It is often said that the only thing constant in this world is change; a quote never more true when describing the ever evolving world of business communication. We’ve come to expect any announcement in the Conferencing & Collaboration industry to at least mention “Next-generation“, “reinventing” or “announcing the new“, if not be littered with sentences attaining to the next world-class solution you should be jumping on board with to “improve collaboration across your workforce“.
Indeed, we often have to take these announcements with a pinch of salt, however now and again, the industry does come out with something that really does grab our attention. To name just a few; the first HD Video Conferencing systems, the launch of “better than being there” Immersive Telepresence rooms, “the first” fully virtualised network infrastructure, Polycom’s “next-generation” audio features, fully interoperable “vendor-agnostic” Pexip, and the bold move from Lifesize to a 100% Cloud based offering. And now, our focus is captured by Cisco, “reinventing the collaboration experience” with Cisco Spark.
Cisco Spark has been designed to promote effective teamwork, by integrating the common ways people work together in a business setting
Now the individual features of Spark are nothing new. We’re not really that excited about the idea of group chat & IM. We’re not too excited about virtual meeting rooms, or calling in from a multitude of devices, or holding group video conferences. We’re not that excited about file sharing, or directory dialling from your PSTN, or seamless transfer of your call from your mobile to your meeting room system with a single flick (though that’s a pretty cool feature). None of these features are anything new. But what is new, however, is the capability to do every one of these things, and much more, in a single cloud platform – a truly Unified Communications solution, with native, top-of-the-class Video systems & audio handsets to boot.
“Born in the Cloud”
Designed and built in the cloud, any technology solution designed for purpose will generally perform much better over time than something cobbled together from on-premise technology, to work as a cloud-hosted package. The Cisco Spark solution isn’t piggybacking on Jabber or CUCM, it’s designed from the cloud up, whilst using the experience gained around “what makes collaboration great” that Cisco have learnt in their lifetime, to ensure the tools and features needed for any business to collaborate are all accessible and simple to use.
The key components to Cisco Spark, providing unified communications across a workforce
So what can you really do with Cisco Spark?
It’s core capabilities are Messaging, Meeting and Calling. The three key components to communication and collaboration in a business setting.
- Messaging? That’s Instant Messaging, 1:1 or group messaging in virtual rooms
- Meeting? That’s scheduling & joining a meeting room, with anyone, anywhere. Audio, web and video conferencing capabilities, from home, a mobile/tablet, or a room based system.
- Calling? That’s video & voice communications, directories, connecting your PSTN, voicemail, single number reach & all the other calling features you’d expect
But more than that, it’s how it’s all wrapped up in one neat package, with user features & functionality that stretch across the whole platform.
Cisco Spark gives a unified interface across all devices
All-Encompassing & Unified
Cisco has the unique advantage of having the world’s most complete collaboration portfolio, which brings together clients, apps & endpoints for every end-user situation, that provides the complete service regardless of location or device, enabling users to call, message, and meet, and switch between modes as and when they need to. Cisco Spark enables this complete service through:
- Cloud registered devices – Cisco endpoints, such as the SX10 are being deployed with the Spark OS, meaning you can use the systems as you would in a room setting, but through the simple scan of a QR code, registers straight up to Cisco Spark.
- Escalation from one mode to another – Switch between messaging, meeting & calling, escalate from a mobile phone call to a video call in your meeting room, jump from a WebEx meeting into a Virtual Meeting room, just with one click.
- Device & phone pairing & control – Initiate, answer and transfer calls between your mobile device, desktop phone or Video Conferencing system. Control your Video Conferencing system from your mobile phone, or share content straight from your tablet or laptop with the system and every meeting participant.
If you are ready to leave the meeting room, but not ready to leave the call, you can simply use the Spark mobile application to drag & drop the call to your local device
How does it Integrate with my Current Investments (Phone systems etc)?
Many organisations have invested a lot in their current phone systems and other on-premise technologies. Cisco have recognised this, and have built the Spark platform with a flexible hybrid model, where the cloud services of Spark can easily integrate with your technology already on-premise. The Spark Hybrid services connect CUCM, HCS or Business Edition capabilities to the Cisco Spark capabilities in the cloud, including Call Services, calendar services and directory services, greatly enhancing the functionality of your current investments.
CUCM, HCS and Business Edition on-premise can connect into Spark in the Cloud
For example, with the Spark Calendar Service, Spark can connect with your Microsoft Exchange/Outlook to enable an Outlook meeting to automatically create a Cisco Spark room, with all the meeting invitees for pre & post meeting information & document sharing, just with a simple tag. With the Spark Directory Service, Spark simply connects to Active Directory and enable users to see all of your company contacts, when adding others to their Spark rooms.
Is Cisco Spark for me?
Cisco Spark is particularly suited to organisations looking for a number of different business outcomes.
- If you have existing Call Control from Cisco, i.e. Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM), Cisco HCS, or Cisco Business Edition, and want to add new capabilities to expand your teams collaboration abilities
- If you are looking to replace your current PBX and want to upgrade to a more modern way of working
- For organisations with multiple different platforms from multiple different vendors, who are finding this a disjointed approach, costly and difficult to manage
- Those who are looking for an OpEx solution with no upfront cost
- Those who have previously just used WebEx web conferencing services, but recognise the expanded capabilities Spark can bring – Spark can easily be bolted onto your current WebEx investment if needs be!
Cisco Spark will be offered as a subscription model, paying for the services used, per user, per month. Talk to us today about the capabilities that Cisco Spark can bring to your organisation, and let’s discuss your requirements to find out the best solution for you. We can get you on your way with a free version of Cisco straight away, so get in touch and let’s talk!