Office 365 Customer? Not Ready for the Skype for Business Update?

The new Skype for Business client is almost here! On April 14th, Microsoft will begin pushing out Skype for Business as part of the regular monthly Automatic updates to Office 365 ProPlus. Although Skype for Business has received mostly positive reviews, IT pros and businesses were left with a little less than a month to prepare for the new user interface and communicate to end users that Lync would soon be replaced. With Office 365, Microsoft enables automatic updates by default, and updates download and install automatically when Office is not in use. These updates are separate from Windows updates and may contain a combination of security, non-security, and/or functionality enhancements. Details on each update can be found here, and an overview of the entire update process can be found here. According to Microsoft “Because individual updates aren’t available for Office 365 ProPlus, you can’t use Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), or System Center Configuration Manager to download and apply individual updates to Office 365 ProPlus.”

Ok. So what are your options if you aren’t ready for the new Skype for Business client? There really are only two options and each has their drawbacks:

  1. Disable Office 365 ProPlus updates entirely
  2. Disable the Skype User Interface and replace it with the Lync 2013 interface

There are three ways disable the automatic updates for Office ProPlus:

  1. Using the Office Deployment tool (this is only helpful if you already deployed Office ProPlus using the tool in the first place).
  2. Using group policy (this is only helpful if your computers with Office ProPlus are joined to an Active Directory domain).
  3. Manually disabling updates on each computer (this can be very time consuming depending on the number of computers you administer).

Information on the Office Deployment Tool and configuring Group Policy can be found here. To manually disable updates, open any Office program and go to File > Account. There will be an “Office Updates” section where you can disable updates from the drop down box:

Keep in mind that disabling updates should only be a temporary solution since security patches will also be disabled.

If you would rather just disable the new Skype for Business user interface, Microsoft has provided some PowerShell commands to allow Office 365 admins to switch back to the legacy Lync interface. They have even provided a ready to execute PowerShell script. Keep in mind that this does not disable the new software from being installed, but rather puts a “skin” on it so it appears to end users to look like the old Lync 2013 client.

The first problem with the commands and script is that they are designed for organizations who currently use Lync Online. What if you have either a Lync server on premises or hosted by a 3rd party (what Microsoft calls a hybrid environment)? Even if you use Lync Online, the PowerShell script Microsoft provides will not work. This is because the system requirements and the script itself say you need to have the “Skype for Business Online connector module”. As of April 12th, there is no such thing. There is a Lync Online connector module though!

Before you rush to disable the Skype for Business UI, you should be aware of what CANNOT be changed with the interface:

  • The new icon (the icon will be the new Skype for Business icon)
  • Sounds will be different
  • Meeting links from within Outlook will say “Skype Meeting” instead of “Lync Meeting”

Also, the first time the new client is launched, users will be asked if they want to restart Skype for Business into the old Lync interface. You can control this behavior via a registry edit which can be deployed via Group Policy.

Here are the steps to disable the Skype for Business user interface globally for Office 365 Lync Online organizations:

  1. Install PowerShell 3.0 if it is not currently installed: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=34595
  2. Install the Lync online connector module: http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=39366
  3. Install the Microsoft Online services sign-in assistant: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=28177
  4. Download the PowerShell Script from Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=46404
  5. Edit line 1 of the DisableSkypeUIGlobal.ps1 script – Replacing SkypeOnlineConnector with LyncOnlineConnector
  6. Run PowerShell as administrator, navigate to the folder you saved the edited script and execute the script by typing ./DisableSkypeUIGlobal.ps1 (Choose Yes if prompted to start the WinRM service. Enter your Office 365 administrator credentials when prompted)
  7. To verify that the script worked type Get-CsClientPolicy –Identity Global | select Identity, EnableSkypeUI |fl

Here are the steps to disable the Skype for Business user interface globally for Office 365 organizations using Lync server on Premises or hosted via a 3rd party:

UPDATE: If you host your own Lync or Skype for Business server or have it hosted via a 3rd party provider, you need to check with your hosting company or your Lync admin to make sure that the Skype for Business UI is disabled. The command to disable the UI is:

Skype user interface (UI) for all users: Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity Global -EnableSkypeUI $false

  1. Install PowerShell 3.0 if it is not currently installed http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=34595
  2. Install the Lync online connector module: http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=39366
  3. Install the Microsoft Online services sign-in assistant:http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=28177
  4. Download the PowerShell Script from Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=46404
  5. Replace the lines of the DisableSkypeUIGlobal.ps1 with the following (Be sure to replace “yourdomain” with the Office 365 domain you want to modify):

import-module LyncOnlineConnector

$session = New-CsOnlineSession –OverrideAdminDomain “yourdomain.onmicrosoft.com”

Import-PSSession $session -AllowClobber

Grant-CsClientPolicy -PolicyName ClientPolicyDisableSkypeUI

If you were to try and run the script Microsoft provided, you would get a PowerShell error since your DNS Lync auto discover record would not be pointing to Microsoft.

  1. Run PowerShell as administrator, navigate to the folder you saved the edited script and execute the script by typing ./DisableSkypeUIGlobal.ps1 (Choose Yes if prompted to start the WinRM service. Enter your Office 365 administrator credentials when prompted)
  2. To verify that the script worked type Get-CsClientPolicy –Identity Global | select Identity, EnableSkypeUI |fl

There are benefits and downsides to either reverting to the Lync interface or disabling updates entirely. For clients with Active Directory, TecFac is recommending using Group Policy to “temporarily” disable all Office 365 ProPlus updates until enough communication and training on the new interface can be disseminated. In our opinion, the confusion surrounding the things that cannot be changed when reverting to the old Lync interface, and the fact that you will still need to orient users to the new software at some point, will lead to more administrative effort and less end user satisfaction.

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