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How to optimize Skype for Business user experience?


How to optimize Skype for Business user experience?
 
Skype for Business is popular but complex product which has multiple features, which help enterprise users to communicate and collaborate effectively from anywhere. To get Skype for Business to work correctly for internal and external users, is complex task as we are dealing with vast product. The server and network infrastructure, client devices (corporate and personal devices), and user training / support are the major areas. Skype for Business has consolidated architecture, where multiple services run on the same server in fact multiple role on same server.
 
Now days more and more of enterprise users were connecting to Skype for Business using personal devices and personal wireless networks that we don’t manage or not control on it. However, we would need to find ways to improve the way our service performs on these unmanaged devices over unmanaged network. This article will put lights areas which directly impact Skype for Business user performance.
 
Recently, I was working with customer for sizing the server resources, who has 1000 users, in generally we assume that connection to server will be 1000 corporate laptop/desktop and 1000 handheld devices. However in reality handheld device count was over 2500 means each user using two or more handheld devices other than their corporate laptop/desktop. So, these devices will use server resources, where multiple services running on same server, hence while sizing the server resources, you must allocate additional resource to support peak loads of services.
 
Below are the key areas which directly impact Skype for Business user performance.
  1. Server Infrastructure for On-prem deployment:
    Skype for Business is like any another application which host on physical hardware or virtual machine. The way client connects to these servers for all services, we must provision server resources that would sufficient to support peak usage otherwise, users experienced poor call quality, dropped calls, conference join disconnects and bad connections. users experienced dropped connections and poor service quality so make sure that your Skype for Business server not hosted on outdated hardware. 
    Note: Microsoft doesn’t support mixed platform like, when you deploy some servers on physically hardware and rest of virtual machine.
    Do below:
    1. Assign sufficient CPU and memory resources to Skype for Business Front and edge server.
    2. If use VM then have dedicated Hyper-V Host and cluster for Skype for Business/Lync Server.
    3. Add faster storage which improve I/O issues.
    4. Use dedicated NIC for better performance.
       
  2. Server infrastructure reliability and availability:
    In case you have good Server infrastructure however your server availability is poor due to lack of backup/DR, power outage, back end not available etc.
    Then having good server (Hardware or VM) infrastructure doesn’t help. To improve reliability and availability, you needed to increase server capacity and introduce redundancy to support the Skype for Business architecture.
  1. Add more server (Hardware or VM) for redundancy.
  2. Increase Server capacity adding More CPU and memory, which is required to serve peak loads and multiple devices.
  3. Plan for backup site (DR) and configure failover scenarios.
  4. Plan for backup network connectivity and power backup, it will be eliminating single point of failure and created redundancy to make the service highly available.
     
3. In-place Upgrade to Skype for Business:

If you are doing In-place upgrade from Lync Server 2013 to Skype for Business 2015, In-place allows you to preserve your existing hardware however you may re-check your existing Lync2013 hardware and increase server capacity to support optimal performance at peak load before in-place upgrade to Skype for Business Server. Use inside out approach while upgrading, like FE> FE with CMS > Mediation> Director > Edge.
 
4. Network Improvement:

Network is complex term, As Skype for Business services runs on all kind of networks, such as LAN (corporate), WAN, Wireless, Wired, LTE, Internet (Home / Hotel) etc. so improving network is quite important in optimize user experience.
  1. Check bandwidth usage on your data center circuit and upgrade, if over utilization.
  2. Skype for Business 2015 / Lync 2013 works very well over Wi-Fi. Improving your wireless infrastructure is very important. Also, check Access Point coverage and add more AP’s for good coverage of Wi-Fi access.
  3. Enabled end-to-end Quality of Service (QoS) on the network to prioritize voice and video traffic.
  4. Check your network devices, like switches, routers and allow to honor/trust QoS tagging. Also, verify with your WAN provider to honor tagging. 
  5. Implement split tunnel for VPN to minimize overhead and latency for media traffic over VPN tunnel.
  6. Open all recommended and require Ports or port ranges to provide optimal performance.
     
5. Update client version, device drivers and hardware:

Skype for Business 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.
  1. Identify exactly which devices are causing problems, even personal, unmanaged, devices using monitoring dashboard.
  2. Replace faulty devices, update device drivers.
  3. Educate users on personal (BYOD) devices were unmanaged.
     
6. Remote worker experience: Remote worker are the most challenging group of users, field sales people out of all your users. Remote worker is the most dependent on the Skype for Business service. They don’t have the benefit of your stable/managed corporate network, so their calls are often affected by network anomalies. Skype for Business is an access-anywhere technology, so you are not dealing managed devices but also you are dealing unmanaged devices. In these cases, we cannot control the environment, but only influence user behavior.

  1. Allow all require ports on external firewall.
  2. Create and manage external access policies.
  3. Think for hosting remote worker in to cloud (Office 365), which runs smoothly. if your organization permits.
  4. Explain remote worker on, how to join conferences using Skype for Business /Lync Web App because they are mostly hosting meeting external users.
  5. Provide approved headset to receive better voice quality.
  6. Guide remote worker on when to join meeting using Skype for Business client and when to dial-in to meeting.
  7. Create all required DNS record and allow require port on your external firewall to work federation correctly
     
7. User Training / Education:

Educating users about the best practices and devices to use with Skype for Business is one of most important area.
  1. Educate users to use Microsoft approved USB devices to get better quality.
  2. Always use headset instead of default speaker/mic.
  3. Dial in to meeting, when have unreliable network conditions.
  4. Do not use VPN for accessing Skype for Business. Skype for Business / Lync works better without VPN. (Assuming that, you have deployed Edge server for remote access).
     
8. Best practices:

  1. Audit QoS policies every 3 month to minimize any user errors.
  2. Optimize media path, allowing peer to peer media traffic and media bypass on PSTN gateway.
  3. Deploy Call Quality Dashboard to help us track down call quality issues. In case Lync 2013 then deploy monitoring to track down call quality issues.
  4. Deploy System Center Operations Manager to monitor your server and get alerts on issues.
  5. Host your sales organization users to cloud instead of on-premises, as it works very well.  This is my opinion.
     
9. Finally, think for Moving to the cloud (Office 365):

You can defiantly think for moving to cloud to gain performance and feature benefits, plan to move your Skype for Business users to the cloud through Office 365 Enterprise E5.
    1. Microsoft Cloud services are cost effective.
    2. Cloud service offering a 100-percent unified communications service through Office 365 Enterprise E5.
    3. Avoid needing to support the infrastructure, manage and maintenance.
    4. Less paper work for billing services: You will 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.
Note: Cloud Telecommunication (PSTN calling) services are not available to all regions, so check with Microsoft before deployment.
Thank you.

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