Skype for Business Custom Statuses

When it comes to Skype for Business, there isn’t much left in the client that is open to customization. But one area that is available but hidden are being able to create custom status. So what is a custom Status? Well it’s a status that stands outside of the default choices of Available, Busy, Do Not Disturb, Be Right Back, etc.

The Scenario

For example, in one environment that I’ve worked in, the organization wanted to allow an individual to set a status of In a Call. The main reason for this was that the environment wasn’t using Enterprise Voice, so there was no automatic status change for these customers. Additional statuses that where desired where a distinction of working from home. This was desired because some individuals lost access to the Location field when logging in remotely.

Creating the Custom Statuses

So how do we make this happen? First, we need to make a specially formatted XML file with our custom states. Microsoft has a great article with an example of the XML formatted file. But for this scenario I created the below XML Code.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<customStates>
<customState availability="Busy" ID="1">
<activity LCID="1033">In a Call</activity>
</customState>
<customState availability="Online" ID="2">
<activity LCID="1033">Working From Home</activity>
</customState>
<customState availability="Busy" ID="3">
<activity LCID="1033">Working From Home</activity>
</customState>
</customStates>

Publishing the Custom Statuses

So now that we have our XML file what do we do with it? Next the XML file needs to get published to a secured web-server where clients can access. I chose to publish my file to a new Directory called CustomState on each of the Front-End servers. After putting the file in a directory on each of the Front-End servers, I added that Directory to the root of IIS server so that it is accessible at HTTPS://Pool.Domain.com/CustomState/CustomState.xml.

It is important that if you have a Pool, that you need to publish this file to every server. Otherwise you’re customers will get an inconsistent result depending on which server they connect to. <h1>Directing the Clients</h1> Finally, we need to let the clients know where to find the custom status file. We do this by configuring the

Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity ClientPolicy -CustomStateURL "HTTPS://Pool.Domain.com/CustomState/CustomState.xml"

The End Result

After logging off and back onto my client, the custom states are now showing as expected.

skype-custom-status
Showing the end result of creating Custom Statuses in Skype for Business

While this is a single, and basic scenario, I’d be interested to know how others are using custom statuses. Please leave a comment to share your experience.

New Skype for Business Room Systems “Project Rigel”

One of the great things that came from #MSIgnite was the announcement of the next Lync Room Systems (aka Project Rigel). As a Skype4B admin who has done integration with current generation Lync Room Systems and Polycom infrastructures, I have to say that Microsoft has made huge steps forward.

The idea of a Lync Room System was great, however the initial execution from the first generation systems was lacking a cohesive professional polish. Earlier versions of the Lync Room Systems where built around non-standardized hardware that each vendor (Polycom, Crestron, and SMART) customized with a non-vanilla client software based on an SDK provided by Microsoft. All of these pieces made for a management nightmare, while delivering a sub-par user experience at an exorbitant price point.

However, after seeing and using these myself, I am actually excited about these new room systems and let me explain why.

20160929_120009.jpg
Image of “Project Rigel” room system from Logitech.

Hardware

All of these systems are based around the Surface Pro 4! That’s right, the image above is an actual computer and not a dumb terminal like most flat screens with room systems. There is no need to have an equipment cabinet to hold the computing component of the room system. This is the core of all of the new room systems, the current vendors (Logitech, Crestron, and Polycom) have taken the Surface Pro 4 and built a standard dock, which contains the power, HDMI and other connectors. Additionally, the vendor is able to build various packages with peripherals, such as cameras, and audio devices that cater to the various size meeting rooms.

Software

Microsoft has created a new Skype for Business application that has been hidden on the Microsoft store and is only available to devices that have been licensed to use them. This means that we can’t just go buy a bunch of Surfaces and create our own room system. However, the major advantage is that now all of the room systems, regardless of vendor, will be using the same Skype software and deliver the same controls and experience to users.

Price

Because of the flexibility with these devices being packaged with different audio and video equipment based on the needs of specific rooms, the price point varies. However, it was announced that small sized room systems will have a starting price point of about $1,200. Medium to large size rooms can reach upward of $5,000. This is still a significate reduction in cost compared to current Lync rooms systems  that sell for around $10,000.

Conclusion

At this time, Logitech is set to the first hardware vendor to release the room system and Crestron and Polycom are following shortly behind. If you would like to know more I recommend that you want the Ignite session on Project Rigel or read the links below from the vendors. There is many details about the systems, and you can see a live demonstration.

Links

Logitech Press Release
Logitech Blog Post
Polycom Press Release
Crestron Press Release