Tuesday, March 10, 2015

TPID Blog’s Top 10 Community tools for Lync and S4B

One of the great benefits to administrators, and users alike,  of the platform that is Lync Server (now known as Skype for Business) is the ability to "extend" said management and user experiences in ways that the original developers could probably only imagine.

A smart, dedicated, and tireless community has risen up around the Lync/S4B  ecosystem and has "delivered the goods" in many many ways. From user experience , to server maintenance and deployment, these tools help everyone of us get the most out of our  Lync Deployments.

So, with apologies to David Letterman , I would like to present my personal "TOP 10" list of 100% free , community  built extensions , scripts  and resources. I use most of these tools on a regular basis ( some I use every day) , and couldn't  imagine doing my job without them.

10) Number ten on my list is New-LyncMeetingWarmup – by Greig Sheridan  over at greiginsydney.com Greig promises “low-fat  and no genetically modified ingredients” in his ‘recipes” and he delivers!. This must have script automates a process outlined by Drago Totev in his LyncLog Blog that deals with slow meeting joins. While this might not be as pressing an issue as it once was, Greig and Drago have combined to provide a simple way of automating , understanding and dealing with this behavior that affects both users and guests joining Lync meetings.

9) Deploying and maintaining PSTN gateways is a necessary  and  sometimes time consuming process. Vic Jaswal's   Powershell Module for Sonus SBC1k/2k combines Powershell with Sonus’ REST api to provide near CLI access to my favorite SIP gateway. There are CMDLETS to create query and manage and provision transformations tables and entries , or even query any aspect of your SBC 1K/2K. While this is not a Manufacturer’s  “official” PoSH module, it works as expected, and is awesome if you have to manage 1 or 100 Sonus SBC1k2K

8) As we all know,  there are other manufacturers of SIP/PSTN gateways and they need support as well. My colleague Jonathan Mckinney, is up next with his script to backup Audiocodes Mediant and Mediapacks. His PowerShell script is now “JonMck approved” to work with gateways up to version 6.6 6.8 . If you have to manage an Audiocodes centric deployment, this script is a lifesaver.

7) Shifting gears from Powershell, my colleague Richard Brynteson teamed up  Michael LeMontage to created the Lync Validator website. These guys were unhappy with the  Microsoft Lync Planning tool,   so they built their own and shared it with the world! Simply sign in with your Microsoft account , and you can upload an existing TBXML file or create a new one. Once your topology is completed, it is validated ( get it?) against best practices. You can then generate reports for firewall rules , certificates or even generate DNS config scripts. As if that wasn’t enough you can then generate a word doc to output and document your design. Awesome tool,   Thanks guys! 

6) Creating complex dialing rules can be nirvana to some and hell on earth to others. If find yourself in the latter category, check out the Lync optimizer website  , provided as a free service by Ken Lasko , aka “the hoff” .Simply Input your NPA and NXX ( or country code and  region code  for non NANP users) and the optimizer will generate a complete dialplan as .ps1 that you can deploy or simply the raw Regex. I generally tend to opt for the raw regex rules and paste those in my rulesets, but if you have complex needs , or simply want to learn how put together a concise  dialplan, or configure extension dialing , premium number blocking or Location based routing, you simply cannot go wrong with this tool. Ken has  done an amazing job of collating freely available  information and turning it into a free consumable service for everyone. Just like lyncvalidator , you will need a Microsoft ID to use his site.

5) Shifting gears to client side enhancements , the next tool I use almost everyday is called Lync Select dial by Matt Landis, another UC Rockstar. It’s not very fancy , but this tool accurately illustrates the “art of the possible” with Lync/S4b.  Lync Select dial is so ubiquitous , it’s a wonder why its not embedded in the client. Simply highlight a phone number ANYWHERE in ANY app or web page and press a hotkey to have that number automatically dialed by  your client.  Simplicity at its finest!

4)  Matt gets his second listing in the top 10 with the next application. The who can federate tool. It  has been said that a computer network is only as good as the number of connected nodes it has , and your personal Lync “social” network is no exception. Use this application to scan your contacts to find out who has Lync federation enabled. There is also the ability to submit found domains to the Lync Federation Directory project  which should also get an honorable mention in my list as it clearly shows the power and reach of Lync/Sfb.  It is important to note that you do not need Lync/S4b to use this tool. It simply queries DNS using the domains listed in your Outlook contacts. This can be a great sales tool to show potential customers who they could communicate with if they had Lync.

3) Anyone who knows me , knows that automation , especially documentation automation is a top concern of mine.  Chris Cook over at EmptyMessage.com,  obviously feels the same way. but unlike me , he has done something about it.  Chris has combined these two passions ( it could also be a hatred for documentation as well, I guess!)  to  create the  Lync Environment Report Builder. This tool consists of multiple scripts. The first queries your deployment to collect information about the servers ( edge included!)  and resources in your topology and creates a ZIP file. This ZIP file is then used as an input file to other scripts to  generate Word , Excel or Visio files that  document your environment. Awesome! A recent update now allows for customized word templates. As an aside, by observing how this script does its job, it helped me solve a world automation issue I was having. Thanks Chris!

2) Speaking of UC Rockstars, I have tweeted this in past and its still true. I don’t know where I would be without Ehloworld’s  amazing Set-Cs2013Features script.  I have watched this script “grow up” before my eyes over the past two years .  Pat’s script downloads , prepares,  and  tweaks your Lync servers and deployment (OWAS Servers included!)  using a simple menu system. An amazing and concise piece of code, this script can reboot and resume itself as needed, reuse downloads from a previous run , and even tweak your taskbar or Lync Server control panel font. Pat’s prolific contribution to the UC Community is well known and appreciated. Pat also co-hosts the UC Architect’s  podcast , another great resource!

1) Whether you deploy Lync , like  I do, or  simply support your company’s Lync deployment, you find yourself logging into and out of many different accounts while testing and troubleshooting.  The #1 community tool for me makes this almost daily task that much easier, thanks to Greig Sheridan.  His  Profiles for Lync client side application allows you sign in and out of as many as 40 different sites!. Administrators can use this  great tool to easily to sign in to test accounts , for example , that are assigned different dial plans or registrars for easy testing. (It sure beats the bank of IP sets I used to have back in the day , but that’s a story for another time!)  Consultants love this tool because we are constantly moving from one autonomous system to another. This tool has been around since Lync 2010 and now supports the latest client , and includes the ability to launch any site from the command line as well. This tool has been a mainstay on my taskbar for many years now , and is one of the first things I install on a new machine. Simply import my settings from Onedrive ( including encrypted passwords!)  and I am good to go. Talk about a lifesaver! 

Well there you have it. My personal TOP 10 FREE tools.

Reminder. Please be a good netizen and contribute to those projects that offer it, and if you see any of these top contributors at the ignite conference or your local  users group meeting , drop them a note , buy them a beverage of their choice, or just say a big THANKS! ( Better yet , do all three!) These folks help make Microsoft UC the industry Leader that it is.

Also , this is list is far from complete, as I could easily come up with a top 100 list of great free resources. Look for a 2nd installment ( at least)  of “TPID’s top 10” in the near future, and remember , if you use these tools in your projects, or day to day tasks,  be sure to  acknowledge the original author(s).

Lastly,  if you have an idea that you think will make life easier for everyone , try your hand at building it and giving back to the community. Personally, I have few projects that are nearing that point, so I will share and post about them soon, right here at TPID blog!

No comments:

Post a Comment