Skype for Business has replaced Lync Server 2013 in Microsoft’s messaging portfolio. It combines the features from the previous release of Skype and Lync Server to deliver a premier component in the Microsoft communications and messaging platform. Skype for Business delivers the well know and liked native Skype user experience coupled with the Lync Server features such as security, compliance, collaboration, federation, and manageability. The new platform supports hybrid deployment with Office 365 and can host users both on premise and in the cloud. In this article, we will discuss 15 topics to consider before deploying Skype for Business Server 2015 in your organization.
- Consider and evaluate both Skype for Business on premise deployment and Cloud deployment. Validate which method meets your messaging, business, legal, compliance, and user requirements. Also consider the option of a hybrid deployment with some users on premise and others in the Cloud. A hybrid approach makes the best use of both deployment methods. You could plan for initial on premise deployment and the move into hybrid mode or completely move online in the cloud later as needs grow and change.
- Skype for Business is available in standard and enterprise editions. Both provide the same user features, but the standard edition does not provide high availability and also has a limitation on number of users it can host. Make sure you consider whether high availability is required before ordering licenses.
- Consider and plan for High Availability (HA) by deploying multiple instances of Front end servers, Edge servers, Director, Mediation, and Video interop Servers. Configure HA for File Servers which store meeting content and address book information. Distributed File System (DFS) should be used to provide HA for file stores.
- Consider and plan for disaster recovery (DR) by designing the solution to failover to another datacenter when any outage on the main site occurs. Make sure to provide bandwidth for client connections and server replication in the failover location so that users have an acceptable user experience in a DR scenario.
- Plan to provide high availability for any SQL Server used by Skype for Business, by making use of SQL Mirroring or SQL Clustering.
- Use Skype for Business 2015 planning tool to plan and design your environment to meet all the business and technical requirements. Also consider future growth when planning and designing the solution.
- Load balance Front End Pool servers using hardware load balancers or DNS round robin for client connections. When hardware load balancers is used from front end servers then also use hardware load balancing for Edge servers as well. If DNS round robin is used for front end servers then use that for Edge servers as well.
- Consider making use of a reverse proxy to publish HTTPS URLs for meetings, Dial in, Office web apps, discovery and other published services to clients connecting to the front end servers. If you have multiple front end servers then use hardware load balancers to load balance the HTTPS traffic. A hardware load balancer can act as the reverse proxy. Microsoft Application Request Routing (ARR) could also be used for the reverse proxy.
- If you deploy Skype for Business in a virtual environment then make sure that the virtual server can take advantage of the virtualization platform failover functionality.
- Office Web Apps is a new optional server deployment that delivers browser-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote from web and Skype clients. Ensure redundancy for Office Web Apps Server is provided and make use of hardware load balancers to balancer the client requests from both internal and external uses.
- Plan for using multiple public IP addresses to publish SIP, Audio, Video, and Web conference URLs to Edge servers on port 443. A single public IP Address can be used, but it adds the configuration complexity with the port configuration on firewalls.
- Plan for using a single IP address to publish HTTPS protocols for Meetings, Dial In, Discover and External web presence but published through reverse proxy. Use a different public IP address to publish the Office Web App Server from the internet.
- Identify the sites where Enterprise voice is needed and plan for the network bandwidth requirement for this. Also plan for redundancy of network links for these sites. Make sure proper planning is done on how the public switched telephone network (PSTN) connectivity between the sites with be configured and managed, and how this will collaborate with Skype for Business Mediation Server role.
- Multiple DNS entries for SRV, A, CName records are required on both internal and external DNS servers. Make sure that the correct rights are available to create these, or make sure the DNS admins can create them when required. Also multiple firewall ports needs to be configured to allow external clients to connect to the edge servers. Plus the ports between edge server and internal corporate network need to be open. This needs input from the network and security teams.
- Microsoft supports Skype for Business server upgrade from Lync Server 2013. If your current Lync environment is performing well then this route will reduce the amount of designing required, and also reduce the deployment time and effort. If your environment has Lync 2010 and Lync 2013 servers then completely migrate to Lync 2013 before upgrading all the servers to Skype for Business.
Consider both the business and technical requirement during the planning stage for a Skype for Business deployment. Understand the current infrastructure, evaluate the requirements, design the solution, build the test environment, document it, and finally implement it in Live. Hopefully this article will give you some ideas to consider when planning, designing and implementing Skype for Business server 2015 in your organization.
We recently covered this topic in a webinar with Kai Stenberg, Chief Consultant at blinQ.