CIOs should already understand that new communications and collaboration tools that are widely adopted by the workforce result in a more effective business that produces positive results for the bottom-line. The changing workforce is more Internet-savvy, highly mobile, and has expectations of rich applications accessible from almost anywhere, anytime. So your assessment should begin with an accurate profile of your workforce. Different users in different roles have different needs and it’s this profile that you can refer back to test whether you will be addressing their day-to-day needs. Keep in mind that you need to address their work-style, who they interact with, how they could be more efficient, etc. It’s more than looking at a replacement for their aging desk phone, in fact they may not need it at all.
First, the solution should be a highly scalable virtualized software platform that enables your business to easily grow, shrink or redistribute its communications and collaboration services as needed. It should be designed like other enterprise software, scaling as you distribute instances, etc. Its flexibility should allow for use on premises or from cloud infrastructure, or as a hybrid solution – giving you the ability to leverage a common set of UC and collaboration tools with multiple options for delivery. Web-centric architectures may use approaches such as a Java application framework and HTML page servers such that UC clients are composed under a client-server topology akin to delivering enterprise web portals. This enables server-side UCC business logic to optimize delivery of UC&C information to users of the system. Moreover, the delivery mechanism is based on standard HTTPS, where the SSL security utilizes standard user credentials and the enterprise’s certificate management. This will better align with your overall web-oriented delivery model and your internal security and networking policies.
Solutions should employ integral security methods that are aligned with enterprise architectures using security approaches such as SSL with HTTPS for client connectivity and SIP encryption methods based on SRTP and TLS standards. Integral archiving and recording options for text messaging, audio calls, and virtual meetings allow enterprises to address compliance and privacy/regulatory needs as well as create a new level of traceability.
Some platforms achieve accreditation from 3rd party test agencies and seeking the details of these out is good practice as it provides an independent validation. Do your best to ensure the agency has a clear practice on how they test and how the produce test results. One such agency is operated for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The unique set of tests enforce a well know set of industry standards, applicable to the broad enterprise industry and should be considered as an excellent reference as this validation that is not only mandatory for the DoD, but is becoming critical for markets such as healthcare, government, public service legal, finance, and others as well.
It’s common for vendors to fill the gap when they do not have technologies to meet the “check list”. Perhaps the most prominent example is the difference in the experience between Apple and Windows clients. However, in most cases the client designs of most vendors for mobile devices is also a result of acquisitions dropped into the portfolio, OEMs software, or other “fill the gap” product strategies. You should look for solutions that emphasis a consistent user experience across mobile, tablet, Windows or Mac users. Solutions that leverage web delivery frameworks are most likely to be capable of code re-use, thus a very common user experience. Moreover, they can provide a lighter-weight client design that is easier to install and manage.
In the UC industry there is much focus on the “unified” word, but unification often ends after the feature checklist. You should look deeply into the software to validate that it has been unified itself, bringing the key unified communications, collaboration, and contact center functions together in a cohesive software architecture. A tell tale sign is the need for several back-end servers, each with different roles or functions. It should not take more than a few servers to deliver a redundant UC services to a 1000 employee organization – if it does then your red flag should go up.
Common functions that, at a minimum, you should see integrated into a single software system include call control, and ability to handle your volume of IP phone registrations, messaging, presence, media services for attending calls, voice mail, and recording, UC desktop client server (web engine), SIP trunking.
Leveraging a combination of support for standard SIP Video conferencing equipment and the option of deploying a room-based web collaboration your platform can cost effectively enable all forms of rooms, while providing a common user experience whether in a room, on the road, or in your office. More importantly this approach addresses the most common needs for workgroups that gather in shared workspaces. Look for solutions that can be used to empower all of your meeting rooms for easy enablement of voice and content sharing as a first priority. If solutions add video as an integral part of the software this is even better. Start with a plan to avoid purchasing dedicated hardware for video conferencing – unless you enjoy giving vendors you money.
Providing a common set of enterprise <login> credentials, users can access their UC or collaborative meeting tools from any device, from anywhere, securely. Much like Internet applications, the user’s settings, contact lists, virtual meetings, and the look and feel is consistent across mobile devices (Smartphones and tablets) or PC, simplifying the user experience and delivering it virtually anywhere, anytime. Most likely you already employ policies for single sign on/ login using a common directory server. Make sure your solution ties into these systems naturally.
As these technologies have become mostly software their licensing should be designed to simplify your approach to enabling UC&C services within the enterprise. The right license model should allow for common services across users, such as web conferencing services capacity. A centralized licensing approach will allow you to expanding capacity as needed and redistribute (reuse) licenses as things change within the business. Additionally, a compelling this to look for is the elimination of “server” fees. This means there would be no charge to deploy multiple instances of the software, an approach that makes the decision of resiliency and load balancing easy for IT administrators.
Ultimately, enterprises are focused on servicing their customers, and to the extent new communications and collaboration infrastructure can facilitate enhancement across the different roles in the business, there are intuitive gains.
As you review in-house collaboration services software (aka Web Conferencing) it should be designed to apply to different roles, enabling enterprises to utilize a common software infrastructure across different parts of the organization – gaining greater efficiencies from your investments. Consider the following examples of ways a common infrastructure can be utilized within your business:
As you head forward into your decision making and vendor evaluations tuck these 10 areas into your assessment criteria to ensure you get the most from your forward looking investments in unified communications and collaboration.
When 500px.com first came out I carefully loaded pictures to see how much they would get voted on, how much appreciation would show up for some of my photos. If you take one look at the site you will see immediately – there are some really unbelievable photographers out there. It you look more deeply into this site you’ll find a lot of very experienced, full time photographers – not part time hobbyists like me. If and when I post or blog its often about business or technology – but more recently I loaded up some new material to 500px and turned on their new Portfolio site. Its simplicity is quite beautiful and while it allows me to sell some of my photos that isn’t really my motivation for trying it – it’s the ease at which people can view photos form any device in as full screen as possible.
See some of my art at the new 500px Portfolio
One of the upsides of taking really crisp, high resolution photos is when you view them on a really nice screen you actually say – WOW! So, check it out. All you need is your browser – and if you have a nice screen (that means you are using a Mac ;) ) then you’ll love the way pics look when viewing this new Portfolio interface.
All thats said, there are many good applications for viewing photos. If you are a photographer at any level and love sharing you materials check out 500px. You don’t need to have fancy gear and you don’t need to compete with the top photographers, your art will be appreciated and you will find followers and likes for your work.
500px voting, favoriting, and comments are excellent if you are into photography. You will actually find some top photographers commenting on your work. Enough ratings and you can make it into the some of their top categories. I was ecstatic when a couple of my photos made it into the ranks! Of course, if you are not into photography then you will wonder what the big deal is, but if you do own a camera (other than you mobile phone) and you take more than pictures of family you probably have an artistic interest in what is in that lens. Enjoy it!
On any given day it is perhaps difficult to imagine the amount of Internet activity that is taking place. For most of us the Internet and its many Web Sites have become a virtual utility of daily life. The attached graphic [reposted] provides an easy snapshot what happens in a single minute and if you just read the numbers they are pretty astounding. However, its just a “minute”.. so if my math is correct lets just look at One Year:
3,153,600,000,000 Facebook views!
10,512,000,000,000 views of photos!
683,280,000 new Mobile Users!
$43 Billion in Sales on Amazon, and the last report showed overall Amazon revenue run-rate at about $68B, so it makes sense.
Another suble point in this diagram is the growing number of “Network Devices”. The reference is the population, and some of the latest statistics published by the InternetWorldStats suggest that about 35% of the population are “Internet Users”. What this really represents is a significant number of devices per capita and I believe this is driven by two factors: One is the average person on the Internet uses more than one device (mobile phone + PC + tablet for example) and the Second are the devices that are on the Internet as a resource. These include everything from Thermostats to TV streaming devices to Home Security. In the future the number of “devices” will increase substantially and they will not just be devices we add to our personal home WiFi — enter the emerging world of “The Internet of Things”… which I will now leave you to Google search and study yourself if you have not heard of this.
A complete Information Technology (IT) event, IP Expo hosts a wide range of vendor technologies and solutions for enabling enterprises & businesses. NEC showcased it UNIVERGE 3C UC&C, Desktop Virtualization (VPCC), and other IT infrastructure solutions at this years even in Earls Court London, presented seminars on the changing workforce and customer cases studies and also joined top analysts in the keynote theater for IT panel discussions.
Get a quick snapshot of the even in this video:
Days before the Singapore F1 Grand Prix race drivers converge to prepare themselves for the night racing event of the season through the streets of Singapore. Long before engines start many media activities occur and the teams are quite busy with pre-race events. NEC was present this year and arranged for a global webinar with drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez of the NEC sponsored Sauber-Ferrari team. Nico and Esteban joined the UNIVERGE 3C Collaboration session where members from around the world could join and post questions.
I joined Nico and Esteban for an interview all the way from an NEC partner site, Gijima in Johannesburg, South Africa with a chance to ask them some questions about social interaction with their family and team members. So it seems, perhaps not to much surprise, that their smart phones are the device of choice for communication. Connecting from South Africa was a tough one since the infrastructure for higher-bandwidth connectivity is limited in the country, yet we were able to get connected with both audio and video during the session. UNIVERGE 3C even caught the attention of the Sauber racing family as they were quite impressed with our ability to bring so many people together so easily. For the Johannesburg Gijima team it was an exciting break from our meetings as many of them are avid F1 racing fans.
Looking back not long ago we prepared a webcast together with the folks at CIO. All of these points and the transformation of enterprise work forces are still very much valid today. Enjoy this webcast again and consider how you might empower your changing work force.
As the consideration of eliminating capital cost outlays for new-age communications tools and reducing on-going costs to administer and maintain in-house systems many businesses are making the leap to communications offered as a service. Hosted, Cloud, and UC as-a-Service (UCaaS) are among the labels used for these offerings. However, not all are the same and the exact set of capabilities you can get from each service provider varies widely.
Regardless of which provider you choose you must consider several key factors that will ensure when you make the switch you get what is expected for your business. There are many stories of disenchanted customers with experiences that put them back on the drawing board. The most fundamental can be a realization that the cost savings did not outweigh the fact that you couldn’t hear the person on the other end of a phone call when it comes to doing day-to-day business.
For those organizations considering moving to UC-as-a Service for their communications there are several key factors that should be considered in your service provide review. The following Top Ten provide organizations with some guidance of punch-list of items to consider in their selection process:
If you are planning to move to UCaaS you should consider moving all of your PSTN arrangements to your new provider. As a result you should consider the following:
One of the reasons to move to a cloud-based service is to take advantage of newer unified communications capabilities. You should evaluate the various feature and pricing tiers that the provider offers and consider how they map to your end-user needs. You should also take inventory of all analog lines or other specialty communications you utilize and ensure the provider can accommodate these. Then, make sure you review their UC Client offerings for a match against your inventory of PCs, MACs, Mobile and Tablet devices. Some examples of key services to review include:
The transition to your service-provider will no doubt include an evaluation of your existing internal networking environment and the deployment of new equipment on-premises to support the service. You should ensure that your new provider is experienced in such evaluations and offers assistance in deployment of on-premise equipment. Be clear on who will do handle all on-premises deployments.
Ultimately your service provider will be operating a portion of your business within their data center facilities. It’s important to understand their data centers and how they can provide you with an assurance of service delivery. Some things to consider include:
In most cases you are moving your entire set of voice and data services to your new provider and it is important to evaluate several factors for this connectivity:
As part of the transition to UCaaS there will be several areas where you need to consider changes to premises equipment. The most obvious may be the desktop telephones, however you will also need to consider others that should be part of your evaluation checklist:
There can be many types and levels of administration and monitoring of the service and ultimately you should seek to have your provider handle most of this while ensuring that they having it in place. There are some areas you may still wish to have some access to or at a minimum understand the provider’s capabilities:
As part of most service provider agreements you will have a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This is an important part of your new arrangement and you should pay particular attention to it. In addition you may wish to inquire about the providers capabilities to truly support all elements of the written SLA they provide to you. Remember, its one things to have a legal arrangement, its another to be sure your business is running every day:
In some cases your new services may need to connect with other applications you have and operate (those not managed by the provider) and you need to be clear on how these will integrate.
Lastly, pricing of the new service is of course often a key driver for you to move to the service provider. When evaluating pricing be sure to evaluate all the key factors:
My first ever visit to the city of Dubai, and while I wish I would of had more time to explore some other parts of it I somehow feel like it would all seem the same. It’s a wonderful place. Very clean, high levels of service, many options for shopping and food. Everything done just a bit more grandiose than any of its counterparts. Its hard to imagine that whole parts of a city like this night scene below didn’t exist a mere 10-12 years ago. However, this makes everything new, like Disney new. In fact, its almost as if its all a replica of something else. Any of you that have walked the countries reproduced in Disney could relate to the impression of Dubai.
The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in Dubai. The tallest building in the world. 820 meters, over 1/2 mile into the air. It’s an incredible building. More importantly you can live there – what more than to have wonderful views of the desert or if you are on the water side you can use your telescope to monitor Iran!
I didn’t get a chance to go up inside the Burj but standing outside and gazing up at it was most enjoyable I took this picture, but then added a little treatment to make it seem even more ominous.
In the foreground is the Burj’s own lake. Perhaps it doesn’t look like a lake, but it is 30 acres so it’s pretty big. You quickly notice the serpent of pipes winding around the entire lake – the backbone to the largest fountain in the world. One that spurts 22,000 gallons out during its choreographed show with water shooting some 500 feet into the air. Yes, much like Las Vegas and developed by the same architect – but much much larger. Of course.
Surrounding the Burj’s lake are many different buildings. I found them quite interesting and in fact I treated some of the photos I have so that these areas of building take on a bit more surreal look to them. A painting you say? Fake? Hmmm?
Okay so the picture above takes on an almost painting effect. Yes, it is a real photo I took of a real building surrounding the Burj lake. Just to see the effect – a little Disney effect! I’ll provide the two version of another photo below. This just shows you the impact that effects can have on how an image looks.
I have to include one more photo of a bridge that crossed part of the lake. I used a software-based “Tilt-Shift” treatment on this photo to give it a bit of tiny model look to it.
As we walked around the lake I was seeking any photo ops, but it was a lot more buildings like above and yes I do have more. However, I was seeking some images of people, capturing some form of the local life. Yet, at the same time I read about taking pictures of people (especially women) as being very frowned upon, so I avoided it too much. I did catch one interesting picture of a young lady standing near this decorative stone statue with her family. She noticed me, but luckily her family did not.
In another part of Dubai is the famous Burj Al Arab hotel. Claimed as the only 7 star hotel and the most luxurious in the world. My door key didn’t work there so I could not visit. Since we were there in the evening I only had a change at a nighttime photo.
Immediately in front of the hotel is yet another hotel called the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. There is a huge waterpark next to it and I suppose inside of it, but since we had to walk through it to get to our beach side dinner place the center has an interesting and colorful inner tower. These pictures give you a feel for its colors.
Okay, now with a little more treatment to give it some depth…
During my stay we also did a visit to a remote desert resort. Strangely enough, among hundreds of miles of desert there is a plush resort… just in case you need a retreat from the big city! It was a busy eve so I didn’t get to take too many pictures, but when we arrived they had a couple camels there for us – which I had no interest in mounting even though they would clean and nicely dressed with saddles. They even had a colorful muzzle to keep them from biting or spitting on us!
I did get a moment to explore some of the edges of the resort and found, well, lots of sand! Except for this fellow that was just hanging out with his bird. Did he have it hunt things? Bring special notes to guests? I don’t know and I didn’t get to go ask him.
One last picture. This is our team in EMEA during our night before our partners came in to visit. A great team and a nice dinner before a very busy but successful few days doing business together! Thanks everyone for your hospitality!
In the early forms of unified communications solutions we saw many vendors deliver the different functions as discrete products, wired together in some way to create a “unified” communications solution. The realization that this isn’t so unified came later, and buyers & vendors have since then worked on more integrated offerings. The benefits of a fully integrated solution are significant – economics (more functions from each instance), less to manage, lower CPU demands (in theory), and if done right the ability for intelligence of each function to be easier utilized by other functions – creating a more powerful set of end user capabilities
However, it seems that just as we are integrating there are others disaggregating functions again, but this time it’s in the cloud. In fact this time it may be for just the right reasons and may help organizations solve other waning issues with IP-based unified communications – for example, interoperability is still an issue. For decades the solution for interoperability among voice was well defined and this thing called the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) still solves this pretty efficiently. However, when it comes to IP-based voice, video calling, video conferences, instant messaging, and even web conferencing there is still a sizable gap in “real” interoperability.
Fortunately there are some organizations that see this lack of interworking as opportunity and have created services in the cloud that specifically address this. One is in the areas of “federation” for sharing Instant Messages and availability (aka “presence”) between two different companies, even if they are using different technologies. Another set of services provides the same for real-time media over IP between two companies (audio and video), brokering the connection or session setup so that people can easily arrange video calls between two companies, again even if they are using different technologies. Another function that is surfacing is the cloud-based video conference bridge, or otherwise known as an MCU (multipoint control unit) allowing people arrange a video meeting in the cloud with several people on it, again even if they are using different technologies.
Now, one might look at the technology and the vendors that develop it and say why don’t the vendors just agree to make their products work together? Well, in theory, or in marketing hype they can or do or will? Let’s be realistic – it’s a competitive marketplace and each vendor is primarily interested in replacing the other. There is little real interest in interoperability – unless of course there is a complimentary relationship and then it is often a unilateral validation of the interoperability.
So, applaud! These emerging cloud providers are solving much needed services. They are the mediators for the competing vendors that are solving real world issues for the end customers. These new services can provide customers with a greater degree of flexibility on reach, scale, and agility to address collaboration among partners.
Who are some of these providers? They include vendors such as Vydio, Bluejeans Networks, VidTel, and Nextplane. Each has it’s own different twist on what it offers and should be considered independently depending on your needs and there will no doubt be others on the scene.