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The Skype Business version page says its easy to install on your network because of MSI. How can I really use this? what need additional MS software do I need to easily install it on all PCs on my corporate network?

Also, what are the major/minor differences the Business version has from the normal version?

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This is probably a better question asked on Server Fault. – Axxmasterr Aug 12 '09 at 16:37
Yeah, and have them donevote me and basically kick me all over just for not being "system administration" related?! At least its a power user question for sure! – Jarvis Aug 12 '09 at 17:01
I would have to say this is definitely a server admin kind of question. It appears this might just be a problem of presentation. – Axxmasterr Aug 12 '09 at 17:19
up vote 1 down vote accepted

We have been using skype for years - the big advantages for us:

You can have a single account for skypeout. They used to only allow a credit card to be associated with a single skype name, so if your users didn't have individual company cards they had to put skype credit on using their own cards and be reimbursed.

You can have a central list of contacts. Otherwise if you want to only allow other employees to skype you, you have to have every employee send a new user message to everyone else and be added to their contacts which is a real pain to do manually if you have 100 or 1000s of users.

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How do I get a central list of accounts? – Jarvis Aug 12 '09 at 18:14

Definitely is a ServerFault question, I work in software packaging and deployment for a large company and this is what we do.

An MSI file is an installer built for the Windows Installer system, if you have at least Win XP (might even work with Win 2000 SP4) then you'll have a version of the Windows Installer already installed. Its used by things like Windows Update and most commercial (and a lot of non-commercial) software. Most Setup.exe's these days just call an MSI to do the real install.

If you're just installing on one PC then you just double-click the MSI and install as normal just like your average setup.exe installer.

The real magic of an MSI comes when you need to install it on a lot of PCs with little to no effort.

Go to the Run box in Windows and type "msiexec" this brings up the basic command line options for the Windows Installer, and are all options you can use with your MSI to get it to install with no user interaction, totally silently or with various levels of logging enabled.

Eg to install skype.msi silently with default settings you'd use something like this command line:

msiexec /i \\servername\share\path\skype.msi /qn

You should be able to take that command line and put it into whatever your company's deployment method is, whether its Group Policies, MS SCCM (or the older SMS), Novell ZEN, Altiris DS, etc or even something as simple as inserting it in a login script.

Where the real magic of MSI installs comes in is when you don't want to use the default install options, but want to miss out components, install to a different path, put in a company config file and so on. You can use tools to create MST files (MS Installer Transform files) these tell the Windows Installer to follow the MSIs instructions but with differences that you specify. You'd then use a command line like this:

msiexec /i \\servername\share\path\skype.msi TRANSFORM=\\servername\share\path\mycompanysconfig.mst /qn

There are a lot of MSI Transform creators on the market from people like Altiris, Symantec, Acresso, and so on. Most of them have cut-down free/trial versions of their software that you can play around with and can be extremely powerful.

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The big grand daddy of application management systems in the windows environment is Systems Management Server or SMS. This is an extremely powerful system that allows you to deploy software, updates and just about any sort of remote systems management functions you can think of. Very expensive... But Very cool!

SMS can take your MSI and turn it into an install package that will get pushed out to every machine you designate. It is intended to do unattended installs so there is no need to have the user present during the process.

SMS Homepage

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Thank you! Nice tut. I'll check it out and see if it works well on my network. – Jarvis Aug 12 '09 at 17:02

Another easy solution to your problem is to figure out how to run the MSI using the command line switches. I am pretty sure you can get it to install without any interaction with the user. You just need to add it in to the login script if you have this capability.

That being said, you only need to script simple logic to determine if skype is already installed. There are a number of ways to do this. I find an "If Exist" on the program executable is usually sufficient for smaller environments. If you had hundreds or thousands of users you might want to use a more elegant means to do this. (Like SMS for instance)

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Hmm... "command line", and "easy"? Maybe you're a C++ programmer?! – Jarvis Aug 12 '09 at 18:37
I am not a programmer actually. The easiest way I to do this not being a programmer is to have the installation script also install a file after the MSI is complete. I will look tonight to see if I can find an example for you if you are still interested. – Axxmasterr Aug 12 '09 at 20:24
Also not being a programmer, but meddling with batch files every once in a while -- I would choose this approach too. But it's more of a "hack" than an "elegant corporate solution". but if it works, fine! – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 25 '09 at 12:17

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