Unity Connection 8.5: Unified Messaging

– Tim Deem, Sr. Network Consultant

The distinction between Unified Messaging and Integrated Messaging in Cisco’s voice mail alternatives has been a topic of discussion since their inclusion in the Cisco Unity and Cisco Unity Connection products’ release.

In our experience, the primary distinction and decision point for any client considering both, boils down to the perceived benefit regarding the inclusion of the voice mail message in a user’s primary email inbox as opposed to the creation of a second mailbox via their email client.

Unified Messaging: voice mail messages are contained within the same email inbox as the end user’s email

Integrated Messaging: notifications are sent to the primary email inbox and the voice mail messages are accessible via the same email client but messaging is accomplished through the creation of a separate mailbox which contains the actual messages

With the release of Cisco Unity Connection 8.5, this critically important distinction is no longer a differentiator since it allows the full integration of an end user’s email inbox and their voice mail messages.

One significant difference does still exist, however, in the methods by which these two platforms accomplish this feat.  Cisco Unity, in achieving Unified Messaging, requires the complete redirection of the entire voice mail message store to the email server; whereas Cisco Unity Connection achieves this instead by synchronizing the two servers at an individual user level.  An end user of Unity Connection who is granted the Unified Messaging feature has a copy of his voice mail messages stored on the email server while the original remains on the UC server.  As the end user acts upon the message, whether via their email client or their phone, the two systems synchronize the status and their clients (for example: their email client or phone) immediately reflect that status change.

We believe this single additional feature alone is worth the inclusion, upgrade or migration to the Unity Connection 8.5 platform.  However, as additional incentive, Cisco has also added several other features within the deployment of Unity Connection’s Unified Messaging.

These features include:

  • Text-to-speech (TTS) access to Exchange email
  • Access to Exchange calendars, which allows users to do meeting-related tasks by phone (for example, hear a list of upcoming meetings, or accept or decline meeting invitations)
  • Access to Exchange contacts, which allows users to import Exchange contacts and use the contact information in personal call transfer rules and when placing outgoing calls by using voice commands
  • Notification of upcoming Cisco Unified Meeting Place meetings on the phone (Meeting Place server required)
  • Scheduling and joining of Meeting Place meetings (Meeting Place server required)
  • Transcription of Connection voice messages (Speech View)

For more information regarding Unity Connection 8.5 and how it can benefit your environment, contact your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager to schedule a discussion or demonstration.


Who’s Your “NetMinder?”

– Jeff Gorman, Business Unit Director

Network and server outages are expensive.  That is a pretty straight-forward point based on the reliance upon technical infrastructure for key processes in nearly every business.  While few network and system administrators or managers would disagree with that simple point, there are a surprising number of organizations that do little or nothing with respect to monitoring key resources, capacity planning, and log collection to ensure the appropriate systems are in place for minimizing the likelihood that such incidents take place and minimizing their impact if they do occur.

Keller Schroeder’s NetMinder service provides tools that help accomplish numerous network management tasks for environments of all sizes.  Our engineers work with our clients’ network and system administrators to determine resources that need to be monitored, reasonable thresholds, notification processes for incidents, and appropriate access to each of the components of the monitoring system.  The NetMinder service provides for a server to be placed at a client site, with the installation, configuration, and ongoing maintenance done by our engineers, thereby reducing the staffing footprint required to implement network management without the loss of ownership or control of local devices that managed services often imply.  This service also allows granular access to all of the application’s web-based interfaces to the appropriate client-identified system administrators to ensure the people responsible for network and system administration have readily available access to the information they need for capacity planning, resource monitoring, log analysis, and configuration management.

From a network standpoint, tools within NetMinder can give you information like bandwidth utilization, network response time, number of firewall connections, and centralized logging, in addition to many other key points.  For all monitored points, it can show the trend over the previous 24 hours, week, month, or year to facilitate capacity planning.  Thresholds can be set to establish critical, warning, and acceptable levels for monitored resources to facilitate notification when key elements deviate from expected baselines.

From a server perspective, tools within NetMinder can give you information like bandwidth utilization, key service response time, active service checking, disk space utilization, memory utilization, processor utilization, and centralized logging in addition to many other key points.  Just as with networking elements, results can be displayed over customized periods of time and thresholds can be set to establish levels for notification tiers to facilitate proactive downtime avoidance as well as root cause analysis.

The NetMinder service includes applications which perform Resource Utilization Monitoring, Resource Availability Monitoring, Log Analysis, Network Device Configuration Management, and Network Traffic Flow Analysis.  Each tool has access control to determine which users can access the information, and all of the tools have a web-based interface to facilitate easy connectivity for administrators.   The service includes the server hardware and the installation and initial configuration of all of the tools, as well as ongoing patching and updating of the tools in the monthly service fee.  The service is priced based on the number of IP addresses being monitored, the amount of log data being collected, and any customizations requested to add additional business-value to the network management process.

For more information visit our NetMinder page at http://www.kellerschroeder.com/netminder or contact your Senior Account Manager to coordinate a demonstration.


Thankful For You

“Give thanks for everything…” (Ephesians 5:20 NLT).  This is perhaps one of the most counter-intuitive scriptures in the Bible, suggesting that a thankful attitude is a choice rather than a response.  Most often we become thankful in response to circumstances, but usually only if those circumstances are positive in our way of thinking – a benefit accrued to our account.  More challenging are the times when we choose to be thankful in the middle of difficult circumstances or things not going the way we had planned.

It is easy for us at Keller Schroeder to be thankful for you, our client.  It is both a choice and a response.  We choose to approach each engagement with an “attitude of gratitude” for the opportunity to make things work better for you through the use of technology tools and best practices.  And, as we look back into 2010 and forward into 2011, we respond to your confidence, loyalty, and partnership with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for our relationship with you.

Thank you for helping make 2010 a successful year for Keller Schroeder.  We have never been more challenged, and never more blessed.  Thank you for the opportunities you will afford us to help you make this year a successful one for your organization.

We wish you the best in 2011!  Our commitment to you is that Keller Schroeder will be laser-focused on making a favorable impact each time you connect with us.

Larry May, President