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CloudBond 365 and SBC at HQ reconfiguration

Meet AudioCodes’ CloudBond 365 OPCH – Future-Proofed for Microsoft Teams

The real alternative for Cloud Connector Edition and coexistence

While out on the road to present the AudioCodes strategy around the Microsoft Teams journey in the weeks after Microsoft Ignite 2017, it became clear to me that we’d had the right vision back in 2014 when we introduced CloudBond 365. The resource forest model as a foundation for each member of the CloudBond 365 family demonstrates more than ever that our CloudBond 365 solutions enable our customers and partners to be future-proof.

CloudBond 365 and SBC at HQ reconfiguration

CloudBond 365 and SBC at HQ reconfiguration

After the announcements at Microsoft Ignite 2017, we at AudioCodes are highlighting the ability of CloudBond 365 to serve as an OPCH. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this Microsoft acronym, OPCH stands for On-Premises Configuration Hybrid. As such, our CloudBond 365 OPCH is a PSTN connectivity appliance for Skype for Business Online, and serves as an alternative to Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) where coexistence with Skype for Business Server is required. Paul Cannon’s Microsoft blog refers directly to such third-party OPCH specific appliances for those who don’t want to modify their main deployment.

Over the past few weeks, our partners have been asking me when CloudBond 365 OPCH will become available, strongly indicating that they are continuing to enable Skype for Business Online users with Cloud PBX (now renamed Phone System) in a future-proof way.

The OPCH deployment model has been supported ever since the introduction of CloudBond 365, which means that we have this solution available right now. In the past, we referred to the solution as Skype for Business Hybrid Voice. Today, we refer to it by the OPCH acronym. As a matter of fact, most of our CloudBond 365 appliances installed over the past few years are deployed in this Hybrid Voice model, enabling voice services for Skype for Business Online. The exact same CloudBond 365 solution will also bring voice capability to Microsoft Teams in the future, through Direct Connect.

Something that will be new to our CloudBond 365 family ties in very well with Microsoft’s announcement that Modern Authentication for Skype for Business Server has gone to Public Preview. This allows CloudBond 365 to authenticate Skype for Business users against the Azure Active Directory, eliminating the need to set up bidirectional trusts between CloudBond 365 and the on-premises user forest(s). For topologies that are now supported in Public Preview, please read this.

It is also important to note that our entire CloudBond 365 family of solutions have User Management Pack 365 built-in. This is a powerful but simple web portal that ensures a smooth deployment and provides a single pane of glass across all Skype for Business deployment models.

If we go back to Paul Cannon’s blog, we can see Microsoft’s recommendation for enabling on-premises Skype for Business for Hybrid PSTN. This is an excellent moment to point out that User Management Pack 365 sits intuitively on top of existing on-premises Skype for Business deployments, connecting the enterprise environment with Microsoft Office 365 (‘split domain’) via special connectors. After the initial setup, UMP 365 empowers IT departments by facilitating a gradual and fully controlled migration to Microsoft’s Phone System today, and to Microsoft Teams in the future, from any existing Skype for Business deployment.

Our goal is to help our partners and customers stay on track with their journey to intelligent communications across Skype for Business Server and Microsoft Teams. For me personally, it has been very refreshing and rewarding to hear from our community over the past few weeks that we have exactly the right solution – at exactly the right time – to do just that.

To talk with an AudioCodes expert, click this button.

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After the announcements at Microsoft Ignite 2017, we at AudioCodes are highlighting the ability of CloudBond 365 to serve as an OPCH. Our goal is to help our partners and customers stay on track with their journey to intelligent communications across Skype for Business Server and Microsoft Teams.

Keep it simple

Deploying Skype for Business: Keeping it Simple

We live in a complex technology world.  A very successful businessman, Sir Richard Branson, once said: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.”

Keep it simple

This statement comes to mind again in the context of our S-S-D pitch for CloudBond 365: Simplification, Standardization and Demarcation, three words that I often use in presentations.

The CloudBond 365 solution provides three pillars: The User Management Pack™ 365 built-in management suite, an Active Directory Connector and an Office365 Connector. This makes CloudBond 365 the spider in the web between Office 365 and the local customer enterprise. The solution provides a fully preinstalled Skype for Business solution on an AudioCodes gateway, server, or virtualization platform in the datacenter, standardized on Microsoft’s resource forest model. CloudBond 365 enables this Skype for Business silo model to be a fully integrated with the enterprise and provide these S-S-D benefits. Of course, User Management Pack™ 365 can also run on top of a fully (self-) deployed Skype for Business environment.

Here are a couple of examples:

From a technical perspective, simplification not only brings value for the initial deployment but also for the years to follow. ‘Simple things’ tend to break less and if they break they’re easier to fix. From a business perspective, professional services can now be enabled for integrating Skype for Business with the business processes of an enterprise.

Standardization is key not only for the deployment phase, but also for the support period in the following years.

  • Support engineers ‘know’ exactly what the architecture is
  • The exact customer environment is always available in the lab to reproduce test
  • Problems and solutions for one customer are now applicable to most other customers as well

If you’re in the business of selling Skype for Business, standardization allows you to offer the solution without assuming the risk of covering potential trouble shooting or ‘unknowns’ within the customer environment. Standardization means there are no projects that are open ended.

The demarcation provided by the CloudBond 365 solution presents a very clear line between the Skype for Business deployment and the customer enterprise environment (in which Active Directories, Exchange, SharePoint, etc. are being managed). There is no need for discussions on SLA and who’s responsible for what. This same demarcation line also helps the business to stay out of competition with the new customer’s current ICT partner and doesn’t require managing two ICT partners within the same network.

Skype for Business designs usually have a complex enterprise setup which can cause projects to become more expensive than at first anticipated.  This complexity can have a major effect on the TCO in the years that follow going “live” with a Skype for Business deployment. The CloudBond 365 solution provides additional simplicity for daily maintenance via the User Management Pack™ 365, an important ongoing benefit to an organization realizing a quicker ROI by means of a lower TCO.

CloudBond 365 is all about simplifying something complex, allowing enterprises to benefit from Skype for Business as much as SMBs.

Sir Richard Branson had it right. Just keep things simple.

Read this Application Note to see how User Management Pack™ 365 really is simplicity in action.

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Call recording

Skype for Business Recording Made Easy

Call recording

SmartTAP is AudioCodes’ Skype for Business recording platform that offers users a wide range of recording and deployment options, no matter how their Skype for Business network is deployed.  From a simple cloud-based deployment to a more complex hybrid deployment utilizing both cloud and customer premise deployment options, SmartTAP can record customer conversations in an economical, integrated AudioCodes environment.

SmartTAP supports Microsoft Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) for cloud-based environments and can be deployed with any AudioCodes CCE instance.  The key is in the integration between AudioCodes’ SmartTAP and the Mediant platforms where key information and voice paths are exchanged to provide a seamless recording solution.  In a more advanced deployment like a Skype for Business hybrid solution, SmartTAP integrates with CloudBond 365 to provide a completely seamless recording solution and supports all levels of recording including remote users, telephone users, client users and mobility users, all from a single platform.  SmartTAP securely stores Skype for Business recordings in a safe, encrypted format and through digital signature, tracks and prevents any original recording from being tampered with.

 

Skype for Business Deployment Recording Solution
Customer Premise SmartTAP

Supports all call types

Cloud Solution SmartTAP + CCE Appliance

Supports inbound/outbound calls

Hybrid SmartTAP + CloudBond365

Supports all call types

 

SmartTAP also makes it easy to deploy recording for any Skype for Business customer.  Through SmartTAP’s integrated Skype for Business Toolbar, any user can record on demand or save on demand, as well as tag any recording for specific information, directly from their Skype for Business client.  This makes it easy and economical to record conversations and keep them secure and centrally located.  SmartTAP is another quality solution from AudioCodes that expands the power of your Skype for Business deployment and offers an integrated solution at a fraction of the cost of competitors.

To learn more about SmartTAP, click here:

To learn more about AudioCodes Skype for Business Solutions, click here:

 

Come visit us at Microsoft Ignite 2016, September 26-30 in Atlanta, Georgia, at Booth #409.

Want to learn more about our Skype for Business solutions? Click here to request a meeting with our experts at the show.

Unable to attend Ignite but interested in speaking with us? Click here or visit our website or contact your local AudioCodes representative.

UC Innovation Unleashed

Microsoft WPC Toronto

Done with WPC and Getting Ready for Ignite 2016

Getting ready for Ignite at Atlanta soon, and I can tell you, we have some more innovation up our sleeve.  Stay tuned, we will be announcing some cool stuff before Ignite.

Once again, this year I had the privilege of attending Microsoft’s World Partner Conference in Toronto, Canada. Microsoft’s premier partner event generates much anticipation among its channel and technology partners who come in their droves to learn about the latest developments in Microsoft’s technology and products, as well as to network with existing and potential business partners.

Microsoft WPC Toronto

So it came as no surprise that this year was no exception.  Boy, oh boy, it was a busy event!
I had back-to-back meetings with lots of system integrators and service providers who are actively promoting on-premises implementations of Microsoft Skype for Business.  All of them are also starting to align with Microsoft on Cloud PBX as part of Office 365.

… everyone seems convinced about the technological and financial benefits of cloud communications, but there is reluctance to adopt all at once

One recurring theme that came up in conversations with the partners was that pretty much everyone seems convinced about the technological and financial benefits of cloud communications, in general, and Microsoft’s cloud offering including Office 365 and Cloud PBX. At the same time, there is an apparent reluctance by some customers to fully adopt cloud-based communications solution at once. And while many, if not most, customers are planning to take their communications infrastructure completely off premises at some point in the future, relatively few have actually made the move so far with most opting for a hybrid implementation.

So what is deterring these companies from adopting a full cloud solution? Some make the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” argument while others are worried about disrupting users’ working habits. Others simply don’t feel comfortable with handing over control of their communications systems to a third party.

I believe in taking the plunge when it comes to disruptive, innovative technologies that will bring business benefits in the longer term. Of course, these changes can’t be taken lightly, which is why companies need a robust migration strategy and the technological tools to make the migration a success.

…for standalone, on-prem solution or in hybrid (on-prem/cloud) mode we offer the CloudBond 365 all-in-one UC appliance.

…for customers who do not require some users to be kept on premises, our Cloud Connector Edition Appliance delivers voice connectivity

Here at AudioCodes, we have been putting our minds to solving these issues of migration to cloud services for quite some time now, especially when it comes to Microsoft UC environments. For companies wanting a simple and rapid deployment of Skype for Business as a standalone, on-prem solution or in hybrid (on-prem/cloud) mode we offer the CloudBond 365 all-in-one UC appliance. In addition, for customers who do not require some users to be kept on premises, our Cloud Connector Edition Appliance delivers flexible on-prem voice connectivity for the Microsoft Cloud PBX users.

What makes these solutions particularly interesting is that both CloudBond 365 and the CCE appliance run on the same hardware platform so that when a company has completed its migration to Cloud PBX, the CloudBond 365 appliance can be converted to a CCE Appliance via a simple software update. We believe that the simplicity of these solutions, along with the fact that they are based on our Microsoft-certified SBC and gateway platforms, should help putting concerned IT managers’ minds at rest. They allow companies to control the pace of their cloud migration without compromising on functionality or efficiency.

CloudBond 365 appliance can be converted to a CCE Appliance via a simple software update.

Some of the partners asked me which path I recommend:  Go with CloudBond 365 for hybrid deployment, or go with CCE along with Cloud PBX?  My answer always is that we enable our partners and customers to choose the path that’s right for them.

When a customer doesn’t feel comfortable going all-in with the Cloud PBX proposition, I think that rolling with CloudBond 365 makes a lot of sense. In certain cases, the feature set that the customer wants is still not available on Cloud PBX.  Stalling the decision gives Cisco the opportunity to revisit the customers as part of a data network refresh, and offer a bundled offering to get them to stay with CUCM.  Getting the train out of the station and starting the Microsoft UC experience rolling quickly is the right choice and is implemented with our CloudBond 365.

Getting ready for Ignite at Atlanta soon, and I can tell you, we have some more innovation up our sleeve.  Stay tuned, we will be announcing some cool stuff before Ignite. Make sure you don’t miss any of our latest news and announcements by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Come visit us at Microsoft Ignite 2016, September 26-30 in Atlanta, Georgia, at Booth #409.

Want to learn more about our Skype for Business solutions? Click here to request a meeting with our experts at the show.

Unable to attend Ignite but interested in speaking with us? Click here or visit our website or contact your local AudioCodes representative.

UC Innovation Unleashed

Skype for Business in the Cloud

Migrating to Skype for Business Cloud PBX the Smart Way

Using a Hybrid Solution Offers the Best of the On-Premises and Cloud-based Worlds

Skype for Business in the Cloud 

Moving towards Cloud PBX

The rapid rise of Microsoft’s Skype for Business is a strong incentive for enterprises to consider deploying the popular Unified Communications suite. The Company’s most recent announcements regarding their on-line version and the replacement of on-premises based PBX with Cloud PBX are also compelling in a period in which the trend to the Cloud is almost universal. However, despite the technical and business advantages of Skype for Business UC, there are many reasons why organizations might want to hold on to a legacy voice system on a temporary or permanent basis. Reasons vary and can range from the need to maintain specialized functionality such as contact centers or alarm systems to investment protection for legacy equipment, to the current functionality gap between the on-premises and cloud-based offerings and even objective availability and regulatory requirements which may mean that Skype for Business Online may not be available at various locations around the world for the foreseeable future.

Planning the Migration to the Cloud

As such, in almost any scenario in the coming years, most enterprises will likely be implementing a migration strategy from a legacy TDM or IP-based PBX system to Microsoft UC, as for all but the smallest of organizations, a full switchover is simply not practical. A smart approach would be to gradually migrate workers who can benefit from the cloud today while keeping other workers who need the full feature set or have other reasons requiring on-premises PSTN connectivity as described above, on the local Skype for Business Server in the near term.

Perhaps the most important thing an enterprise should do in this regard is to develop a voice migration strategy. Such a strategy would compose of several stages including assessing corporate requirements (typically in the headquarters), building an infrastructure that meets those requirements, migrating relevant users to the cloud and finally, expanding that migration by assessing the needs of branch offices, building a corresponding infrastructure and migrating branch users to the cloud as required. By deploying a hybrid system such as AudioCodes’ CloudBond 365, enterprises can benefit from the essential functionality required to ensure a smooth migration to Skype for Business enterprise voice. This can include:

  • Hybrid and pure SBCs which ensure full interoperability between Skype for Business and legacy systems
  • Active Directory integration which enables administrators to control how calls are routed during the migration
  • SBC provided secured SIP trunking connectivity for after the migration is completed

Migrating Smart with a Hybrid System

A deployment of Skype for Business which mixes on-line and on-premises functionality will lay the foundation for a smooth transition to the full cloud solution down the line. The best way to protect the enterprise’s current investments, ensure a full enterprise voice feature set, guarantee that all company branches around the world are serviced and comply with regulations, is with a hybrid solution which offers the best of both worlds and allows the benefits of Unified Communications today with a secure and smooth migration to voice in the cloud when the time is right in the future.

To learn more about how to migrate to Cloud PBX, read AudioCodes’s Application Note: Getting the Cloud Right: A Practical Guide: Migrating users to Cloud PBX with AudioCodes CloudBond™ 365

Make sure to visit us at UC Expo on April 19-20 in London, UK stand #K1016!

AudioCodes at Enterprise Connect 2016

Today, Tomorrow, and In-Between: Skype for Business Observations with Fortune 50 companies

On my flight back to Israel from Enterprise Connect 2016 at Orlando, I decided to recap my top 3 observations about Skype for Business from spending time with some of our largest customers.  During the show, I sat down with one of the world’s largest energy companies, one of the biggest pharma producers, and one huge food maker that feeds us. They all deploy Lync/SfB and they all shared the following views.

AudioCodes at Enterprise Connect 2016

A vision is not enough

“Yeah, I get what Microsoft is trying to do with CloudPBX, but…” was a common amongst them.  Seems the “Everything Cloud” vision is compelling when left described by 2 words only.  Numerous caveats are observed:

  • How do I gradually migrate there? Because overnight replacement of a great number of PBX’s serving x0000s of users is clearly not an option.
  • Do I really want to relinquish control of all my users to a Front-End server that is hosted by Microsoft? I understand Microsoft is racing Google and wants as many Enterprise users on their cloud as possible, but is that good for my company, or just for Microsoft? Can I customize to preserve my competitive enterprise edge?

Show me the money savings

Microsoft seems to have correctly identified that the heavy monthly costs of conferencing services is something these enterprises love to cut.  Offering simple, hop on/off services right within SfB, with intuitive integration into Outlook is clearly a compelling proposition.  However, if I am going to send all my global voice traffic to the cloud for conferencing, I must guarantee excellent voice quality and experience.  Getting this done requires costly MPLS infrastructure.  How do I calculate the actual cost or savings by moving to the cloud?  Overall, it seems Microsoft still hasn’t convinced these customers that the TCO through the cloud offering and on a global level, is a favorable one.

Old habits are hard to break

A clean, wire-free workspace with voice, video and chat integration, and slick “click to everything”.  Nirvana!

There are a few “Buts”…

Not all of the employees easily say goodbye to their phones and switch over to headsets.  Nor are they proving responsible to own a small and expensive wireless ear piece, without losing or taking it out of their pants before washing. The bigger “over the head” headsets annoy some of the users, and it seems most “Born before 1980” are used to transferring a call by a push of a button, and hate reaching out to their computer for that.  Last, but not least, it seems a great number of the international markets associate a desk phone with seniority and status.  Seems the IP Phone is going to be with us for a good number of years to come.

 

Read more

CloudBond 365 gradual migration to CloudPBX

VoIPerfect less-MPLS solution for resilient, quality-assured VoIP

AudioCodes IP Phones with IT management tools for SfB

CloudBond 365 Q&A Part 1

You Asked About CloudBond 365: Part 1

As part of the recent launch of AudioCodes CloudBond 365, we conducted webinars with our global partners. The events generated considerable interest. Given the many good questions we received from both our partners and the general audience regarding the new platform, we decided to publically share these questions so that everyone can benefit and learn from them.

CloudBond 365 Q&A Part 1

CloudBond 365 is a solution for the data center, customer premises or the branch. It is a versatile all-in-one Skype for Business appliance designed for hybrid environments or a full on-premises Skype for Business deployment that combines the best of the Skype for Business server, the cloud-PBX and the service provider’s voice services. CloudBond 365 is available as a hardware box (Standard, Pro and Enterprise Box Editions) or as a Virtual Appliance.

We have divided the questions we received about CloudBond 365 into several categories, each of which will get dealt with in a separate blog over the coming weeks.  In this first instalment, we tackle the questions of upgrading to CloudBond 365 from AudioCodes One Box 365 as well as connectivity and integration issues.

Regarding upgrades: We want to emphasize that all One Box 365 units are eligible for upgrade to the CloudBond 365 firmware. The actual upgrade path will be communicated by AudioCodes in the near future.

The following questions were asked regarding connectivity and integration:

How does directory integration work? Does CloudBond 365 have FIM/AD?

The CloudBond 365 Active Directory Connector is an application developed by AudioCodes. It is FIM like and allows for synchronizing user attributes with the customer user forests while simplifying the deployment and creating a clear point of demarcation.

Can multiple CloudBond 365 units be connected into an Office 365 tenant?

Indeed they can.

CloudBond™ 365 can be connected to Office 365 to allow:

  • Exchange Online UM integration
  • Support for Hybrid topology
  • Support for On-Prem PSTN for Cloud PBX

Does AudioCodes offer a full UCMA connection to all users?

UCMA can only work with an On-prem FE server. Trusted applications can work only on an on-premises server.

What can you say about resiliency?

Resiliency can be achieved by using two units of CloudBond 365 in a pool pair. The deployment wizard simplifies the settings of the pool pair.

CloudBond 365 can be deployed as a BPA in a Skype for Business private Cloud to achieve full branch UC resiliency.

 

If you have any additional questions on these topics or any other topic, feel free to reach out to us.

Please check back for our next instalment of the CloudBond 365 Q&A which will focus on Sizing, Licensing and Pricing issues.

Further reading: