recently published more information which i would like to share with you.

Firstly we have added another session onto the agenda to talk through what the recent announcement from Microsoft (Skype For Business) means to companies already using Lync or are thinking of moving onto Lync?.

What Modality have to say about it, and what will be covered at the event

Arguably the Skype for Business announcement is one of the biggest announcements of the year, the Skype for Business news is causing much discussion and has divided opinion in some camps. Join us on the 2nd December to hear more about the news and get an insight as to what it could mean for you.

And finally to finish this blog, we are also pleased to announce that we will have a number of industry leading vendors join the event as part of the showcase being held over lunch, representing many of the associated aspects of a UC solution, from hardware infrastructure and connectivity, to devices and applications.

As mentioned at the start of the blog we have limited places left! so Register today!

 

Modality Systems – Third Annual Lync Event – Tuesday 2nd December

Evening All

We’ Modality Systems are holding our third annual Lync event which builds on the success we had last year. This year we have changed locations but are keeping with the car theme and are hosting our event at the Millbrook Technology Park in Bedfordshire on Tuesday 2nd December.

The theme to our event is around how to keep ahead of the curve in unified Communications, with selected speakers from some of the Modality Systems customers, plus out own in-house experts.

We are limited to 100 seats, so if you would like to attend and listen about to the journey of UC then select the below race track image were you will be hyperlinked to the registration page.

We look forward to seeing you at the event.

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It is time to evolve.? The new Jabra Evolve Series

evolve80

In the last couple of months I’ve had the privilege of testing and benchmarking the new range of Jabra headsets named Jabra Evolve. Within the range there are low to high-end choices, with a model from each range being Lync certified. (Lync For Windows Only certified).

As with all my testing I was excited to put the evolve headset through its paces with a series of ‘Iain Smith’ tried and tested routines.

Firstly lets start with the look and feel including the plug and play capabilities. It’s worth noting the headset I’m testing is Jabra’s Flagship Evolve 80 ML series running on Lync for Windows.

Ascetically this is a great looking headset, with a modern look and feel to it. Clearly Jabra are trying to touch on the mixed market of corporate and consumers with this evolve 80, were they are bridging the gap to ‘one headset for all functions’. The styling of the Evolve 80 is something, which you would see on other major consumer MP3 enabled headsets let alone on one certified for Lync. So does this headset cut the mustard with the younger audience of today as well as using it in the corporate workplace? I personally think it can pass as a consumer product in the look stakes, but in the office with its bright coloured cabling it did raise a few eyebrows from the older folks. (no one likes change).

For me I think Jabra are on the right path with the styling.

With regards to with plug and play ability with Lync, the headset was up to the job and paired with Lync within a couple of seconds.

Audio Quality (Lync Calling Audio)

In all the headsets I’ve tested over the years there aren’t many where I would say the sound quality is excellent, however I can 100% say this with the evolve 80 the sound quality is exceptional but then again for a £200.00+ headset you should get great sound throughput. What did let me down with the evolve though on the Lync calls is the headset is so noise cancelling when your talking on the device, your own sound i felt becomes muffled.? Its worth noting im not a advocate of dual eared headsets anyway because of this>, after speaking with Jabra we did raise the sidetone to the max, but still to this day I find halfway through a conversation im taking the left ear can off my ear. I found the conversions and the call simply off-putting as I can’t tell if I’m shouting or being quiet on calls. I’m left with a real mixed opinion… I loved the sound quality, but pretty much disliked talking on calls. For me this is a catch 22, but im sure for others who love dual eared devices this will be the perfect device.

Audio Quality (Music Playing)

Absolutely can’t fault the music quality and also the noise cancelling and sound leakage. You can crank up the headset to max and people around you cant hear a thing from the device. The device also comes with the press button to talk through while wearing the headset, meaning you can wear the device and when someone speaks to you, you don’t have to take the headset off your head.

Using the headset as a pure music player, the device has a built in battery to allow for outside noise cancellation, which lasts up to 15 hours on a full change, which is great.

Let me just touch on the active noise cancellation as well. So the Evolve 80 has a little switch on the right ear can, which activates the ANC option. Wow, this function in itself is one of the best noise cancellations I ‘not’ 😉 heard. If you are a traveller on a busy train/plane and what to listen to music, podcasts or movies etc you would not go wrong with the evolve 80.

So at this point im thinking that this headset is my first 5 out of 5 review? Hang on lets just look at the other features required first.!

Jabra where is the Bluetooth connection?

I was surprised to see the headset does not come with Bluetooth built in ? For me this is an oversight as in scenarios where you might have the orange 3.5 jack cable plugged in via the aux connector to your iphone (other phones available). If you then get a call on Lync, you then have to faff about unplugging from the phone back into the Jabra ‘puck’ connector device on the existing cable plugged into your computer? Equally if you wanted to keep your headset plugged into the puck and was listening to music from your computer, then you got a call on your iphone, then you would have to take the headset off to answer, when simply you could have Bluetooth tethered the phone to pick up the call?

Also the lack of Bluetooth means on UC/Lync calls you are stuck at your desk without the ability to roam around your office, as you would be with Bluetooth or dect devices.

Is it me, or has Jabra created one of the best UC devices going, but missed a fundamental piece of the picture.?

Another observation. The Evolve 80 has a presence indicator on the puck and also on the right ear can of the device. (it lights up red when you press the centre of the puck to show you are using the device or lights up red when a your on a call). Again I don’t want to be to critical as I genuinely think this is a great device, but for me the Lync SDK has been around long enough now for vendors to code their own software to hook into the presence status of the user from the Lync system. Having to press the centre of the puck to show a red light coming on for me is lazy coding by the vendor. (This little rant is not Jabra specific, as I could name another vendors who do the same)

Synopsis?

While I do genuinely like the Evolve 80, there are a couple of areas for which could be improved to make it the best UC device available.

1st – It has to have Bluetooth in the headset. Not having Bluetooth restricts your movement and also makes the device cumbersome when switching between music and work tasks. As I expect this device to be around for a couple of years from now I do hope Jabra added the Bluetooth chip, until a time when they can code the feature.

2nd – The headset styling is great but for some its to much, and I hope Jabra offers a less ‘in your face’ coloured version going forward

3rd – Get the presence light ring doing the colour status from the Lync system, when not on a call GREEN, Away YELLOW, On a Call PULSING RED, Do not Disturb DARK RED.

4th – Lack of Lync for Mac Audio/sound changing options. At this moment the Jabra suite only runs on Windows machines AND the sidetone option isn’t available on OS X therefore when the Evolve is bound to a Mac the sound inputs can’t be changed. With more and more macs in the workplace, Jabra you need to get your skates on a satisfy the OS X/Mac world, especially as there is a new office for Mac 2015 hitting the shelfs next year.

This device for me gets a solid 4 lync stars in my testing. Why the missing 5th star is purely down to the points mentioned above.

Would I buy or recommend this device. Yes, but I would be making clear the Bluetooth restriction to my customers.

Would I buy or recommend on for listening to music only. 100% without doubt.

All in all this is a nice device that bridges to the two worlds of consumer and corporate.

Well done Jabra. !!! version 2 add the Bluetooth feature and you will be 5 stars.!

Lync 2013 – Setting up the Lync Web Scheduler for Lync Meetings

In this how to guide we will run through the requirement and procedure of setting up the Lync Web Scheduler for Lync 2013 Meetings.

Firstly we need to jump into Lync Management Shell and run a command like the below (Note: Change the domain address to match your own. As with other guides im using my lab domain of northernlync.co.uk)

$urlEntry = New-CsSimpleUrlEntry -Url “https://scheduler.northernlync.co.uk”

$simpleUrl = New-CsSimpleUrl -Component “WebScheduler” -Domain “*” -SimpleUrlEntry $urlEntry -ActiveUrl “https://scheduler.northernlync.co.uk”
Set-CsSimpleUrlConfiguration -Identity Global -SimpleUrl @{Add=$simpleUrl} -Verbose

If you run the following cmdlet in your Lync ManagementShell you will the new scheduler is now listed

Get-CsSimpleUrlConfiguration | fl *

Now from a Lync perspective we are complete in the requirements. Next we need to do a few additional steps to be fully complete.

Next Step is to add the following cname record into DNS

Add CNAME record on DNS for scheduler that resolves to your Lync 2013 frontend or Pool

Next Step we need the following subject alternate name as an additional record onto our internal Lync frontend server certificates

Add scheduler.northernlync.co.uk as an additional SAN on default internal cert using Lync deployment wizard.

Next Step, Either using the Lync deployment wizard run step 2 on all the frontends in your pool, or if you are a UC Pro you can simply run the Lync bootstrapper.exe on all your frontends

Final Step
Test https://scheduler.northernlync.co.uk.

Lync 2013 – Lync Phone Edition Update version 7577.4455

Yesterday evening Microsoft released an update to the Lync phone edition endpoints.

there are a number of timezone fixes included and the details can be found here.

 Product Version Download
Lync Phone Edition (for Aastra 6721ip and Aastra 6725ip) 4.0.7577.4455 3004836
Lync Phone Edition (for HP 4110 and HP 4120) 4.0.7577.4455 3004838
Lync Phone Edition (for Polycom CX500, Polycom CX600, and Polycom CX3000) 4.0.7577.4455 3004839