Tag Archives: Amazon Chime

Announcing Alexa for Business: Using Amazon Alexa’s Voice Enabled Devices for Workplaces

Post Syndicated from Tara Walker original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/launch-announcing-alexa-for-business-using-amazon-alexas-voice-enabled-devices-for-workplaces/

There are only a few things more integrated into my day-to-day life than Alexa. I use my Echo device and the enabled Alexa Skills for turning on lights in my home, checking video from my Echo Show to see who is ringing my doorbell, keeping track of my extensive to-do list on a weekly basis, playing music, and lots more. I even have my family members enabling Alexa skills on their Echo devices for all types of activities that they now cannot seem to live without. My mother, who is in a much older generation (please don’t tell her I said that), uses her Echo and the custom Alexa skill I built for her to store her baking recipes. She also enjoys exploring skills that have the latest health and epicurean information. It’s no wonder then, that when I go to work I feel like something is missing. For example, I would love to be able to ask Alexa to read my flash briefing when I get to the office.



For those of you that would love to have Alexa as your intelligent assistant at work, I have exciting news. I am delighted to announce Alexa for Business, a new service that enables businesses and organizations to bring Alexa into the workplace at scale. Alexa for Business not only brings Alexa into your workday to boost your productivity, but also provides tools and resources for organizations to set up and manage Alexa devices at scale, enable private skills, and enroll users.

Making Workplaces Smarter with Alexa for Business

Alexa for Business brings the Alexa you know and love into the workplace to help all types of workers to be more productive and organized on both personal and shared Echo devices. In the workplace, shared devices can be placed in common areas for anyone to use, and workers can use their personal devices to connect at work and at home.

End users can use shared devices or personal devices. Here’s what they can do from each.

Shared devices

  1. Join meetings in conference rooms: You can simply say “Alexa, start the meeting”. Alexa turns on the video conferencing equipment, dials into your conference call, and gets the meeting going.
  2. Help around the office: access custom skills to help with directions around the office, finding an open conference room, reporting a building equipment problem, or ordering new supplies.

Personal devices

  1. Enable calling and messaging: Alexa helps make phone calls, hands free and can also send messages on your behalf.
  2. Automatically dial into conference calls: Alexa can join any meeting with a conference call number via voice from home, work, or on the go.
  3. Intelligent assistant: Alexa can quickly check calendars, help schedule meetings, manage to-do lists, and set reminders.
  4. Find information: Alexa can help find information in popular business applications like Salesforce, Concur, or Splunk.

Here are some of the controls available to administrators:

  1. Provision & Manage Shared Alexa Devices: You can provision and manage shared devices around your workplace using the Alexa for Business console. For each device you can set a location, such as a conference room designation, and assign public and private skills for the device.
  2. Configure Conference Room Settings: Kick off your meetings with a simple “Alexa, start the meeting.” Alexa for Business allows you to configure your conference room settings so you can use Alexa to start your meetings and control your conference room equipment, or dial in directly from the Amazon Echo device in the room.
  3. Manage Users: You can invite users in your organization to enroll their personal Alexa account with your Alexa for Business account. Once your users have enrolled, you can enable your custom private skills for them to use on any of the devices in their personal Alexa account, at work or at home.
  4. Manage Skills: You can assign public skills and custom private skills your organization has created to your shared devices, and make private skills available to your enrolled users.  You can create skills groups, which you can then assign to specific shared devices.
  5. Build Private Skills & Use Alexa for Business APIs:  Dig into the Alexa Skills Kit and build your own skills.  Then you can make these available to the shared devices and enrolled users in your Alexa for Business account, all without having to publish them in the public Alexa Skills Store.  Alexa for Business offers additional APIs, which you can use to add context to your skills and automate administrative tasks.

Let’s take a quick journey into Alexa for Business. I’ll first log into the AWS Console and go to the Alexa for Business service.


Once I log in to the service, I am presented with the Alexa for Business dashboard. As you can see, I have access to manage Rooms, Shared devices, Users, and Skills, as well as the ability to control conferencing, calendars, and user invitations.

First, I’ll start by setting up my Alexa devices. Alexa for Business provides a Device Setup Tool to setup multiple devices, connect them to your Wi-Fi network, and register them with your Alexa for Business account. This is quite different from the setup process for personal Alexa devices. With Alexa for Business, you can provision 25 devices at a time.

Once my devices are provisioned, I can create location profiles for the locations where I want to put these devices (such as in my conference rooms). We call these locations “Rooms” in our Alexa for Business console. I can go to the Room profiles menu and create a Room profile. A Room profile contains common settings for the Alexa device in your room, such as the wake word for the device, the address, time zone, unit of measurement, and whether I want to enable outbound calling.

The next step is to enable skills for the devices I set up. I can enable any skill from the Alexa Skills store, or use the private skills feature to enable skills I built myself and made available to my Alexa for Business account. To enable skills for my shared devices, I can go to the Skills menu option and enable skills. After I have enabled skills, I can add them to a skill group and assign the skill group to my rooms.

Something I really like about Alexa for Business, is that I can use Alexa to dial into conference calls. To enable this, I go to the Conferencing menu option and select Add provider. At Amazon we use Amazon Chime, but you can choose from a list of different providers, or you can even add your own provider if you want to.

Once I’ve set this up, I can say “Alexa, join my meeting”; Alexa asks for my Amazon Chime meeting ID, after which my Echo device will automatically dial into my Amazon Chime meeting. Alexa for Business also provides an intelligent way to start any meeting quickly. We’ve all been in the situation where we walk into a meeting room and can’t find the meeting ID or conference call number. With Alexa for Business, I can link to my corporate calendar, so Alexa can figure out the meeting information for me, and automatically dial in – I don’t even need my meeting ID. Here’s how you do that:

Alexa can also control the video conferencing equipment in the room. To do this, all I need to do is select the skill for the equipment that I have, select the equipment provider, and enable it for my conference rooms. Now when I ask Alexa to join my meeting, Alexa will dial-in from the equipment in the room, and turn on the video conferencing system, without me needing to do anything else.


Let’s switch to enrolled users next.

I’ll start by setting up the User Invitation for my organization so that I can invite users to my Alexa for Business account. To allow a user to use Alexa for Business within an organization, you invite them to enroll their personal Alexa account with the service by sending a user invitation via email from the management console. If I choose, I can customize the user enrollment email to contain additional content. For example, I can add information about my organization’s Alexa skills that can be enabled after they’ve accepted the invitation and completed the enrollment process. My users must join in order to use the features of Alexa for Business, such as auto dialing into conference calls, linking their Microsoft Exchange calendars, or using private skills.

Now that I have customized my User Invitation, I will invite users to take advantage of Alexa for Business for my organization by going to the Users menu on the Dashboard and entering their email address.  This will send an email with a link that can be used to join my organization. Users will join using the Amazon account that their personal Alexa devices are registered to. Let’s invite Jeff Barr to join my Alexa for Business organization.

After Jeff has enrolled in my Alexa for Business account, he can discover the private skills I’ve enabled for enrolled users, and he can access his work skills and join conference calls from any of his personal devices, including the Echo in his home office.


We’ve only scratched the surface in our brief review of the Alexa for Business console and service features.  You can learn more about Alexa for Business by viewing the Alexa for Business website, reading the admin and API guides in the AWS documentation, or by watching the Getting Started videos within the Alexa for Business console.

You can learn more about Alexa for Business by viewing the Alexa for Business website, watching the Alexa for Business overview video, reading the admin and API guides in the AWS documentation, or by watching the Getting Started videos within the Alexa for Business console.

Alexa, Say Goodbye and Sign off the Blog Post.”


Introducing AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory (Standard Edition)

Post Syndicated from Peter Pereira original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/introducing-aws-directory-service-for-microsoft-active-directory-standard-edition/

Today, AWS introduced AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory (Standard Edition), also known as AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition), which is managed Microsoft Active Directory (AD) that is performance optimized for small and midsize businesses. AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) offers you a highly available and cost-effective primary directory in the AWS Cloud that you can use to manage users, groups, and computers. It enables you to join Amazon EC2 instances to your domain easily and supports many AWS and third-party applications and services. It also can support most of the common use cases of small and midsize businesses. When you use AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) as your primary directory, you can manage access and provide single sign-on (SSO) to cloud applications such as Microsoft Office 365. If you have an existing Microsoft AD directory, you can also use AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) as a resource forest that contains primarily computers and groups, allowing you to migrate your AD-aware applications to the AWS Cloud while using existing on-premises AD credentials.

In this blog post, I help you get started by answering three main questions about AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition):

  1. What do I get?
  2. How can I use it?
  3. What are the key features?

After answering these questions, I show how you can get started with creating and using your own AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) directory.

1. What do I get?

When you create an AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) directory, AWS deploys two Microsoft AD domain controllers powered by Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 in your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). To help deliver high availability, the domain controllers run in different Availability Zones in the AWS Region of your choice.

As a managed service, AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) configures directory replication, automates daily snapshots, and handles all patching and software updates. In addition, AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) monitors and automatically recovers domain controllers in the event of a failure.

AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) has been optimized as a primary directory for small and midsize businesses with the capacity to support approximately 5,000 employees. With 1 GB of directory object storage, AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) has the capacity to store 30,000 or more total directory objects (users, groups, and computers). AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) also gives you the option to add domain controllers to meet the specific performance demands of your applications. You also can use AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) as a resource forest with a trust relationship to your on-premises directory.

2. How can I use it?

With AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition), you can share a single directory for multiple use cases. For example, you can share a directory to authenticate and authorize access for .NET applications, Amazon RDS for SQL Server with Windows Authentication enabled, and Amazon Chime for messaging and video conferencing.

The following diagram shows some of the use cases for your AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) directory, including the ability to grant your users access to external cloud applications and allow your on-premises AD users to manage and have access to resources in the AWS Cloud. Click the diagram to see a larger version.

Diagram showing some ways you can use AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition)--click the diagram to see a larger version

Use case 1: Sign in to AWS applications and services with AD credentials

You can enable multiple AWS applications and services such as the AWS Management Console, Amazon WorkSpaces, and Amazon RDS for SQL Server to use your AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) directory. When you enable an AWS application or service in your directory, your users can access the application or service with their AD credentials.

For example, you can enable your users to sign in to the AWS Management Console with their AD credentials. To do this, you enable the AWS Management Console as an application in your directory, and then assign your AD users and groups to IAM roles. When your users sign in to the AWS Management Console, they assume an IAM role to manage AWS resources. This makes it easy for you to grant your users access to the AWS Management Console without needing to configure and manage a separate SAML infrastructure.

Use case 2: Manage Amazon EC2 instances

Using familiar AD administration tools, you can apply AD Group Policy objects (GPOs) to centrally manage your Amazon EC2 for Windows or Linux instances by joining your instances to your AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) domain.

In addition, your users can sign in to your instances with their AD credentials. This eliminates the need to use individual instance credentials or distribute private key (PEM) files. This makes it easier for you to instantly grant or revoke access to users by using AD user administration tools you already use.

Use case 3: Provide directory services to your AD-aware workloads

AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) is an actual Microsoft AD that enables you to run traditional AD-aware workloads such as Remote Desktop Licensing Manager, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft SQL Server Always On in the AWS Cloud. AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) also helps you to simplify and improve the security of AD-integrated .NET applications by using group Managed Service Accounts (gMSAs) and Kerberos constrained delegation (KCD).

Use case 4: SSO to Office 365 and other cloud applications

You can use AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) to provide SSO for cloud applications. You can use Azure AD Connect to synchronize your users into Azure AD, and then use Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) so that your users can access Microsoft Office 365 and other SAML 2.0 cloud applications by using their AD credentials.

Use case 5: Extend your on-premises AD to the AWS Cloud

If you already have an AD infrastructure and want to use it when migrating AD-aware workloads to the AWS Cloud, AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) can help. You can use AD trusts to connect AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) to your existing AD. This means your users can access AD-aware and AWS applications with their on-premises AD credentials, without needing you to synchronize users, groups, or passwords.

For example, your users can sign in to the AWS Management Console and Amazon WorkSpaces by using their existing AD user names and passwords. Also, when you use AD-aware applications such as SharePoint with AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition), your logged-in Windows users can access these applications without needing to enter credentials again.

3. What are the key features?

AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) includes the features detailed in this section.

Extend your AD schema

With AWS Microsoft AD, you can run customized AD-integrated applications that require changes to your directory schema, which defines the structures of your directory. The schema is composed of object classes such as user objects, which contain attributes such as user names. AWS Microsoft AD lets you extend the schema by adding new AD attributes or object classes that are not present in the core AD attributes and classes.

For example, if you have a human resources application that uses employee badge color to assign specific benefits, you can extend the schema to include a badge color attribute in the user object class of your directory. To learn more, see How to Move More Custom Applications to the AWS Cloud with AWS Directory Service.

Create user-specific password policies

With user-specific password policies, you can apply specific restrictions and account lockout policies to different types of users in your AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) domain. For example, you can enforce strong passwords and frequent password change policies for administrators, and use less-restrictive policies with moderate account lockout policies for general users.

Add domain controllers

You can increase the performance and redundancy of your directory by adding domain controllers. This can help improve application performance by enabling directory clients to load-balance their requests across a larger number of domain controllers.

Encrypt directory traffic

You can use AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) to encrypt Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) communication between your applications and your directory. By enabling LDAP over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/Transport Layer Security (TLS), also called LDAPS, you encrypt your LDAP communications end to end. This helps you to protect sensitive information you keep in your directory when it is accessed over untrusted networks.

Improve the security of signing in to AWS services by using multi-factor authentication (MFA)

You can improve the security of signing in to AWS services, such as Amazon WorkSpaces and Amazon QuickSight, by enabling MFA in your AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) directory. With MFA, your users must enter a one-time passcode (OTP) in addition to their AD user names and passwords to access AWS applications and services you enable in AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition).

Get started

To get started, use the Directory Service console to create your first directory with just a few clicks. If you have not used Directory Service before, you may be eligible for a 30-day limited free trial.


In this blog post, I explained what AWS Microsoft AD (Standard Edition) is and how you can use it. With a single directory, you can address many use cases for your business, making it easier to migrate and run your AD-aware workloads in the AWS Cloud, provide access to AWS applications and services, and connect to other cloud applications. To learn more about AWS Microsoft AD, see the Directory Service home page.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about this blog post, start a new thread on the Directory Service forum.

– Peter

Amazon Chime Update – Use Your Existing Active Directory, Claim Your Domain

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/amazon-chime-update-use-your-existing-active-directory-claim-your-domain/

I first told you about Amazon Chime this past February (Amazon Chime – Unified Communications Service) and told you how I connect and collaborate with people all over the world.

Since the launch, Amazon Chime has quickly become the communication tool of choice within the AWS team. I participate in multiple person-to-person and group chats throughout the day, and frequently “Chime In” to Amazon Chime-powered conferences to discuss upcoming launches and speaking opportunities.

Today we are adding two new features to Amazon Chime: the ability to claim a domain as your own and support for your existing Active Directory.

Claiming a Domain
Claiming a domain gives you the authority to manage Amazon Chime usage for all of the users in the domain. You can make sure that new employees sign up for Amazon Chime in an official fashion and you can suspend accounts for employees that leave the organization.

To claim a domain, you assert that you own a particular domain name and then back up the assertion by entering a TXT record to your domain’s DNS entry. You must do this for each domain and subdomain that your organization uses for email addresses.

Here’s how I would claim one of my own domains:

After I click on Verify this domain, Amazon Chime provides me with the record for my DNS:

After I do this, the domain’s status will change to Pending Verification. Once Amazon Chime has confirmed that the new record exists as expected, the status will change to Verified and the team account will become an enterprise account.

Active Directory Support
This feature allows your users to sign in to Amazon Chime using their existing Active Directory identity and credentials. After you have set it up, you can enable and take advantage of advanced AD security features such as password rotation, password complexity rules, and multi-factor authentication. You can also control the allocation of Amazon Chime’s Plus and Pro licenses on a group-by-group basis (check out Plans and Pricing to learn more about each type of license).

In order to use this feature, you must be using an Amazon Chime enterprise account. If you are using a team account, follow the directions at Create an Enterprise Account before proceeding.

Then you will need to set up a directory with the AWS Directory Service. You have two options at this point:

  1. Use the AWS Directory Service AD Connector to connect to your existing on-premises Active Directory instance.
  2. Use Microsoft Active Directory, configured for standalone use. Read How to Create a Microsoft AD Directory for more information on this option.

After you have set up your directory, you can connect to it from within the Amazon Chime console by clicking on Settings and Active directory and choosing your directory from the drop-down:

After you have done this you can select individual groups within the directory and assign the appropriate subscriptions (Plus or Pro) on a group-by-group basis.

With everything set up as desired, your users can log in to Amazon Chime using their existing directory credentials.

These new features are available now and you can start using them today!

If you would like to learn more about Amazon Chime, you can watch the recent AWS Tech Talk: Modernize Meetings with Amazon Chime:

Here is the presentation from the talk:



AWS Online Tech Talks – April 2017

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-online-tech-talks-april-2017/

I’m a life-long learner! I try to set aside some time every day to read about or to try something new. I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, back before the Internet existed. As a teenager, access to technical information of any sort was difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. It often involved begging my parents to drive me to the library or riding my bicycle down a narrow road to get to the nearest magazine rack. Today, with so much information at our fingertips, the most interesting challenge is deciding what to study.

As we do every month, we have assembled a set of online tech talks that can fulfill this need for you. Our team has created talks that will provide you with information about the latest AWS services along with the best practices for putting them to use in your environment.

The talks are free, but they do fill up, so you should definitely register ahead of time if you would like to attend. Most of the talks are one hour in length; all times are in the Pacific (PT) time zone. Here’s what we have on tap for the rest of this month:

Monday, April 24
10:30 AM – Modernize Meetings with Amazon Chime.

1:00 PM – Essential Capabilities of an IoT Cloud Platform.

Tuesday, April 25
8:30 AM – Hands On Lab: Windows Workloads on AWS.

Noon – AWS Services Overview & Quarterly Update.

1:30 PM – Scaling to Million of Users in the Blink of an Eye with Amazon CloudFront: Are you Ready?

Wednesday, April 26
9:00 AM – IDC and AWS Joint Webinar: Getting the Most Bang for your Buck with #EC2 #Winning.

10:30 AM – From Monolith to Microservices – Containerized Microservices on AWS.

Noon – Accelerating Mobile Application Development and Delivery with AWS Mobile Hub.

Thursday, April 27
8:30 AM – Hands On Lab: Introduction to Microsoft SQL Server in AWS.

10:30 AM – Applying AWS Organizations to Complex Account Structures.

Noon – Deep Dive on Amazon Cloud Directory.

I will be presenting Tuesday’s service overview – hope to “see” you there.


Amazon Chime – Unified Communications Service

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/amazon-chime-unified-communications-service/

If your working day is anything like mine, you probably spend a lot of time communicating with your colleagues. Every day, I connect with and collaborate with people all over the world. Some of them are sitting in their office in front of their PCs; others are on the go and using their phones to connect and to communicate. We chat informally, we meet on regular schedules, we exchange documents and images, and we share our screens.

For many years, most “business productivity” tools have been anything but. Many of these tools support just one or two modes of communication or styles of collaboration and can end up getting in the way. Licensing and training costs and a lack of support for collaboration that crosses organizational boundaries don’t make things any better.

Time to change that…

Introducing Amazon Chime
Today I would like to tell you about Amazon Chime. This is a new unified communication service that is designed to make meetings easier and more efficient than ever before. Amazon Chime lets you start high-quality audio and video meetings with a click. Once you are in the meeting you can chat, share content, and share screens in a smooth experience that spans PC and Mac desktops, iOS devices, and Android devices.

Because Amazon Chime is a fully managed service, there’s no upfront investment, software deployment, or ongoing maintenance. Users simply download the Amazon Chime app and start using it within minutes.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most important features of Amazon Chime:

On-Time Meetings – You no longer need to dial in to meetings. There’s no need to enter long meeting identifiers or equally long passwords. Instead, Amazon Chime will alert you when the meeting starts, and allow you to join (or to indicate that you are running behind) with a single click or tap.

Meeting Roster – Instead of endless “who just joined” queries, Amazon Chime provides a visual roster of attendees, late-comers, and those who skipped out entirely. It also provides broadly accessible mute controls in case another participant is typing or their dog is barking.

Broad AccessAmazon Chime was built for mobile use, with apps that run on PCs and mobile devices. Even better, Amazon Chime allows you to join a meeting from one device and then seamlessly switch to another.

Easy Sharing – Collaborating is a core competency for Amazon Chime. Meeting participants can share their screens as desired, with no need to ask for permission. Within Amazon Chime‘s chat rooms, participants can work together and create a shared history that is stored in encrypted fashion.

Clear CallsAmazon Chime delivers high quality noise-cancelled audio and crisp, clear HD video that works across all user devices and with most conference room video systems.

Amazon Chime in Action
Let’s run through the most important aspects of Amazon Chime, starting with the main screen:

I can click on Meetings and then schedule a meeting in my Outlook calendar or my Google calendar:

Outlook scheduling makes use of the Amazon Chime add-in; I was prompted to install it when I clicked on Schedule with Outlook. I simply set up an invite as usual:

Amazon Chime lets me know when the meeting is starting:

I simply click on Answer and choose my audio option:

And my meeting is under way. I can invite others, share my screen or any desired window, use my webcam, and so forth:

I have many options that I can change while the meeting is underway:

Amazon Chime also includes persistent, 1 to 1 chat and chat rooms. Here’s how I create a new chat room:

After I create it I can invite my fellow bloggers and we can have a long-term, ongoing conversation.

As usual, I have only shown you a few of the features! To get started, visit the Amazon Chime site and try it out for yourself.

Amazon Chime Editions
Amazon Chime is available in three editions:

  • Basic Edition is available at no charge. It allows you to attend meetings, make 1 to 1 video calls, and to use all Amazon Chime chat features.
  • Plus Edition costs $2.50 per user per month. It allows user management of entire email domains, supports 1 GB of message retention per user, and connects to Active Directory.
  • Pro Edition costs $15.00 per user per month. It allows hosting of meetings of up to 100 people.

Amazon Chime Pro is free to try for 30 days, with no credit card required. After 30 days, you can continue to use Amazon Chime Basic for free, for as long as you’d like, or you can purchase Amazon Chime Pro for $15.00 per user per month. There is no upfront commitment, and you can change or cancel your subscription at any time.

Available Now
Amazon Chime is available now and you can sign up to start using it today!