Category: Teams

Microsoft Teams Rooms for modern meetings

How easy is it at your company to start a Teams or Skype meeting online in your conference room without technical difficulties? Maybe you have a very large (and expensive) video conference system in your board room but you wish you also could equip the smaller huddle rooms with such systems? Then you should look into Microsoft Teams Rooms which is the new name for Skype Room Systems.

You cant  argue the trend of moving to a more modern and mobile workplace. In a few years, more and more employees will probably not be stationed at a certain office or desk. This requires better tools and services and a big part of this is the digital meetings. We have during the last 3 years seen a massive growth, installing more video conference rooms than the last 30 years and we have seen a switch moving from proprietary (and expensive) solutions to standardized and more affordable systems so even the smallest huddle room can get one…

In it’s simplest form, you book the room in Outlook as you have done for years and you choose if it should be a Teams or a Skype meeting:

When you enter the conference room, the control unit on the table lights up and show you the upcoming meetings:

All you have to do is to click Join on your meeting and within a few seconds the meetings is started, all participants are joined, no matter if it’s via the Teams/Skype client, the web client, app on their phone or have dialed in to the number in the invitation. You see the participants on the control unit and on the bigscreen in front of the room and of course their video if they share it. From the control unit you can mute/unmute and and instantly add participants to the meeting from the directory or call them.

Want to share your screen? Simple, just plug in the HDMI cable to your laptop and it will output to the bigscreen but also share it in the meeting with remote participants. Of course, remote participants can also share their screen in the meeting.

It’s the simplicity – one-click-join and the meeting is started. You no longer need to be a technician to get a meeting started, choosing the correct input on the bigscreen, choose the right speaker and mic.

Microsoft Team Rooms comes from different partners (Logitech, HP, Lenovo, Creston, Polycom, Yealink) which have certified systems in different sizes – from the smallest 4-people huddle room to the largest boardroom. A few examples:

Xenit has used Skype Room Systems for a long time and are extremely happy how it works.

So what about the tech and for IT?

Compared to other proprietary systems, Microsoft Teams Rooms run on Windows 10 with an Windows app. This means you can use your current tools for deploying and managing it as you would do for any other Windows client except that you need to make sure not all policies apply to the system. On-premise AD join, Azure AD join and Workgroup are all supported. The app itself, which only installs on certified devices so you can’t do this DIY, is automatically updated through the Windows Store. So for us at Xenit, it has been almost no support for this system since it was first setup – except for some occasional hardware issues where someone was “smart” to disconnect the HDMI cabling to connect it directly to their laptop.

Of course, Microsoft has done some work to cloud enable these devices if you want.

For example you can use Azure OMS (Operations Management Suite) to monitor these devices since they log a lot of information to the event log. For example you can get information regarding:

  • Active / Inactive Devices
  • Devices which experienced hardware / applications issues (disconnected cables anyone?)
  • Application versions installed
  • Devices where the application had to be restarted

All this can be alerted upon so you hopefully can solve problems before someone calls it in as a problem.

In a few months, the Microsoft Teams Rooms will light up in the Teams Admin Center for additional functionality. For example, if you enroll many of these devices, the admin center will enable you to more quickly enroll them with a profile with settings you want. It will also make it easier for inventory management, updates, monitoring and reporting.

Here’s a short demo:

Let us know if you want to discuss or even get a personal demo at our office.



Teams keeps crashing in Citrix

A while ago I installed Teams in a client Citrix environment, I solved the large profile issue (Microsoft recommends 3 GB of free data for each user) with FSLogix, you can read more about that in my earlier blog-post here!

While testing Teams in the client test-environment it all worked flawlessly, I then proceeded to implement it in the production environment, it all worked great, Teams installed and worked as expected. Or so I thought…

The Problem

Next day I received multiple complaints about Teams hanging and restarting only to resume in a hanging state. In summary, it DID NOT WORK. Puzzled on why, since it still worked as expected in the test-environment I started to investigate. I started to check the Event viewer for any clues, there was none. I then proceeded to check the Teams install log (you can find it here: “C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\SquirrelTemp\SquirrelSetup.log“, nothing to find here. I scavenged the internet for answers but always got the same solution: delete Teams and reinstall it. That did not work in my scenario. We also have 2 customers running this exact setup but without any issues. What I then started to suspect was the platform Citrix was running on, specifically virtual vs physical servers. All the installations on a virtual server worked, but on our physical server it did not.

Eventually I did a deep-dive to see what actually happens when it crashes and I discovered the following:

  1. When checking the Details tab in Task Manger I discovered that when Teams begins to be unresponsive a Werfault.exe (Windows Error Reporting) process starts and takes a lot o CPU resources but never quite finish.
  2. After investigating the Procmon I found something suspicious:
CtxGraphicHelper.dll

This is a Citrix Hook, used by Citrix to make program do stuff it was not programmed to do. Basically it’s used to make application work in a Citrix environment. If you want to know more on the subject please read this article explaining how it works!

3. After recovering this information I found a discussion on Reddit explaining my exact scenario, and a workaround for this specific issue. See below on how to apply the workaround.

Workaround

To get Teams to work on your Citrix environment if you experience this specific issue you need to exclude all Citrix Hooks from Teams.exe, you perform this by editing/adding the following registry value:

32-bit version:
HKLM\SOFTWARE\citrix\CtxHook\
String Value: ExcludedImageNames
Value: Teams.exe

64-bit version:
HKLM\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\citrix\CtxHook\
String Value: ExcludedImageNames
Value: Teams.exe

Note: The server need to restart for the changes to take affect!

Summary

This workaround is far from ideal, disabling the Citrix hooks is not recommended and can result in other issues with Teams. Please test it properly before making any organization-wide changes. And be aware that Teams has not yet been implemented in the HDX Optimazation pack, meaning it will not offload sound and video to your client. I’m sure Citrix is working hard to implement this as soon as possible.

I have not found the exact reason to why this is an issue and why it only seams to affect physical servers and not virtual. I suspect it’s the CtxGraphicHelper hook I discovered in the Procmon that might be the source to the problem. But it seams this workaround will get Teams to work just fine in your Citrix environment.

Please let me know if you have any questions or have anything to add!



Why does Teams not install for my users?

Microsoft released in October last year a MSI-installation package of Teams, making it easy to deploy Teams to computers in your organization. As you know Teams (for some unknown reason) installs directly into your profile. I suspect they have designed it this way to make sure everyone can install the application, even if you’re not an local administrator on your computer, you do have sufficient rights to your profile to perform a installation of Microsoft Teams.

Since I work primarily with Citrix, and could see the that Microsoft Teams is growing in popularity, I started to investigate if I could make it to work in a Citrix environment. But that is another story, you can read my blog post on how I installed Teams in our Citrix environment here!

Teams is supposed to install when a user logs on to the server, it will automatically install the latest Teams available to your profile and then start it. But in some cases I have seen an issue after installing the Teams wide Installer, the users simply does not get anything installed. A function this installer has is that it checks your profile for traces of Teams, if it detects part of Teams it will not try to install it again (if it’s not an update that is), and if the user uninstalled Teams it will still detect some left-overs and will therefore not install Teams again. With that said, you need to make sure your profile is clean from Teams. Unfortunately this was not the case here. It simply did not install!

To understand why this might happened you need to know how some multi-user environments are designed, from a security perspective!

If you are like us, security oriented, you might have disabled Run and Run Once witch is used by some applications to auto-start, or to continue a installation after a restart, and is unfortunately very popular place to auto-start viruses and other malware. It is then common to disable this.

This is exactly the place Microsoft Teams specify the value that starts the Teams installation for a user, if its disabled, nothing will ever happened!

There is however a really easy way around this:

You probably already thought about this by now but there is a tiny detail that will make it work exactly as it was supposed to:

  1. Create a Shortcut – Name it Install Teams (or something else if you like)
  2. Target the Teams.exe file with this specific argument: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Teams Installer\Teams.exe” –checkInstall –source=default
  3. Save it, and place it in the Startup folder in the Start Menu.

The last argument in the Target path (–CheckInstall –source=default) is the reason Teams knows if you have it installed and keeps it updated.

I hope this easy little trick has been helpful, please make a comment if you feel like it or have some questions!



Teams is replacing Skype for Business – how does it (really) work for the user?

Most of us know Teams is replacing Skype for Business in Office 365. There is no official end date but we see indications. Microsoft is no longer adding Skype for Business for new tenants with less than 500 users and they say Teams is now complete. Yesterday we also saw the first indication that Microsoft is starting to switch active tenants to Teams – so you better be ready!

Looking at the official Microsoft documentation, all is green and good. Just switch and you will experience all the goodness of Teams. But how does it really work and look for the end user? I assume you already know how Teams works and looks and the way to migrate – this blog post is just how it works for the end-user when it comes to interoperability with Skype for Business.

Important note: This might change on short bases and here is the Microsoft official documentation on interoperability.

So assume you’re in a all SfB environment and considering using Teams. You verify you are in Coexistance mode: Islands which means users are able to use both Skype for Business and Teams simultaneously:

You decide to switch one of your users (let’s call him Ben) to TeamsOnly mode – that’s what we did and the rest of the users are still in SfB, but remember, there is nothing stopping all the other users to start using Teams, they just have to go to https://teams.microsoft.com and they can use SfB and Teams at the same time.

Internal communication within tenant

First if Ben tries to start the SfB client, he will get:

But we shouldn’t uninstall the SfB client – keep on reading…

  • If both users are in Teams (in case some other users have found out they can use Teams) you will get the full experience so I will not go into details there.
  • Ben will be able to receive and reply to messages received from Sfb users within the Teams client.
  • Screen sharing and file transfer is not supported between Teams and Skype for Business – you need to create a meeting for that.

There is one caveat here, if the other user has ever started Teams weeks/months ago, they are considered to be “activated in Teams” which means Ben no longer can initiate a new SfB conversation with that user. Ben can only initiate a new conversation with the other user in Teams and if that user is no longer using Teams (for example if they decided they didn’t like it), they will not receive it. However, if the other users initiates chat from SfB to Ben, Ben will be able to reply to SfB.

And the absolutely best feature is that you have persistent chat experience over all devices so you can initiate a chat session in a web browser on your laptop, continue in the fat client on your desktop and keep the whole thread in your mobile device.

So in short, we would recommend to keep interoperability period as short as possible because some of the confusion it creates…

External communication

So imagine all your users are in Teams. But you will see that many other organizations are still in SfB in Office 365 or even SfB on-premises which means they will “never” get Teams – how do you communicate with them?

  • Again, if both users are in Teams you will get the full experience so I will not go into details there.
  • Ben will be able to both initiate, receive and reply to SfB chat sessions.
  • Ben can’t initiate screen sharing nor file transfers to SfB users – a meeting is required for that.
  • Ben can still join SfB meetings, that’s what the SfB client is used for – or, of course, he could use the SfB Web App. So we don’t see that going away very soon.
  • If the other user (still on SfB) initiates a screen sharing or file transfer to Ben, it is not supported and the official answer is that the user should receive the following message so a meeting is required. We have found that the message is actually received in Ben’s SfB client if he has it logged in and active in the background and he will actually be able to receive the file and see the screen sharing session. YMMV.

Ben will also realize that as long as his Office 365 ProPlus is updated, the New Skype Meeting choice will be removed and New Teams Meeting will be the only choice.

This is just one part of the story, the big difference is the way that Teams can be more than what SfB was when it comes to collaboration. You need to develop a plan for how to communicate this to your users… You might also have other dependencies with SfB like conference room equipment like Skype Room Systems and integration with PBX.

Interoperability between SfB and Teams might not be the best in the world, but we also see Microsoft is pushing Teams and from Ignite sessions, we see that the user experience during interoperability will not change much – what we see is what we get and we better adapt and inform our users so this is clear.



Teams in your Multi-user environment done right!

Microsoft Teams is on the rise, more and more businesses is seeing the potential of Teams and want a piece of the action.

Unfortunately Microsoft Teams is not ideally designed to work on a Multi-user environment like Citrix Xenapp or Microsoft Remote Desktop services. It is entirely installed in the users profile, and its quite big. A clean installation of teams is roughly 600 MB and will quickly grow, and you know what that means… You guessed it: Super long logon time, since logging on to the Multi-user environment often means the profile would be downloaded to Session Host before you are properly logged on, the users will not be happy! And on top of that, the latest recommendation in size per Teams installation is 3 GB…

There is however some rumors indicating there will be releasing a business version soon addressing this very issue! But if you are anything like me, and cant simply wait, there is a solution if you are willing to pay a small price, and you will at the same time have access to tons of other great stuff.

FSLogix Profile Container

FSLogix Profile Container is a great product that basically removes the profile size entirely, is an little agent you install on your Session Hosts and configure with an ADMX, you also need a file share with enough space for some big profiles. FSLogix is in the business of so called filter-drivers, what it does is simply put, lying to Windows. For example, when you install a 32-bit application to your 64-bit Windows System, Windows will use its own filter-driver to get it to work, its the same technology, its efficient and simple. In FSLogix case it is lying to the windows about the profiles, Windows thinks its a local profile, it does not know that in fact, the entire profile is contained in a vhd-file, mounted to the server. Because its a virtual disk that attaches to the server, there is only one SMB handle. It will therefor not be a huge load on the network, which you often sees when you for example roam your profiles.

Install Teams

When you have FSLogix Profile Container in place you can now install teams on your environment.  In early October Microsoft released a new version of Teams with some new features when deploying Teams to all the users in an organization, we are going to use parts of that to install Teams on to our environment!

 

  1. Download the latest version of Teams MSI-file (x64) file here!
  2. If you like to disable Auto-start of Teams use the following install string (otherwise just install without the option):

    This will put an Install file under “C:\Program Files”, and when a user logon it will automatically install Teams to this user.
  3. You do not need to update the MSI to the latest version, Teams will automatically download and install pending updates on the next logon of the user.

There you go, now your users can benefit from the full experience of Teams in your Multi-user environment, with one exception: if you are using Citrix, you have “Skype for Business Optimization Pack” to utilize local client resources for best quality of Skype meetings and calls. There is no support for Teams as of for now. It will soon be available though. With that said, I wouldn’t uninstall Skype for business just yet.

Other Great stuff

As mentioned above, there is a lot of benefits using FSLogix Profile Container. For a great period of time, Citrix User Profile Manager has been the best way to reduce the size of the profiles while still have the most important settings saved in your profile. But this is still just a trade-off, you trade off your caches and settings that impact your profile logon, but at the same time still trying to get the best experience for the user, this will sometimes collide and you have to choose between longer logon time or full functionality of a certain application.

With FSLogix Profile Container you no longer need to worry about large profiles, you don´t need to trade off! There are a lot of applications that saves a ton of settings and files in your profile that you now can install without impacting the user experience, this opens up a great deal of opportunities. You can for example install OneNote with it´s (potentially)  gigantic cache, CAD applications with thousands of files in the user profile and so much more.

 

If you find this interesting and would like a trial of FSLogix Profile Container to see if this fits your organizations needs, please contact us. It is easily installed and does not require additional servers or infrastructure!

 



Guest access in Microsoft Teams

Yesterday Microsoft made one of the most request feature for Microsoft Teams general available, Guest Access for external users.

Guest access allows you to add people from outside your company and organisation to a team, so they can participate in chats, join meetings, collaborate on documents and more.

At the moment, anyone with an Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) or Office 365 work or school account can be added as guest in Teams. Microsoft will later on add the ability to add anyone with a Microsoft Account (MSA), like Outlook.com or Live.com.

Image: blogs.office.com

Enable Guest Access

To enable Guest Access in Microsoft Teams, an Office 365 Administrator will have to logon to Office 365 Admin Center and go to Microsoft Teams under Services & add-ins and change Settings by user/license type to Guest and turn the feature On.

 

Inviting a guest

To invite a guest user to a team, just add the user as you normal do by entering the email address:



Skype for Business will be upgraded to Microsoft Teams

Last night, a couple of Office 365 users received the following popup in the portal that Skype for Business is now Microsoft Teams and they should start using Teams:

In the Office 365 Admin Portal, MC118018 was published by Microsoft and later removed, stating that they are starting to upgrading Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams.

The notice stated that for now, this is an opt-in experience, so it’ls not an immediately change by Microsoft, but as an action is required by 2018-09-07 it sure looks like you will be forced to upgrade.

There have not been an official announcement from Microsoft, yet but as Microsoft Ignite is less than a month a way we might see a few new announcements there and one of them might be that Skype for Business will be upgraded to Microsoft Teams.

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