Why You Don’t Want to Pre-populate Contacts in Lync/Skype

One of the questions that comes up very regularly on the TechNet forums is how to add contacts to the Lync or Skype client before a user signs in for the first time.  This question is occasionally followed with a bit of incredulity that there is no native functionality in the server to do this for you.  For those with an absolute need to get this done, there are some links at the bottom of this post to help with on-premises deployments.

But why isn’t it native?  Did Microsoft simply forget this? Not at all! However, it might be time to change the way you think of your contact list.  Don’t think of the client as a place to keep all of your contacts, instead, think of it as a speed dial for quick access to frequently used contacts.  For all of your other contacts, the search is all you need (and if you’re having trouble with that, try WebSearchOnly).  Why clutter a user’s client’s with everyone else in the company?  They won’t be able to see everyone’s presence without clicking and scrolling anyway due to the size of the client, and if this is still functionality they’d want, you can always direct them to add Exchange Distribution lists relevant to their job function.

If you do pre-load contacts into user’s accounts, keep in mind that depending on the size of your organization, and how many you want to load, there may be ramifications.  When a contact is added, a subscription is created that will regularly retrieve and update presence and status information.  If you’ve ever watched a contact’s status change in near real time from available to busy or away, you’ve witnessed this.  This presence information is stored in the SQL databases associated with your Front End.  When you unnecessarily multiply this constant updating of presence by loading up contacts, there can be performance implications.

To this end, Microsoft has limited the total number of contacts and groups that can be added to the client.  The default maximum contacts for the on-premises server is set to 250 and can be seen by running Get-CsUserServicesConfiguration and reviewing the MaxContacts property.


The MaxContacts value can be increased using “Set-CsUserServicesConfiguration -MaxContacts” but only to a maximum of 1000.  Online, I do not believe this can currently be changed as of the writing of this post.

Let’s say we ignore this, and increase this number.  By default, if more than 200 users have a user in their contact list, some may see the dreaded “Maximum Followers Reached” message described here: http://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2795173.  This happens because too many people are requesting a user’s status.  Like the rest, this value too can be modified to an extent, however the hope is that you’ll see the reasoning not too.

If you’re still dead set on pre-adding contacts for your users, the following utilities may be of assistance.  Please let me know if you’ve found another one you particularly like and I’ll add it below begrudgingly 🙂

17 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Want to Pre-populate Contacts in Lync/Skype

  1. Brian Longoria

    I just ran into this sort of issue two weeks ago. We were converting our switchboard operator, yes, you heard me correctly, from Cisco to Lync and also adding the Attendant Pro from Landis Computers. In order for AP to work well and “seem” to maintain similar functionality as the Cisco PBX operator (contact by department grouping), we had her add many of her common contacts to Lync so AP could just suck them in, and have nice groups for her and the other workers to use. She reached the 250 wall in no time. I had no idea there was a limit, and thanks to Google, I was able to get that up to 500 fairly quickly. I now fear too many followers error you just showed us. Are we “doing it wrong”? Is there some other thought process I should adopt when dealing with switchboards? Thanks for the article. Always looking to learn more and more. Cheers! B.

    1. C. Anthony Caragol Post author

      Attendant Pro sure makes the presence at a glance easy, and reception tools in general make this a case where it’s nice to have them all added for drag and drop. I’d just be careful of having it the other way around, where all of the users add the receptionist. There’s not much we can do once we hit the presence subscription maximums.

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  4. Jason Keith

    I’m using Vytru’s Contacts Manager tool to auto populate the pre-configured contact list to SfB online users simultaneously.

    For the Skype for Business online there are no alternative tools to populate the contacts to the end users for them to have a read-to use contact lists.

    Max number of Contacts is 250 users, here we don’t have a choice and this value is hard coded values that be modified via PowerShell or client policy. the only way to get around this is to create Distribution groups. Contacts Manager supports populating the Distribution groups you can check out the tool from here: http://www.vytru.com/contacts-manager-for-microsoft-lync-and-skype.html

    1. Hashim

      Does this tools helps to auto populate 100 contacts in the SFB whenever a new user is added and have a separate computer to operate.

  5. DaE

    that´s not right. just open Lync Server Management Shell (powerhsell) on the LyncServer and enter

    Get-CSUserServicesConfiguration. As you can see the standard setting is 250. simply change this by typing:

    Set-CSUserServicesConfiguration -MaxContacts 1000

    This would set it to a maximum of 1000 users!

    Have fun!

  6. Robert Crichton

    Chaps – we have been adding contacts manually to our new starts from OCS days through to SFB.

    Tired users forget to update their own lists thereafter we find from experience- thus leaving dead wood on their contact lists (when someone leaves our organization the “dead user” remains as a presence unknown entry – forever bing queried in case they ever come back to the Green living world. I manually wander by and remove that dead entry for them from time to time but I do like the idea of managing our users contacts centrally for them (because our people are busy\ do not know how to ) -((either by script or some of the handy tools above)) – however, ideally the users should do their own spring cleaning and be encouraged to do that and get more comfortable adding and removing new and dead entries.

    If we do it for them they will complain if its not done right – if we don’t they will complain why do they have dead entries displayed. I suspect you need to know the balance and agree that giving everyone everyone else on their list isn’t the right way (it does get noisy at network level) but a fellow team members and useful contacts pushed to users may well be a happy compromise

  7. V Phillips

    Unfortunately this assumes all organizations have 100’s of employees. For small businesses, it’s a glaring problem with no easy solution. Honestly, 90% of Microsoft developers need to come out of the Redmonds ivory tower and spend a year in the trenches trying to their own tools in small environments.

  8. Alex

    I’m currently overgoing migration from local Zimbra e-mail server to O365 with Skype for Business. Our employees use pidgin connected to our Jabber server for communicating, and it is now going to be replaced with Skype FB. I managed to get a list of all their contact lists and I have 150 users with 2000 contacts in total, so I guess I’m gonna have to change my tactics?

  9. Niles

    Yeah this needs to be a feature asap. I just rolled SfB to a 40+ user client and they are pretty mad that this wasn’t a feature. Got to learn powershell now…

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