Your Keys to Success with Cisco Webex

*Cisco Spark is now Cisco Webex*

The way your organization works together is changing.

You understand moving to a cloud collaboration suite could complement, or even replace, your current unified communications (UC) solution. But, until now, you’ve hesitated to invest in a public cloud-based service because:

  • You worry adding high-traffic cloud services to your environment could strain your network
  • You’re unsure how a cloud-first suite will blend with your existing on-premises infrastructure
  • You know the human element of any UC deployment often makes rollout a challenge for IT

In a recent video meet up with Spiceworks, our panel of experts discussed the key consideration any organization needs to make before a Cisco Webex deployment.

Watch the video here.

What Sets Cisco Webex Apart?

There are a lot of UC options on the marketplace. What makes Cisco Webex stand out from the crowd?

Cisco Webex completes the Cisco collaboration portfolio ranging from on-premises to public cloud. Where competing products focus on calling, messaging and video conferencing features, Cisco Webex is designed for project teams with a need for high-frequency collaboration. From an end-user perspective, Cisco Webex replaces email as the primary way to exchange files and documents and enables content sharing in diverse ways.

Cisco Webex also enhances the potential for hybrid services integration with your existing on-premises PBX. Cisco has built Cisco Webex on open, flexible APIs. This makes it easy to integrate with other applications, such as issue ticketing or CRM software. You can deploy the Cisco Webex as a full PBX or call control engine, or use the Cisco Webex client like a softphone on a mobile phone or desktop PC.

Before You Begin

There are three key considerations to make before planning your Cisco Webex migration.

  1. Keep in mind Cisco Webex is a cloud-first solution.

This means it’s critical to understand how and how much traffic will be moving through your environment. Can your network architecture provide enough bandwidth to support it? This is even more important when voice and video are part of the equation.

  1. Mind your roadmap.

You must have the internal conversations around onboarding Cisco Webex to your environment. What features do you plan to deploy? When and where are you going to deploy them? Who are your users? Having a clear plan helps you avoid the conundrum of investing to deploy a tool only to have nobody use it.

  1. Define your expectations.

Cisco Webex offers core functionalities across meetings, calls, and messaging. Decide which capabilities Cisco Webex is going to add to your environment and which it’s going to replace.  The desired business-related outcomes will drive your migration path. Remember, the provisioning and configuration aspects are simple. Your project plan is where the real work is done.

Driving User Adoption

Best practices for championing adoption in your organization depend on your business use case. While one organization might be able to accommodate a multi-day gap in phone service, another might face serious problems. Each scenario presents different drivers and conversation points.

In any case, preventing confusion is crucial. Administrative knowledge transfer should happen before Cisco Webex is in production within your environment. Clear communication and user training in advance are key to ensuring early and widespread adoption.

In an ideal situation, your Cisco Webex deployment will take place on a departmental or site-by-site basis rather than all-at-once, allowing you to tailor each rollout to departmental needs.

Networking & Hardware

From a networking perspective, it’s important to know whether your infrastructure has the bandwidth to support a cloud solution like Cisco Webex.

But, as with any cloud application, bandwidth isn’t the only networking consideration.

There are also firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware concerns. Certain websites will need to be whitelisted. Also, Cisco Webex deployments in on-premises or hybrid environments rely on Cisco Expressway, meaning this service will need to be in place before deployment.

There are also options to use a hybrid media node to keep data central and reduce hardware bandwidth, although these have a considerable upfront cost. In addition to linking Cisco Webex to mobile devices, it’s also possible to register Cisco IP phones to the cloud, allowing you to migrate some of your legacy hardware if necessary.

Security & Compliance

Transitioning to a cloud-hosted UC platform is sometimes difficult for organizations in regulated industries. For organizations in finance or healthcare, for instance, compliance is an unavoidable issue.  To this end, Cisco has industry-leading security bona fides. The Cisco Webex platform also provides end-to-end data encryption.

Nonetheless, issues with encryption key storage and cloud server configuration make compliance a challenge within some deployments. In high-regulation industries, it’s advisable to keep impacted business functions on compliant on-premises hardware.

Licensing

Cisco offers per-user Cisco Webex subscription licensing in three tiers, with monthly, annual or three-year payment options. Packages range from basic messaging and meetings to advanced WebEx and hybrid services. Flexible licensing is available for meetings features, as are numerous add-ons, such as telepresence units, Cisco Webex room systems and Cisco Webex Board licenses.

Cisco also offers free trials, either direct or through partners like us, that range from limited baseline features to thirty- and sixty-day trials that include hardware and PSTN services. Trials offer a terrific opportunity to become acquainted with the Cisco Webex feature set and assess the fit for your organization.

Planning Your Deployment

The first step is to document a high-level design that defines the capabilities Cisco Webex will take on in your environment along with adoption methods and end-user training. The next component is a low-level design that addresses site-by-site network and bandwidth requirements. Next is staging for end-points and functionalities in the cloud.

The safest approach is to begin your deployment with a pilot group in parallel with your current environment. This way, you can pinpoint and address issues at the proof-of-concept stage. Then, proceed with side-by-side migration in conjunction with end-user training. If you’re deploying to a large organization across numerous sites, a site-by-site deployment is ideal. Day-to-day administration once Cisco Webex is in production is straightforward, as most admin components are cloud-managed.

What’s Next?

With a better understanding of what to expect with Cisco Webex, you’re ready to move ahead with your deployment plan. We recommend you get a network assessment to determine whether your environment has the capacity to handle additional cloud services. We’re also equipped to assist you with setting up a trial account to determine whether Cisco Webex is a fit for your business.

 

The Art of the Possible: Be the Technology Orchestrator

The CIO has an impact far beyond technology: they set the organizational direction, they contribute to customer focus, and they drive business excellence across all verticals. We call this role the Technology Orchestrator.

The emergence of cloud and subscription services, as well as the platform economy, have increased the pressures on IT departments. As the orchestrators of this digital innovation, CIOs are now agents and mediators for new solutions.

Above all, the CIO is a strategic business leader, and the role extends far beyond IT. The CIO doesn’t only identify the unique value proposition for an organization, they also develop the plan to implement it. By understanding key challenges and environmental factors, the CIO can get to the heart of what technology can do for a business.

There are five key elements in today’s rapidly-evolving technical landscape: the cloud, mobility, information, integration, and identity and security. Each of these elements is made possible by networks. Each also provides a clear example of the ways in which the power of the network can bring people together. The CIO, as Technology Orchestrator, manages and directs the network to support existing connections, and develop new ones.

  • By 2019, there will be 10 billion mobile-connected devices
  • By 2019, 80% of organizations will use the public cloud for storage and applications
  • By 2020, 30 billion IoT devices will be connected to the internet.

We are at the cusp of a significant change in network technology, driven by mobile devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), and above all, a desire for cloud-based storage and applications. Existing Wide Area Network (WAN) technology is unable to deliver the necessary performance and security needed to fully realize the benefits of mobile connectivity, cloud-based computing, and IoT technology. In fact, it’s estimated that within the next two years, more than half of all WAN infrastructure will move away from traditional routers, having been replaced by Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN).

By leading the transition to SD-WAN, CIOs can provide specific business benefits for their organizations, including:

  • Significant cost reductions over traditional networks – up to 80% for some organizations
  • Speed and performance improvements running platforms such as Office 365
  • Up to 4x improvements in application performance and speed
  • Ease of offering guest wireless at numerous locations
  • Robust security for organizations that deal with multiple providers

SD-WAN provides the bandwidth and performance that allow for the continued growth of the IoT, mobile computing, and media-rich, business-critical applications such as Skype for Business. It enables organizations to deliver on-demand access, while retaining the ability to be flexible in response to evolving demands.

Cisco is one enterprise WAN solution provider that gives CIOs the tools they need to lead their organizations past the disruptions inherent in solving business problems. The true benefit of SD-WAN is that it drives business excellence by supporting connections between people, while also enabling lower costs, reduced deployment times, greater application resiliency, and improved security. In recent years there has also been increased emphasis on moving to the cloud, which brings additional advantages:

  • Resiliency through the elimination of a single point of failure
  • Agility – speed is no longer determined by the central component

At an organizational level, this trend is demonstrated by the growth of working remotely and the establishment of branch offices. Nearly half of Americans work remotely at least part of the time, and branch offices serve 80% of users while generating 90% of revenue.

People are the heart of any organization, and there is no downside to improving their ability to connect. SD-WAN is the technology that will provide the necessary bandwidth and security for these employees and businesses, and the CIO—the Technology Orchestrator—will use it to lead their organization towards digital and cloud transformation.

2 Reasons to Pay Close Attention to Cisco Last Day of Support

Last Day of Support for Devices

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. The good news is Cisco devices don’t squeak often. But even devices as solid as Cisco’s don’t last forever. Just like every other device, they have a life cycle. After the end of the life cycle, also known as the Last Day of Support (LDOS), to keep them around is to embrace a certain degree of risk. [Read more…]