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 Top 5 Reasons Enterprises go with Unlocked Smartphones

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Set Your Enterprise Smartphones Free

The smartphone is an indispensable tool for 98% of business users[1]. It’s commonplace for enterprises to equip employees with smartphones. Pressure to find flexible ways to provide phones has sparked a revolution to free enterprises locked into carrier contracts.

A new breed of unlocked phones from OEMs like Samsung has changed the game for consumers and enterprise organizations alike. Being able to swap SIM cards means more control along with key cost and flexibility benefits. The market is catching on. The number of unlocked units shipped in the US increased 140% YOY in 2015. This is set to grow another 58% in 2016, making unlocked phones the fastest growing segment of the market. We compiled the top 5 reasons enterprises are joining the “Free Your Phone” revolution.

1. No Strings Attached

Being free from carrier contracts lets you choose the plan that best suits your needs – and change plans when a better offer comes around. Using unlocked phones allows you the flexibility to take advantage of increasing competition between carriers. Additional pressure from emerging mobile virtual network operators means plans for unlocked phones now go as low as $20/ month in the US and $30/month in Canada.

2. Keeping it Simple

Unlocked phones allow you to control the breadth of devices your IT organization will service and support. Enterprise mobility managers can select the best networks across multiple territories while supporting one model of phone. At the same time, standardized training and support yields lower total cost of ownership for the mobile fleet.

3. Streamlined for Productivity

Buying phones direct from the OEM also mean saying goodbye to “bloatware.” Unnecessary software pre-installed by carriers, can affect performance and annoy end users. In fact, pre-loaded apps can become a significant burden on a mobile operating system. Unlocked phones come built with a streamlined application inventory primed for high-productivity business use.

4. Limitless Selection

Procuring unlocked phones means your selection isn’t tied to a single carrier’s offering. A full range of choices from leading OEMs means a company can get devices that meet demands of specific roles. For example, a power business user might choose the Samsung Galaxy S7.

5. Cut Roaming Costs

Domestic carriers often charge steep rates for international roaming. A swappable SIM card gives business travelers the option to buy a prepaid local card or one made for international roaming. They can then take advantage of much lower local call rates at their destination. Enterprises can save up to 80% on calling from abroad by avoiding overages from mobile providers. These savings are critical as cellphone reimbursement policies are becoming required for many employers.

It stands to reason that so many organizations are joining the “Free Your Phone” revolution. An unlocked smartphone deployment provides enterprises with key advantages in cost and flexibility.

The next generation of unlocked phones from Samsung help enterprise buyers get the most out of unlocked smartphone deployments by offering defense-grade mobile security and advanced productivity features.

POWER Play: 5 Companies Who Are Mastering Big Data in a Big Way

Big data

Big data is big business. Getting the right insights at the right time can make-or-break an organization’s ability to stay ahead of competitors and on top of new opportunities.

The right tool for the big data job

Not all server chipsets are created equally. IBM POWER8 chips are architected to offer 4 times the performance for data analysis and processing than x86 chipsets. This is due to the multithreading capability for each individual core and the high memory bandwidth of each socket versus the single threading of each core and narrow socket bandwidth found in x86 chips.

See how the IBM Power Systems OpenStack solution with POWER8 processor technology is helping these five organizations tackle their big data problems and drive mission-critical initiatives.

1.      Earth Signal – Quickly processing big seismic data projects critical to the bottom line

Data processing services like Earth Signal provide oil exploration firms with seismic data they need to bid on parcels of land.  The faster clients get results, the sooner they can determine their bidding strategies. Earth Signal needs to crunch huge volumes of high-compute data within short decision windows. To compete on price and timeline, they need a big compute out of the smallest possible footprint. With IBM and Softchoice they deployed IBM Power Systems S822L with POWER8 CPUs. They found a 2U Power Systems solution could complete a job in 60 hours. A 21U Intel Xeon setup required over 100. That’s a 40% time savings! Now Earth Signal can keep up with industry pressure and take on projects that used to be unimaginable.

2.      Celero – Improving customer service by processing Oracle databases lightning fast

Celero is a company dedicated to modernizing banking systems for credit unions & financial institutions. Celero needs always-on availability to provide top quality customer service to its clients’ users. Its core banking solutions depend on Oracle databases running with high-speed response times. They deployed IBM Power Systems technology, including IBM Power S822 servers, IBM AIX OS, and IBM Power VM software. The adoption of POWER8 processors saw a tenfold increase in Oracle database response times. Celero now offers clients 25% to 30% faster performance for teller-level customer service interactions.

3.      ZTEsoft – Analyzing large-scale customer data in new markets without large-scale infrastructure

Zsmart CEMS from ZTEsoft helps telecoms enhance the customer experience by better understanding consumer data. To attract telecom clients outside China, it needed to offer a more powerful and flexible hardware option. ZTEsoft went to IBM in Montpelier, France, to benchmark their solution performance. Running a Linux environment on IBM Power Systems, the result was much higher capacity than a similar stack run on Intel x86. ZTEsoft is confident their solution can analyze huge volumes of data without major infrastructure. IBM’s open stack design gives ZTEsoft customers more freedom to port software with little development work.

4.      University of Toronto – Creating a future around affordable healthcare 

Research in photo-dynamic therapy (PDT) has the potential to advance the state of cancer treatment and detection. But, the process relies on a computing-intensive simulation type. The processing cost drives down adoption of PDT and other optical cancer detection methods. IBM OpenPower and POWER8 allows the University of Toronto to explore more efficient ways to run simulations. They’ve achieved 16 times the performance per-FPGA (field-programmable gate array) card and 67 times the power efficiency of simulations run on CPU. This means more workable options for hospitals and clinics to improve care using PDT.

5.      Google – Enabling the future of the internet

Appetite for Google services is always growing. This leaves the data giant working to keep up with demand. Google, IBM and Rackspace have delivered the POWER9 processor based on IBM Power architecture. The technology is now in place across the Google toolchain. Google now has a way to overcome slowing progress in processor improvement. They’re no longer tied to Moore’s Law of just doubling the number of transistors every two years and can explore new ways to scale their infrastructure. IBM’s open stance on Power removes barriers preventing collaboration on new system design.

If your business deals with big data you may be compelled to review if IBM Power Systems is the right solution for you. For more information on how POWER8 systems can help you, please email me Michael.Seixeiro@softchoice.com.