08 Nov
16 Dec
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27 Jul
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11 Mar

File Sharing Made Simpler and Better

This last year we made the plunge and moved our file sharing to the cloud.  Prior to that, we were still storing our large folder of files (50,000 plus) on a shared folder inside the network.   This was primarily because of speed, but we kept running into situations where it would sure be nice if those files were located in the cloud.  Things like remote access.   Easy access from mobile devices without using a VPN.  No more concern for backup.   So we took the plunge.  The hardest part was just getting that many files uploaded to the cloud (took us overnight), and then making sure everyone had access.   But overall, it was pretty smooth.

We chose to use Dropbox for this scenario at a cost of around $1000/year.   Is it cheaper than keeping your own server?   Not really.   When you figure what a server and license costs over a 5-year period, plus any maintenance or IT admin costs, it’s around break even.

But is it a lot easier?  Yes.   Do you have more feature/functionality?  Yes.   Overall, there are less headaches to deal with and life is much simpler.

Even if you don’t want to move all of your files into the cloud, sometimes just a subset of heavily used files can make a big difference, and it is an option definitely worth exploring.

Contact us today to see if taking the plunge is the right move for you, too.

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09 Feb

Putting Your Servers In the Cloud

More and more I am having conversations with our clients about what kind of services they can put into the cloud.   The easy answers are things like CRM and email.  These are well-established services that work very well in the cloud and really do provide some relief.   No servers, no licensing, less IT admin… all good outcomes.

Now we are starting to have the more difficult conversations.   What about Windows servers?   What about our voice system?   What about file sharing?  Do we need to be concerned about security?  So let’s dig into this a bit and see what the options are.

First of all, any of these services requires a fast internet connection.  Once you get beyond the basic apps like email, you need to have a fast and very reliable connection.  Something like 20-50megs and fiber-based.   This is pretty available now these days for around $1000/month.   If you aren’t willing to make that investment, then I wouldn’t suggest considering cloud for your servers just yet.   You need this kind of infrastructure because you want fast access and you want low latency, especially for your voice and video apps.

Let’s tackle the first question:  is it feasible to put your Windows Server that is running a specialized application for your industry into the cloud?  Absolutely.   But this is where things get interesting.   Generally, we find it to be more expensive when you move your servers out to the cloud.   You are essentially renting hardware located somewhere else.   Renting is rarely cheaper than buying, in most cases, over a longer period of time.   If you figure costs over a 3-5 year period, you will find you are paying a premium for renting.   Is this bad?  Not necessarily.   It all depends on what your priorities are.

Telcion offers cloud-based services like this, and the main pain point our clients emphasize is not the cost but the convenience.   They no longer have to maintain server hardware.   There is no annual support or maintenance contracts.   There are no licenses to maintain.   There are no software upgrades to complete.    This frees up their IT admin folks to focus on business problems, or more importantly, how the business can make money using IT.

The same scenario works for your voice system.   We can put your phone system applications in the cloud, on our servers.   But it won’t be less expensive.  It will just be more convenient.   You have to decide whether it’s worth the convenience or not.   In many cases, it’s well worth it.  It all depends on how you want your internal IT resources deployed and what you want your IT Admin folks to be focused on.

As always, contact me if you want to dive deeper into what this might look like for your organization.

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10 Dec

New Voice and Video Features For Your Cisco Phone System

As I’ve stated many times over the years, we pride ourselves in “eating our own dog food.” Meaning, we use what we sell. We’ve had a Cisco Unified Communications system installed for well over a decade now, and we usually upgrade our internal system to new versions before we try it with our clients. In addition, we are always attempting to add new feature functionality as it becomes available.

About 1 year ago, Cisco released a new product called Expressway. Expressway allows outside devices to talk to Call Manager for the purposes of voice and video calls, i.e. voice and video calls could traverse the firewall without the need for a VPN tunnel. We could see immediately that Expressway had some new features and functionality that would be very beneficial, and set out to deploy it. We also learned really quickly that it wasn’t quite ready for prime time yet, and began the multi-month process of working through all the obstacles required to make it work. I’m pleased to say we have reached the conclusion of that testing: I’m ready to see our clients take advantage of this technology. I’m also glad that our clients were patient through this process as I know many of them were anxious to gain this new functionality.

So what are the new features? The big one is 4-digit dialing from Jabber, outside of the office. For example, from my mobile phone, using the Cisco Jabber app, with no VPN connection, I can place and receive calls from my extension. This is big. Previously, we had to establish an SSLVPN connection from the mobile device back to the office prior to launching the Jabber app. This created an extra step that made it just inconvenient enough that I found I didn’t want to use the feature unless I really needed too. With Expressway in place, all I have to do is launch my Jabber app and let it run in the background. When someone calls my extension, the Jabber app rings and I can answer. Or I can in turn use the dial keypad in Jabber and make an outbound call – either 4-digit to an internal person or to someone outside the company. Just like I was at my desk. I’ve been using this feature now for several days and have found it to be very useful.

In addition, because I’m using Jabber, if I call someone that has the ability to do video (video phone, conference room video system, desktop PC with Camera, iPad, etc), the video call is immediately established and we can talk face to face. Happens automatically (if you choose), and makes it really easy.

The last major feature is that we are now able to call out from our video devices from own domain. For example, I can call out to a 3rd-party video user as lreid@telcion.com. The same 3rd-party video user can call me back using the same nomenclature.

The major obstacle with deploying these features initially was that our Jabber deployment was cloud-based. The initial release required the Jabber deployment to be server-based and on-premise, which is how many of our clients use Jabber. Regardless of these early obstacles, I am glad to say we can implement this in your organization with far less headaches, and I’m certain you will enjoy the new features as much as I have. If you are using Jabber, this is a must have.

Contact us at info@telcion.com or call 209.632.5700 if you’re interested in going to the next level with Cisco Jabber.

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12 Nov

The Virtues of Desktop Virtualization

Over the past several weeks we’ve had numerous requests from our clients desiring to know more about desktop virtualization so I thought it might be of interest for many of our readers to understand what some of the features are. I’ll go over the technical requirements in a future blog.

Desktop virtualization is simply a way for your organization to centralize all the various desktop PCs (typically Windows) and their data onto one or more servers. The operating system and all the user data are located on the server. The end user then boots up any device they choose – PC, thin client, tablet, smartphone, etc. – and connects to this ‘virtual desktop’.

The main reason for doing this is that it creates an environment that makes it far simpler to manage desktop PCs. Instead of having to go through the multi-hour process of re-imaging a PC every time something goes wrong or it’s time to upgrade and replace hardware, you can now manage everything through the server. All the data is located in one place so it never leaves your corporate data center, which helps with many compliance issues. Also, since all the processing is happening on a server, I only need inexpensive PCs or thin clients on the user’s desk.

From a user’s perspective, I can pick whatever device I want to connect to my ‘virtual desktop’, which may be different on any given day depending on where I’m located and what I’m doing. I can have access to all my favorite apps, configured just the way I like.

Although desktop virtualization is not a new idea (think Microsoft Terminal Services and Citrix), we do have new ways of doing it now that are very compelling, particularly if you already have a virtualized environment.

Feel free to contact us today to discuss how desktop virtualization can enhance your organization.

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17 Sep

Video Conference Bridge in the Cloud

This last month Cisco released a new product called the Cisco Collaboration Meeting Room (CMR), extending video conferencing out to the cloud.  Before CMR, the main obstacle in doing larger video conferences of more than 4 participants was a requirement for more equipment onsite.  Most video units will support a 4-way conference out of the box, but to add that 5th person, you had to add what is called a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU).  The MCU is an appliance that takes all the video streams from all participants and re-formats them to the desired presentation (i.e. “Brady Bunch” style, loudest talking, etc.)  These units would generally cost upwards of $30-40k just to get started.  The more participants, the higher the cost.
CMR essentially replaces the MCU by making it available in the cloud for a monthly subscription price, thus lowering the cost of doing video.

CMR also has some additional features.  It is fully integrated into the WebEx cloud.  So now you can create a WebEx meeting, and also have video conference rooms join the meeting.  Or vice versa – your room-based video conference system can have multiple participants from other room-based systems, but those few outlying participants that don’t have access to a room-based system can still join the meeting via WebEx.  Need to join from your phone or tablet?  No problem.   Using Microsoft Lync?   No problem.

CMR allows us to have a single video conference, up to 25 participants, from any device.  If you’ve been wanting to get out of the world of makeshift webcams and move into a world of seamless video from any device to anyone, CMR is the next step.

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