Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Microsoft Teams Calling, Cisco Spark Security Get Updates

Leaders of the unified communications market Microsoft and Cisco updated their product portfolios last week, as providers continue to address and promote calls and security, two key elements in their respective product offerings.

Microsoft last week released new call features from Microsoft Teams in the chat-based workspace in Office 365. Microsoft said the new call features of the devices provide "full-featured dialing capabilities," including call history. , retention and resumption, speed dialing, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialing, multiple call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail and text phone support.

New Microsoft Team call features are pushing Office 365 Skype for Business users to plan to move their telephones to their computers, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Illinois.

To add calls to Teams, organizations first need Phone System, formerly called Cloud PBX, which is included with the Office 365 E5 business plan and is available as a complement to other Office 365 plans. Organizations can then subscribe to a Call Plan, formerly called PSTN Calls, for any number of users in the organization.

The call plan and the Office 365 phone system can create a telephone system for organizations, giving users a primary phone number and allowing them to make and receive calls to and from their organizations, Microsoft wrote in a blog.

 Microsoft Teams call updates in progress

Microsoft announced in September that it makes computers the primary communications client for calls and meetings in Office 365. Microsoft Teams, which is replacing Skype for Business in Office 365, also includes chat and video chat capabilities.

The new call features of the equipment indicate that Microsoft is complying with the roadmap of the equipment it established in October, said Lazar. The roadmap details the characteristics of Skype for Business that will be included in the Teams during the next year.

Microsoft has announced several ongoing updates for the computers, as the provider attempts to migrate Skype for Business Online users. Last month, for example, Microsoft launched a new PowerShell module that can help IT professionals set up and manage computers. PowerShell includes a scripting language with an interactive command-line shell to help IT professionals configure systems and automate administrative tasks.

Microsoft also released two new usage reports in the Office 365 administration center that allow IT groups to understand how users use computers to communicate and collaborate. The user activity report can track how many people participate in a chat on a channel, how many users communicate through private chat and how many participate in calls or meetings. The application usage report provides IT groups with information about how users connect to Microsoft computers, including mobile applications.

Even more Microsoft, Cisco news

In other Microsoft news, the provider will launch the Microsoft Whiteboard Preview application, a digital canvas where users can exchange ideas and collaborate. The application, available for download on devices with Windows 10, is designed for teams to think in person and remotely in real time on various devices.

Companies can use the application to work on product designs or diagram engineering plans, for example. Consumers can use a stylus or their fingertips to write notes or draw pictures. The application can also automatically save your work.

For Surface Hub customers, the preview application will eventually replace the native whiteboard application that is currently running on Surface Hub. Users can install the preview application along with the existing application.

In other Cisco news, the vendor partnered with AT & T to bring Cisco Spark to AT & T's commercial customers. Cisco Spark with AT & T is an application-centric, cloud-based service anchored by the AT & T network. AT & T that brings together collaboration tools in a single application.

The service also brings together Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solutions for AT & T for cloud-based voice calls, AT & T conferences with Cisco WebEx and Spark messages for chat and file sharing conversations. It also integrates with third-party applications. As a service provider, AT & T offers managed services based on Cisco technology.

"Cisco is placing our leading vendors at the center of our cloud strategy," Rowan Trollope, general manager of Cisco applications, said in a statement. "As we bring Cisco Spark and other SaaS solutions to market, we will join with our global service providers to jointly develop, sell and market."

Cisco Spark security obtains certification

Microsoft's main unified communications competitor, Cisco, is emphasizing security in its UC offering in the cloud, Cisco Spark. In the world of business collaboration applications, security is becoming a differentiator between the products of suppliers.

Cisco announced last week that Spark has achieved ISO 27001 certification, a security standard that defines policies, risk assessment and other controls. Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO of Cisco's collaboration business, tweeted that Spark is the first collaborative application for the team that has ISO 27001. Many companies require vendors to have this certification, Rosenberg wrote in a blog post.

To achieve the security standard, Cisco Spark security must meet and maintain various operational requirements, including incident management, inventory control, access controls, vulnerability analysis and personnel management. Instead of asking about every detail of security in the application, organizations can consult the certification, which covers the entire Spark application and the underlying data centers.

Rosenberg said some collaborative startups say their applications run in data centers certified by ISO 27001, which means that the software runs in an Amazon data center, for example, that has the certification. But certification, in this case, does not apply to the application itself.

"Getting the certification for the application itself is what really matters," he wrote, "since the application is what maintains and processes customer data." The ISO 27001 certification covers both Cisco Spark and WebEx, two services that share infrastructure.

Cisco Spark security also has end-to-end security and local key servers. Rosenberg suggested that more security functions are being worked on, as the provider seeks to make Spark "the safest collaboration tool on the planet."

The designation is important, said Lazar. "We continue to hear concerns, especially among regulated industries, related to the lack of demonstrable compliance and security controls for computer applications, and Cisco certification is a big step in alleviating those concerns."

Lazar said he expects Cisco Spark's security to obtain compliance with the General Data Protection Regulations in early 2018.

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