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businee-man-travel-future-mobility-managed-solutionRoad realities—how to support your road warriors with tech

As written on blogs.office.com.
The road warrior travels from city to city, meets with potential clients and attends conferences and industry events. And their travel requirements don’t seem to be slowing down. According to the Global Business Travel Association, spending on business travel reached record-breaking levels of $1.2 trillion in 2015, and is expected to rise to $1.6 trillion by 2020.
Your road warriors bring your products and services into new markets, diversify clientele and strengthen existing relationships. They’re helping your business grow—now more than ever.
Doing their jobs from the road, however, can prove very difficult without the right productivity tools. So, how do you know if they have what they need?
Start by understanding the common challenges they face. Whether it is hosting meetings, collaborating with colleagues or meeting deadlines, you can make sure they are set up for success.
Here are four productivity fears that often strike business travelers while they’re on the road:

Did I forget to save files from the company server before traveling?

Secure file access shouldn’t be a privilege for in-office employees only. Being able to tap into the company server to access important resources is a basic requirement for most jobs. For employees who are on the move, it’s critical to have such access anywhere, anytime. Whether in a hotel lobby or a cafe, they should be able to connect to Wi-Fi and get their work done. When company documents are secured in the cloud, your employees can continue with business as usual, from virtually anywhere.

Will time away impact day-to-day communication?

For road warriors, productivity is dependent on seamless communication and collaboration with in-office teams. Without face-to-face interaction with colleagues, employees can sometimes feel disconnected—and the ability to connect in multiple ways can make all the difference. Secure video conferencing and messaging tools can bridge the communication gap, allowing business travelers to chat with team members and conduct online meetings on the fly.

Can we successfully collaborate while I’m in another location?

Teamwork is essential to business, whether your employees are on the road or huddled in a conference room. Business leaders must consider the value of technology that lets business travelers create, co-author and share documents in real-time. These abilities enable teams to accomplish tasks and meet deadlines together, from virtually anywhere. Now, with technology for sharing and collaborating remotely, it’s easier than ever.

What happens if I lose my connection to the internet?

Travel often happens during business hours. While on a train or 30,000 miles in the air, your road warrior still needs to email, build sales decks and meet deadlines. But sometimes technology falters and they could lose internet connectivity for minutes or even hours. At times like these, they can rely most on tools that save their work (documents, presentations and even email files) onto a hard-drive while offline and upload upon reconnection. While they’re offline, they can continue to read emails, compose drafts, edit files—and keep making work happen.
The productivity of your traveling employees is only as good as the technology that supports them. As a business leader, you have the power to provide technology that helps them do their jobs while on the road.

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Are you holding the right kind of meeting?

By Skype for Business Team as written on blogs.office.com.
Meetings are starting to get a bad rap. A Harris survey for Clarizen reports 46 percent of employees would rather do anything other than attend a status meeting—8 percent said they’d prefer a root canal. Regardless of your feelings about them, meetings are necessary to coordinate and collaborate. But, before you book yet another room and conference line on autopilot, consider meeting in whatever way is best for your goals.
Brief check-ins
Check-ins are ideal for a focused and quick conversation. Skeptical? These are more doable than you may think. Harvard Business Review recommends keeping them to 15 or 30 minutes whenever possible.
Book a brief check-in if you need to:
  • Cover quick updates, discuss feedback or get simple group input.
  • Meet for an informal 15 minutes with 5–25 people.
Ad-hoc updates
On-the-fly ad-hoc meetings allow for teams to touch base on something in real-time, often without much planning. According to Business Insider, these types of meetings are not only on the rise, they can be more productive than traditional meetings. Ad-hoc updates can be both in-person or attended from multiple locations. For smaller groups (three to five participants) consider instant messages. For larger groups or those needing deeper collaboration, conference or video calls are ideal. Want to be even more efficient? Explore screen or document sharing and collaboration solutions to work in real-time.
Consider an ad-hoc update if you need:
  • An unstructured way to ask quick questions.
  • Real-time project updates.
  • Team-based connection with 3–15 people.
Brainstorm sessions
Brainstorming is great to get high-volume ideas to later distill and present to decision makers. Whether in person or virtually (video call is recommended), prepare a space for people to share ideas in a constructive and judgment-free way. You never know the direction a brainstorm will take you—that’s sometimes when the best ideas surface.
Schedule a brainstorm session if you need:
  • Many new ideas at once.
  • A variety of opinions and points of view.
Traditional meetings
Whether you’re meeting in a conference room, boardroom, auditorium, with a virtual audience or a combination, traditional doesn’t mean boring. Leverage these meetings to deliver strategic messages. If you’re reaching a virtual audience or both on- and off-site stakeholders, explore virtual meeting solutions that allow for the same level of participation, no matter how (and from where) they’re joining.
It’s time for a traditional meeting if you need to:
  • Reach a larger audience (30–10,000 participants).
  • Present information (versus collaborate).
  • Limit and structure audience participation (i.e., Q&As, overall sentiment, etc.).
Regardless of the meeting type, take the time to create an agenda, share it with your team beforehand and stick to it.
Hold the right kind of meeting
Get better results and show your employees you value their time by selecting the right meeting type. For online meetings, Skype for Business can keep everyone on task and informed. Also, check out The Ultimate Meeting Guide to learn everything from preparing for and running a successful meeting to incorporating technological tools that enhance productivity.

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4 things about hosting virtual meetings you can learn from TED Talks

As written on blogs.office.com
With more than a billion views, TED Talks are clearly doing something right. So, what is it that makes them such a success? Here are four tried and true techniques that some of the most viewed TED Talks have in common.
  1. They’re the right length—While there are talks up to 60 minutes, the average and most well-known length is 18 minutes or fewer, as reported by Forbes. When facing pushback on this length, TED Talks founder Chris Anderson often guides speakers to fit within the time limit by quoting President Woodrow Wilson (according to Forbes): “If it’s a 10-minute speech, it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it’s a half-hour speech, it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to, it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.” Concise and strategically planned presentations are key.
  1. They focus on the right topic—Choose a topic that’s meaningful to you, that you’re knowledgeable about, and you’re comfortable talking about in depth. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, your audience won’t either. Having something worth saying is more important than stage presence and confidence in public speaking, Anderson explains to Forbes.
  2. They use top-notch presentation skills—While having something worth saying is key, you still need presentation skills to back it up or your presentation may fall flat. Even though you might not be presenting in person, being personable and accessible is essential. According to research by the Science of People regarding the most viewed TED Talks, audiences liked the speakers just as much with the audio on as they did when the volume was muted.
    They also discovered the more hand gestures, the more successful the talk. They reported that the bottom TED Talks had an average of 124,000 views and the speakers used an average of 272 hand gestures during the 18-minute talk. The most-viewed had an average of 7,360,000 views and used an average of 465 hand gestures.
  3. .They’re conversational—Scripts are comforting because they help you feel like you know exactly what to say, but planning word-for-word comes off as impersonal. Instead, create an outline with talking points to allow for natural vocal variety. The Science of People discovered a direct correlation between vocal variety and Ted Talk views.

Take your virtual meetings to the next level

Now you know what elements to leverage to make your virtual meetings powerful, dynamic and interesting to attendees. Pair these with the features available in Skype for Business to set your virtual meetings apart.

A deeper look at Skype for Business integration with iOS CallKit

As written on blogs.office.com
We recently announced deeper integration of Skype for Business with iOS devices using Apple’s CallKit framework, which enables a better experience for Skype for Business calls on the iPhone. The CallKit API with iOS 10 enables Skype for Business calls to work the same way as the native calling experience on iOS, allowing you to seamlessly extend your personal device as a business phone.

Answer Skype for Business calls from lock screen

Now, iPhone users can accept an incoming Skype for Business call right from the lock screen. There is no need to unlock the phone or launch the Skype for Business app to receive the call. Skype for Business calls will appear and behave just as regular cellular calls do—including being able to see the caller’s name on the lock screen. When you need to, you can also get to the app from the calling interface with just one touch.

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Handle Skype for Business calls like any other call

This integration also allows you to switch between calls across Skype for Business, your personal cellular line and other VoIP applications supporting CallKit. If you are in an important Skype for Business conversation and receive an incoming cellular call, you can send the second call to voicemail or put the Skype for Business call on hold to accept the incoming cellular call. You’ll also see Skype for Business calls in your phone’s call history.

Built-in IT and user controls

These new features are enabled by default for all iOS app users. In scenarios where you may not want the Skype for Business calls to appear in the native iOS call log, the built-in IT and end-user controls allow you to disable the CallKit integration altogether. IT admins can disable this integration for their users through a policy, and app users can also control it in the settings.

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Try the new calling experience

To try the new calling experience, update your iOS app today. If you haven’t yet checked out the Skype for Business mobile app for iOS, you can download it at Skype for Business Apps & Downloads.

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Improving service quality in Skype for Business

As written on Microsoft.com in 2016. Click here for information on moving from Skype for Business to Teams

When Microsoft IT deployed Skype for Business 2015 to support our highly mobile global user base, our goal was to provide the best user experience in the industry. We learned valuable lessons about hardware requirements, managing our complex network, accommodating diverse and remote clients, and running a unified communications platform in a hybrid cloud environment. We also helped develop a Call Quality Dashboard to help other organizations optimize the user experience.

Microsoft is a leader in unified communications—where voice, instant messaging, and conferencing converge to help employees communicate and collaborate effectively from anywhere. In 2011, Microsoft acquired Skype and integrated it into our Lync unified communications solution to create Skype for Business. Skype for Business has a design inspired by Skype and the security, compliance, and control of Lync.

In 2013, Microsoft IT planned to deploy a pre-release version of Skype for Business to the Microsoft global user base. Feedback from these users would help the product team improve the product before public release. To get Skype for Business to work well for our internal users, though, we would need to manage a complex environment. Unified communications is a real-time service that’s sensitive to change, client-to-client or server health anomalies, network latency, packet loss, and jitter.

Also, we knew that our hardware would be insufficient to support peak usage. We knew this because when we upgraded from Lync 2010 to Lync 2013, users experienced poor call quality, dropped calls, and bad connections. In 2014, we had 10 major incidents when as many as 1,000 Lync users were unable to make calls, join meetings, or were disconnected during a call. We determined that the problem was outdated hardware. The Lync 2013 architecture requires more robust hardware than Lync 2010, but we were still running the old servers. Skype for Business has the same architecture as Lync 2013, so without a hardware upgrade, the user experience would be poor, no matter what else we did.

Together with the product team, we launched the Get to Green program in March 2014, with “green” being the desired state of the service as shown in our metrics. Our goal was to make the end-to-end Skype for Business user experience the best in the industry. In addition to upgrading hardware, we needed to address issues arising from incompatible client drivers and hardware and a variety of networking environments. Also, more and more of our users were connecting to Skype for Business using personal devices and personal wireless networks that we don’t manage. We would need to find ways to improve the way our service performs on these unmanaged devices and external networks.

Creating a plan for great service quality

We got together with the product team to plan the Get to Green program. Our goal was to improve the user experience so there would be fewer dropped calls and better voice and video quality. To succeed, we would need to assess the environment and identify areas of opportunity to improve the service.

We would measure our success by using the Global Employee Satisfaction Survey and the Poor Call Rate (PCR). The employee satisfaction survey is administered bi-annually to a cross-section of employees that represent all roles and regions. It gathers their opinions about Microsoft IT services and resources, including their unified communications user experiences. PCR is an objective measure of call quality, based on a mean opinion score (MOS) for packet loss, jitter, concealment ratio, and round-trip times.

Defining problem areas

To plan improvements that would have the most impact, we assessed the service environment and identified the following areas that affect the user experience the most.

  • Our server hardware was outdated. When we upgraded from Lync 2010 to Lync 2013, we used existing hardware. This created problems because Lync 2013 had a new architecture that ran all of the services on each server, rather than running each service on its own server. The old hardware didn’t have sufficient CPU or memory to handle peak load with the new architecture, so users experienced dropped connections and poor service quality. Also, we were running Windows Server 2008 R2, which did not have the performance advantages of Windows Server 2012.
  • Our network environment is complex, and use is changing. Our unified communications service runs on multiple networks, such as PSTN, wireless, and the Microsoft corporate network. Our networks were designed to support mostly hard-wired connections, but users increasingly connect to our unified communications service by using Wi-Fi networks.
  • We had incompatible client versions, drivers, and hardware. Clients using the service include Windows-based PCs, Android and iOS clients, and a variety of mobile devices. Some of these devices had drivers, versions, and hardware that were incompatible with Skype for Business. Also, we had the further issue that users’ personal (BYOD) devices were unmanaged.
  • We have a limited ability to manage remote scenarios. Because Skype for Business is an access-anywhere technology, we only can manage it to the edge of our infrastructure. Yet 50 percent of our users are outside of our data centers. In these cases, we cannot control the environment, but only influence user behavior.
  • We have a mixed environment. At Microsoft, Skype for Business runs on-premises, in the cloud, and on hybrid infrastructure, as shown in Figure 1. On-premises infrastructure creates IT management and support overhead and requires that we use telecommunications providers for voice service. This overhead and complexity doesn’t support our need for great quality and reliability. Also in the on-premises environment, we share infrastructure with other services and can’t manage end-to-end service health. Changes made by other services often affect our service quality.

Identifying areas of opportunity

To improve the user experience, we focused our efforts on improving these areas:

  • Upgrading server hardware and creating redundancy.
  • Improving network performance, particularly Wi-Fi in our buildings.
  • Doing a better job managing a wide variety of devices.
  • Educating users about the best practices and devices to use with Skype for Business.
  • Creating a user feedback loop, so we can quickly identify and correct issues.
  • Eventually moving all of our users to the cloud.

Focusing on the remote user experience

We decided to focus on improving service quality for our most challenging group of users, field sales people. Out of all our users, they’re the most dependent on the Skype for Business service. They don’t have the benefit of our stable corporate network, so their calls are often affected by network anomalies. Field sales users are often not in corporate offices and they rely heavily on unified communications to do their work. They often connect over external wireless networks of variable quality, and are the most affected by quality and reliability issues. We knew that once we got the service working well for them, all of our users would benefit.

The following two tables show the roles that are most affected by service quality, and the percentage of field sales people that are affected by poor PCR, respectively.

Optimizing Skype for Business

Over a period of several months, we made improvements to the server and network infrastructure, client devices, and user support. We’ve also continued migrating more of our user base to the cloud. While we still have a way to go, early results show that our approach is working, and the user experience is improving.

Increasing server capacity and redundancy

For the on-premises deployment of Skype for Business, a key area that we needed to address was server reliability and availability. To improve reliability and availability, we needed to increase server capacity and introduce redundancy to support the Skype for Business architecture. The old hardware we were using had been designed for Lync 2010, which had a distributed architecture where a capability or service runs on a separate server. To increase scalability, the Lync 2013 architecture allows multiple services to run on a single server or across server farms. Capacity can then be increased by adding servers. This architecture boosts the need for server performance, though. More CPU and memory is required to serve peak loads. For redundancy, we would need to add servers.

Skype for Business uses the same architecture as Lync 2013. To increase reliability and performance, we deployed more robust hardware to meet the new requirements. Also, to take advantage of its threading improvements over Microsoft Windows Server 2008, we decided to run the infrastructure on Windows Server 2012 R2 instead. Upgrading to Windows Server 2012 R2 yielded the added benefits of Windows Fabric, which Skype for Business makes extensive use of.

While still running Lync 2013, we upgraded all of our hardware to support the new consolidated architecture, where multiple services run on the same server. We first set up the new hardware infrastructure and then migrated our Lync 2013 servers over to it. This increased server capacity and network bandwidth to support optimal performance at peak load. It eliminated single points of failure and created redundancy to make the service highly available. Once Lync 2013 was up and running on the new hardware, we were able to do an in-place upgrade to Skype for Business.

To do this migration, we started with the backend servers and user pools, and then migrated the front-end servers. We migrated groups of users in a phased manner so that we could monitor and correct issues as we went along. When all users were migrated, we decommissioned the old hardware. After the servers were upgraded, we upgraded the Lync clients to Skype for Business clients.

Improving networking

We needed to ensure that the network could support peak load, which meant upgrading our data center circuits. We also made appropriate firewall settings, provided better DNS infrastructure, and enabled end-to-end Quality of Service (QoS) on the network to prioritize voice and video traffic.

We also needed to account for changes in the way users access unified communications. With Lync 2010, most of our users had hard-wired connections. By the time we were ready to deploy Skype for Business, most of them used wireless connections. The wireless infrastructure in our buildings was creating a huge bottleneck that we had to fix.

We’ve improved our networks and upgraded our unified communications devices to gain better performance and call quality, as follows:

  • To increase the available bandwidth for Skype for Business in our data centers, we moved to dedicated 10 GBps bandwidth through all edge and core routing and network hardware.
  • We enabled network QoS, and configured it to give priority to voice traffic first and video traffic second.
  • We opened the appropriate ports to provide optimal performance.
  • To increase bandwidth and throughput, we upgraded our building Wi-Fi networks globally from 802.11n to the 802.11ac standard and configured them to preferentially select the 5.0 GHz radio band over the 2.4 GHz band. All Microsoft IT-approved devices support the new standard and are slowly replacing incompatible devices.
  • We upgraded all of our managed clients to Microsoft Windows 10, which has improved Wi-Fi drivers.

For details on network planning approaches for Lync Server and Skype for Business Server 2015, see Network Planning, Monitoring, and Troubleshooting with Lync Server.

Improving device management

We developed a Skype for Business tool called the Call Quality Dashboard to help us track down call quality issues. Some of these issues are caused by devices that have incompatible drivers and hardware. The dashboard lets us drill down and identify exactly which devices are causing problems, even personal, unmanaged, devices. We can then work with the users to correct the issues. We’re now able to manage all of our devices better. The Call Quality Dashboard is discussed in more detail later, in Monitoring service health.

Moving to the cloud

We’re gradually moving our users to the cloud-based Office 365 Enterprise E5 service, which includes Skype for Business. By 2017, we plan to move 90 percent of our users to this service (keeping some users on-premises so we can continue to support our on-premises server product). This will resolve many of our current reliability and availability issues. It will also reduce the cost of supporting unified communications.

    • Reliability gains. Our on-premises environment is shared with other systems. Some of our reliability problems are caused by changes made for other network-based services and technologies that affect our Skype for Business and Lync servers. Changes to networking, routing, ACLs, hardware, load balancing, firewall, GPO, and Active Directory changes can all affect the service. Having our service entirely in the dedicated cloud environment managed by Azure will eliminate these issues.
    • Cost savings. Moving to the cloud eliminates the need to support servers in a data center or to support networking. Plus, no in-house expertise is needed to manage this complex infrastructure. The E5 service provides PSTN conferencing and voice calling, so we will eliminate the cost of telecommunications service providers.

We’re migrating our users in steps. Within the United States, we’ve moved almost all of our users to the Office 365 Enterprise E5 service. To support our customers outside the United States, we still use the Skype for Business 2015 on premises solution. This is because, until recently, Office 365 Enterprise E5 was available only in North America. Now the service is expanding globally, and we plan to move all of our international users to it by 2017. We’ll do this in stages as the service becomes available in different parts of the world. As we gradually migrate our international users, we’ll be able to eliminate the on-premises infrastructure in other countries/regions and data centers.

In the meantime, some of our users are hosted on a cloud server, but still have on-premises voice service provided by a telecommunications company. Ultimately, when we move everyone to Office 365 Enterprise E5, we will no longer need the external telecommunications provider, but will receive all of our communications services through Office 365 Enterprise E5.

Creating a feedback loop with users

Telemetry doesn’t tell the entire story. We also collect and prioritize user feedback to reveal blind spots and drive improvements to the product and service. The Global Employee Satisfaction Survey—our main mechanism for listening to users—tells us where we need to improve. In addition, we’ve created an internal SharePoint site called Skype@Microsoft (shown in Figure 3) that gives users ways to send us feedback and requests. It’s the starting point for everything to do with using Skype for Business: community engagement, information, self-service tools, and alerts.

We also gather data from a questionnaire that pops up when a user finishes a Skype call. It lets us know about call quality issues. We view the data in our Call Quality Dashboard, described later.

Helping users help themselves

We depend on our users to make good technology choices. Using the right kinds of devices, peripherals, and Wi-Fi networks with Skype for Business improves their experience. Our Skype@Microsoft SharePoint site gives users help on using Skype for Business, including guidance on technology selection and self-service tools to help them assess how well their client is working. We recommend that they select from a list of peripheral devices that we certified for Skype for Business. The certification process ensures that the devices work well. For the list, see Phones and devices for Skype for Business. We also provide instructional videos.

For our field sales sellers, our most challenging user group, we’ve also developed an outreach program that includes training on tools, tips, and best practices to get the best Skype for Business user experience. These are summarized in the following figure.

Monitoring service health

We use a number of tools to continuously monitor service health, so that we can correct issues that might interfere with a good user experience.

Call Quality Dashboard

To help us diagnose network infrastructure issues affecting call quality, we developed the Call Quality Dashboard, which is included with Skype for Business Server 2015. For each phone call, it shows the type of call (wired or wireless, internal or external) and provides a measure of call quality. It uses PCR as a key performance indicator and rates calls from 1 to 4 based on packet loss and jitter. We also developed the Call Quality Methodology to use with the dashboard data. It provides a step-by-step approach to improving call quality. This has helped us to speed up our investigations and quickly resolve issues.

Using the dashboard, Microsoft IT managers drill down into the metrics—even to the individual call—to ensure that we’re delivering the best user experience at each location or building. We look at the following information:

  • Service health. For both wired and Wi-Fi network infrastructure—both internal and external—we look at PCR to see how healthy the service is. For server-to-client or client-to-client call streams, it provides MOS score for packet loss, jitter, ratio conceal, and round-trip times.
  • Client health. For each client device, we look at information about hardware, settings, client version, wireless driver, and peripheral devices, such as headsets and speakerphones. It also shows us whether a particular device complies with our current standards.

We use this data along with the Call Quality Methodology to drive improvements across Microsoft, and so far have reduced PCR from 8 percent to less than 2 percent. We’re training IT managers to use the tools to drive improvements in their buildings by correcting issues with underperforming devices, incompatible drivers and client versions, and insufficient network bandwidth.

Performing site investigations

Our IT site managers perform site investigations by drilling down into Call Quality Dashboard data to uncover the source of issues. Once they know the source, they can remediate it. The following screen capture shows a top-level view of the data for one of our buildings. The yellow trend lines in the graphs represent the PCR rates on wired and Wi-Fi networks and by day of week. In this case, they’re all trending down, which means the service is getting healthier. The red sections in the graphs represent calls with a PCR that’s higher than the target desirable state. We drill down for more detail, such as the type of calls involved, the network device drivers being used, the wireless hotspot in use, the wireless channel, and so forth. The user ratings that we capture on call quality are also included in the dashboard.

System Center Operations Manager

We use the management pack for Skype for Business Server 2015 to monitor our servers and get alerts on issues, such as when Skype for Business processes exceed a defined performance threshold.

Key Health Indicators

We use the following Key Health Indicator (KHI) performance counters to get metrics about server health: CPU and memory utilization, and TCP transmit time. Along with other resources, you can download the KHI Guide that outlines the methodology that we use to measure KHIs on servers and our environment.

Network tools

We use tools such as the policy assurance manager tool in HP Network Automation to ensure that routers and switches in the data centers are running a compliant configuration and to ensure QoS is enabled end to end. We can also determine where we need to provide additional capacity to achieve availability and reliability for the network and server infrastructure. We use another internal tool to ensure all the network devices are running the gold code and that they’re meeting our capacity and compliance standards.

We also use tools such as Unify Square PowerMon to measure quality during synthetic transactions. We set up probes and test accounts in data centers.

Measuring success

While we’re continually improving, we’re already seeing improvements in the user experience and also enjoying cost benefits:

  • The PCR was reduced to 1.73 percent from 8 percent, mostly due to network improvements and improved Windows 10 Wi-Fi drivers.
  • The Global Employee Satisfaction Survey—our main mechanism for listening to users—showed double-digit improvements in user satisfaction. Users have already reported improvements in availability, reliability, and performance. We’ve turned a corner in terms of understanding the key satisfaction drivers for users, and for the last two quarters we’ve made gains in driving service improvement.
  • We have double-digit increases in employee satisfaction, with an average 18-point increase in user satisfaction across audio, video, IM, meetings, and sharing.
  • We’re saving about $132,000 per day by reducing the cost of using the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and third-party conferencing services, thanks to migrating our users to the Enterprise Voice features of Skype for Business.
  • With more than 127,000 of our users enabled for Enterprise Voice, we’ve been able to decommission 70 percent of our old PBX equipment, saving more than $4.03 million over the last six years.
  • Over time, we expect savings to increase. As we move more users to Skype for Business in the cloud, our datacenter infrastructure needs will decrease, and we will eliminate the cost of telephone carriers completely, which will reduce overall costs significantly.
  • We’re also looking forward to further improvements from new Skype for Business features in coming months, like Keynote for Enterprise Connect, translation services, and better conferencing solutions.

Best practices for a great user experience

Use these best practices to improve the user experience with Skype for Business in your organization.

Provide sufficient capacity and bandwidth

Make sure that server capacity and network bandwidth support optimal performance at peak load. Use redundant systems to make sure that the service is highly available. Enable networking QoS, and open the recommended ports for optimal performance. To ensure your infrastructure supports the best possible service, be sure to follow the capacity planning guidelines for Skype for Business.

Put the right tools in your toolbox

Acquire and set up the tools discussed in this paper so you can monitor and manage Skype for Business service quality.

Move to the cloud

To gain performance and feature benefits, plan to move your Skype for Business users to the cloud—Office 365 Enterprise E5. Not only will it cost less, but it will increase your unified communications capabilities. Also, users like the Skype for Business client. Our Microsoft users are much happier with it.

If you haven’t already deployed a unified communications service, you can start offering a 100-percent, cloud-based service through Office 365 Enterprise E5. Not only will you avoid needing to support the infrastructure, but you’ll no longer have to pay telecommunications providers for telephone services. Rather, your users can connect to the Internet using Skype for Business, and Microsoft Azure will route telephone calls for them. This can represent a large savings for your organizations.

Listen to your users

Take these steps to ensure a great user experience:

  • Understand use cases. Build personas and scenarios. Understand a “day in the life” of each group of users.
  • Listen to your users. Create dedicated listening systems.
  • Collect and prioritize feedback and use it to improve your service.

Help your users get good results

Make sure that users are empowered with tools and training to get the best possible Skype for Business experience. There are many situations that users can manage better than IT can. Help your users help themselves by giving them guidance and the right tools. Provide real-time notification of incidents and self-service workarounds. Make information on best practices easy to find.

Ensure client health before a meeting starts

Provide tools to ensure that the client is as healthy as possible before a user joins a meeting.

Use the recommended home router and best practices guide

For remote users, provide guidance for selecting and configuring a home router. Have a list of recommended Wi Fi routers. Use diagnostic tools to make sure the home Wi-Fi network is performing well.

Use approved headsets and peripherals

Recommend Skype-certified headsets and peripherals to ensure the best possible experience for your meetings. The certification process ensures that peripherals work well.

About Managed Solution

We're technology enthusiasts with a people-first approach. For over two decades, we've witnessed the profound impact that the right technology and support can have on businesses and individuals. Success, to us, is seeing our clients, partners, and team conquer challenges to achieve their greatest goals and build lasting connections. This relentless pursuit of inspiration drives us forward, pushing us to deliver innovative solutions that empower growth and lasting success.

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ms-skype-for-business-macFirst step to the all new Skype for Business for Mac

We are excited to announce the start of the Skype for Business Mac Public Preview. Commercial customers can request an invite to test the Mac client at www.SkypePreview.com. We’ll start by issuing invites to IT administrators to download the client and gradually expand the preview to everyone in the coming weeks.
The preview will release in three cumulative stages leading to public availability, planned for the third quarter of 2016. Today’s initial release lets you see and join your meetings. Let’s take a look at the functionality rolling out today and what’s coming in the future.
Preview phase one—Once you sign in, you’ll see your meetings for today and tomorrow, based on your Outlook calendar, displayed in the Skype for Business client.

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Join any meeting with just one click and enjoy full screen video, content viewing, in-meeting chat and the ability to invite others to the meeting.
Preview phase two—We’ll be adding instant messaging, presence and contacts in the next preview release coming in early summer. You can continue to use Lync for Mac 2011 side-by-side with Skype for Mac Preview, giving you continued access to messaging and voice features.
Preview phase three—We will add telephony and related features later in the summer.

What to expect at the Skype for Business Preview site

To get started, IT administrators can sign up their organization by visiting the Skype for Business Preview site. Each day, we will issue invitations to IT administrators, with the goal of extending invitations to everyone in the coming weeks. Once an IT administrator downloads the preview client, they can manage its distribution to end users within their organization.
To learn more and see the new experiences in action, watch this demonstration of the Skype for Business Mac Public Preview.

Tell us what you think!
Your feedback will help ensure we deliver the best client experience in the final product. You can submit your feedback directly in the client by clicking Report an Issue or via Skype for Business Mac Preview feedback.
Visit www.SkypePreview.com to sign up or to check your status.

 

A teacher’s journey with Skype in the Classroom

By Iro Stefopoulou as written on blogs.skype.com

The start of an inspiring adventure

In August 2013, while all my friends were enjoying the sea and the sun in Greece, I was spending the summer holidays in my new apartment getting ready for the next school year, trying to find new resources and ideas that would attract my students’ interest and motivate them. It was that summer that I discovered Skype in the Classroom. I immediately knew that I had struck gold and that this community would be life changing for my students and me as a teacher.

I started exploring the possibilities and was like a kid on Christmas day: Skype lessons, guest speakers, virtual field trips to places around the world and classroom projects and collaborations. What would that mean for my learners? How would it influence their learning experience? Could it transform the way students perceive the world? Would my students feel that they are part of a global learning community?

Going back to school that year, I was super excited about my new discovery that could virtually break down the walls of my classroom. I had searched the Skype in the Classroom lessons for days to decide where to begin, and settled on the Night Zookeeper’s lesson. I scheduled a Skype call to meet the person who would deliver the lesson and chatted with him for a while. I now feel really proud to call Paul Hutson the Night Zookeeper my friend as what he did for me and my students was unique, unforgettable and the stepping stone for what followed next.

During the rest of 2013, I used Skype every week. I started participating in global projects with my classes, making use of Skype in the Classroom to create a global environment for my students. At the end of that school year it was clear that my students had started thinking beyond the walls of our classroom and every connection or project they participated in was turning them into thinkers, leaders and doers. The borders of our small town seemed non-existent as we communicated in real time with schoolchildren from all over the world, doing various activities and projects together. Not only did my pupils practice their English (Greek is our first language), they also became citizens of the world, and learn about facts and problems concerning other communities, the natural world, traditions, customs and so much more.

Becoming a Skype Master Teacher

Throughout that first school year of using Skype in my classroom, I met countless teachers who have become friends and mentors. One of them, Dyane Smorokowski encouraged me to apply to become a Skype Master Teacher. I had no idea what it meant at the time but I decided to apply because I had a passion for global learning and the vision for providing my classroom with more opportunities.

Becoming a Skype Master Teacher, and joining this amazing group of innovative and game-changing educator pioneers, has allowed me to develop as a person and as an educator. It gave me to opportunity to collaborate with teachers from around the globe on several global projects that had a great impact on my students’ lives and changed their perspective and understanding of the world. I also started sharing best practices with other educators at conferences and delivering online professional development courses through Skype.

After joining this program, in addition to feeling excited and proud to be part of this amazing group of teachers from all around the globe, I felt that I belonged to a family. I can proudly say that I belong to a family of like-minded educators with whom I can share ideas, best practices, collaborate on projects and help each other when needed.

Join the Skype Master Teacher Program

We are really excited to announce that the Skype Master Teacher Program is opening its doors to even more teachers. Teachers who have been selected as Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEEs) can complete their self-nomination to join this program. MIE Experts are teachers work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education. They advocate and share their thoughts on the effective use of technology in education with peers and policy makers, provide insight for Microsoft on new products and tools for education, and exchange best practices as they work together to promote innovation in teaching and learning. The self-nominations are open until September 15th.

What other Skype Master Teachers say about the SMT Program

“The Skype Master Teacher Program is special to me because it is about people who empower and impassion me. If I have an idea that I want to try or a project that I’m experimenting with, I know I can count on my SMT tribe to give me input or jump in with me. They are the risk-takers and change makers who make me a better teacher, and help me grow stronger as an educator.” – Gina Ruffcorn, MIEE, Skype Master Teacher, Iowa, USA

“I love being part of the SMT Program because it connects me with an amazing group of passionate educators who inspire me constantly.” – Steve Auslander, MIEE, Skype Master Teacher, Indianapolis, USA

“Being a part of the Skype Master Teacher Program has definitely made me a better teacher. This is a group of inspiring, innovative and supportive educators who are doing game-changing things for kids. Skype Master Teachers dream big for kids, and support each other to make dreams and ideas, big or small, a reality.” – Stacey Ryan, MIEE, Skype Master Teacher, Kansas, USA

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How play can make you more innovative and productive at work

By Vanessa Ho as written on news.microsoft.com
At first glance, the MIT programmers may have looked like just a bunch of gamers goofing off, as they fired spaceship torpedoes in a video game they built.
But more than 50 years later, their 1960s game “Spacewar” has become a milestone in the development of computers, with its then-radical idea of using a controller to manipulate an icon in a graphical interface.
“Shooting your opponent in space may have looked like a waste of time or just a playful activity, but it led to a powerful piece of software that changed the history of computing,” says Steven Johnson, author of several books on innovation that have landed on the New York Times best-sellers list.
Johnson’s latest book, “Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World,” continues his study of human creativity by exploring how having fun can lead to revolutionary ideas. Leading up to the book’s launch in November, Johnson is also hosting a 10-part podcast series in partnership with Microsoft.
The series, which began Monday, investigates the link between play and creativity and includes such guests as Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand and The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross. The first episode tells the story of computer pioneer Charles Babbage encountering a mechanical doll as a young child, a playful moment that sparked his brilliant career as an inventor.
“I started to reflect on how many important ideas in history initially came out of people playing around with things for the fun of it, or exploring new experiences for a sense of wonder and delight and amusement,” says Johnson. His books include “Everything Bad is Good for You,” “Where Good Ideas Come From” and “How We Got to Now,” which was also an Emmy-winning TV series that Johnson co-created and hosted.
“Wonderland” covers a range of subjects, from the spice trade and shopping to public spaces and games, with fascinating, detailed examples. In a chapter on musical instruments, Johnson highlights a ninth-century flute toy from Baghdad that played different songs through interchangeable cylinders, showing how it was both entertaining curio and pioneering invention.
“It was the first time anybody dreamed of the idea of a programmable machine. It’s really the first moment in history where the difference between hardware and software suddenly became imaginable,” he says. The idea of programmability later enriched computational devices in the 19th century and became a bedrock computing principle in the 20th century.
“It’s an example of an incredibly important idea that began in play, in song and music and amusement,” Johnson says. “Play is a very profound predictor of future developments.”
But for today’s organizations, integrating time for play can be a tradeoff between deadlines and deliverables. A recent survey by Johnson and Microsoft found that 70 percent of U.S. employees feel more energized and productive when they have time to “play” at work, yet only 31 percent say their organizations encourage this time during the work day.
Johnson says businesses can incorporate play by creating lively work environments, encouraging fun and recognizing the importance of hobbies outside of work. Some companies also set aside time for employees to share non-job interests, which might include music, art or volunteer work.
“It’s emotionally interesting and builds team camaraderie,” says Johnson. “It’s also often that an outside idea sparks a new thought. If you’re focused on a problem exclusively within the terms of that problem, it’s very hard to break out of that mindset.”

Play is a very profound predictor of future developments.

A workspace’s physical features also affect creativity, and many companies – startups and tech organizations in particular – have incorporated games and cool hangouts that foster a playful atmosphere.
“There’s a reason to have a pool table and a fun, coffee-shop-like environment, instead of a bunch of conference rooms and cubicles. They’re not just perks; they make people more creative and innovative,” Johnson says. They also spark what he calls “serendipitous connections.”
For Microsoft, the concept of play is embedded in the company’s culture, from the annual //oneweek Hackathon event — a celebration of employee innovation — to an ethos that encourages employees to “bring their ‘whole selves’ to work,” says Dona Sarkar, who leads the community for Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program.
A few weeks ago, funny discussions about togas and lightsabers helped her bond with her partner marketing team, whom she discovered has always embraced individual interests from silly to serious. Using the interests for goodwill and good ideas, the team’s friendly dynamic enables risk-taking and creativity, while personal passions have led to important projects.
One team member, Ursula Hildenbrand, mentioned her volunteer work with elderly people, prompting Windows Insider marketing lead, Jeremiah Marble, and the team to launch a program that teaches technology to senior citizens with help from high school students.

image: https://ncmedia.azureedge.net/ncmedia/2016/08/msft-togas-03-HR.jpg

The Windows Insider Community team has fun with togas and lightsabers. The team includes (from left) Joe Camp, Cheryl Sanders, Blair Glennon, Tyler Ahn, Dona Sarkar, Derek Haynes, Thomas Trembly, Manik Rane (kneeling), Ursula Hildenbrand, Joan Steelquist and Seth Rubinstein. (Photo by Dan DeLong).
“When we bring our whole selves to work, we’re able to solve problems for bigger groups of customers,” says Sarkar. “When you introduce humor and levity, it breaks up boundaries between people. It helps co-workers become friends. You can bring up all these creative ideas, and we can riff on them and make them even better.”
As a veteran engineer and manager, Sarkar has always encouraged her teams to leave the office and work together in a coffee shop, park or mall. She often bonds with co-workers while traveling for work and says a few hours with colleagues away from the normal grind can help people open up — and ultimately be more creative.
“When you remove yourself from the office, you stop being ‘Office Person’ and you start being the human being that you are,” Sarkar says.
The advice echoes Johnson’s and Microsoft’s research, which found that more than half of employees reported that their new ideas are triggered while hanging out with friends, doing something playful or even taking a shower — anywhere, it seemed, but at work.
“Sometimes, the best ideas come from stepping away from the problem you’re working on and entering that more playful state,” Johnson says. “And letting your mind explore a more experimental mode.”

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