Author Archives: Anthony Caragol

Reminder: Quarterly Chicagoland Teams User Group

Another reminder for those of you in the Chicago area, December 2nd is our quarterly Microsoft Teams user group, this one is in the burbs. Catering will include some of my favorite deep dish pizza.

These are always fun and valuable, and a great place to network with your peers and make those relationships.  Vendors and local experts attend regularly as well so it’s a place to get those questions answered too!

This time around there are two sessions, the first will be preseting on 911 and can answer questions about their services, next I’ll be presenting on all the new features that have hit since the last meeting.  Should be a ton of fun!

To register or to find other local groups visit

Please note this meeting will be held at the Downer’s Grove Microsoft Office ( 3025 Highland Pkwy #300).

Collaboration Bars for Teams are Coming!

I’m a bit unusually excited about this announcement, and from what I’ve seen of Yealinks offering, it’s going to be pretty cool. You’re likely familiar with Microsoft Teams Room systems, simple in-expensive devices that connect to the cloud to host video conferencing. These we formerly Skype Room Systems (v2) or Project Rigel and ran on Surface tablets with Windows 10. The first iterations of this didn’t leave me feeling too warm, but they worked. My biggest issues were mostly Windows 10 updates and the occasional user would would join from the tablet but not turn on the TV and were upset they were on video. Things have gotten better since those days, but I feel for smaller rooms, they’re about to get even better with Collaboration Bars.

These Collaboration Bars connect with your TV (touchscreen is best but not mandatory as there’s a remote control) or display to enable the meeting experience, the difference is that they’re compact, run Android, and are controlled from the TV, eliminating the “I didn’t know I was on video” complaint from the person who didn’t show up for training… or read the guide… or look at the sheet in the room… or the label on the tablet in the room (I’m bitter).

I’ve been following Yealink and their VC210 series. They’ve been coming out with some pretty strong offerings recently. When their first phone came out I was wary, but they quickly won me over with their user experience. Clients tend to love their products, and I have to admit that I do as well.

VC210 Front

This device comes with a 4K camera with a 120 degree view of the room, can utilize WiFi, sit on top of your TV, and run Bluetooth to it’s full duplex speakerphone (it needs a Yealink CP900).

VC210 Back

In fairness, as excited as I am, I haven’t touched one of these devices yet, but will update as soon as I do. These are going to be a low-cost plug and play option that is going to be suitable for what I would consider the majority of mid-market conference and huddle rooms (not the large ones, but they’ve got models for that too). Good times ahead!

Missed Ignite? Here’s the Video.

I didn’t make it to Ignite this year, which stinks. For me, the networking there is endlessly valuable, but my clients are even more so and I always put them first. The technical sessions are great (especially if I get a chance to present) but the great part about that is the ability to catch up on those later.

Check out the link below to watch some of them. I have to confess, when there’s a shot that includes the audience, I’m trying to pick my friends out of the front row.

Microsoft and Cisco Love…

At Ignite, Cisco and Microsoft made some pretty exciting announcements and their interoperability going forward. Those announcements can be seen here. There will be cloud video interop (CVI) that will allow WebEx devices to connect to Teams Meetings, quite handy for those who need to invest in both. There will be the ability to click to join Teams Meetings from WebEx devices as well as the ability to join WebEx Meetings from Teams devices, also quite cool.

What I’m the most excited about, being the Microsoft voice nerd, is the ability to connect Cisco Session Border Controllers directly to Microsoft Teams for Direct Routing in a supported fashion. No more sheepishly telling a Cisco shop that they’ll have to buy AudioCodes or Ribbon to put an SBC in front of their SBC. With this direct option, combined with the ability to disable missed call notifications, dual forking and using Teams as an endpoint for Cisco phone solutions just became a cool reality.

CVI and Meeting Join is expected in Early 2020, and Cisco has joined the Direct Routing certification program, but I don’t see clarity in the article on just when that will happen.

What is Meetings First for Skype for Business?

You may be asking, “How do I move my Skype for Business Server meetings to the cloud?” But what does this mean and what does it look like for Skype 2015 and 2019?

In simple terms, this is called “Meetings First” and while it does move our meeting workloads to the cloud, it moves them into Teams. Years ago, if I recall as early as 2015, we were told we’d be able to leverage cloud meetings with Skype for Business Server 2015 and I’ve been waiting eagerly forever. I tend to work with clients in the mid-market who don’t always have enough phone lines to support large conferences. Buying more doesn’t always make sense either so leveraging Microsoft’s cloud would be a no-brainer.

But… it moves them into Teams, not Skype. I actually really like this approach, for one, Skype for Business Online is retiring anyway so allowing it there would be very short term, but two Teams meetings are FAR superior.

To enable this, each user would need to be licensed in the cloud for Microsoft Teams, and optionally if they want a dial-in number, an Audio Conferencing license. Next, their Microsoft Teams mode would eed to be set to SFBWithTeamsCollabAndMeetings. This mode basically means that IM and calls go to Skype for Business, but Teams can be used for Teams and channels as well as meetings.

Follow this link to read more.

New Teams Stuff (September)

We’ve got another bunch of announced feature releases for Microsoft Teams this month, and for those following me, allow me to collab with you on some of my thoughts. Here are the ones of special interest to me (mostly because I’m a voice guy)…

Chat Filtering

Thank you Microsoft! This was getting out of hand. We can now filter chats from the desktop client.


More stuff in Cloud Voicemail

Cloud Voicemail ain’t Unified Messaging. I still miss the rules I could create, it was like a mini Automated Attendant just for me. That said, the new enhancements make up for it a little. We can now directly transfer to voicemail from the client, and in the Teams client settings we can configure call answering rules, customize the greetings including OOF, and the like.

Chromium Calling

We had video, now we can use Chromium based browsers to make phone calls, this is REALLY close to parity… Not sure what else we’re missing, but not much I use regularly at this point.

Reverse Number Lookup

Finally, Teams will display the telco provided display name (CNAM) or if they’re in Azure AD, it will display that.

Meet Now Button

Last item of the most interest to me, we’ve now got a Meet Now button, which I missed from the Skype client.

Is my 3PIP Skype Phone a Brick in 2021?

More clarity on the recent announcement that Skype for Business Online will be retired in July 2021. 3PIP phones currently connect to Microsoft Teams using the Skype for Business Online gateway, and Skype is clearly going away. This has caused a bit of apprehension as many have invested large amounts into desk phones running third party firmware and many aren’t happy with the current state of Teams firmware on desk phones (it’ll get better). Further, some vendors (you know who you are) haven’t even released their Teams firmware phone yet.

Well, we can relax… a bit. A recent announcement from Microsoft has set the deadline for the death of these phones to July 31, 2023. Two years past the death of Skype, which is itself two years from today. So we’ve got about 4 more years.

Allll that said, with several Teams telephony deployments under my belt, I have to say it’s worth going as deskphoneless as possible (I made that word up). The experience is far superior, though it requires a good amount of user enablement and a bit of a fight as many won’t be happy with losing their phones. However, the organizations I’ve seen pull this off have a much more positive view of the product experience after the fact. Something to keep in mind.

Breaking! Skype Online Retiring On July 31st, 2021!

We’ve known this was happening for a long time, and we’ve finally got a date. Skype for Business will be retiring in about two years from today, on July 31st, 2021. The service will no longer be accessible at that time, that means no opening a support ticket to back out of Teams. Two years happens fast, so if you haven’t started your migration, you’re already behind. While Skype and Teams don’t have complete feature parity, the vast majority of it is there, enough that even an old Skype salt like me is comfortable. Get moving!

Official announcement is here:

Reminder: Quarterly Chicagoland Teams User Group

Quick reminder for those of you in the Chicago area, July 10th is our quarterly Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business user group.

These are always fun and valuable, and a great place to network with your peers and make those relationships.  Vendors and local experts attend regularly as well so it’s a place to get those questions answered too!

This time around there are two sessions, the first I’ll be presenting on Extending Teams: Revisiting Bots, Connectors, and Messaging Extensions. Then we’ll talk about all that’s new in Microsoft Teams. It’s always a ton of fun.

To register or to find other local groups visit

Please note this meeting will be held at the Downtown Microsoft Office in the Aon Building (200 E. Randolph, Suite 200).

New Cool Teams Features for June

Microsoft announced a slew of new features for Teams today, I wanted to take a moment and jot down some of my thoughts on the ones I’m excited about.

Single Toolbar for Meetings

Out with the old multiple buttons at the bottom and upper right for meeting controls, in with a new single toolbar for full control. I love this one, but I spend a lot of my day in meetings. It’s cleaner and easier.

This is old.
This is new.

Avoid conflicts of interest with Information Barriers

To be honest, I haven’t played with this much yet. Basically it allows you to keep one set of users from talking to another. I believe it requires E5 for the people being walled (ex. the CEO who doesn’t want constant IMs of ideas for improvement from the IT staff). Known as an ethical wall, this was a big request in Lync and Skype and one that I’d use MSPL scripting to pull off. Thankfully no MSPL scripting required.

Video Calling in Chromium

Big enhancement, Chrome and Chromium based browsers can do video calling without using the full Teams client. We’re edging closer and closer to parity there.

Let me know what you think of these features too, or some of the others I didn’t mention.