Lync For Windows Phone 7: Unable to sign in. Can’t connect to the server

The Lync 2010 client for Windows Phone was released in the Windows Phone marketplace today. Being a big fan of Lync, I eagerly downloaded and ran it, only to be presented by the error :Unable to sign in. Can’t connect to the server”. I went into the manual configuration on the phone and tried to connect and still no dice.

Given that we are using Office 365, I checked in the community hub and found this post that indicated that there were were other users experiencing the same problem, but in their case, it was related to the fact that they were using the default “onmicrosoft.com” domain. However, there were some DNS instructions in the post that gave me a clue. Unfortunately, once I added the indicated DNS entry, I still had the same problem.

I decided to check the DNS settings for my domain in the Administration panel. and as it turns out, the DNS instructions have been updated since I had originally set up our Office 365. There are two CNAME entries that are required for the WP7 Lync application to work with Office 365:

Type Host Name Points To TTL

CNAME

sip.yourdomain.com

sipdir.online.lync.com

1 Hour

CNAME

lyncdiscover.yourdomain.com

webdir.online.lync.com

1 Hour

Obviously, yourname.com should be replaced with your actual domain name.

Once I set these up, I was off to the races with my mobile Lync client.

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Why I Love Office 365

OK, so my company is a Microsoft partner, and we’re supposed to like everything that they throw our way right? That’s actually not true. I’ll certainly give most things that they do a fair shot. It’s also true that I’m willing to sacrifice a certain amount of capability for either ease of use, or for the way that Microsoft products work well together, but as I noted in a previous post, I only gave up my BlackBerry when Microsoft came out with a product that was worth using.

My company is small (currently 6 people) and widely distributed. Cloud solutions make perfect sense to us,and we have been using Exchange Online for over 2 years now. Our requirements for SharePoint went beyond what was possible in BPOS’ offering, but since migrating to Office 365 6 months ago, the  new SharePoint online fits the bill, and more and more of our corporate assets live there now.

UnlimitedViz is currently primarily a SharePoint services company focused on Business Intelligence, and a significant portion of those services involve architecting SharePoint environments at a lower level, which involves sizing servers, making resource decisions, etc. I personally love designing solutions and watching them come to life. We are certainly more than capable to maintain our own SharePoint infrastructure, so why would we want to use an admittedly more limited version of the product that is maintained by someone else?

Pretty much because it’s maintained by someone else.

As mentioned above we’re small, and we need to be focused on what we do best, which is providing services to our customers, and building product. Maintaining internal systems, no matter how good we are at it, is a distraction, and a significant cost, both capital and operational. The per user cost of Office 365 is pretty simple to justify from just a cost standpoint, but there are many more benefits that are brought to the table.

No matter what the location of a team member, they can easily access what they need to. Lync brings that down to the voice and IM communication level. No need to mess around with access methods, VPNs, Firewalls, Reverse Proxy servers and the like. We can get to our content easily on site, at home via whatever device we happen to need. Granted, I could set that stuff up on-premise, but now I don’t have to! I also know that my data is safe, and the performance is going to be good. Two months ago, Exchange online suffered an outage for about two hours (the only hiccup I’ve experienced so far). My initial reaction was “what can I do to fix this”, but that was quickly superseded by  “It’s not my problem to fix”, so I just sat back and got other work done.

As we bring more customers onto Office 365, supporting them just gets simpler. A simple client request can be acted upon immediately by launching a browser window, and connecting to their site, seamlessly. With most onsite installations, I need to start a virtual machine, connect through a VPN client, and then hope that the correct tools are installed on the VM, or the client site, depending on the access mechanism. I try to keep a VM image available for every type of VPN client used, which is a hopeless and necessary task due to the incompatibilities between clients. In my opinion, the world will be a better place when VPN clients are eliminated (or at least consolidated”).

Customers using Office 365 don’t need VPN clients, and it makes it that much easier (and cheaper for them) for us to support them.

There a a whole bunch of great features about Office 365 (Shared OneNote files accessed via Windows Phone, browser and client is a good one, not to mention Lync), but the reason that I really like it is that it’s solid, it works, and it lets my business focus on using its tools, not maintaining them.

SharePoint Online Fall 2011 Service Update Starts Oct 20

Today, Microsoft sent out a bulletin to SharePoint Online users notifying them that they would begin rolling out the Fall 2011 Service Update. This is the much vaunted update announced at the SharePoint Conference 2011 that includes BCS services. For those that don’t already subscribe, the list of new features can be found below (copied from the official email).

Feature

Description

Business Connectivity Services (BCS) <WCF Connector> *Enterprise plans only

Enables connecting to external systems via web service based endpoints

External Sharing: Windows LiveID support

Allows Office 365 tenant administrators to invite external users to a site collection. They sign in with a Windows Live ID-based user name and password.

Windows Phone 7 “Mango” (official support and http:// connectivity)

Windows Phone 7.5, codenamed “Mango,” now enables both small business and enterprise Office 365 customers to access SharePoint Online lists and document libraries from their Windows Phone.

Recycle Bin: deleted site self-recovery

Self-service ability to recover sites from a site collection’s recycle bin

Browser support: Internet Explorer 9

Adds official support for the Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser

Browser support: Chrome

Adds official support for the Chrome browser


SharePoint 2010 Upgrade breaks Microsoft Access Client Application

I have been doing quite a few 2007-2010 upgrades lately, and suffering the appropriate slings and arrows. A recent upgrade resulted in a few issues, the strangest one was that Microsoft Access could no longer open a SharePoint list.

For quite some time now, Microsoft has been able to read and write data from SharePoint lists as if they were active Access tables. This is distinct from Access Services, which ships with the Enterprise version of SharePoint Server. Access Services lets you “convert” your entire Access application to a SharePoint site at which point the Access client is no longer required (for a user).

Our situation was much simpler. We were dealing with a Power user that was good with Access, and had leveraged the list read/write capability quite heavily with 2007. However, after the upgrade, Access 2007 couldn’t open some of the lists that it could previously. Compounding this problem was that Access 2010 didn’t have this problem on the lists in question. The browser could also open these lists just fine.

The answer to this one came from what appeared to be a different problem. Some of the other lists in the site couldn’t be opened by the browser. Instead, the user received the message “The query cannot be completed because the number of lookup columns it contains exceeds the lookup column threshold enforced by the administrator”:

image

SharePoint has a bad reputation for “Unknown Error” messages, but this one is really quite good. This one pointed squarely at the list throttling features available in SharePoint 2010 that of course weren’t there in 2007. Basically, 2010 allows an administrator to throttle, or prevent poorly performing functions from slowing down the system for everyone. One such expensive operation is performing lookups, and the default limit is set to 8.

Dina Ayoub has a good post here on the throttling features if you would like to learn more, but the important thing to note here is that this setting affects not just lookup fields, but Person/Group and Workflow Status fields as well, so if you have 8 or more of them, the list will simply stop working.

This setting is scoped to the application level, so if it is changed, you affect all site collections in that application. (It also means that you can’t change it at all in Office 365.) You set it through the Resource Throttling settings in Central Administration. Once in CA, click on Application Management, highlight the application to be changed, and in the General Settings dropdown, pick Resource Throttling.

image

Scroll down to the section titled “List View Lookup Threshold”:

image

Here, you can simply increase its value to where you need it.

Changing the values should be done with considerable care. These throttling features were implemented for very good reasons, and changing them risks overloading your SQL server. A much better approach would be to go back and rethink the design of your list, if that’s an option. If it isn’t then this is a decent plan B. You can always buy more hardware…….

So this fixed our post upgrade list issue in the browser, how does this relate to our Access problem? Well, it turns out that they were one and the same, just manifesting differently. It seems that Access does something when it opens a list that adds a few more lookup type items to the Query, or at least it behaves that way. It also appears that Access 2010 and Access 2007 behave differently in this regard. In the end, increasing this value sufficiently solved the Access problems.

I haven’t found anything definitive out there, but anecdotally at least, you should be aware that when you use Access to open up a SharePoint list, you pay a “”List View Lookup Threshold” penalty.

How to Add the SRV Records for Office 365 to a DNS Provider

The documentation provided with Office 365 combined with the new interface make configuration of it much simpler than with BPOS. However, it isn’t without a few small bumps. I ran into one of these when I was setting up our own organization to use the Lync features. One of the requirements was to add two SRV records to our external DNS, as per the image below:

image

There are actually some great guidelines and walkthroughs for setting this up with specific registrars, such as GoDaddy. However we’re using DynDNS, which is not one of the ones documented. Fair enough, I can find my way around a configuration screen, but the problem was that our DNS provider is somewhat old school. The SRV records are considered advanced (and therefore assume that I know what I’m doing with DNS), so instead of giving me nice, clearly defined fields like TTL, Port, and weight, I am presented with a single TXT field entry screen.

image

This is fine if you’re a DNS expert, and know how to construct the strings, but I’m not. After a fair bit of hunting around, I was able to sort out the following syntax for adding the requisite SRV records:

Host TTL Type Data
_sip._tls.mydomain.com 60 SRV 1 100 443 sipdir.online.lync.com.
_sipfederationtls._tcp.mydomain.com 60 SRV 1 100 5061 sipfed.online.lync.com.

 

Take special note of the period at the end of the data field – this is in fact required. Once these values were added, we were off to the races with Lync – which is awesome by the way…

Your mileage may vary depending on your DNS provider, but hopefully it will help if you’re in a similar situation.