Microsoft Announces Public Trial of Voice Capabilities Coming in Office 365

Microsoft announced the public trial/beta of the new voice/telephony abilities coming in the Office 365.   See here for the announcement.   This preview allows people to try the new telephony capabilities that are coming in Office 365. 

In this preview, you can register and experience the following cool new capabilities:

  • Broadcast Meetings:   In the past with Lync and Skype For Business, you were limited to having a maximum of 250 people in one meeting in Office 365.   Now with the coming Broadcast Meeting capability, you can broadcast a meeting to 10,000 attendees who can attend via a browser.   This broadcast meeting is primarily one way to deliver content from a source to many attendees (e.g. Company All Hands meeting, webinar)
  • PSTN Conferencing:  In the past with Office 365, you could host audio/video conferences but everyone needed to join via the Lync client to attend.   You could add a phone number for attendees to dial-in to join the audio conference call but this required working with a 3rd party audio conferencing provider to provide this capability.  Now with this release, Microsoft will provide the dial-in phone number.
  • Cloud PSTN Conferencing:   In this past with Office 365, users could communicate with instant messaging, audio/video calls, and desktop sharing.  But the users needed to use the Lync or Skype For Business clients.  With this capability, users will be able to make and receive phone calls.  This is great for business who don’t want to maintain a phone system (PBX).  They can move/port their employees phone numbers to Office 365 so that employees can retain their phone number.  Now, their employees can make and receive phone calls as before except now its integrated into the Lync/Skype For Business client in Office 365.

See the above announcement for more details.

To register for the Preview,  go to:

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Passed 70-533 Azure Infrastructure Exam Today!!

Yay.  I have been spending my evenings and weekends for the last couple months studying for the Azure Infrastructure Exam (70-533).  Today, I took it and passed! Smile

To prepare, I used

  • Exam Skill Areas Covered (here).   Review the topics covered and make sure that you understand all those areas.  There are 6 core areas.  The exam covered all of them. 
  • Study PowerShell.  The exam asked how to do things with Powershell.  So, you need to know how to do things not only through the Management portal and Preview portal but also through PowerShell.  There were some specific questions on knowing the order of the commands and syntax.
  • Memorize the various tiers of services (Basic, Standard, and Premium) and make sure you understand the thresholds why you would use one tier over the other.
  • I used the following resources:
    • MS Press Book on 70-533 (here).  This was my primary resource
    • Azure Documentation on website.  There are tons of documentation on the Azure website (here)
    • Azure for IT Pros webinars (here)
    • Azure Friday’s webinars (here)
    • Azure Microsoft Virtual Academy (here)
    • Hours of hands-on working with Azure.  I highly recommend not only reading the material, watching the webinars, but also doing and getting hands-on with PowerShell, Xplat-Cli, Management Portal, Preview Portal, and Visual Studio

Good Luck if you’re also studying for the exam.  Now, I going to focus on 70-534

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Surface Hub: Microsoft Large Screen Collaboration Tool

I was in Redmond last Thursday meeting with the Surface Hub Product team and getting hands-on with the device and Its pretty cool!   The Surface Hub is Microsoft next generation large screen collaboration tool.  It builds upon the Perceptive Pixel (PPI) platform. 


For more details, take a look at this Microsoft site (here).  Some cool things that I took away are:

  • Comes in two versions:  84” and 55”
  • Projective capacitive touch screen provides awesome touch and pen control
  • Two pens that auto-pair with the device when they come close.   The pens re-charge when they are docked.  The eraser side of the pens erases clip_image004
  • Runs Windows 10
  • Has integrated Skype For Business with two built-in HD cameras, mic array, and speakers.  The system will use one of the cameras depending upon which one you are looking at or under manual control.
  • Has Onenote integration for whiteboarding
  • Built to be a collaboration tool.  The system need an account that is always signed in with Exchange mailbox for scheduling and Skype For Business for meetings/calling capabilities. 
  • Anyone can walk up and use the device without having to authenticate.  The goal was to make it easy for people to use.
  • Has built-in Wifi, Bluetooth, and NFC
  • Any Miracast device can project to the screen and participate in the collaboration
  • There are also video input ports (HDMI, display port, DVI) so that you can plug-in your laptop or device and share your content in the meeting.
  • It was amazing to see the inking on PowerPoint which brings a new Storytelling experience to presenting in being able to interact/ink over your Powerpoint slides.

As I was in Redmond, I heard that I received two Surface Hubs into our Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Irvine, California.  So, I can’t wait to get back and set them up.  I’ll provide more updates after I get them setup.

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Skype For Business Installation (Part 2): Lets Start and Have DNS Fun

In the Part 1 blog post, we discussed planning and building a design for the new Skype For Business environment.  Now, let’s discuss installing the Skype For Business (SfB) Server.  Today, we’ll dive into the first steps of setting up Skype For Business and the infamous topic of DNS.

Microsoft has laid out the process to upgrade to Skype For Business (see here).  Here is a flow diagram from that site:


I followed this process but also highlight some key points.

TechNet Steps Dean Comments
Step 1: Install Prerequisites (here) I am building my environment on Windows 2012 R2 Server. So, I setup 3 Windows 2012 Servers and joined them to the domain. I ran Windows Updates and installed the Prerequisites on all 3 machines.Would recommend using the PowerShell “Add-WindowsFeature” cmdlet to add all of the Prerequisites.
Step 2: Create File Share (here) There is a recommendation that for a high availability environment, a Distributed File System (DFS) file share is recommended.
Step 3: Install Administrative Tools (here) Install the Administrative Tools from the Skype For Business (SfB) Deployment Wizard.A key point on this step is to “Connect to computer in the topology that does not have Lync OCSCore or any other Lync components installed.” This means that you can’t do this step on the existing Lync 2013 servers.  I setup 3 new servers that would be my new SfB Front End pool and performed this step on them.clip_image004
Step 4: Prepare Active Directory (here) Followed the steps documented on Technet and had no issues.
Step 5: Create DNS Records (here) DNS. Getting the right DNS records created is probably one of the biggest sources of problems that I see.  This is right alongside with determining the number of public IP addresses needed and the names required on the certificates.(DNS, IP addresses, Certificates).I recommend reviewing the documentation notes below:· DNS Requirements (

· DNS Requirements (

· Simple URLs (

· Lync Planning Tool (

Jeff Schertz also has a great blog on the client autodiscover process


Some considerations to think about when planning your DNS needs are:

Your DNS Architecture

Do you have:

  • Split brain DNS: For example, your internal DNS zone is and external DNS zone is
  • Delegated sub-domain DNS: For example, external DNS zone is and internal DNS zone is
  • Separate domain DNS: For example, external DNS zone is and internal DNS zone is

Your SfB Pool Architecture

  • Do you have an Standard Edition or Enterprise edition pools?
  • How many SIP domains do you have?
  • What is your Simple URL’s architecture?
  • How many SfB Edge Servers do you have?
  • How are you publishing your SfB Edge Servers external IP addresses (NAT’d?, public IP?)
  • What kind of load balancing are you going to use (DNS + Hardware load balancing, Hardware Load balancing). Remember even with DNS load balancing, you need to use a hardware load balancer for load balancing the web traffic (443).

The above articles walk you through the various decisions.

In my scenario,

I have:

  • Split brain DNS: Internal and external DNS domain zone is:
  • My Active Directory domain and DNS zone ( is different from my public DNS domain (
  • I am building out an Enterprise Edition pool with 3 Front-End Servers
  • I have a single SfB Edge server.
  • I have a single SIP domain (
  • I am using DNS load balancing.
  • I decided to using a single simple URL with subdomains
    • (for meeting URL)
    • (for phone access URL)
    • (for Admin access)

Some based upon these decisions, I needed to create records on my internal DNS server and also external our DNS provider in our zone.

On my internal DNS zone for my Active Directory domain (

A record was created for each SfB server when I joined them to the domain

On my internal DNS server for my public DNS domain (

I created the following records

  • DNS A records
    • For the pool (e.g. Created 3 DNS A records pointing to the IP address of each of the SfB front-end servers
    • For each SfB Front End (e.g.,, pointing to IP address of each SfB front-end servers
    • Created an A record for the internal leg of the SfB edge server (
    • Edge servers DNS A records pointing to public IP addresses of the external NICs of my SfB edge server:
      • (for access edge)
      • (for web conferencing)
      • (for audio/video conferencing)
      • I used public IP addresses on the external leg of my SfB Edge server.
    • (for simple URLs) pointing to public IP address of reverse proxy’s external leg
    • (for reverse proxy) pointing to public IP address of reverse proxy’s external leg
    • ; pointing to my reverse proxy public IP address
    • ; pointing to my access edge public IP address
    • ; pointing to internal IP address of SfB pool
  • SRV record:
    • 100 1 443
    • 0 0 5061 ; pointing to SfB pool
    • 100 1 5061 ; pointing to SfB pool

On my external DNS server for my public DNS domain (

I created the following records

  • DNS A records
    • Edge servers DNS A records pointing to public IP addresses of the external NICs of my SfB edge server:
      • (for access edge)
      • (for web conferencing)
      • (for audio/video conferencing)
    • (for simple URLs) pointing to public IP address of reverse proxy
    • (for reverse proxy) pointing to public IP address of reverse proxy
    • ; pointing to my reverse proxy public IP address
    • ; pointing to my access edge public IP address
    • ; pointing to access edge public IP address
  • SRV record:
    • 100 1 443
    • 0 0 5061 ; pointing to
    • 100 1 5061 ; pointing to

If you have multiple SfB Edge Servers, then you will need more DNS records and IP addresses

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Real Estate: Getting Started

I have been talking to a couple folks about real estate investing and they had some questions on getting started.  So, I decided to write a blog post on it.  I believe that to begin real estate investing, it’s important to get educated first.  One of the podcasts that I follow Real Estate Radio Guys has a saying:  “Education for effective action”

I have noticed a couple ways that people get started in real estate investing:

  • Option #1:  Get started.  Invest money.  Make mistakes.  Most likely lose money.  Get discouraged, quit, and say real estate investing doesn’t work.  [Not Recommended]
  • Option #2:  Watch a late night infomercial.  Spend thousands of dollars on a real estate course and then have no money left to invest.  [Not Recommended.]
  • Option #2:  Do some studying with some free to low-cost resources.  Find some mentors.  Develop your real estate plan, goals, and strategy.  Get started.  Make money [Recommended Smile]

I highly believe that its better to learn from others that have gone before you as much as possible.  Real estate investing is not new and there are hundreds of folks doing it so most likely the scenario that you are looking at or question you have has been encountered by others.  Also today, there are many free to low-cost resources that can help you get educated.

So how do I get educated you ask?  I have some free to low-cost recommendations:

  • Learn while you drive to work.  Listen to podcasts while driving or sitting in traffic.
  • Read books.  Turn off the TV, and invest 15+ min/night reading in your future.
  • Associate with other real estate investors.

Here is a list of resources that I recommend and use:

Well.  That’s a bunch.  Don’t feel that you have to do all this at once.  Don’t get overwhelmed.  Start small.  Start by downloading ITunes and subscribing to the podcasts above.  Start by listening to the podcasts while driving or working out.

Get the book, “Rich Dad Poor Dad”.   Start reading it.

I’ll update more on this later.  Have fun learning Smile

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Skype For Business Installation (Part 1): Planning

In this series, I am going to document installing Skype For Business into my environment.  Before jumping into the install, the first step is planning and assessing your current environment and your requirements.  Then, develop the Skype For Business Architecture that fits your requirements and current environment.

There is extensive documentation on the Skype For Business planning process on TechNet (here)

In my case, I have a Lync 2013 environment with 3 Front Ends, 2 SQL 2012 Back-End Database servers and a Lync 2013 edge.


I want to go to a Skype For Business (SfB) pool with 3 Front Ends, SQL Back-end, SfB Edge, and hybrid configuration with Office 365.

THE FIRST THING that I noticed was that in this configuration that I can’t do an in-place upgrade (without having downtime Smile).  Yesterday, I wrote about SfB ability to support in-place upgrades.  However . . .

If you have only ONE Lync Pool then you can’t do an in-place upgrade (without downtime).

The reasons is that to perform an in-place upgrade, you need to have at least 2 Lync pools.  You move users from one Lync pool to the second Lync pool.  Then upgrade the first Lync pool to Skype For Business (SfB).  In the upgrade process, the first pool is shut down while the upgrade is happening and until all the Lync Front-End servers in the pool are upgraded.

In my scenario, although I have 3 Lync 2013 Front End servers, they are all in one Lync pool.  My option in this scenario is to setup a new SfB pool and then move users from the Lync 2013 pool to the new SfB pool.

LESSON LEARNED:  You should only consider an in-place from Lync to Skype For Business (SfB) if you have more than one Lync pool.

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Skype For Business: Supports In-Place Upgrades

One of the cool things about Skype For Business is that it supports in-place upgrades.  What this means in that if you have more than one Lync 2013 pool, then you can upgrade one pool to Skype For Business and re-use the existing hardware.  Then upgrade the other Lync 2013 pool to Skype For Business.  This reduces the need to purchase additional hardware to get Skype For Business.  My colleague, Scott Stubberfield, gave an excellent presentation on this process which can be found here.


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