Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Did I forget about the lab??

Golly no! I just haven't written much lately what with life and all and things work related. But my free Office365 licenses are running up soon so I better migrate to a less Microsoft world.

First and Last thoughts on O365

Look, Microsoft is the defacto standard for many reasons and there is little to fault with this stuff. Microsoft certainly did have it's 70's Detroit era products (Vista and Millennium for example), but brought it back strongly with XP and the associated Office suite. Their back office and server products took off about then and continued to accelerate. 

Take all rough to manage server voodoo, plop it up into the cloud then give it an attractive price - you've got something magic that should be hard for any small or medium business to resist. Seriously, At $20/month per head you get something whole IT orgs normally maintain. 

OK, I am not going to get any money trying to sell this so I'll move onto what i know more. and that's Skype4B and the collaboration tools provided. The hardest part about my trial and Skype is not in the configuration. It wasn't in the testing. No, everything went so incredibly easy! 

Without going into the not-gory detail review, after signing up, I had to insert a string into my DNS records for nosaturn.com to prove it's my domain and then follow the instructions to update the SRV records for Skype federation. I also had to setup some email redirection but again, everything was simple and I was up and running in a couple hours at most. Read Starting a business (or setting up an IT Department)  where I cover it more but that was about the size of it.

Back to the hardest part - why shouldn't everyone use Skype4B then? If you don't laugh after reading that then just do it and be very happy with great and easy to manage complete authentication, email, messaging, internal webpage, file sharing, and so much more IT organization that Microsoft is selling for a pretty amazing price. For a few extra bucks they will even let you call regular old phone numbers and accept incoming phone calls.

Office365 and Skype for Business are a bad choice

With that extreme statement I plant the flag down and boldly declare something that is actually pretty true. You see for every reason this O365 business is wonderful, the actual use might have different needs or objectives in mind. While O365 is amazingly flexible, it simply isn't everything everyone always needs. Every IT org and the software they use varies a little and so do their needs whether it is legacy choices or whatever. 

I could dive deep on the Skype4B is cheating with SIP bandwagon or i could leave it at it takes work for Skype4B to talk to things that are not Skype4B. There is good about that but having a background in voice and networking makes me see Skype4B as an interesting product but not a real telecommunications system. 

While VoIP and WebRTC are very different from their analog and TDM forbearers, you can get down in them and see their evolution. Skype4B grew out of a media streaming toy tossed into Windows 95 back in the days of dial up modems. Use a tidy little codec to slice up your noises and another to pixelate your good looks then sling across the information articles and boom! NetMeeting! It diverged some to and fro within Microsoft picking up new features and names along the way, but also changing the core bit that made it work (those little codecs). What we have ended up with is something that outwardly works and acts like a phone and a video conference application but doesn't use any of the fundamental "systems" that make those work for every other system sold. So you end up adding more and more bits and bling to make it work.......
/rant

What are your alternatives?

If you are small and need to stay in the cloud because you can't handle even the smallest data center your choices are quite abundant. Vonage, ShoreTel, and so many others offer out of the box solutions or you can roll your own quite easily in your pillowy AWS space with a little Asterisk punctuation*     (*must love Linux).    Ward Mundy's blog NerdVittles  has even better info for the roll your own crowd. 

Eventually an organization has to grow up and look at something grown ups choose from big industry players like Avaya and Cisco, right? Rght?      NO!     You be a tiny fish in the big pond of standards=based telecommunications and collaboration tools! 

Spark this fire, get things burning!

Cisco offers a cloud based communications and collaboration package that is flexible in sizing and powerful in it's reach. The basic package lets you make SIP standards-based calls and have persistent chat communications with anyone in the world for free. (for companies of one). Their option levels and pricing are reasonable for larger companies and that's when you get the more important administrator tools. When you fully option a user out, they will be able to host meetings in Spark or even in WebEx, can join from a PC or phone or tablet or regular phone as a voice call or get a desk phone that works directly on it or from any of Cisco's modern TelePresence endpoints or from any other standards-based endpoint and even from Skype. That's like 9 ways to connect without counting variants of each (Windows vs MacOS vs a web browser on Linux). 

Again, I shouldn't try to be selling these things. But I will be fair and remind you I am a Cisco Champion for Collaboration so I am a little biased to Cisco products. But I like Spark and Ive been using it for months now

Its late Brian.... wrap this up.

I opened this window and started typing about how I was moving my perfectly functioning IT department from Skype4B to Cisco Spark. 1000 words later and I haven't moved a thing. Let's see how this goes because I finally got my Spark trial pack :)

Whatcha doing tomorrow?
What are your thoughts?






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