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Skype For Business is Here!

Skype For Business Begins Rolling Out Publicly Today

April 15, 2015

Microsoft’s “Skype for Business,” which is designed to replace the company’s older enterprise communication tool Lync, is rolling out publicly today as part of the Office 2013 April update, the company announced this morning. It’s also now rolling out Skype for Business Online to its Office 365 customers who currently use Lync Online.

With Skype for Business, enterprise customers will have access to software that greatly resembles Skype’s consumer-facing client application in look-and-feel, but it comes with enterprise-grade security and compliance features that allow an I.T. organization to better administer and control the software’s use internally within an organization. Skype for Business conversations are authenticated through Active Directory and encrypted, and I.T. can manage the company’s user accounts and deployments. The system also inter-operates with company’s PBX systems or legacy video teleconferencing systems, if need be.

In addition, Skype for Business customers are now able to communicate via chat, audio and video both within their own company as well as with any of the over 300 million customers who have a Skype ID using apps that run on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows and web.

The software is also built into Office, making features such as presence, IM, voice and video calls, as well as online meetings a part of the Office experience, Microsoft notes.

It was only a few weeks ago that Microsoft unveiled the technical preview version of this software, so it acknowledges that some customers may still require additional testing time. To that end, it’s allowing admins the ability to switch between Skype for Business and the traditional Lync user interface, Microsoft explains in a blog post this morning detailing the changes. Information on how to continue to use Lync for the time being is also available .

The transition from Lync Online to Skype for Business Online will complete for all customers by the end of May, Microsoft note

See how Skype for Business is changing how you work

How Creative Minds Use Lync

Microsoft Lync connects employees, partners, and customers wherever they are, helping you reduce costs while increasing productivity and responsiveness. Lync delivers a unified communications solution and gives users a consistent experience for presence, IM, voice, and video across PCs, Macs, phones, and browsers.

Check out this great video on how Lync helps businesses connect, collaborate and create

Presentation Products is now a Microsoft Silver Small Business Partner

 July 01, 2014

Presentation Products, Inc. Achieves a Microsoft Silver Small Business Competency

Presentation Products, Inc. earns distinction through demonstrated technology success and customer commitment.

New York City, New York, USA — July, 01, 2014 — Presentation Products, Inc. today announced it has achieved a Silver Microsoft Small Business competency, demonstrating its ability to meet Microsoft Corp. customers’ evolving needs in today’s dynamic business environment. To earn a Microsoft silver competency, partners must successfully demonstrate expertise through rigorous exams, culminating in Microsoft certifications. And to ensure the highest quality of services, Microsoft requires customer references for successful implementation and customer satisfaction.

Presentation Products come to Unified Communications Design & Integration with years of experience as an audiovisual systems integrator specializing in high end technology for the business environment Our recommendations for platforms to consider and technologies to include are always based on your specific goals and needs as the end user of the system. As a Microsoft Silver Business Partner, we are able to support Office 365 and Microsoft Lync Deployments. “This Microsoft Silver Small Business Partner competency showcases our expertise in today’s technology market and demonstrates our knowledge of Microsoft and its products,” said Orin Knopp, CEO “Our plan is to accelerate our customers’ success by serving as technology advisors for their business demands.”

“By achieving a silver competency, organizations have proven their expertise in specific technology areas, placing them among the top 5 percent of Microsoft partners worldwide,” said Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president, Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft Corp. “When customers look for an IT partner to meet their business challenges, choosing a company that has attained Microsoft competencies is a smart move. These are highly qualified professionals with access to Microsoft technical support and product teams.”

Earning the Microsoft Small Business competency demonstrates partner expertise and commitment to deliver solutions tailored to Small Business customer requirements. Given the focus on adoption of Cloud computing by over 50% of SMBs in the near future to drive their business operations, partners that invest in this competency are ready to address the rising customer demand for Microsoft solutions based on Office 365, Windows 8, and Lync.

The Microsoft Partner Network helps partners strengthen their capabilities to showcase leadership in the marketplace on the latest technology, to better serve customers and to easily connect with one of the most active, diverse networks in the world.

As a full service design build firm, Presentation Products has been the leading provider of turn-key audiovisual solutions in the tri-state area for over 20 years. Headquartered in New York City, the staff of more than 40 professionals provide audio visual integration services ranging from design and engineering, project management and installation to training and support.

 

For more information, press only:

Brandon Knopp, Presentation Products, marketing@presentationproducts.com

 

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Considerations for Successfully Deploying The Lync Room System

My last post focused on what the Lync Room System is, and is not. Now that we have a basic understanding of what its intended use is, we can discuss a successful end to end implementation of this technology for an interested organization.

Over the last few months, we have had many technology officers come to us wanting to understand more about how a Lync Room System would fit into their overall Unified Communications strategy. From organizations with remote workers looking to more easily connect outside of the office, to global corporations and institutions with multiple campuses who are in need of a more seamless distance collaboration experience, all of these interested groups are looking for ways to build meeting spaces and communication infrastructure that keeps better pace with the demands and opportunities of the 21st century workplace. As an audiovisual technology integrator, this is where we come in to help clients successfully deploy and adopt a new technology.

In the case of the Lync Room System, a good first step for many of our clients has been to launch a Pilot or Proof of Concept test in order to evaluate the solution and determine its worth to the organization. This approach is only going to be worthwhile however, if all aspects of the integration are taken into account. Successfully deploying the Lync Room System requires an understanding of both the unit as a standalone technology as well as its ability to join the network and connect users without ugly delays and difficulties. The experience needs to be optimized not only for the participants in the meeting room, but also for remote attendees joining in virtually. Whether you are implementing a recently purchased product or are carrying out a Proof of Concept test, here are some Pre and Post Installation tips to consider when deploying a Lync Room System.

Lync-room

Pre-Installation Considerations

The Network
Just as with any other new technology deployment, a network readiness assessment should be carried out before making any moves to install new components.  Lync 2013 and the Lync Room System offers a tremendous meeting room experience delivering HD video, conference room audio and real time voice and data collaboration, but it is imperative that the solution’s demands on your network infrastructure are taken into account.  Lack of network resources can result in poor performance and will detract from the overall user experience.  There are several ways to ensure your network is ready for a new Room System.  Microsoft has tools and bandwidth calculators that can be used by experienced and qualified in-house staff to measure capacities, or experienced UC Deployment Partners can be engaged to ensure the environment is ready upfront.

The Space
Another Pre-Installation consideration is space. When picking the location for the hardware, you have to be aware of how the setting will affect the meeting experience. Factors such as room location within the building or campus, lighting or lack thereof, and potential background noise need to be taken note of and considered deeply. Even when deploying a Pilot System, choosing the wrong room will result in poor test results and therefore a wasted opportunity. We’ve seen firsthand Pilots being deployed in unused conference rooms which were chosen for the test without considering the reasons these rooms are underutilized in the first place! Without an appropriate setting, Proof of Concept tests with these systems will be useless. An upfront room survey and walk-through can help identify potential impacts to the quality of the experience and steps that can be taken to create a more optimal meeting room environment.

Post-Installation Considerations

Training
After a system is installed, many organizations are faced with the “now what” moment.  While the room system provides a familiar and intuitive Lync Interface to users, it is still a new technology that will not invite adoption without some training. You want employees in your organization to feel encouraged and inspired by a new technology in the office, rather than intimidated and perplexed.  For both existing and new Lync users, the learning curve on these systems is small, but like any new technology there can be fear in learning and using something different. It’s important to plan for a series of interactive, instructor led training on system usage and best practices for managers and key employees who will be using the Lync Room System.  One of the key benefits of the system is that it replaces the legacies of difficult and hard to use meeting room technologies.  But don’t let this blind you to the benefits of a well-planned and interactive training program. For those in the technology field, it’s easy to assume that everyone will get the ease and simplicity of the system out-of-the-box; more times than not though, this isn’t the case.  It is important to work with employees after the fact so that the average information worker has the confidence to use the system.

Utilizing System Metrics
After the initial adoption training, it is important to implement longer term performance monitoring.  Both SMART and CRESTRON supplied room systems have the ability to provide usage metrics for their Lync Room Systems. Implementing and utilizing these tools provide another way to measure your technology investment. By providing and monitoring this data, organizations can design processes to keep the knowledge base of its users up to date and identify particular rooms or systems that may be underperforming or underutilized, thereby maximizing the overall return on investment in Lync.

All of these factors should be considered both when deciding on a solution and when choosing the right technology integrator for the job. As a design and integration firm with years of experience in system integration for the business environment, Presentation Products offers full service support from consulting to system programming, commissioning, training and maintenance. When you are ready, contact us to learn more about Piloting a system and setting up an initial room survey.

 

The Lync Room System, what it is and is not

The Lync Room System

 

“If only someone would build Lync for a conference room”

The release of Lync 2013 was a landmark moment for Microsoft’s Unified Communications product line. Following the trend of major innovations in UC strategy and technology in the last few years, the 2013 launching has transformed the life of the office worker yet again. With more investment in video and voice collaboration, the new technology allows colleagues to meet virtually from anywhere, with any device. One of the newest related products to utilize the advanced features of Lync 2013 is the Lync Room System, which extends the functionality of Lync into the conference room environment. This new solution brings together the best in Unified Communications and video and data collaboration hardware and software to transform the meeting room into a distance collaboration haven. There is still some confusion however, about where these systems fit within an organization. Read the full article for a comprehensive look at what lync is and what it is not.

 

Lync and Voice NYC Seminar

Join Presentation Products, Inc. and Integration Partners for a two hour seminar designed to cover the technical considerations of integrating Lync 2013 with IP PBX’s and SBC’s/SBA’s. Learn what’s possible, what’s supported and what’s recommended for a variety of integration scenarios. Experience first hand how to maximize ROI for your Lync Platform with expanded Voice and AV functionality and how the SMART Room System can extend Microsoft Lync into the Conference Room.

WHAT: Lync and Voice NYC Seminar: Extend Microsoft Lync

WHEN: 02/26/2014

TIME: (9:00am-11:00am) and (3:00pm-5:00pm)

WHERE: 200 Lexington Avenue, Suite 1115
New York, NY

Register Now

Attend the Lync and Voice NYC Seminar on 02/26/2014 to:

  • Understand the full range of opportunities for rounding out your Lync Platform
  • Experience how the SMART Room System enhances existing Lync deployments by bringing AV functionality into the meeting room
  • Hear a recap of announcements made at the Lync Conference 2014 taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Discuss Unified Communications solutions with CIOs, CTOs, UC Architects and technology integrators all working towards building a reliable, well rounded UC platform with Enterprise Solutions for Microsoft Lync

 

PRESENTATIONS BY:

Kevin McManus– Unified Communications Business Development Manager at Presentation Products.
Mike Fiorina- Lead Solutions Architect for Unified Communications for New England at Integration Partners. Former Microsoft employee.

Partnering together to offer a full service solution for Lync integration and deployment, Presentation Products, Inc. and Integration Partners invite you to this exclusive event for businesses looking to improve the way they communicate. Seating is limited, so please be sure to register early to take full advantage of this informative discussion.

Technical Brief: Lync 2013 Integration with Cisco Video Conferencing using Cisco Infrastructure

 

How do I Integrate Lync 2013 with Cisco VTC?

There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the integration of Microsoft Lync 2013 with Cisco video conferencing systems. This post is intended to provide a general overview of the current Cisco / Lync 2013 interoperability landscape using Cisco infrastructure equipment. Let’s break up the topic into two sections: Signaling and Media.

Signaling – This is the control traffic that facilitates communication between two or more endpoints and allows calls to happen

  • Cisco endpoints such as MX, SX, and C-series codecs use H.323 for signaling and control.
  • Other Cisco Endpoints such as Jabber for desktop or mobile devices use Cisco SIP for signaling and control.
  • Both H.323 and Cisco SIP endpoints register to a VCS-Control gateway. This gateway allows H.323 devices and Cisco SIP devices to talk to each other.
  • Lync 2013 uses a Microsoft implementation of SIP; this is not the same as Cisco’s SIP.  Unfortunately the two protocols cannot natively communicate and therefore a direct call from Lync 2013 to a Cisco endpoint is not possible without a device to “translate” the signaling.
  • The device required to facilitate signaling is a VCS-Control with the Microsoft Interoperability Key; in essence the VCSc is deployed as a Lync Gateway. This VCSc Lync gateway is in addition to the core VCSc gateway mentioned above that your Cisco endpoints register to. The VCSc Lync Gateway communicates with the Lync Server and the core VCSc and the core VCSc in turn communicates with your Cisco endpoints.

Media – This is a separate session from Signaling that allows the media (video) to stream between endpoints.

  • With current Cisco firmware version TC6.3, Cisco endpoints now support H.264SVC for Media.
  • Lync 2013 now also supports H.264SVC, so Cisco endpoints can communicate with Lync 2013 for Media.
  • Note – This is a very simplified take on Media interoperability because there are different versions of H.264AVC/SVC. The basic point is that Lync 2013 and Cisco endpoints can now natively communicate media between devices.  

In summary, the key to “interoperability” between Cisco and Lync 2013 using Cisco infrastructure is to deploy a VCS Control gateway cluster made up of a Core VCSc and a VCS-c Lync Gateway.

Here are some other good things to know as things currently stand:

  • 720p 30fps can be supported in both directions
  • Presentation support can currently only go from Cisco to Lync
  • Lync 2013 users can be viewed on Cisco endpoints through the phonebook if TMS is deployed
  • Calls can be answered in either direction
  • There are certain restrictions on what the Lync Server and the VCSc can report to each other for Presence (i.e. not-available / available for call). If FindMe is deployed on the VCSc Lync gateway, enhanced Presence information is available on the Lync client.
  • Cisco MCUs do not support H.264SVC. In order to facilitate calls between H.264SVC devices and an H.264 MCU, transcoding would have to happen in a gateway (or another device). Details of solutions for this will follow in an upcoming post.

Video conferencing infrastructure and integration with Lync 2013 can be a very complicated topic. The above is intended only as a general overview of the technical concepts. If you have more specific questions about this integration, please feel free to contact us and speak with a consultant about your UC solution.