Globalization touches everyone. To learn from each other so we can work better together, communication and collaboration in real time are essential.

At the Broadclyst School, the staff is strengthening bonds between students across geographies with help from Microsoft Office 365 featuring Skype for Business. Skype’s video-conferencing and group-calling features not only support the school’s curriculum and enhance pupil engagement, they enable parents to participate virtually in school meetings, connecting them with their children’s learning. Everyone benefits.

Managed Solution can help your business build stronger partnerships too. Contact us to find out how.

 

Order in the court: digital justice

By Kirk Arthur as written on enterprise.microsoft.com
From my previous 19 years in law enforcement, I’ve spent a lot of time in courtrooms. When I think about all the courtrooms I’ve seen, they’re more or less the same as they were 200 years ago, except for adding computers and monitors.
Court systems around the world traditionally have run on paper-based processes—and the vast majority still do—yet that’s beginning to change. Judicial systems in the United Kingdom generated a million pages of documents a day before moving to a Microsoft cloud-based digital justice platform. In addition to saving significant costs of producing, transporting and storing large quantities of paper, the best outcome of going digital is the data becomes easily accessible, free from paper silos, and available for analysis and interrogation to find relevant judicial hearings and decisions, case law, legal trends and more. (See more details in my blog on e-justice.)

Digital justice—a trend around the globe

I’m pleased to see digital transformation is a growing trend in courts around the globe—and producing results. After just 12 months, the U.K.’s digital justice platform has reduced more than 18 million paper documents related to 100,000-plus cases involving 18,500 registered users. In addition to moving from paper to a digital environment, courts also are innovating with other modern technologies:

Cybersecurity: the foundation of Microsoft court solutions

Court IT systems and legal records need to be protected from cyber-attacks just the same as court buildings, staff, attorneys, case participants and visitors need physical protection. Microsoft takes cybersecurity very seriously, investing a billion dollars each year to make sure our cloud ecosystem is secure. Our cybersecurity experts in the Digital Crimes Unit and the Cyber Defense Operations Center monitor information to identify real threats, and they also develop tools and techniques to track and catch cybercriminals, and share with law enforcement from around the world.
Microsoft is enabling digital transformation across government priorities while helping to ensure that organizations, such as the courts, have the trust, security and compliance they need for sensitive data. We build security into Microsoft products and services from the start. Here are a few examples:
  • Microsoft Azure is the global, trusted, hyper-scale cloud, providing the most comprehensive compliance coverage of any cloud provider.
  • Office 365, which is widely used by courts for scheduling and communications, provides control over data security and compliance with privacy, transparency and refined user controls built right in. Advanced Security Management also offers enhanced visibility and control.
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM helps manage and visualize the judicial process work flow—one of the biggest workloads for courts.
  • Azure Media Services, which is part of the Buenos Aires solution, delivers content more securely.
It’s exciting to see courts around the world embracing digital transformation to become more efficient, productive and cost-effective while delivering a better experience to citizens.

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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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right-kind-of-meeting-1

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.

improving-skype-4-b-managed-solution

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.

ms-skype-for-business-mac-2

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.

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Skype for Business Extends the Healthcare Experience

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Improve population health with virtual care

Improve care team productivity and expertise, reduce medical errors, and increase real-time care team communications with Skype for Business. Promote provider education to stay current with advancements in medicine and meet continuing medical education requirements. Microsoft has developed solutions to eliminate communication silos to accelerate decision-making.

 

Manage healthcare provider shortages

For more information call 858-429-3000

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Skype for Business from Managed Solution

Microsoft's Skype for Business can improve team communication and performance by extending access and reach of services to more patients across all demographics and geographies. With Skype for Business, Healthcare Facilities can improve population health by virtually caring for and engaging patients in the context of their digital lifestyles and work styles, reduce travel time and distance between affiliated organizations, manage aging population and complex case-mix patients plus much more.
Benefits of using Skype for Business
  • Enterprise-Class meeting recording. Scalable to meet your growing organization’s capacity needs while being highly redundant, secure and economical.
  • Scheduled or on demand. Recording can be initiated both as part of the meeting scheduling process or on demand with simple controls easily accessible within the Skype for Business, Lync or other virtual meeting vendors’ interfaces.
  • Managed content. Users have access to manage their recordings, allowing them to trim, edit thumbnails, and share them easily right from within the communications tool.
  • Integrated with your corporate security framework. This minimizes administration and provides the flexibility to meet your multi-level access control needs.
  • Automatic metadata capture. Highly customizable metadata capture for enhanced search/retrieval as well as audit/compliance of meeting recordings.
  • Automated workflows. Can be created for specific types of meeting recordings with automated disclaimers, mandatory approvals, and security.
  • Easily share meeting content. Can be shared via collaboration platforms, email, websites and social tools while maintaining security.

 

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Marketing agency improves technology, saves $87,000 with cloud-based telephony

For BDSmktg, its field staff is the core of its business, with only a small percentage of employees at headquarters. BDSmktg is using Skype for Business Online in Microsoft Office 365 to knit these two groups more closely together, accelerate business, and save bundles of money. With Skype for Business Online, BDSmktg will save US$87,000 annually in personal phone charge reimbursements, audio conferencing fees, and PBX maintenance, and avoid the need to spend $250,000 on a new PBX system.

Flustered by phones

James Metcalfe never imagined that the most troublesome technology in his company would be the most mundane: phones.
James Metcalfe is Director of IT Network Infrastructure for BDSmktg, an agency that provides retail marketing services for world-class brands by representing their products and services in stores. The Irvine, California¬–based agency provides thousands of representatives each year to some of the biggest names in retail.
James Metcalfe had already outfitted several hundred of the agency’s full-time employees with Microsoft Office 365 to give them anytime, anywhere, any-device access to email, document storage, document sharing, and web conferencing. Employees used the latest PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
But old-fashioned phone communications posed a growing problem. Only a small percentage of BDSmktg employees work at the Irvine headquarters, while thousands work in the field—from home or on the road—because their jobs require that they be near the stores they service.
A significant portion of the company’s large recruiting team and extensive field staff used their personal phones to conduct business, and BDSmktg reimbursed them for the charges. But this was expensive and problematic. When job candidates returned calls to recruiters, they could end up talking to a recruiter’s family member. Or, if recruiters or field operations managers left BDSmktg and went to work for a competitor, they took job candidates’ phone numbers with them.
“There were delays in tracking down phone numbers to reach colleagues, which slowed down the business,” Metcalfe says.
In the Irvine office, the company’s private branch exchange (PBX) system was old, out of date, and hemorrhaging money. “Every time we had budget talks, the PBX system came up, but sticker shock ended the discussion,” Metcalfe says. “The timing was never right to make the large investment to replace or upgrade it.”

One way to connect everyone

In late 2015, BDSmktg asked to be part of a Microsoft early adopter program for a new version of Skype for Business Online (part of Microsoft Office 365) that included significant telephony enhancements. Cloud PBX and PSTN Calling provide software-based PBX functionality with a bank of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone numbers. PSTN Conferencing allows people invited to a Skype for Business Online meeting to join by dialing in over a landline or mobile phone (rather than the Internet).
BDSmktg gave Skype for Business Online to about 300 of its employees, and adoption was instant and enthusiastic. “We’ve been using Lync Online for years, so our staff already had experience with chat, screen share, and video and web conferencing,” Metcalfe says. “Adding PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Calling just makes communications even simpler. With Skype for Business Online, we have one way to connect everyone, wherever they are, whatever device they’re using, and whether they’re connected to the Internet or not.”

More professional, more accountable

Today, BDSmktg employees who work from home have an assigned Skype for Business Online phone number that they use for work calls; no more giving out personal phone numbers. When an employee leaves BDSmktg, there’s no longer the worry that a personal phone number is a contact’s only link to the company. BDSmktg simply reassigns the Skype for Business Online phone number to a new employee, maintaining continuity with client and job candidate communications.
“With PSTN Calling, we can track every inbound and outbound call, see the number called, and the duration of the call,” Metcalfe says. “We have much better accountability around a critical part of our business.”

Work effectively from anywhere

Employees working from home now feel better connected to the company because they can connect quickly with colleagues. “We’re able to provide more seamless communication for our employees who work from home,” Metcalfe says. “People are blown away by the quality of the HD Voice in Skype for Business Online. They don’t want to go back to regular phones.”
BDSmktg management likes the flexibility that the new features provide. “With Skype for Business Online, we have more freedom to place people wherever the business needs them to be, rather than having technology limitation determine employee access,” says Ken Kress, President of BDSmktg.

Huge savings

Management also likes the savings. By using Skype for Business Online for field staff telephony, BDSmktg eliminates the need to reimburse employees for calls made from personal devices—a US$12,000 annual savings.
By replacing the $8,000-a-month licenses from its current conferencing provider with a $1,700-a-month Skype for Business Online subscription, BDSmktg will save $75,000 annually.
And by replacing its physical PBX with Cloud PBX, BDSmktg will avoid a $250,000 replacement cost and ongoing maintenance costs of $35,000 a year.
Last but not least is the real estate cost avoidance that BDSmktg could realize by using Skype for Business Online. “We’ll avoid significant costs to expand our office as our company grows as we enable more people and roles to work from home,” Metcalfe says.

Easy to manage

From Metcalfe’s perspective, having telephony functionality bundled with Office 365 makes his life easier. He eliminates the work and expense of a physical phone infrastructure. It’s far easier to move employees around the office and to move them from office to home. “Scaling up and creating additional phone numbers with PSTN Calling is very straightforward,” Metcalfe says.
There are fewer vendors and bills to manage. More services on user desktops are connected and interoperable, making support easier. “Giving employees new capabilities and saving money is what a successful IT department strives for,” Metcalfe says. “I’ve been championing a new phone system for three years, and to finally find a solution that is affordable, easy to implement, and easy to use is a game changer.”

Next, extend to every field employee

Metcalfe’s vision is for all the company’s thousands of field staff representatives to have access to Skype for Business Online and other Office 365 services. The above-mentioned savings could well make this possible.
“It would be ideal for our field operations managers to easily and instantly connect with the representatives that they manage,” Metcalfe says. “Everyone would have the Skype for Business Online mobile app on their smartphones. As our field programs ramp up and down, we adjust our Office 365 subscriptions as required using a central admin portal. It would make us more nimble, more responsive, and more competitive than ever.”

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