Leverage Your Existing Cisco Phone System with Informacast

Warren Swingle – Senior Systems Engineer

Do you have the need to send mass notifications to people in your organization?  Would you like to leverage your existing Cisco phone system to add a paging system and/or notification system?  Informacast software can integrate with your existing or new Cisco phone system to provide numerous paging and notification features.

PrintSince the release of Cisco Call Manager Version 9, Cisco has included a Singlewire software called Informacast with Call Manager Business Edition 6000.  It also can be downloaded free and installed with Call Manager 8.5 and higher.  The Informacast Basic Paging license lever is free with Cisco Call Manager.  Basic Paging allows customers to live page up to 50 IP phones through the speaker built into the phone.  Custom groups can be created to page different areas, departments or groups.  Informacast can run as a virtual appliance on your existing VM hosts supporting your current UC virtual machines.  Since Informacast runs as an appliance, no Windows licensing is needed.  Informacast Basic Paging is also supported by Cisco TAC if you have an active support contract for Call Manager.  Within the same application supporting Basic Paging, a license upgrade unlocks the Advanced Notification features.  Below are some of the most popular features.  These features can be easily customized to fit your business need in healthcare, education, manufacturing, financial or retail.

  • Live or pre-recorded audio paging to Cisco IP phones and overhead paging systems.
  • Notification and confirmation to mobile devices (Apple iOS, Andriod and SMS), IP phones and desktop workstations.
  • Common Alerting Protocol integration with the National Weather Service, NOAA and Homeland Security.
  • Notification to Jabber Clients and Twitter
  • 911 call monitoring, alerting and recording
  • Automated weather notifications
  • Message confirmation
  • Trigger notifications from other systems (door locks, panic buttons, lights, etc.)

 

Informacast HeaderInformacast Advanced Notification can provide customized notifications and confirmation of those notifications.  An example situation would be if there is an emergency that requires a site lockdown.  Informicast Advanced Notification can send a pre-recorded audio page to IP phones and overcisco-paging-cdn-informacasthead speakers.
Simultaneously, notifications are sent to computer desktops, Apple/Andriod mobile devices and SMS text messages.  If a user has received a message via a mobile device, SMS, IP phone or desktop they can acknowledge receipt of the notification.  Informacast management console has the ability to track the acknowledgement of those notifications. Informicast Advanced Notification can also receive Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) notifications from the National Weather Service, NOAA, and Homeland Security.  Based on the type, location and severity of the alert, Informatcast can trigger an alert via paging and/or notifications.

 

Another feature of Informacast is the emergency call notification.  Emergency call notification can notify personnel in your organization that a 911 call has been made from your facilty and record the emergency call.  The receiver of the notification will have the internal extension and name of the phone that dialed the emergency number.  Many times if you have a large building or campus, the 911 PSAP is only the number and physical address of the location.  Emergency call notification allows groups within your organization to be aware an emergency call has been made, where it originated, and a recording of the call.  This can be critical information that can be given to first responders when they arrive.

There are many other powerful paging and notification features available with Informicast software.  If you have any questions about Informacast Paging and Notification contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager.


Business Edition 6000

Tim Deem, Sr. Network Consultant


As a Cisco Partner with a Voice Specialization for over a decade, we have seen the growth and maturity of the Unified Communication platforms and products firsthand – from the earliest Cisco 7750 consolidated single-chassis product providing simple dial-tone & voice mail services to today’s distributed modular unified communication product line that contains a wide array of collaboration tools to manage voice, video, messaging and numerous other means of communication.


In its first iteration beyond the single 7750 chassis model, each individual product, such as Cisco Call Manager and Unity, ran independently on stand-alone servers using the network for their inter-connectivity. Shortly after migrating the products from a Microsoft Windows platform to one of Red Hat Linux, to meet the demand of smaller businesses, Cisco released a single-server combined solution called Business Edition in which the primary products, Cisco Call Manager and Cisco Unity Connection (the new messaging product), would co-exist as a single image. This marked the beginning of a new product line and provided an entry point for those businesses wishing to reap the benefits of IP-based Communications at a price point much more palatable to their financial position.


Since that time, the original product has become known as Business Edition 5000. This was assumed to be an effort to differentiate it from the new announced Business Edition 6000 or as it’s become known, BE6K for short. The BE6K retains its namesake primarily in Marketing only as its design takes advantage of Cisco’s migration to virtual implementation. This new platform is based on the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) hardware platform, available in a medium-density and high-density model, and is designed for an organization of up to 1000 employees utilizing up to a combined total of 2500 devices.


ciscobe6kIn addition to the basic services of the Business Edition 5000 product, Business Edition 6000 also provides the mechanism to deploy video conferencing, Jabber-based collaboration, Contact Center, and numerous complementary services such as Emergency Responder and Paging services and a wide variety of approved third-party applications. Each of these inherent, complementary or third-party applications co-exist within the Cisco UCS as virtual machines (VM) instances, extending to those managing the environment all the benefits a VMware environment provides.


Worth mentioning is a recent enhancement to the BE6K product that’s served to increase its popularity both with potential customers and Cisco Voice Partners is the ability to provide system redundancy both in day-to-day operation and business continuity planning by allowing for multiple physical servers in the overall design.


With the inherent applications focused on voice and video, the availability of third-party applications, and an ability to design a physically and geographically dispersed solution, the Business Edition 6000 product just might be the right solution for your environment.


Contact your Account Manager at Keller Schroeder for more information about these products and how they might benefit your organization.


Spotlight On…

Employee Owner: Warren Swingle

WarrenSwingle

Warren has over 16 years of experience in designing, installing and troubleshooting networks. He has extensive knowledge of data networking, including years of significant experience on voice networks. He has led or played critical technical and project management roles in numerous deployments of Cisco Unified Communications at clients ranging from local businesses to international organizations. His work also includes being the lead network architect in redesigning a secure and stable network for a large financial institution, including a robust business continuity plan. Warren is a Senior Network Consultant.


Warren is a Southern Illinois native and has made Evansville his home since 1998. He and his wife Jennifer have 2 boys, Jack (age 9) and Ethan (age 8). He is a Cub Scout Den leader and helps coach his boys’ baseball and football teams. When he has free time, he enjoys bike riding, fishing, and geocaching with the family.


Contact your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager to learn more about Warren and how you can leverage his experience and skills to the benefit of your organization.


Warren’s Certifications include:
CCNA, Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA), Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP), Cisco Wireless LAN Specialist (CWLAN)


Spotlight On….

Employee Owner: Tim Deem

TimDeem

Tim has over 25 years of experience in the Networking arena, including experience in managing Bristol-Myers’ Global Network, and managing a regionally-based Internet Service Provider operations center. He has been directly involved in designing, planning, implementing and troubleshooting Wide Area Network (WAN) and Network Security projects for International companies, large enterprises and small businesses. In addition, his recent experience he been as the technical lead for deploying secure and robust Unified Communications (voice) solutions for enterprises with both US and International locations. He is a Senior Network Consultant.

Tim is a home grown, Evansville native and a graduate of the University of Southern Indiana. His wife, Diane, and two sons, Nathan and Joshua, live on the west side of town (Go Reitz!) and he can often be found tapping his foot to his substantial eclectic collection of music or focusing behind the lens of his Nikon D90 capturing people, landscapes, buildings and other area sights.

Contact your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager to learn more about Tim and how you can leverage his experience and skills to the benefit of your organization.


Are These the Droids You’re Looking for?

– Jill Epperson, Business Unit Director

“There’s an app for that!” Remember that fun little phrase? There was a time when mobile strategy gurus believed that the only way to win big with mobile devices was to find your way into the iPhone App Store. But times are changing. Androids sales are surging, and a recent Gartner press release predicts that Androids will have nearly half the worldwide smartphone market by the end of 2012. This same press release also predicts that Microsoft’s mobile platform will outpace Apple by 2015. Yes, the times, they are a changin’!

Building a mobile app can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and for best user experience, may require device-specific applications (which means you’re building separate applications for iPhone vs. Android vs. Blackberry vs. Windows Phone). Some app stores charge fees and/or have screening processes for determining whether or not you can publish your app to their store. Maintainability can be cumbersome, since new releases and bug fixes must be published to the app store and downloaded to each device again. With all the confusion over mobile apps (not to mention the new skills required by developers to build them), as well as advancements in mobile browser capabilities, many companies are now opting for mobile websites instead.

But is this the right choice for your company? A few minor tweaks to your existing site might make it possible to navigate on a smartphone, but if you want a truly mobile optimized site providing a good user experience, more is often required. Creating a mobile website means designing pages that load fast; fit nicely within the smartphone browser real estate; offer the most frequently needed information quickly (trim out all the fluff); and are easy to navigate, with navigation and interactive elements placed in such a way as to make them easy to use in a “touch” interface.

Realistically, there is some investment either way. So what is the best strategy for your company? To determine the answer, you need to set aside all the hype on both sides of this debate and consider the basics:

  • Who is your target audience?
    (Employees, business partners, customer base, general public)
  • When and how will the app/site be used?
    (To perform a job task, to buy your product, etc.)
  • How often will they come to your app/site?
    (Some research suggests that less than 5% of downloaded apps continue to be used 20 days after download. Is there a compelling reason for the target audience to download an app vs. bookmark a site?)
  • How many different devices, with what capabilities, will your target audience use?

Answering these questions is a good starting point. Keller Schroeder can help you define your mobile strategy and work with you to implement a plan that meets your needs, whether that strategy includes mobile apps, mobile web sites, or a combination of both.

Contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager to learn more or discuss the benefits of implementing this technology within your environment.


“Oh Syn-Apps”

– Tim Deem, Sr. Network Consultant

As a Cisco Advanced Unified Communications (UC) certified partner, our implementations of UC solutions will often include additional applications, appliances and other approved products that provide specific features or functions not in the UC solution itself in order to enhance the client’s benefits and satisfaction.


One such partner is Syn-Apps. Their specific niche includes hardware and software most easily classified as notification within the world of Unified Communications. Syn-Apps provides solutions that integrate with the Cisco UC environment in order to enhance and extend notification capabilities that can be deployed in any industry.

Syn-Apps software applications can be installed on client servers, however, we recommend the Syn-300/Syn-600 appliances, which come pre-loaded, ready for configuration and deployment. These appliances work beautifully and provide a means to ensure dedicated resources for the notification applications. As part of a Cisco UC solution, we recently successfully deployed the SA-Announce application. As a self-contained appliance, it met the need to provide a mechanism of paging over both Cisco IP phones and an existing overhead paging system, while simultaneously minimizing training efforts by providing a simple end user interface.

In addition, the application allows for additional methods of notification such as integrating with a Facebook account (advantageous for universities), relaying Amber alerts, and even streaming the National Weather Service to the phones’ XML display. Complimenting their applications, Syn-Apps can also provide basic & two way IP speakers, clock kits, and more.

To learn more about the Syn-Apps solutions, including a demonstration, contact your Keller Schroeder Sr. Account Manager.


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.


“Watson come here! I need you.” – Unified Contact Center Express

Cisco’s Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX)


Do you use the telephone to communicate with your customers? If you said “Why, Yes we do!” then Cisco’s Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) can help you deliver superior customer service.

“How can we do this?” you might ask.

We can answer that in two words, “Call Flow”…

Specifically, the Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) system allows for complete customization of call flow. Applying techniques such as “Skills Based Routing” and “Call Queues” we can get your customer to the right person the first time. A call can be routed based on the time of day, the dialed number, or from an interactive selection made by the caller themselves.

If your customer does need to wait to reach an employee they can listen to pre-recorded information about your business, information regarding their hold time, or even a selection of music. If you would like to gather information about your caller, the system can be configured to prompt and collect that information from them and make it available to your employee when they answer that call. If your business application allows, the system can even “pop-up” customer information preparing the employee with information about the caller before the call is answered.

The reference to a “Call Center” often conjures up images of enormous rooms, spanning for miles, full of people at small desks taking calls. While those environments do exist and often exemplify the various needs for managing the call flow of customer calls, don’t let size fool you. Cisco’s UCCX product is not just for large businesses with large call centers. It can be used to improve efficiency, boost productivity, and enhance responsiveness in businesses, departments, and branches of all shapes and sizes.

With a little internal investigation, most businesses will find they have a group of employees (ranging anywhere from 2 to 200) that manage incoming phone calls from multiple phone lines, often using multiple line appearances on their phones, and currently juggle those exponential combinations by hand. If this sounds like a group within your business, we have news for you. You already have a “Call Center” in place, it’s simply being managed manually and although those individuals likely do a fantastic job of juggling all those callers, this situation can often result in a stressful and inefficient environment for both the employees and your customers.

Cisco’s UCCX product allows you to consolidate multiple line appearances on a phone into only one for each employee to manage. If your business has multiple numbers, they can be directed to a variety of “call queues” all represented by one line appearance on the phone. Rather than managing multiple calls and placing callers on hold, the system can do this for you. Employees can manage one line appearance (reducing their stress level) and be provided caller information on the Cisco Agent Desktop. This information can include caller id, dialed number, and information collected from the caller.

Not to worry, there’s something for the supervisors and managers as well. This system can provide them with real time call information, historical data and other advanced supervisory features. A supervisor can monitor live calls, barge in, or intercept calls to ensure a high quality level of service for your customers. Historical data allows you to track trends and help forecast the staffing needs, even by skill-set.

For more information or to see a demonstration of Cisco’s Unified Contact Center Express please contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager.


Reminder: Cisco Unity 4.x End of Support (EOS) Notice

As you continue to review and improve your voice infrastructure, the time to update your Cisco Unity voice messaging system has arrived. Back in early 2008, Cisco announced End of Support (EOS) for version 4.x of Cisco Unity products. The most recent version – Cisco Unity version 7.x – is available to Unity 4.x customers with specific support agreements (contact your Sr. Account Manager for details).

Unity’s remaining product lifecycle is detailed in the table below:

Key Milestones


Date


 
End-of-Life Announcement Date
End-of-Sale Date
Last Ship Date
End of software maintenance releases
End of service contract renewals
End of support/end of life


Jan 27, 2008
July 27, 2008
Oct 25, 2008
July 27, 2009
Oct 23, 2010
July 27, 2011


Those currently utilizing the Cisco Unity version 4.x may want to visit the official announcement that lists each of the product part numbers affected by the original announcement:

A few additional links you might find of interest:

  • Cisco Unity Overview
  • Cisco Unity Connections (Alternative Messaging Product)
  • Cisco Unified Contact Center Express (Call Center)


    Contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager to learn more or discuss how Keller Schroeder can assist you in the process of upgrading or modifying your Cisco Voice Messaging platform.