Top tools in Lync Server 2013

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For those of you looking at either deploying Microsoft Lync 2013 or have it already out there, Microsoft has some awesome tools that I think you should know about. For example, there's Windows PowerShell to help with task automation, a set of downloadable resources to keep your users educated, tools to stress test your deployment, a brand new resource kit and finally something for the developers out there.

Let's take a quick look at each of these and where you can find them.

Server Management Shell

With the release of Lync 2013, Microsoft has shown its continued commitment to Windows PowerShell as their next generation scripting and automation language. The Lync 2013 Windows PowerShell module has over 700 cmdlets to help you be more efficient.

We can look at the simple example of enabling a user. In a simple command, I query AD to retrieve a user, and then pass that user object along the pipeline to enable the user in Lync along while setting some required properties.


Rollout and Adoption Success Kit (RASK)

This download from Microsoft provides an Excel spreadsheet that provides links for user education and training resources. The content is conveniently separated by major categories: Lync 2013, Lync Mobile, Lync Web App, Lync for Windows Store App and Lync Online. Then within each tab, you can also filter by things like Resource Type which allows you to sort things like "Training Video" or "Quick Reference Card."

This kit is really helpful to share with your department or users. Another option is that most of the linked content, like the videos themselves in MP4 format, is directly included with the download. The videos are also "bite sized," and about a specific task. For example, one video is just over 1 minute and shows a user how to update their picture. An option to consider saving bandwidth could be to host some of the content locally, especially with limited Internet access.

Stress and Performance Tools (LSS)

This download provides modules that can simulate user activity, such as instant messaging and Voice over IP, just to name a few of the types of activities that can be simulated. Being able to figure not only if the servers are properly provisioned, but that the network infrastructure is in place to handle the possible impact of a Lync deployment can be very important. It's easy to look at the sizing requirements provided by Microsoft, but running these load simulation tools can be an important tool in pre-testing components and the accompanying user experience before a real rollout.

A "load configuration tool" user interface is provided to build an XML file that will be read in to actually generate the load on the environment. A bonus features seems to be to not only be able to choose the types of activities that will be simulated, but the actual “load level” of disabled, low, medium, high or custom. This allows for more complex load simulations like a medium level of instant messaging combined with a high level for VoIP.

Be sure to find the documentation link which provides the guidance that you may need on how to run the tool. A useful feature is to be able to run the simulation from the command-line and for a particular duration, this allows you to possibly simulate different types of traffic over an extended period. Think about how the activity of the users can change over the course of the day or even possibly after hours.

Resource Kit Tools

This download continues Microsoft's tradition of releasing "resource kit tools" for some of their products. These tools are always centered on IT administrators to help them with the managing server applications.

Two utilities that I find the most interesting are DBAnalyze and Response Group Agent Live. DBAnalyze is a command-line tool that helps to gather analysis reports about the Lync databases.

Let's face it. Too often we face "database sprawl" and Lync may offer yet another database that needs care and feeding. This tool can be very useful as a result. Response Group Agent Live provides a small dashboard-type utility to be able to use real-time information for Response Group agents, and is basically an enhanced version of the Agent Groups page.

The documentation is provided along with the install, but as a Word document. Since it usually isn't good practice to install such a program on a server, an online version is provided.

Lync SDK

Here's one for the developer crowd! Microsoft continues with its tradition of providing .NET developers with the client-side APIs needed to integrate and leverage their products.

Well that's all for a whirlwind tour of some of the extra stuff available online from Microsoft to help with Lync 2013 deployment, administrator and development.

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Marco Shaw

Marco Shaw is an IT consultant working in Canada. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years. He was awarded the Microsoft MVP award for his contributions to the Windows PowerShell community for 5 consecutive years (2007-2011). He has co-authored a book on Windows PowerShell, contributed to Microsoft Press and Microsoft TechNet magazine, and also contributed chapters for other books such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Microsoft SQL Server. He has spoken at Microsoft TechDays in Canada and at TechMentor in the United States. He currently holds the GIAC GSEC and RHCE certifications, and is actively working on others.