Friday, April 29, 2011

NEC Delivers All Cloud Experience


Enterprise Connect was in the last decade called VoiceCon. In the decade before that, the same conference was called PBX (PBX’98). Throughout both decades, the event was about premises based platforms, be they called PBX, IP-PBX or servers. It was therefore an interesting statement, on more levels than one, when NEC decided to mark the Age of the Cloud by coming to Enterprise Connect with an all cloud booth. NEC sought to show that even in the sometimes challenging and limiting environment of an exhibition hall, the cloud, if properly done, can deliver the same functionality, and more, that a premises based server might offer.

In this podcast NEC’s Todd Landry tells us about how NEC is delivering both innovation and reliability in the cloud. Landry, who serves as NEC Senior Vice President, discusses the need for enterprises to make strategic decisions and investments that last and how NEC is offering a framework that offers enterprises the opportunity to maximize their user experiences within an approach that anticipates future developments.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 14:15 — 16.3MB)

Zultys Unveils MX Release 6.0 Unified Communications Software

New Productivity Features Include High-Definition Desktop Video and Mobility Options Plus and Microsoft Outlook Integration

SUNNYVALE, Calif., March 29, 2011—Zultys, a premier provider of innovative unified communications solutions that empower businesses to collaborate effectively, today announces MX Release 6.0, the next generation of core software for its flagship unified communications products. MX Release 6.0 offers enhanced, high-quality desktop video, new mobility features, richer integration with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange server, as well as integration with™. The result is an all-in-one, industry-first IP phone system that delivers unmatched innovation, reliability and scalability.

“Our customers demand a fully supported unified communications system that is easy to deploy and maintain, and that keeps pace with the evolution of the industry, meaning a UC solution that caters to today’s on-the-go, distributed workforce,” said Robert Brown, president of CCI Intellisys. “This latest Zultys MX release does just that. When we work with Zultys, we are guaranteed a product that is innovative, reliable and scalable, which in turn guarantees happy clients. We know that when we go with Zultys, it works!”

Companies Demand Video for Increased Communication and Collaboration
MX Release 6.0 encompasses a number of new features that are critical in today’s business environment. Video conferencing, for one, is especially vital as companies open additional branch offices, expand both domestically and globally, and increase their number of teleworkers. In fact, according to Forrester Research, 56 percent of small-to-medium sized enterprises have or plan to deploy video in the near term. With this in mind, the latest release incorporates MXvideo, which provides integrated point-to-point HD video for Zultys’ award-winning MXIE desktop Unified Communications client. Now, users may conduct secure, reliable, “face to face” meetings in real-time, regardless of individual location, promoting increased productivity, collaboration and teamwork. This functionality requires NO added hardware and is performed with one click.

Zultys MX provides a level of UC that delivers on the promise of real-time voice, video and data. The added connectivity means greater collaboration.

MXvideo key features and benefits include:
· High-definition, point-to-point desktop video support in a secure, fully integrated user experience
· Easy to deploy and use; launched and controlled within MXIE, users may move seamlessly from instant message to voice, and add video with a single click
· Immediate ROI by reducing travel expenses and facilitating more productive meetings
· No additional servers or software required other than MX Release 6.0
Mobility: A Must for Today’s On-the-Go Workforce
In today’s business environment, mobility continues to play a key role in enabling companies to achieve greater productivity away from the office. According to a new forecast from IDC, mobile workers accessing enterprise systems worldwide will top 1 billion this year and 1.2 billion by 2013. This growing mobile and dynamic workforce serves as the impetus for enhancements to the release of MXmobile™, designed to integrate mobile workers into the corporate voice and unified communications system. The only real-time unified communications client in its class, MXmobile provides true mobility with presence, instant messaging, call handling and more, essentially transforming a user’s handheld mobile device into a desktop IP business phone and bringing them to the center of the action.

MXmobile delivers a range of benefits, including cost savings through access to the enterprise dial plan and unified numbering and messaging; the end-user experiences faster customer responsiveness through real-time presence and instant messaging, and more opportunity to be productive through a rich set of traditional PBX features extended to the mobile handset. Zultys’ mobility solutions also support the iPhone.

MXmobile feature enhancements include:
· Call transfer, manually or via local BlackBerry address book or corporate MX directory
· Call park for another user that can be retrieved via MXIE or any other phone on the system
· Call hold, complete with music on hold and retrievable via any phone on the system
· Call action screen that shows a list of active calls and access to call control functions
· No requirement for additional servers; only a light device application

Integration With Leaders: and Microsoft
MX Release 6.0 also offers seamless integration with™ and Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange server. The Zultys™ Communicator integrates the Zultys IP Phone System and the™ CRM application suite for full call control from within the contact record, and includes capturing call notes, providing inbound contact record screen pop, executing holds and transfers, and click-to-call capabilities. Likewise, the Zultys Outlook Communicator provides close integration between the Zultys IP Phone System and Microsoft Outlook. Users have full call control from within Outlook, and can execute calls directly from Outlook. Furthermore, this product synchronizes presence with the Outlook calendar, and users may change their presence directly from Outlook. This brings tighter integration between the Zultys UC platform and the Microsoft messaging platform.

Boosting Customer Care and Responsiveness
High-quality, efficient customer service is the key to meeting customers’ needs. The Zultys Message Escalation feature of MX Release 6.0 provides the industry’s most powerful voicemail and fax escalation feature available. Zultys Message Escalation improves customer service and business operations for companies providing time-critical customer services and customer care by ensuring a 100 percent receipt of company voicemails and faxes through a customizable chain of e-mail and voice call alerts that continue until action is taken on the voicemail or fax.

Supercharging Contact Center Performance
MX Release 6.0 also extends the capabilities of the MXreport™ contact center reporting tool so contact center managers and supervisors can easily compose custom statistical reports for multiple agents and contact center groups. This provides deep insight into call handling, agent performance and service levels. Zultys enables contact center managers with simple and cost-effective tools, without requiring additional hardware or third-party applications.

Enhancing the User Experience
The latest release extends the operation of Zultys’ “ZIP5-series” of desktop phones, improves electronic fax handling, and enhances security in an enterprise environment through Active Directory/LDAP authentication.

“Our unified communications solution once again raises the bar in the industry, merging innovation with reliability for businesses in every market segment,” said Neil Lichtman, chairman and CEO of Zultys. “MX Release 6.0 enables businesses to access advanced communications features that allow them to save money, enhance customer service and boost productivity. It also lays the foundation for further releases that will extend the reach and scope of Zultys’ unified communications solutions. We continue to push the communications envelope by delivering all these capabilities in a single appliance that is easy to deploy, manage, scale and use.”

MX Release 6.0 is available through Zultys Channel Partners. For additional information or to purchase a Zultys IP business phone system, please visit

Zultys is a premier provider of innovative unified communications solutions that empower businesses to collaborate effectively. It is the only company to provide an all-in-one IP business phone system that integrates voice, video, data and mobility. Zultys is reliable and scalable, delivering an immediate ROI by fully integrating business communications.

For small to medium enterprises, Zultys delivers a powerful, feature-rich communication system that is easy to use. For our channel partners, Zultys ensures customer satisfaction by delivering a fully supported solution that is easy to deploy and maintain.

Zultys is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices around the world. To learn more, visit

Aastra Empowers Vertical Sectors through Advanced SIP-DECT Solution: Breaking News

New version of Aastra SIP-DECT excels in on-site mobility for small, medium and large enterprises

Dallas, TX, March 30, 2011 – Aastra, the market leader for enterprise DECT sales in EMEA[1] and number three worldwide[2], today announced the latest version of its highly scalable cordless SIP-DECT™ solution to increase productivity and accessibility while mobile. This solution is designed to meet the real-time communications demands of businesses with on-site mobile workforces and is highly suitable for numerous market sectors and industries including: manufacturing; hospitality; security and health care facilities; retail and industrial complexes.

This mobility offering can be fully integrated into an IP environment and combines the versatility of SIP with all of the benefits offered by DECT: high voice quality, confidentiality and competitive Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Aastra’s SIP-DECT solution offers more than just voice communications – it provides employees access to important messages and emails on the move, making it a powerful Unified Communications tool that improves responsiveness.

Enhancements include increased scalability for very large deployments of up to 4,500 DECT handsets. Other key improvements include:

Informing and communicating more effectively

Integrated Messaging and Alerting addresses the needs of businesses that wish to communicate with an individual or groups of employees when a voice conversation is not possible or optimal. Messages and alerts may be sent to pre-defined DECT handsets; this is appealing to sectors such as retail, when staff in large stores can be contacted and located without the need for intrusive loudspeaker announcements. Alerts can be generated from a wide range of input sources including handset terminals, handset users, RSS feeds and email.

Instant emergency responsiveness

Location-based service is ideal for the health care industry or high security environments. This service enhances responsiveness for employees requiring emergency assistance by helping to locate them, for example in a ‘man down’ incident triggered by the handset. It can also help to identify the closest member of staff able to address an urgent situation. Using a locating server and web browser, the DECT handsets appear on a map.

Cost effective flexibility

Aastra offers further gains in the competitive TCO of its SIP-DECT solution with handset sharing. This user-friendly feature is appropriate for businesses with shift workers. Employees can retrieve their individual settings by activating their user profile when taking any handset in a charger rack. The efficiency of sharing handsets lowers costs while delivering flexibility.

Eliminating interference caused by the structure of a building

Poor voice quality, problematic reception and broken communication between employees are commonly experienced in industrial and large scale environments such as metal warehousing or concrete structures. The DECT XQ technology developed by Aastra provides improved voice quality regardless of the physical environment.

“SIP-DECT devices deliver many of the most sought-after qualities of an enterprise IP telephony endpoint, including security, mobility, cost effectiveness, simplicity, voice reliability, manageability and rich functionality. Aastra is uniquely positioned to bring the best of two worlds together: the advanced capabilities of mobile IP telephony and the robustness of DECT technology. With its latest SIP-DECT solution, Aastra is adding a third element to the equation: the potential to integrate additional unified communications elements. The company’s strong SIP philosophy, extensive endpoint expertise, and synergies across platforms, enable Aastra to deliver superior value to its customers,” declared Alaa Saayed, industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

The andel’s Hotel Berlin is a modern business hotel and conference facility. Accommodating up to 1,000 guests, its 200-strong workforce is constantly on the move across 14 floors. The andel’s Hotel required a state-of-the-art communications system that would benefit customers and staff, ensuring that every team member — from housekeeping to management — could be reached without difficulty. The solution also needed to overcome interference to mobile communications from the reinforced concrete structure of the building. “Aastra’s SIP-DECT solution ensures that any employee can be contacted quickly wherever they are in the building. This means we can respond more effectively to any incident and meet the needs of our guests,” said General Manager Ralph Alsdorf. “There is no doubt that we benefit from highly efficient processes and as a result we are able to position ourselves as one of the city’s top business hotels.”

“Aastra’s SIP-DECT offering is a best-in-class enterprise mobility solution. It delivers optimal levels of performance and scalability enriched with superior functionality to meet the specific needs of vertical markets. Combined with our market-leading range of DECT handsets, we are clearly demonstrating how we are shaping the future of enterprise DECT solutions, commented Thomas Stephan, Head of Product Line Management for SIP-DECT, at Aastra. He continued, “Through this solution we remain committed to leveraging open standards, essential for businesses as they seek investment protection and interoperability with existing systems.”

This SIP-DECT solution has been developed entirely by Aastra and includes:

  • The OpenMobility® Manager (OMM), a software product that administers all DECT handsets and mobility activities (roaming, seamless handover between base stations – including across multiple locations – and media stream). Dedicated applications for alarm, messaging and locating services as well as third party applications can leverage the functionality provided by OMM.
  • Aastra DECT handsets dedicated for business use.
  • Aastra base stations known as Radio Fixed Parts (RFPs) which can be connected to IP networks. The base stations are available for indoor use, outdoor environments as well as a dual mode WLAN/DECT model which offers the best of wireless in a single unit: DECT for mobile voice and WLAN data for mobile computing.

The solution can be deployed in most open-standard IP environments including Aastra call control managers, as well as deployed by other third party SIP compliant call managers including Centrex solutions.

For further information, please visit

Polycom Drives Telepresence Adoption by Expanding Portfolio With Breakthrough Innovations

New Solutions Eliminate Traditional Barriers to Adoption, Enabling ‘UC Everywhere’ for All Types of Business Users, From Enterprises to SMBs and Teleworkers

PLEASANTON, CA–(Marketwire – Apr 27, 2011) – Polycom, Inc. (NASDAQ: PLCM)

  • Polycom EagleEye Director creates the first unique and intimate personalized conference room experience
  • New addition to award-winning HDX family, the HDX 4500 All-in-One executive desktop telepresence solution enhances productivity with HD quality at up to 50 percent less bandwidth than similar solutions
  • Polycom Telepresence m100 delivers PC-based mobile telepresence

Polycom, Inc. (NASDAQ: PLCM), a global leader in unified communications (UC), today added to its award-winning line of telepresence solutions with three innovative new offerings — the EagleEye Director room camera tracking system, the HDX® 4500 executive desktop telepresence system, and the mobile telepresence m100 solution.

“We are continuing to deliver on our UC Everywhere(SM) vision and strategy with cutting-edge advancements that leverage our UC Intelligent Core™ technology and the cloud to personalize and extend the UC experience,” said Sudhakar Ramakrishna, Polycom chief development officer. “Polycom is leading in UC innovation through our customer-centric development that brings solutions to market that enable new applications, increase interoperability, enhance productivity, and promote the viral use of telepresence.”

PERSONALIZED AND INTIMATE TELEPRESENCE IN CONFERENCE ROOMS: Polycom EagleEye Director creates first unique personalized conference room experience
An industry first, Polycom is delivering a “production studio experience” for conference room telepresence environments. The EagleEye Director reinvents the conference room experience, making room-based telepresence easier and more intimate than ever before through an innovative coupling of voice triangulation, face-finding technology, and a dual-camera tracking system. Unlike other products on the market today, the EagleEye Director delivers a highly personalized face-to-face telepresence experience in any conference room by ensuring the speaking party is always highlighted (zoomed in and centered) for a personalized one-to-many experience. Unlike simple camera tracking technology of the past, the EagleEye Director gracefully transitions between highlighting individual speakers to capturing the entire room, allowing users to replicate a life-like conversation and drive more productive meetings.

The EagleEye Director transforms the “lost in a big room” feeling of many other group systems into a richer, custom experience for everyone in the room. By automatically finding and focusing on speaking parties, the EagleEye Director eliminates the need for making camera adjustments during a call and making inadvertent mistakes with the remote control. The unsurpassed, seamless experience is an available option for all HDX® Room Telepresence systems, delivering ongoing investment protection and extended value to existing technology investments.

“Not every meeting room’s layout is ideally suited for videoconferencing. The result is a compromised user experience in which some remote participants appear too small on screen during video meetings,” said Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research, “EagleEye Director’s ability to intelligently zoom in and focus on active speakers provides an ‘up-close and personal’ video experience without costly room upgrades or noticeable camera panning during conferences.”

TELEPRESENCE ON THE EXECUTIVE DESKTOP: HDX 4500 brings All-in-One UC to the executive desk, amplifying productivity at lower total cost of ownership
The HDX 4500 desktop telepresence solution increases productivity for business executives and small groups with an all-in-one solution, delivering stunning HD quality at up to 50 percent less bandwidth than similar solutions. The newest member of the HDX 4000 family, the HDX 4500 brings the highest quality video and audio conferencing to the executive desktop through an all-in-one, standards-based, innovative solution. The desktop telepresence solution eliminates the need for peripherals that crowd an executive’s desk space while offering a large LCD display and Polycom® UltimateHD™ technology for a more realistic experience. The HDX 4500 delivers standards-based interoperability and the broadest native integration with Polycom® Open Collaboration Network™ (POCN) Partners: Microsoft, HP, IBM, Juniper, BroadSoft, Siemens, McAfee, and Avaya. The unmatched combination of less bandwidth and native integration helps drive a low total cost of ownership while adding the broadest availability for collaboration.

Key benefits and features offered by the entire HDX 4000 family include:

  • Up to 50 percent bandwidth cost savings based on the benefits of H.264 High Profile technology, a powerful standards-based video compression technology;
  • Highest quality of experience over IP networks with sophisticated management of both audio and video packet loss undetected by the user;
  • Optional four-way MPPlus with HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection) enables the seamless extension from point-to-point to multi-point video communication; and
  • The power of 1080p (high-definition) video and content sharing with a 24-inch display.

MOBILE TELEPRESENCE: Polycom Telepresence m100 delivers portable PC-based telepresence
Polycom empowers SMBs to easily deploy an affordable and professional high-definition video experience with the Telepresence m100 software application for PCs. The standards-based software allows users to instantaneously share content in a video conference and connect to any standards-based telepresence solutions, including both H.323 and SIP deployments. When deployed on laptops, the Telepresence m100 offers users an unrivaled portable UC experience. Coupled with its recent video software announcements on Samsung Galaxy Tab and Motorola Xoom, Polycom is extending the benefits of standards-based, enterprise-class telepresence to laptops, tablets and pads, delivering groundbreaking mobile and PC-based UC solutions.

The Polycom Telepresence m100 software is easily loaded onto any PC and is ideal for SMBs and small team deployments. The affordable price point allows organizations to easily and immediately deploy to provide their office employees, teleworkers, or road warriors with high quality, reliable video communications from their PC. The simple, “instant messenger-style” interface allows users to make point-and-click calls from stored lists with little training for instant adoption. The software application works seamlessly with most USB cameras and embedded cameras for simplified deployment and ease of use. Features include:

  • Personal telepresence performance with high-definition video receive;
  • Standards-based content sharing with remote participants at the push of a button;
  • Firewall traversal options enabling communication to customers and suppliers; and
  • Dual-stack support allowing users to call both legacy and the latest video-enabled devices to protect technology investment.

Cisco Provides Video Communications to Support Distance Learning for Yuri Gagarin's Secondary School

Cisco Video Technologies Enable Cooperation Between Legendary School and Leading Russian University

MOSCOW – April 29, 2011 – Cisco today announced that it has delivered a video communication solution to Secondary School No. 1 to enable distance learning for schoolchildren and connect the school with leading professors from Russia's best technical universities. Secondary School No. 1 is located in the city of Gagarin within the Smolensk Region of Russia. Yuri Gagarin, whose first flight to space 50 years ago is being commemorated across the globe, was a pupil of the school.

Key Facts / Highlights

  • Today, the school participates in lessons delivered via video by professors of the Moscow Aviation Institute and the Russian State Technological University (Tsiolkovsky University) directly from the university premises.
  • The lessons are supported by a multimedia classroom with PCs, an interactive whiteboard, and a video conferencing system featuring Cisco TelePresenceTM 990 МХР video codecs with multipoint conferencing and presentation functions.
  • Video conferencing at Gagarin Secondary School not only supports interactive classes but will also help attract schoolchildren to participate in various creative competitions. In addition, it enables remote consultations and support for students involved in research projects.
  • To help teachers update their professional skills, the school plans to use video sessions and distance learning webinars, in cooperation with the Academy of Skills Upgrade and Professional Retraining, as well as to use video conferencing for remote tours, conferences, seminars, master classes and forms of knowledge transfer.

Supporting Quotes

  • Tatiana Ivanova, deputy chairperson, Gagarin District Education Committee
  • "It is not a mere coincidence that we decided to develop cooperation between our school and leading Russian aviation institutions. One of our students was the pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first man in outer space. Today our school proudly bears his name. Video lessons are quite convenient and effective. Regular communications between the students and the university professors, as well as the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Moscow Aviation Institute's life and to take part in university competitions, workshops and lectures, help us to attract the students to science and, in particular, to aviation and space research. Remote presentations and demonstrations of charts and diagrams make it possible to bring information to students in a fast and easy-to-understand way. Distance learning helps to involve engineering practitioners who motivate children to choose a profession to excel in."

  • Anatoly Kachalin, CEO, NPO RS-Telecom
  • "The decision to install a high-end video conferencing solution in School No. 1 was taken after the administration of the Gagarin District assessed and appreciated the quality of Cisco video collaboration solutions at a secondary school in Moscow. After the demonstration, the administrative personnel noted the high quality of data transfer as well as the convenience and usability of the video conferencing solution, which are some of the main merits of Cisco TelePresence. Users do not require serious technical knowledge and training effort. A few consultations are more than enough."

  • Stein Ramsli, head of Cisco TelePresence Technology Group in Russia and CIS
  • "TelePresence is an efficient solution to involve teachers from other cities because it reduces travel costs. There is growing demand for high-definition solutions in the education sector, which has started to actively implement video technologies. Headmasters get more evidence that video conferencing can become a very efficient education tool and create a collaborative learning environment."

Tags, Keywords:
Russia, Cisco, Cisco TelePresence, Cisco TelePresence Technology group, video, video conferencing, education

Supporting Resources:

Cisco Launches First TelePresence Room at Cisco Headquarters in Venezuela

Virtual Meeting Solution Transforms How Companies and Institutions Collaborate

CARACAS, Venezuela, April 28, 2011 - Cisco launched today the first Cisco TelePresence™ room in Venezuela, at the Cisco office in Caracas. The technology will help the company increase the productivity of its employees, speed decision-making, and reduce business travel costs. The advanced collaboration solution integrates spatial audio, life-size ultra-high-definition video and interactive elements to provide a face-to-face meeting experience live through the network.


  • Through Cisco TelePresence technology, face-to-face meetings can be held without the need for travel. Making a simple call facilitates collaboration, productivity and decision-making.
  • The Cisco TelePresence solution comprises 65-inch plasma screens at 1080p resolution, providing the participants with life-size video images of session participants. Three high-resolution cameras in each room show details of facial expressions and gestures on the other side of the "virtual table" in important meetings and negotiations.
  • Cisco TelePresence has a high-quality spatial audio system and multiple inputs and outputs, all of which allow more realistic conversations.
  • Participants in a Cisco TelePresence session can record high-quality video and use collaboration applications such as Cisco WebExTM.
  • Participants can meet in up to 48 Cisco TelePresence rooms at the same time and gather for special events.
  • Existing systems of standard-definition video conferencing can be easily integrated with Cisco TelePresence solutions.
  • To date, the use of Cisco TelePresence has saved the company $800 million in travel expenses.

Supporting Quotes:

  • Enrique Mareque, general manager, Cisco Venezuela
  • "In order to thrive in the current economy, it is necessary to collaborate with colleagues and customers worldwide in a timely way while also improving the quality of our relationships. The Cisco TelePresence solution facilitates collaboration to conduct business more effectively and enables benefits in productivity, travel reduction and savings."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cisco's Networkers Solutions Forum 2011 in Toronto

You're invited to Cisco's Networkers Solutions Forum taking place on Thursday, May 19 at the Toronto Congress Centre.

This year's Cisco Networkers Solutions Forum is set to bring you the latest innovations in video and collaboration, borderless networks and advancements in next generation data centre and cloud computing. This annual event offers an unparalleled combination of:

  • Education and training on the latest technologies
    and trends
  • An opportunity to see live demonstrations of Cisco
    products and solutions
  • A chance for you to extend your professional networks by forging new connections with like-minded colleagues.

Register to attend the conference, and ensure you attend the Keynote Session presented by Dr. Guido Jouret, VP/GM and CTO of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group and Mike Holmes, host and creator of TV's Holmes on Homes™.

First, join Guido Jouret as he presents "The Next Five Years", a thought-provoking presentation of the current and future trends generating the proliferation and use of the latest business technologies, including mobility, virtualization, energy, and video. Here, you'll learn how these many technologies will present more comprehensive solutions that can drive and accelerate business transformation in the years to come.

Next, you won't want to miss Mike Holmes, Canada's most trusted contractor and crusader to Make it Right™. Mike will share his candid experiences and present his frank views about how technology can improve building standards around the globe, and the way that incorporating green technology supports the creation a truly sustainable future.

Register Now

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Study Reveals Quantitative and Qualitative Benefits of Video Collaboration for Workers Worldwide

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Just about everyone in the business world agrees that video collaboration has great potential to help people work more efficiently and reliably when virtual meetings or remote teamwork are necessary or beneficial. Yet this technology is not utilized as much as it should be given its potential.

Why should this be the case? Is the technology itself the problem? Perhaps its capabilities are over-touted and it is not yet ready for primetime. Or, are perception and business practices the problem? Perhaps there is an unwillingness to try something new, or to adjust processes to allow video collaboration technology to shine.

Last year, Cisco (News - Alert) set out to answer those and related questions by commissioning a worldwide study of video collaboration technologies (telepresence, video conferencing) in the business environment. Representative samples of workers in 12 markets around the globe were polled about the well known and lesser-known benefits of video collaboration, and asked about usage to uncover trends.

Results from the study reveal two broad findings: the differences in perception and work habits between those who use video collaboration and those who do not, and why the “soft” benefits of this technology (e.g. improved work-life balance) are important.

The biggest barriers to adoption of video collaboration, the study found, are not technology limitations but rather lack of experience and/or lack of understanding about how benefits outweigh costs. People who regularly use this technology are generally eager to extol its benefits, and overwhelmingly say it is worth the cost. Yet those who do not use it have a hard time understanding why it would benefit them. It truly is a case of seeing-is-believing.

“Ninety percent of those who use video conferencing technologies once or more per week say video collaboration technologies save them at least 2 hours of valuable work time a week—yet only 33 percent of nonusers believe they could save any time using the technology,” Cisco said in a report about the study.

Closing the gap between users and nonusers, therefore, is a critical challenge. It is usually most effective if adoption occurs from the top down—starting with executives.

“A much higher percentage of executive-level workers perceive time savings from video collaboration (79 percent) as compared to nonsupervisory workers (36 percent) who need to travel less,” Cisco noted.

For skeptical nonusers, it is often the case that justification for giving this technology a try is simply a quantitative numbers game—saving money on travel costs, improving productivity, and the like. Yet, for video collaboration users, some of the most compelling benefits are qualitative (increased competitive advantage, bringing people together).

Qualitative benefits of video collaboration highlighted by users include enhanced experience when working from home, helping businesses maintain continuity if a disruption occurs, helping organizations project a forward-looking view, improved group collaboration and reduced confusion.

There is also a big variance in how video collaboration is perceived, and how much it is used, in different places around the world.

“Significant gaps exist in the perception and use of the technology among nations, with online workers in China consistently ranking high in terms of usage and perceived benefits,” Cisco said in its report. “More than half of respondents in China use video collaboration technology (56 percent)—more than double the respondents of any other country.”

Other countries would surely benefit from following China’s lead in this area.

“These communication tools are helping workers build strong relationships with their clients and with colleagues who work at other locations,” Cisco said. “Using solutions such as telepresence and video conferencing in the workplace can also positively affect the personal lives of today’s workers by helping them achieve a better work-life balance.”

Given all its benefits, the good news is that usage of video collaboration technologies is growing, and will continue to do so.

“More workers are using video collaboration and telepresence more frequently, and more than one-third of nonusers worldwide intend to use the technology as soon as it becomes available to them,” Cisco reported. “Costs for video collaboration and telepresence solutions are on the decline while quality is improving exponentially, so workers who do not yet have access to the technology, or have the opportunity to use it only occasionally, may not need to wait long to experience the many potential benefits of the visually enabled workplace.”

Cisco Borderless Networks: Now with New and Improved Access Management for Wired & Wireless Networks

If you’re an IT manager, at times it may seem like user demands are changing on a monthly basis. Employees are demanding access to the network at any time on a multitude of devices that is expanding like wildfire, and they’re not just demanding access to email and small files – it’s also real-time video, multimedia and telepresence for collaboration and communication.

These changes are challenging the IT department’s ability to effectively manage, secure, and scale the network infrastructure, services, and applications. To effectively address these challenges, IT departments need an integrated management solution that unifies disparate networks, supports all phases of the network lifecycle, automates best practices, and delivers simplified network operations.

And that’s just what Cisco is now providing.

As part of the latest Borderless Networks portfolio announced today, Cisco is introducing Cisco Prime Network Control System (NCS), which converges user and access management for wired and wireless networks with complete visibility into endpoint connectivity―regardless of device, network, or location. This first-of-a-kind platform provides converged wired, wireless and policy visibility in a single solution, allowing IT managers to streamline troubleshooting by starting at the end-user device, where the majority of access problems occur, reducing problem resolution times and getting users back online faster. Basically, Cisco Prime NCS helps IT move from an element or box-focused approach, which is becoming less and less effective, to a user-focused approach. This user-focused approach better aligns to how IT organizations are evolving to manage the proliferation of devices. Cisco Prime NCS is built on Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS) technology, which enables IT organizations to plan, deploy and manage RF environments while simultaneously addressing end user access issues.

Ben Stricker | April 19, 2011 at 10:05 am PST

Cisco Prime NCS is part of Cisco Prime for Enterprise, which was also announced today. Cisco Prime for Enterprise is a portfolio of products that deliver the industry’s only converged management solution for Borderless Networks, Collaboration, and Data Center, enabling IT departments to more effectively manage their networks and network services. Cisco Prime for Enterprise is built on a service-centric foundation and a set of common operational attributes. It delivers an intuitive workflow-oriented user experience across Cisco architectures, technologies and networks to simplify network management, improve operational efficiency, speed troubleshooting, and increase network services predictability.

Cisco Prime for Enterprise and Cisco Prime NCS are just part of new security, management and video solutions in the Borderless Networks portfolio that were announced today, helping IT departments more efficiently manage the proliferation of mobile devices, ongoing changes in workforce habits, and the impact of video on the network.

Is Video Conferencing Technology Moving Forward While It's Growing?

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Annual enterprise video conferencing and telepresence system revenue growth is clipping along at a healthy rate, according to a recent study from Infonetics (News - Alert) Research.

It grew 18 percent in 2010 to $2.2 billion, and should more than double by 2015, hitting $5 billion.

Growth is great, but BrightCom CEO Bob McCandless wonders how the technology itself is actually progressing, remarking recently that today's video conferencing and telepresence industry “has not moved far beyond the original technology of the original video technologies” in the early 1990s.

Apple (News - Alert) CU-Seeme, AT&T's videophone and the CAL-Tech CERN project were among the first real video conferencing systems that introduced people to live video communication,” states Mr. McCandless. “As an emerging technology, they set the standards for the majority of what the industry uses today.”

One of the dangers of perpetuating technology, McCandless said, “is that we do not move forward. We continue to use standards like H.323 or MCU based systems long after the industry probably should have moved on to something else. Imagine the consequences if we were still on the path of only using the same gasoline engines that were first made for automobiles.

In his opinion, BrightCom’s multi-way conferencing has “something more advanced in video with a software foundation. I think of software as something that can be easily updated, modified and is flexible enough to be adapted to business needs over time.”

A few days ago TMC’s (News - Alert) Calvin Azuri reported that BrightCom was providing its integrated video and data conferencing for business travelers stranded due to Boeing (News - Alert) 737 Flight cancellations.

The recent emergency landing of a jet belonging to the Southwest Airlines resulted in Boeing, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, to order inspections of older Boeing 737 airplanes, resulting in cancellation of Boeing 737 flights, leaving the business travelers stranded on ground. More than 500 older Boeing 737 aircraft across the world will be inspected, resulting in the grounding of over 150 airplanes for inspection after every 500 flights. Southwest Airlines canceled more than 600 flights last weekend due to the breaking of a fuselage and the rupturing of aluminum skins in one of the Boeing 737 airplanes.

VoIP Migration Leads to Savings, Worker Mobility

HeadphonesThe telephone switchboard and landline desk phone may not be dead, but they are becoming relics of the past along with office ashtrays and typewriters.

Businesses are increasingly turning away from PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems and toward VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony, which enables conversations to travel as data across the Internet. By 2013 more than 80 percent of businesses will use VoIP, according to research by In-Stat.

Is VoIP Right for You?

VoIP can be ideal if your company handles many calls among multiple people, has mobile employees, or juggles satellite offices. Implementing the technology can help to shrink or eliminate the cost of long-distance and conference calls.

In addition, VoIP provides the flexibility to manage calls as you would other data. For example, a caller's contact information may pop up on a Web-based dashboard or on a smartphone with a VoIP app when they ring your number. Depending on the service, voice calls can be translated to text that you read via e-mail or on a smartphone. Many VoIP services extend beyond voice to encompass instant messaging, virtual meetings, and videoconferencing. VoIP is key to unified communications efforts to integrate all of your correspondence into a single, digital hub.

If you already have a local or wide-area network, then you've already laid much of the groundwork. Make sure that your organization has enough bandwidth--a T1 line or better--before trying to cram your calls through a sluggish data pipeline.

VoIP Options

What kind of VoIP system you need depends on the size of your business and the number of locations. One person working at home probably doesn't need much more than a consumer service such as Skype, ViaTalk, or Vonage. Just sign up, download the app, don a headset, and you're good to go. Skype even offers encryption to keep calls private. Mobile VoIP apps can help you rein in cell phone bills.

But that's not enough if you need individual phone lines for your employees. In this case, the many VoIP options essentially break down to either a hosted or on-site VoIP service. Hybrid services can blend the two, letting you combine old and new equipment.

Research firm Frost & Sullivan projects that hosted VoIP will grow by 30 percent and on-premise by 12 percent over the next five years.

This Yealink SIP phone may look old-school, but it uses VoIP  services.This Yealink SIP phone may look old-school, but it uses VoIP services.Hosted VoIP leaves the heavy technology lifting to another company. It can help a small business appear bigger by offering PBX-style features, such as individual phone numbers for employees and call transfers, even to workers away from their desks. It can include toll-free numbers and integration with e-mail and faxing software. You basically download software and buy or lease IP phones for each user. There's little need to invest in expensive equipment or to pay an IT pro for ongoing support. 8x8 and Speakeasy are among the many companies offering hosted VoIP. Your Internet service provider may offer options for VoIP service, as well.

By contrast, on-premise VoIP will offer all the features of a hosted service, with the option for fine-tuning. Avaya and Cisco are among the vendors to consider. For this VoIP PBX option, however, you'll have to handle all the hardware and the calls, so it's time to call an IT pro. If you're upgrading from a pure PBX system, a VoIP gateway device on your network can make the transition. Once you have VoIP going on your network, you should optimize your router and your network to prioritize traffic to ensure high call quality.

Before You Leap

As for the drawbacks, a hosted service may lack the customization you crave, or charge you extra fees for adding features or new users; it could leave you high and dry if the company goes belly-up, too. With on-premise VoIP, you may suffer the obvious headaches and costs of managing any tech equipment in-house, including a large up-front investment.

Before you make the big VoIP switch-over, look closely at the numbers. Compare what you currently spend per user on phone service with what you project to pay a VoIP provider. Read the fine print of any service to determine any hidden fees. Figure in hardware and ongoing maintenance, and don't forget to add the cost of a faster Internet connection, if you need one.

Case Study: Green Heating-Products Seller Saves Greenbacks With VoIP

The problem:

JTG/Muir struggled with an aging PBX phone system. The lack of features and growing maintenance costs turned off the small business, which sells energy-efficient heating equipment directly from manufacturers. The Oakland, California, company turned to BoxIT to upgrade its phone system, hoping to lower costs and provide greater flexibility to its 30 users, including many who work remotely.

The solution:

BoxIT chose VoIP to replace the tired PBX technology, which had its heyday in the era of switchboard operators. JTG/Muir threw away boxes of NEC telephones from its staffers' desks to make way for Yealink SIP (Session Internet Protocol) phones.

Staff can access this Flash-based view of calls to transfer calls  and make recordings.Staff can access this Flash-based view of calls to transfer calls and make recordings. For the pipeline through which voice and data traffic flows, BoxIT went with a SIP Trunk from Cbeyond Cloud Services. Rather than connecting to phones via old-school physical wires as in a PBX system, the SIP Trunk controls communication over the Internet. BoxIT prioritized voice over regular Internet traffic on the company network to ensure high call quality.

It also opted for a customizable, free, Linux-based phone system with a Trixbox CE server, based on Asterisk software. This enables users to make and receive calls through either the Yealink SIP phones at their desks or via soft phone from a laptop, an iPad, an iPhone, or an Android smartphone. Making the latter option possible is the Counterpath Bria soft-phone app, which offers editions for PCs as well as for Android and iOS devices.

BoxIT also added to the package a Web-based Fop2 Flash operator panel. This allows office staff to view instantly who is on which call, as well as to transfer and record calls. There are plans to integrate JTG/Muir's CRM (customer relationship managment) tool with Trixbox CE.

No downtime was necessary during the migration, as BoxIT had prepared the new system to take over immediately once the switch was made.

The outcome:

The BoxIT team: Eric Hasler, Thor Myhrstad, Chhay Chea and Matt  MeierThe BoxIT team: Eric Hasler, Thor Myhrstad, Chhay Chea and Matt MeierWith the old PBX phone system, users working remotely had to dial in periodically to check voicemail messages. Now, after the VoIP overhaul, they can turn on features such as Follow Me, which allows an office extension to ring offsite wherever they might be. Voicemail messages sent out as a .wav file can be played back on a smartphone, laptop, or other device.

If the Internet connection goes down at the office, the SIP Trunk can be set up to call an alternate traditional landline or cell phone, or it can send a call directly to voicemail and then deliver it in an e-mail message.

In addition to enjoying a new system that provides flexibility for often mobile employees, JTG/Muir is saving $1200 each month with three times the bandwidth as the old PBX system.

With the overhaul, JTG/Muir not only reduced costs but also freed its staffers to focus on selling solar hot-water heaters, radiant systems, and other heating products, both on the road and from the office.

--Case study submitted by BoxIT.

Securing Remote Locations in 3 Steps

By Michael | April 20, 2011 at 8:24 am PST

VPNs, protected devices, and secure wireless LANs are keys to successful remote security.

Everyone understands how important it is to batten down the security hatches at company headquarters. But in the haste to protect the network and devices that store a small company’s critical business data and host its key applications, remote offices are sometimes forgotten. You need to make sure remote offices are equally secured, with an eye toward handling a few challenges specific to a location far from headquarters.

Any place someone works outside of your main facility can be considered a remote office, whether that’s an employee’s spare bedroom or a rented suite in a different state. All remote offices share a few security risks: a connection to your network via the public Internet; personal devices used for work, such as laptops; and the potential for unauthorized access to your company’s computing assets, both the equipment and the data stored on it.

Three steps to securing a remote office

The first step in securing a remote office is to install a VPN along with the same network defenses installed at your main location, including a firewall. Essentially, a VPN creates a private and secure tunnel for communications withyour company’s network through the open the public Internet; it encrypts the traffic travelling between remote users and your central network. All employees connecting to your network, whether from home or another building, should always gain access only through a VPN (just like mobile workers).

One easy, cost-effective way to install both a VPN and a firewall is to choose a router with both applications built in, such as the Cisco Small Business RV Series Routers. These devices, designed to safely connect small companies to the Internet, include not only a VPN and a firewall but also advanced encryption and authentication features to further protect a remote office with its own small network.

If you need more security features, you could instead use a security appliance, such as Cisco Small Business SA500 Series Security Appliances or the Cisco’s ASA 5500 Adaptive Security Appliances. In addition to providing a VPN and a firewall, security appliances deliver advanced security features, such as intrusion prevention, that may be appropriate for a remote office network.

The second step is to install the same security software on remote employees’ laptops that you use on PCs at the main office. This should include security software (antivirus and anti-spyware ) on even the devices employees own but use for work, such as smartphones and tablets like the iPad. Security software must be kept current for it to protect against the rising tide of new attacks, so configure it to update regularly and automatically.

The third step in securing remote offices is to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your private network and business data. This is very important in a shared location and often can happen through a wireless network—anyone near the wireless access point can jump onto your wireless LAN if it’s not locked down—or by simply sneaking through an unlocked door. Make sure users can only access the wireless network if they’re authorized and have an undecipherable password. If you’re concerned about equipment theft,tampering, or wiretap connections such as in a shared wiring closet, you might consider installing an IP video surveillance camera that streams video in real time over the Internet.

What security challenges do you face at your remote offices?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Future of Work

By Dan DeBacker

The face of enterprise communications is changing and the rate of change continues to accelerate. All types of enterprises use technology as a differentiator, a way to get a leg up on the competition, a critical toolset in conducting day to day business. The workforce demands for tools and applications are putting significant pressures on enterprise IT departments. They are being asked to do more with less and do it faster, and by the way, also ensure the network is always on with high performance, and a consistent quality of experience regardless of where or how it is being accessed.

Think back just ten years ago and how we all worked. There was no such thing as "presence", we actually left voice mails that had to be listened to via the phone and they weren't delivered to our inboxes so we could hear them on our PCs. Instant messaging and texting weren't even forms of communication, where now they have in some cases become the primary method. We were trying to figure out this whole idea of remote access and how to get to applications and run voice over IP over the Internet. The way we worked was different, we had multiple modes of communications that weren't all tied together: a desk phone, a cell phone, a corporate email address, a personal email address. We had to go to a conference room to do a video conference that took quite a long time to set up and configure (usually by the "video guy" that knew how it all worked).

The network infrastructure to support these forms of communications wasn't very well integrated either. It was more about speeds and feeds and creating several separate and disparate networks to ensure security and separation. There was very little network authentication done except for that remote access thing that we were tackling. We needed networks that could support Voice over IP, it was all about packet-based forwarding that was best effort with some sort of Quality of Service to make it work, well kind of work. Reliability was a concern. The voice TDM network was always on, and we always had dial tone - but voice running over the data network provided all new challenges there.

Fast forward to present day; business collaboration is en vogue and brings new meaning to things like Voice over IP, video conferencing and instant messaging. The way we work today and the expectations are much higher than in the past; the business collaboration experience will be both wired and wireless, with more emphasis on wireless capabilities and the freedom to work untethered. We are integrating the methods of communications and bringing intelligence to how and on what device someone can contact me. For example, in my own work life, no longer will I have all these different numbers and addresses, it can be simplified to a single address that will have the backend infrastructure and smarts to know how best to reach me depending on the rules I provide. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is the enabler, moving communications from best effort packet based forwarding to session-based real time ready. I can now initiate a video call from my desktop and if the person I'm calling isn't available, I can leave a voicemail - I don't have to hang up the video call and initiate a voice call to make that happen. I can create ad hoc conference calls of video or audio or a combination of both. Colleagues and friends can see my status via presence and know when and how to contact me. We've added tremendous capabilities to reshape the way we work, the way we collaborate.

These new tools and applications are exciting and of course enterprises see tremendous value in deploying these to increase worker productivity and gain that competitive advantage. Now the task falls back to the IT department because the applications are only as good as the networks that they run across. Is the network ready to support this? How quickly can we get these new tools rolled out? All the things to think about and consider; bandwidth needs, network re-designs perhaps, security, quality of service, resiliency and redundancy. We must give IT the ability to create the private cloud, allowing them to say "yes", reduce the complexity of the network, and significantly decrease the time to service for deployments.

Avaya's Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA) is the strategy for next-generation data networks, allowing enterprises to build their own private clouds, extensible from the data center to the campus and beyond. With Avaya VENA enterprises will see an immediate benefit by creating a virtualized and holistic backbone, making operations more efficient, and allowing for tighter integration between application and network delivery. Enabling the creation of the network core as a single, one-time act reduces the human-error factor involved in ongoing configuration changes, and greatly reduces time-to-service. The result is a simpler, more dynamic network that is easier to deploy, manage and troubleshoot.

Avaya creates a Virtual Services Fabric which is the basis for the private cloud infrastructure. This Fabric creates a virtualized data center backbone and can be extended out of the data center and into the campus, creating a common architecture and framework. The Virtual Services Fabric is empowered by the Virtual Service Networks that run across it. Each of these networks can be dedicated to specific types of applications, users, or traffic types. The power of traffic separation is being put back into the hands of the administrator without the burden. Provisioning of the network happens only at the Fabric edge (the edge of the cloud), thus reducing the complexities. New applications and services can be instantiated quickly without the need for cumbersome re-designs, no significant configuration changes across the network, and a much lighter change control process.

Wireless capabilities are another area that needs attention to support this new way of working, the expectations are to run all applications while having the freedom to roam and not be cabled in at the desktop. This will definitely exercise the wireless infrastructure in all new ways. Avaya has recognized this forthcoming need and developed a truly unique architecture (Split Plane) to address these requirements. Split Plane refers to the ability to separate the data plane from the control plane in the wireless system. Data plane traffic will be switched within the Avaya Ethernet platforms and will no longer be required to hairpin through a purpose built wireless controller. This will greatly improve the resiliency of the network (leveraging the industry resiliency solutions offered by Avaya's Ethernet switching platforms), reduce the latency of the network by eliminating the need for the wireless controller, and improve the total cost of ownership. The control plane functionality will reside on a virtual machine and scale much better than the thin AP architectures of today. This new and innovative technology will be the enabler of true high performance business collaboration over a wireless medium.

Avaya's vision is about providing enterprises the tools they need to design next-generation virtualized networks, both wired and wireless, that are "fit-for-purpose." The flexibility of the hardware platforms and virtualization techniques allows Avaya to uniquely fit the network to meet the business needs of the enterprise.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

ShoreTel Attracts Growing List of Government and Education Customers

By Anil Sharma, TMCnet Contributor

ShoreTel (News - Alert) has recorded a significant growth in the government and education verticals, with public-sector business now accounting for approximately 20 percent of ShoreTel’s overall sales results.

Officials with ShoreTel said that for the past two years, the company has seen close to a 60 percent growth in business in this segment and has added hundreds of new customers from the government and education verticals.

“Times are tough right now for public sector customers struggling with reduced budgets and fewer resources,” said Troy Parish, national director, GOV Programs at ShoreTel, Inc., in a statement. “Effectively implementing newer, cutting-edge technology is now a critical element in helping government and education customers do more with less.”

“Public Sector customers are a very loyal bunch and when they find a good product, they enjoy sharing those solutions with peers from neighboring jurisdictions,” Parish added. “These customers are realizing they have an alternative to complexity, and that choice is ShoreTel.”

"The City of Sioux Falls has been running on the ShoreTel phone system for over six years now and we have been very happy. ShoreTel is an easy-to-manage, very flexible phone system with lots of features,” said Jon Klemme, IT Manager of City of Sioux Falls.

“We are able to combine more than 20 remote city sites onto one phone system across fiber, leased lines, and point-to-point wireless, giving us four-digit dialing and presence information at all sites. The integration of Microsoft (News - Alert) Outlook contacts into the ShoreTel personal call manager is a feature our users would never give up," said Klemme.

ShoreTel, Inc. is the provider of brilliantly simple Unified Communication (UC) solutions based on its IP business phone system.

TMCnet in February reported that ShoreTel has signed a strategic agreement with converged communications integrator NSC Group, a key partner of rival IP telephony provider, Avaya, which could prove interesting in the long run.

Under the terms of the agreement between NSC and ShoreTel, NSC will sell the ShoreTel’s full UC suite of enterprise IP phone solutions to mid- and large -size companies in Australia and New Zealand. The agreement is the result of a joint customer deployment between the two companies valued at $200,000.

Cisco Learning Labs Provide Hands-On Training


Cisco Learning Labs Provide Hands-On Training for Cisco IOS Routing and Core Switching, Realistic Lab Experiences With Cisco IOS Software Improve Exam Readiness

SAN JOSE, CA–(Marketwire – April 12, 2011) – To meet the demand for more flexible IT training options, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) today introduced Cisco® Learning Labs, virtual practice lab bundles for Cisco certification preparation. For the first time, learners studying for Cisco certification can secure hands-on Cisco IOS® Software lab practice for both routing and core switching.

According to a study conducted by Bowling Green University, hands-on training reduces overall training time by 72 percent compared with traditional training and improves problem-solving abilities by 130 percent. Unlike simulators, the Cisco IOS Software on Unix that powers Cisco Learning Labs offers learners actual equipment responses to configurations.

Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, vice president and general manager, Learning@Cisco, said: “As the network becomes an increasingly critical platform for organizations across the globe, Cisco is dedicated to constantly developing new and innovative ways to help students build skills that map to in-demand job roles that support this rapid growth. The best way for students to prepare for certification is with hands-on experience and training. The introduction of Cisco Learning Labs provides an unprecedented opportunity for students to build skills inside and outside of the classroom and improve exam readiness in a flexible and convenient environment.”

  • Cisco Learning Labs are currently available for Cisco CCNA®, CCNP® and CCIP® study, through the Cisco Learning Network Store and Cisco Authorized Learning Partners.
  • Accessible from the convenience of the user’s PC, Cisco Learning Labs provide complete lab preparation experience for routing and switching skills.
  • Multiple labs are available in each lab bundle, accessible anytime for 90 days, for up to 25 hours. Supplemental lab time is available in increments of five hours.

Inspiring Freshmen - HD Video in University

I just spent an hour or so, listening to brief lectures on TED. TED ( provides a forum for interesting speakers to talk about their work, passions, and potentially unorthodox propositions.

I'd like to point out two things about the TED lectures. First, I never attended a TED conference, I've enjoyed these online. The second is that they were delivered by passionate people, who found the opportunity to present exciting, cared and had thought through their subject of discussion to make each lecture compelling. Occassionally, I happened on a lecture that wasn't interesting to me, and the lecture was still enjoyable, but when the subject was of interest, the lecture was gripping.

Cast back to my undergraduate years at university. Five courses per year for 4 years, equals a potential of at least 20 lecturers. Some enjoyed teaching; others saw it as an obstacle to their research. Three of them stood out as TED type lecturers. - passionate, informative, invigorating. Through my undergraduate program, one professor got (and it wasn't the first time) a standing ovation at the end of his 2nd year course delivery. Surprisingly, that was a course in social theory - Hobbes, Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Marx - not exactly most student's main stay. However, Cyril Levitt, was a compelling speaker. The point is, three in 20 is not the best ratio, for getting an undergraduate excited about an academic program.

Look today. This is a sample of the findings from The courses and schools are relatively speaking irrelevant - at the highest cost schools there are poor professors, and at the smaller public schools there are highly acclaimed speakers. In this subject, 21 professors were rated:

• 5 Star professors, 7
• 4 Star professors, 5
• 3 Star professors, 0
• 2 Star professors, 4
• 1 Star professors, 5

Separate the politics of academic freedom from the reality that students (the customers) are paying the university (the vendor) to educate them, and you quickly realize that from a vendor perspective, there is ample room for improvement. An examination of 10 entry level courses across disciplines revealed that while 56% of students ranked their teachers 5 out of 5, 32% ranked those teachers as 1 or 2 out of 5. From a classical business to consumer perspective, 32% of customers found dealing with the vendor unsatisfactory.

The focus on entry level undergraduate courses is deliberate. For the most part a freshman course's content is fairly standard. The courses are preparatory or introductory in nature, building the foundation on which more advanced studies can take place.
As a student, what would you prefer; to take the course via video with an interesting, engaging professor, or have a near 50% chance of a poor teacher in a live setting? If my experience with TED (and the less than interesting prof's that were inflicted upon me) is an indication I'd rather have the video opportunity.

What if universities collaborated to provide freshmen with the most motivating, captivating and exciting teachers at their disposal? For example, school A delivers Introductory Political Science / Anthropology / Linear Algebra / Organic Chemistry lectures using videos of School B's more engrossing professor. Or even more simply, the introduction to psychology course is delivered to all students via video on-demand by the Professor with the highest student rating last year.

Live video in an HD environment with lower bandwidth requirements carried over the university's network can make this a reality. And it could generate significant benefits.

From a university perspective:

  • Lower per student cost for freshman course delivery.
  • Distance based learning expansion.
  • Student choice.

From a faculty perspective:

  • Decreased teaching burden for those not particularly adept at teaching.
  • A more motivating work environment, by removing unenjoyable work tasks.
  • Differentiated compensation streams for education and research contribution.

From a student perspective:

  • More captivating lecturers.
  • Distance support.
  • Replay of recorded lectures.
  • The potential for a lower cost price point for courses attended via video.

If one of the educational goals of a university is to inspire students to reach higher, then delivering excellent classes assumes importance. If I look back, even at my graduate courses in Social Theory, the value of a motivated teacher remains clear. And, conversations with faculty have only reinforced that point of view.

With the availability of lower bandwidth, high definition video, to an array of end-points using standard protocols, rethinking how best to serve the educational needs of freshmen becomes reallity.

Collaboration is Hot … Very Hot (How Collaboration at Cisco Resulted in Email Reduction – A Case Study)

By Sheila Jordan | April 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm PST

Picking up on my blog last week about how Cisco’s own collaboration solution, our Integrated Workforce Experience or IWE, is showing tangible results of business value, I’d like to talk today about another great example at Cisco. This particular case shows how IWE significantly cut down email volumes.

My colleague Lance Perry, who leads Customer Strategy and Success IT, has been an active user of IWE in his organization. Lance has been well ahead of the collaboration curve. When IWE was launched, he instructed his team to use IWE exclusively in place of email through the establishment of two IWE communities.

The results were impressive. IWE effectively replaced mostly internal email messages that were sent and received, with the result being nearly an 82 percent reduction in overall email traffic within this group. In addition, there was a significant drop in the total email size within Lance’s team.

Like many active work groups, Lance’s organization regularly sent massively-sized PowerPoint documents back and forth for review in preparation for executive presentations. This volume dropped almost completely. Presentations and documents are now stored within the community instead of being attached to email messages. As you might imagine, this allows for more knowledge sharing and discovery, and less email storage of multiple copies and versions.

Lance says it best: “Things that took seven steps take two. Things that took five steps take one. It’s getting so simple.”

The benefits are telling: increased productivity, faster document sharing, improved connecting with colleagues, and collaboration on document content.

So, while this is a small organization within Cisco, it nonetheless demonstrates the business value of IWE:

  • Cost avoidance
  • Time to capability cut to more than half

What’s also impressive is how Lance managed to get his team to radically change their behaviors – that is, to stop using emails for document sharing!

If you’d like to read more, check out this link.

I’ll blog more next time about how other Cisco functional groups are using IWE to make our operations more streamlined and efficient. I’d love to hear your stories as well.

Happy Collaborating!

Cisco, Verizon Advance Unified Cloud Communications

The hosted UC service will launch with voice, video, chat, and presence.

Collaboration Helps Small Business Work Smarter and Faster

By Pat Sampson | March 2, 2011 at 9:27 am PST

In this always on, connected world, your customers expect to reach you at any time—when it’s convenient for them. Tools like unified communications, cloud services, and Web conferencing help your business collaborate more effectively, allowing your employees to work from anywhere and improving customer service through personal interaction. The ability to connect and respond in real time helps differentiate your business from the competition and can make your company more profitable.

Communication is a key component to successful collaboration. By combining voice, video, and data on the same network, you can streamline communication and boost productivity.

If you’re a small company considering a unified communications solution, Cisco’s Unified Communications 300 Series (UC 300) provides business-class networking and voice communications for your business at an affordable price. A complete unified communications solution, the UC 300 lets you replace your PBX (public branch exchange) system with IP telephony and delivers built-in voice and wireless support as well as other advanced features such as voicemail and auto attendant. And because the solution uses SIP trunks, your company can save on monthly phone charges.

If your small business needs a unified communications solution with greater flexibility and support for more users, Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express (CME) can provide you with the customization options you need. Running on a Cisco Integrated Services Router, CME 8.5 provides support for new Cisco 8900 and 9900 Series IP Phones, virtual private network (VPN) phones for remote workers, and mobility enhancements that let you forward a call to your cell phone, and also retrieve a call from your cell phone (for Single Number Reach calls) with the touch of a button.

And CME 8.6, new this month, will offer enhanced collaboration capabilities, including video telephony support for Cisco IP phones as well as native video conference for several Cisco IP phones. Also, CME 8.6 will provide improved mobility by allowing users to access their business phone extension via their iPhone or iPod Touch devices.

If you already have an Integrated Services Router installed on your network and want to add voice messaging and communications capabilities for your business, Cisco Unity Express (CUE) provides voicemail boxes for up to 500 users as well as voicemail and greeting services. With CUE 8.5, new Web inbox lets you manage your voicemail, including the ability to create a pre-recorded message as well as compose, reply, and forward voicemails.

Web conferencing is another effective way to stay connected to customers, partners, and remote workers. Tools like Cisco WebEx

Video will replace travel, says Regus boss

Video conferencing is going to replace more and more corporate travel in the near future, according to Regus’ Simon Hunt.

The product director for the serviced office and video conferencing provider said video will become more of an alternative to travel, with more meetings being done remotely.

He said he expects a large increase in the use of videoconferencing in the next four or five months, as the technology and accessibility improves.

The advent of HD has changed the way people’s perceptions of telepresence, he said: “You can feel like you’re taking part in a meeting without actually being there.”

Hunt also said telepresence technology would soon be bookable through outlook, via an externally supplied plugin, which would make a dramatic difference to the ease of booking.

Using the example of Ikea, Hunt spoke about the benefits of telepresence over face-to-face meetings.

Ikea has cut travel two years running, by increasing the use of videoconferencing. Hunt said employees enjoyed getting their life back, as they are not having to travel long distances, and the company has enjoyed a cost reduction.

However, buying video at low cost is still a challenge, said Hunt, as is connecting between network providers.

Also speaking at the session was GetThere’s Guy Snelgar, who said the travel technology firm is working on a new online booking tool which prompts travellers to consider using telepresence instead of travelling, at the point of booking.

The head of business development EMEA said the first version of the tool would be available by the end of 2011.

Business travellers will be able to compare prices and book telepresence suites and travel on any given trip, allowing clients to manage the whole process within one tool.

Eventually, the tool will be able to advise travellers whether a face-to-face meeting with a particular client is worthwhile, based on past business and the number of times a meeting has taken place that year, for example.

“A face-to-face meeting is always better,”he said, but deciding when to meet is more of a challenge – “you need to make the most of time and budget”.