09 Nov
22 Aug

7 Key Considerations for Modernizing Unified Communications

 

Today’s constantly evolving digital marketplace requires that organizations across industries regularly evaluate their technology infrastructures. Upgrading unified communications (UC) tools to support increased mobility, cross-functional collaboration and an innovative customer experience is a necessary part of business planning. Outdated systems can limit an organization’s agility and ability to offer best-in-class solutions and services.

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15 Sep
09 Mar
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27 Oct
09 Feb

Hidden Gem in Cisco Unified Communications Manager

It is possible to work with a product for years yet never scratch the surface of all the features it may be hiding.  This is especially true when dealing with enterprise-class applications, such as Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM).  Obviously most of us never use the features in the product that run a forty server super cluster, but there are so many useful features that we can benefit from using in any average size deployment of voice and video devices.

For example, peer firmware sharing is a lesser-known feature that can make phone firmware upgrades go over 90% faster than the traditional TFTP downloads to all the phones.  In an environment where all phones and video codecs are connected over the LAN, upgrading software from the CUCM TFTP server is relatively fast.  The network has plenty of bandwidth to download the appropriate firmware file.  One problem with this upgrade method is that every device is connecting to the same TFTP server on the CUCM.  This can cause a spike in the CPU utilization on the TFTP server and lead to poor performance of other real time video and voice traffic being handled by the server.

If the devices to upgrade are spread out over a WAN, then you have every device at a remote location each separately downloading the firmware file to itself to complete the upgrade.  This means that one firmware upgrade file may be downloaded hundreds of times as all devices slowly upgrade.  Every device will eventually complete, but only after a lot of congestion and redundant traffic flows all over the network.

To solve these problems, you could deploy your own personal TFTP servers at remote sites to prevent the CUCM from ever getting overloaded from upgrade requests or from having the same file downloaded numerous times over WAN links.  Extra TFTP servers require manual placement of the files and have no failover mechanisms if the phones cannot reach them, so Cisco came up with a better way called Peer Firmware Sharing.

This feature allows a phone on a specific subnet to download the firmware upgrade and then pass the firmware upgrade along to other phones on that same subnet.  The phones transfer the file to each other through a TCP connection on the same subnet, so no routers or broadcast domains are crossed in this operation.

To prevent any one phone from getting overloaded, no “parent” phone can ever have more than two “child” phones connecting to it.  Because the phones will now pass the firmware file among themselves, this dramatically reduces the load on the CUCM TFTP server and in the amount of bandwidth consumed over WAN links as the firmware is downloaded.  This greatly increases the speed of completion for phone firmware upgrades.

For example, in a remote site with 40 Cisco IP Phones, pushing out a firmware upgrade which would normally take well over an hour, can be reduced to less than 10 minutes by enabling the Peer Firmware Sharing feature.

There are some limitations of this feature.  Only identical model phones can share firmware with one another, and they also have to be on the same IP subnet.  This feature must be enabled on each phone device in CUCM under the “Product Specific Configuration Layout.”  It can also be set under “Enterprise Phone Configuration” in newer versions of CUCM.

As voice and video endpoints continue to gain more and more features, firmware upgrades are a regular part of keeping a Cisco Unified Communications infrastructure healthy.  Utilizing the full feature set of CUCM will help us get some extra time put back into our day.

As always, feel free to contact us today for more information.

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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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08 Apr

Telcion’s Go-To-Market Strategy

A couple weeks ago I spent some time in Las Vegas at the annual Cisco Partner Summit.  This is a good time to hear about Cisco’s vision and strategy.  It constantly evolves, and given our heavy reliance on Cisco as a vendor, it’s important that our strategy is aligned with theirs.   Cisco has a vision to be the #1 IT company in the world.  They are well on their way to accomplishing that.  They are either #1 or #2 in every market they participate in, with significant leads in many areas.

It’s hard to believe they own 50% of the voice/collaboration market after entering it just 15 years ago, and are #2 with blade servers after just 5 years.  They love to disrupt industries.  As Cisco continues down this path of being the #1 IT company, we have the opportunity to join them on several fronts to grow our business – both deeper and wider.

Deeper, in that we will continue to offer a wider breadth of technology than in years past.  Wider, as we are able to serve more clients and widen our opportunity base.    We have had a very deep expertise in voice/video/collaboration these past 12 years, and we have acquired the skills to have this same level of expertise in virtualization.

Our strategy is to be a company that has two primary offerings:  collaboration (voice, video, content) and virtualization (servers, hypervisors, storage).   These two pillars are built on a network foundation that includes switching, routing, wireless, security, and structured cabling.   This has been our go-to market strategy this past year and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

As always, feel free to contact us today to learn more about how Telcion can utilize our go-to strategy to your benefit.

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04 Dec

Merry Christmas from Telcion!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope this has been a good year for you and your company. Telcion has had a solid year thanks to our wonderful clients, and we would like to extend our sincere appreciation for making Telcion your technology partner of choice.

In light of this busy time of year, I’d like to remind everyone of an important step for you and your staff to take care of over the next few days. One of the things we see that happens frequently around the holidays is that many people forget to make sure their holiday greeting is configured and applied to the right days. Many companies have extended days off this time of year, especially between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. You may want to reset or confirm your holiday schedule for the auto attendant greeting so it does exactly what you want. Additionally, if you have any holiday parties or end of year company-wide meetings where you want to close the office down for a couple hours, again, make sure those auto attendant greetings and schedule are ready to go beforehand. It’s not unusual for us to get some panic calls at the last minute as people realize they neglected to do this.

With that said, be sure the enjoy the holidays, get some well-deserved rest, and please remember the reason for the season!

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