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3 Tips for Comparing Complex Communications Solutions By Melissa Swartz

One of the major trends that I saw at Enterprise Connect 2018 was the evolution of offers from a variety of separate tools to more fully integrated solutions. There certainly is a need for fully customized, build-your-own UC or contact center capabilities; however, many organizations prefer to utilize a solution that has already been built (especially if there is a way to tweak it to better meet their needs).

I'm working on a project right now where the organization needs telephony, contact center, mobility, conferencing (audio and video), document sharing, the ability to host medium (250 attendees) and large (1,500 attendees) webinars, and a team collaboration capability (whew!). All of these tools fall into the larger category of "communications," but clearly, they are quite different from one another. My client wants a solution that meets all of these needs now, with the flexibility to evolve with the company into the future as its needs change and grow. And if the questions that were asked during Enterprise Connect sessions are any indication, they are not the only ones in such a situation.

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Getting Technical with Cloud Migrations By Melissa Swartz

At Enterprise Connect in March, I presented a session about avoiding the "gotchas" in a cloud migration. There were five panelists who discussed the issues with me, and who had some great advice for the audience:

  • Mehdi Salour, SVP of network operations and DevOps at 8x8
  • Skip Chilcott, global head of product marketing at IR
  • Curtis Peterson, SVP of cloud operations for RingCentral
  • Jamshid Rezaei, CIO at Mitel
  • Chad Elford, global director product management, business collaboration - UCaaS solutions at Tata Communications

Cloud's Network Impact

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5 Keys for Successful End User Adoption By Melissa Swartz

Last week, my cell phone screen went blank and wouldn't come back. I had knew that the time to replace it was coming, but this forced the issue. I got a new phone, and then had to deal with the transfer of contacts, calendar, and all of the useful data that makes the phone an effective tool for me. While I didn't choose to make this change, once things were put into motion, I was fully in control of the process. Yet it was still unsettling to be without a comfortable and essential tool for a while, and it's been an adjustment to learn how to use the new one.

That experience is similar to what many end users go through when their organization moves to a new business communications solution, except that the end users typically don't control the process. The change is forced on them and they just have to deal with it.

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How Microsoft Is Innovating in Collaboration By Melissa Swartz

The judges for the Best of Enterprise Connect Award program reviewed 62 entries -- entries that spanned a variety of segments in the enterprise communications space, such as contact center, conferencing, management tools, team collaboration, emergency notification, speech analytics, and beyond.
 
There were some very innovative solutions. However, in my opinion, nothing matched the breadth of capability and vision demonstrated by Microsoft’s entry for Teams, which included the Teams for Firstline Workers (also known as frontline workers) and enhancements to the “intelligent workspace.”

5G: The Promise and Impact By Dennis Goodhart

There is an old Chinese saying that goes, "May you live in interesting times." Certainly, anybody involved in the enterprise communications technology field would have to agree that we are indeed living in not only interesting, but complex times.

Arguably the most immediate impact on your network and business in the next several years will be 5G. If you believe everything you read and hear, 5G is the panacea that will solve all of your communications problems. In my last No Jitter post, I wrote about the promise and potential of 5G and the technology behind it. Let's look at what has transpired over the past six months. (Please remember this is not a technical update on 5G but more of a "heads up" as to what is coming your way.)

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Making Sense of Blockchain, Bitcoin By Dennis Goodhart

By now I'm sure you have heard of Bitcoin, and may even be kicking yourself for not buying and getting in on the ground floor. The technical term for what Bitcoin is, is known as cybercurrency or cryptocurrency. And while you may debate the merits or risks of whether or not to invest in this type of commodity, there is actually a very interesting and rather unique technology that was developed specifically for Bitcoin that is now being look at for other types of data network transport and transactions. This article will explore the technology behind cryptocurrency and the implications this type of technology may have upon your next-generation infrastructure.

But first, to better help understand exactly how this technology works, and to satisfy those who are curious as to what cryptocurrency is all about, a little primer.

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Getting a Contact Center Implementation Right By Dennis Goodhart

In my last No Jitter post, "Digging In to the Contact Center Obsession," I discussed the impact, influence, and necessity of contact centers in today's business world. Now, with the help of my associate Cheryl Helm (fellow SCTC member), it's time to take a practical look at critical factors to consider when implementing a new contact center or migrating to a cloud or hybrid contact center.

As consultants, we adhere to a very strict code of ethics that, among other practicalities, ensures our vendor neutrality. So, for this article no specific vendor names will be mentioned, although some examples cited may be vendor specific.

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When to Turn Your POTS into PANS By Dan Aylward

Incumbent Local Exchange Providers (ILEC) are not shying away from moving services away from the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) ... nor should any No Jitter readers be surprised of this enormous network phase out. However, this does beg the question "When should you disconnect all of your Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) and move to the Pretty Amazing New Stuff (PANS)?"

Voice over IP (VoIP) and cellular are established options for voice communications and the most used form of communication whether we like the Quality of Service (QoS) or not. But what about essential analog services that are not used for voice? Let's address some examples.

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IoT: Connect Everything, Segment Everything By Dan Aylward

We live in a world in which new technology solutions seem to emerge every day -- and the pace of innovation is rapidly accelerating. In 2017, we saw tech game-changers like self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things (IoT) really start to take off.

IoT, in particular, is a major disruptor in the telecommunications industry, enabling devices and sensors to 'talk' to each other without human intervention. IoT is being leveraged practically today, for example, to monitor moisture levels in soil or to trigger an alert and video stream when someone rings your doorbell. A consumer may be walking by a retail shop and receive a custom sale alert to his or her smartphone -- this is IoT in action.

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Help! They're Taking Away My POTS! By Dan Aylward

A funny thing has happened while we've all been paying attention to VoIP and SIP trunks. Those plain old telephone service (POTS) lines have suddenly become expensive circuits, and we don't have a bulletproof solution to replace all of them.

This is sort of like figuring out who you're going to ask to the prom. You spend your time and attention on the captain of the cheerleading squad, figuring you can count on the girl next door if that plan doesn't work out. The only problem is you didn't get your date with the cheerleader, and now you discover that your backup isn't available either!

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Why Do I Need a Desk Phone? By Dan Aylward

"Tell me again why I need a desk phone?" Such is the question I heard last year from a client after building up the value of using a communications technology consultant.

We were there to assist in designing the company's network infrastructure, redundancy, and business continuity plans. We discussed Wi-Fi coverage, cellular usage and needs, PRI contractual commitments, and features of the installed phone system. And after all the discussion, I got a polite but perplexed look asking the desk phone question.

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6 Secrets of Telecom Cost Reduction By Dan Aylward

Some of my peers aren't going to like me for giving you this information. These are the secrets I've learned and refined over the years working as a communications consultant on behalf of my enterprise clients. You'll find some of these tips are not rocket science, nor do you need a doctorate or even a specific skill set to accomplish them. But like anything worth doing you have to have an objective, and accountability to see it through.

There's a quote in the Bible I really like: "If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success." So, I hope this helps you sharped your ax!

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The Great Desk Phone Dilemma By Dan Aylward

I received a curious question from a client last year after being engaged by the company for communications technology consultancy services. We were there to assist in designing the company's network infrastructure, redundancy, and business continuity plans. We discussed their Wi-Fi coverage, cellular usage and needs, PRI contractual commitments, and features of their phone system. And after all the discussion, I got a polite but perplexed look from them, asking this question: "Tell me again why I need a desk phone?"

And I thought, "Wait a minute...this is a GOOD question."

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States Continue Down Convergence Path By Howard Feingold

For today's state governments, with their many agencies, vastly distributed field offices, and multiple networks, the integration of voice, video, and data into a single statewide network promises lower costs, improved collaboration, and enhanced security. But fragmented and often incompatible technologies, complex support requirements, and disparate policies and procedures across agencies are among the many challenges that can hinder the realization of these promises.

In this article, I explore how convergence of voice, video, and data into a single network can overcome these challenges.

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Smart Facilities Demand Converged Networks By Howard Feingold

Smart campuses and buildings and the Internet of Things (IoT) are the logical next phase of network convergence, which my consultant firm Technology Plus has been focused on for the last 20 years. As intelligence is added to everything from lighting to trash bins, the network is becoming the central nervous system for the physical environment.

Concurrently, users and employees expect network connectivity everywhere, self-service everywhere, and connectivity to every device and service. These two trends fuel each other, and the rate of change continues to increase. But who is responsible for these interrelated concerns in the design and construction process? One physical network may now support:

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Technical Projects: Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time By Elizabeth English

We've all been held captive in meetings that should have lasted 30 minutes but instead dragged on for several hours while technical issues were hashed out in excruciating detail between two team members. You've also likely been in a meeting where one person sidetracks progress by launching onto a soapbox of issues relevant only to his or her department. Perhaps you've attended meetings for which team members have not adequately prepared status updates, thus hijacking and diverting the meeting into a black hole while the rest of attendees are reduced to observing work that should have been completed outside of the meeting.

With technical projects, team members from multiple divisions and disciplines are typically brought together into one meeting designated for reviewing project status, addressing larger issues, and communicating plans.

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Project Management: Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time By Elizabeth English

Given the right tools and processes, can anyone successfully manage projects? Does it take a certain personality type to be an excellent project manager or can the skills needed be learned?

Last month I talked about making meetings more productive. This month's elephant bites will focus on the necessary skills and traits required to be a truly effective project manager.

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Taking a Holistic Approach to Business Continuity in UC By Elizabeth English

In Andrew Prokop's recent No Jitter article, "Peeling Back the SIP resiliency layers," he addressed some of the methods available to increase redundancy when implementing SIP solutions. I'd like to take this topic a step further and dive into the intricacies of business continuity for unified communications.

When implementing a unified communications platform in a multisite environment, designing for business continuity is an imperative for most organizations. Balancing the cost of a highly available solution against business requirements while understanding where the various redundancy options fit, is a challenge that plagues many ICT departments.

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You've Acquired a Company... Now What? By Elizabeth English

These days, the pace of organizational mergers and acquisitions is rapid. Once the ink has dried on the acquisition agreement, what steps are required to ensure a successful and secure IT transition? How does the acquiring company protect its existing and new assets, while ensuring the benefits of the acquisition are realized? Employees of both organizations will need to work together during the transition, while maintaining separate workflows.

One of the first things to consider when developing a tactical IT infrastructure transition plan is understanding how the acquisition is structured. For example, is one company purchasing the other in whole? In part? Are two companies joining forces as equal partners? The acquisition structure will drive the level of planning and security required.

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Planning for a Successful 'Carve Out' Acquisition By Elizabeth English

You've just been notified that your company is purchasing a large business unit from another company, and you've been placed in charge of moving the IT components to your organization without disrupting business and keeping all aspects of your organization secure. This type of arrangement is commonly referred to as a "carve out," and it requires extensive planning and forethought to navigate the complex, competing requirements.

Complicating and Uncomplicating a Carve Out

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