Welcome to the Sentinel Blog!
We are proud to feature a carefully curated collection of articles and other content related to the most important technology topics of today and beyond. Our posts are composed and edited by Sentinel’s ALWAYS ENGAGED team of solutions architects, engineers, project managers and other subject matter experts.
The Present and Future of Security
By Robert Keblusek, Sentinel Technologies CTO
New phishing attacks, ransomware and large-scale personal information losses at major organizations have been in the news quite a bit lately, which has resulted in increased cyber security awareness. Attacks have become easier for perpetrators to execute and they continue to advance at a rapid pace. Hackers are more proficient than ever at profiling an organization and uncovering new ways to get inside data security protection with the help of unsuspecting end users. As a result, ongoing end user awareness training is essential for those committed to protecting their business. These need to be security training programs that go well beyond traditional new hire orientation.
Many attacks happen from inside an organization. For example, mobile devices without proper protection will become infected outside of their network and then spread to corporate resources once they are brought into the enterprise network. Other approaches include well-crafted phishing emails that appear to be legitimate corporate communications, or attackers physically dropping USB devices in an employee parking lot to lure unsuspecting users to run a program or click a link that triggers a cybersecurity breach from within.
A complete cybersecurity architecture is essential to keep your organization protected, along with security management tools that constantly watch for malicious activity and infections so IT can react as quickly as possible. Behavior-based technology that works in conjunction with network and mobility intelligence will help an infrastructure and network react more quickly to unusual activity. Technologies that integrate with embedded network security such as Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) allow for an automated response to threats, giving IT extra time to implement counter-measures before it is too late. Sentinel believes we will see a significant increase in these approaches. We have already seen an increased demand for technology such as Cisco ISE on both wired and wireless networks as well as integration with mobile device management platforms.
From a technical perspective, we are seeing a strong increase in movement with next-generation firewalls at perimeters and anti-malware technology at endpoints. In addition, Sentinel believes that while signature-based technology powered by vendor investments in threat intelligence networks will remain strong, there will be an increase in the deployment of behavior-based technologies at both the network and endpoint levels. Increased trends in mobility, cloud computing and continued advances in the actual attacks require layered approaches and automated response.
Sentinel has tremendous activity in our managed intrusion detection and security incident and event management (SIEM) offerings, along with our security operations services. All companies have some investment in security products, but very few are getting the complete value from these existing investments. Additionally, very few clients have a strong and well documented incident and event policy in place as well as a formal security program that works to secure the enterprise. Sentinel offers consultation and assessment services to assist with identifying your organization’s security maturity and areas of need. With our Security as a Service (SECaaS) offering, we bring together existing investments and give our customers the visibility needed to see their vulnerabilities in an easy-to-use and navigate dashboard with advanced reporting. This component is critical to any successful security program.
Sentinel’s SECaaS is a hybrid security experience both from a technology and operational staff standpoint. Measurement of success is key, and Sentinel has developed security scoring which provides a security posture baseline as well as ongoing measurement of how security programs are impacting your business. This is very similar to a FICO credit score and gives the IT department an easy visual score card showing executives and boards the impact of their security program. In some cases, this can also be very helpful with auditors and cyber security insurers when they consider taking on shared security risk with an organization.
Security is an ongoing effort, which is why a strong policy and the right tools to enforce and support it are more important than ever. Many customers simply don’t have dedicated security staff for 24x7x365 monitoring and response, and those that do often employ personnel that lack the necessary breadth of security experience across different practices and solutions. Sentinel’s security operations offer a well-defined set of tools backed by top quality expertise and processes. Delivered as a service from our CloudSelect® platform, we offer custom service level agreements (SLAs) to put together the right program to match a customer’s security program requirements.
To learn more about Sentinel’s security offerings and solutions, please contact us.
VDI, Oh My!
By Ted Joffs, Sentinel IT Solutions Team Lead
Have you seen the cost analysis sheets from various entities over the years pointing out how much money you can save with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)? In most cases, they’re wrong. But like most things, there are outliers. Today I want to look at VDI and break it down and tell you why you might want to use it – and why you might not. Then we’ll take a look at a few options for VDI, along with their specific advantages and maybe even a few disadvantages thrown in.
-Security: I believe that the number one benefit to any organization that VDI brings to the table is security. Security advantages to VDI include:
+When you abstract the desktop away from the end-user environment, you also have the ability to abstract the data away and into the data center where you can better manage, backup and protect that data.
+When you use VDI, you create a smaller attack surface. It also makes the attack surface easier to patch, update, monitor and audit.
+Through proper policies, a VDI environment can be centrally controlled and harder to subvert – basically you have the ability to restrict data transfers, unauthorized access, and even revoke unwanted access from miles away. In the simplest terms, you can better control the number one cause of data breaches: people (Source: Baker & Hostetler, LLP. “BakerHostetler 2016 Data Security Incident Response Report”).
-Application Management: This one may get me in trouble from VDI purists. I tend to look at VDI today as more than just delivering a desktop, and I suspect most consumers do as well. Most major VDI products have the capability to handle application package management, provisioning and access controls. What this allows you to do is maintain a stranglehold on software access and subsequently licensing usage. Licensing costs are HUGE in enterprises, and true-up and/or violation costs can be surprisingly daunting. Avoid them (or get really close) with VDI. It can make a real difference in cost. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.
-Availability: When you put your VDI in your data center, you are inherently gaining redundant power, UPS backup, dual connectivity and typically a better hardware class for your VDI infrastructure than you would have with haphazard desktops. Need I say more?
-Management: Management become much easier. While I hinted at it above in the security section, it is necessary to point out that you make things easier to manage when you can update a single shared image, application or host server and have that roll out to all your users with the click of a button (or two).
*Why Not VDI?*
-Security: If you are looking to invest in VDI and you do not take the time to properly secure the solution, it can be a disadvantage too. Security disadvantages to VDI include:
+You just allowed all of your users to access their desktops from anywhere…maybe. If you have not properly locked down remote access to the right groups, secured peripheral access, and/or set up security policies, you could be opening some additional risks while eliminating others.
+When you implement VDI using best practices, your VDI environment will become isolated from your server platforms. If you just throw VDI in without working through proper segregation, you can end up with users in the same network space as the server farms. This is generally not a good thing.
-Management: It may be easier to manage those desktop images and you won’t need to manually go to desktops as much anymore, but the trade-off is that you’ll likely need a more skilled engineering staff to manage the underlying VDI infrastructure. With the proper staff, training, and/or the right partner (like Sentinel), you can head this off at the pass fairly well.
-Cost: I don’t deal in money much, but I can tell you that you would be sorely mistaken to think that you will save money with VDI. You may lower either capital or operational expenditures, while increasing the other. The reality is, you are gaining features (security, application management, central management and even controlled costs) while spending the same if not more in some cases. Your mileage will vary.
*Which VDI Is Best?*
There are two major players in the VDI and published application world: Citrix (XenApp & XenDesktop) and VMWare (Horizon/View). Both are fully capable application and desktop delivery platforms. Citrix has the historical install base and decades of experience, but VMWare has been making leaps and bounds with their very solid product offering. VMWare owns the hypervisor space that most deployments will be installed on, yet there are some bells and whistles in Citrix that the advanced VDI deployments may need. The truth is, without sitting down and having a discussion to review your specific needs, no one can tell you which is best. I won’t try here.
Outside of the vendor platform, there is always Desktop-as-a-Service, which is available through Sentinel CloudSelect®.
The bottom line is this: If you plan it well, implement it on solid technology (check out my previous article on HyperFlex as an example) with the right policies, procedures, and partner, your business and customers will be very happy. Just don’t expect to fill up a piggy bank with the extra savings.
To learn more about Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and determine the best solution for your business, please contact Sentinel
Solutions Architect Geoff Woodhouse On Flash Storage Vs. Hard Disk Storage
The two main types of storage are hard disk drives and flash drives. Hard disk drives involve multiple platters. The hard drive spins up, the arms move to the correct position on the platter and the tiny heads read or write the data.
Flash drives operate in a completely different way. They are collections of computer chips instead of mechanical spinning disks. With no platters to spin there are no motors, which means flash uses only a fraction of the power that hard disks do. That’s particularly important for devices such as cell phones and cameras, where battery life is at a premium. Also, no motors enable flash devices to be small, so you can have a USB thumb drive that holds 512GB of data.
Because the data is readily accessible, there is practically no delay in reading or writing information to a flash drive. They are typically at least 14 times faster than normal hard disk drives. This dramatic speed difference in read and write data is impressive for a few reasons. In the consumer space, it allows computers to boot, load, and open files quickly. With all the data pretty much instantly available, the storage isn’t the slowest part of the computer anymore.
When it comes to enterprise businesses, the impact of flash storage is even more notable. For example, in the hyperconverged space, you can have a small VxRail appliance that is full of normal hard disk drives and will allow for 20TB of usable storage. Because the flash drives are so fast, the system can compress and duplicate the data as it is being written. This creates up to 100TB of storage – five times larger than the hard disk drive version within the same physical space.
As with all technology, things are getting better and cheaper. Hard disk drives have nearly reached a limit on how small scientists can make a bit on a platter. Flash storage still has plenty of room for growth.
Small flash drives are also very inexpensive; they are cheaper than buying spinning drives to boot a computer. Today, long term hard disk storage is typically on large 6TB or 8TB drives. They hold vast amounts of data, but the technology trade-off is they are slow. The largest flash drive is currently around 4TB, but the technology roadmap projects there will be a 16TB flash drive for sale by the end of next year. The hard disks will continue to stick around for now because of their low price, but with flash being faster and larger, they will eventually vanish from the marketplace.
Please contact Sentinel if you would like to learn more about how the different types of storage can benefit your business.
Sentinel Celebrates Employee Appreciation Month
August was Employee Appreciation Month at Sentinel, and as part of the celebration, several of our offices held fun events and social gatherings for their staffs. Here are a few highlights.
On August 10th, staff at Sentinel’s Downers Grove headquarters were treated to a BBQ lunch that featured burgers, brats, hot dogs and vegetarian sausages. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and provided the perfect opportunity to use the new outdoor deck attached to the building. Employees socialized in the shade provided by patio umbrellas and tents while enjoying a delicious meal.
Two weeks later on August 24th, the Downers Grove office also held a happy hour filled with fun and games to wrap up the day. Due to inclement weather, the event was moved inside to the lunchroom, where snacks, sodas and spirits were served. The nearby hallways were lined with games, including beanbags, washers and a giant Jenga tower as employees engaged in some friendly competition.
Sentinel’s Arizona office was the first location to celebrate Employee Appreciation Month with a breakfast on the morning of August 8th. Managers cooked up traditional breakfast staples that included eggs, bacon and sausage, paired with coffee, tea and juice. It helped the staff to fuel up for the day, and bring a little extra motivation to the start of the week.
To wrap up the month, the Arizona team also got together after work on Friday, August 26th for a night of strikes, spares and spirits at a local bowling alley.
Back in May, Sentinel unveiled a brand new backlit sign on the top floor of our downtown Lansing location. It represented our continued commitment to providing the highest quality IT solutions and support to Lansing and the surrounding communities. With that in mind, Sentinel’s Lansing team ventured out of the office to enjoy lunches at two favorite local spots as part of Employee Appreciation Month. On August 17th staff dined and had drinks at the Lansing Brewing Company. One week later they had a ball with a meal at Nuthouse Sports Grill.
The Sentinel team in Grand Rapids celebrated Employee Appreciation Month with a happy hour filled with snacks and lawn sports at the office. Bags, ladder golf and other competitive games were accompanied by with light appetizers and refreshing cocktails. The following week employees were also treated to a lunchtime pizza party.
It was a cookout for the Michigan team at Sentinel’s Ann Arbor location. Employees kicked back and listened to music during their lunch break while managers fired up the grill with all sorts of delicious BBQ. As they enjoyed dessert, Sales Manager Mike Guy thanked everyone for their hard work so far this year and highlighted a few of their major accomplishments.
Sentinel’s Crystal Falls shop is, above all else, very passionate about working with and serving the local community of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. When it came time for their Employee Appreciation Month event, they chose a hearty Italian dinner at area favorite Dina Mia’s. Lots of pasta and garlic bread was consumed!
The benefits of having a major league baseball team in your backyard make it easy to catch a game, and that’s exactly what Sentinel’s Milwaukee team did to celebrate Employee Appreciation Month. They enjoyed a leisurely tailgate before heading into Miller Park to cheer on the Brewers!
Solutions Architect Keith Ippolito Reveals The Cost-Saving Hidden Gem of Microsoft Office 365
When most think of Office 365 they probably think of the very basics: email and the Microsoft Office suite. Those with a less favorable opinion of the software giant might consider it to be an expensive, feature bloated subscription-based service. While that’s true to some extent, Microsoft has made sure to cover the gamut with a wide range of Office 365 licensing plans (SKU). These SKUs can include a single item such as email or just the Office suite. Other SKUs offered include a variety of items such as OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and even Telephony. Seems like with so many different offerings and options they would have everyone and their needs covered, right? There is one group, however, that always seems to get left out: those who want it for free.
Microsoft offers a free version of their Office suite consisting of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote in an online only version, craftily named “Office Online”. Anyone who registers for the service can create, edit and save files online using an almost feature parity version of the downloadable Office suite. Couple that with a free Outlook account which comes with cloud storage and presto, free Office 365. Looks like the software giant did think of everyone with this hidden gem.
Please contact Sentinel to learn more about Microsoft Office 365 and other product offerings.
A Closer Look at Sentinel's Security as a Service From CTO Robert Keblusek
In today’s technology world, nothing is more important – or receiving more attention -- than cyber security. As such, the cyber security market is exploding, with industry experts predicting expenditures of $170 billion by 2020 at an annual growth rate of 9.8%. The top 4 growth areas include analytics/SIEM, mobile security, cloud security and threat intelligence. The challenge of how to address this growing issue and burgeoning market opportunity is fully addressed by Sentinel’s CloudSelect® Security as a Service (SECaaS) offering.
CloudSelect® SECaaS was introduced specifically to help customers struggling to improve and measure their cyber security controls, investments and risks. In most cases customers aren’t obtaining value from existing investments and don’t have adequate cyber security visibility necessary to plan and address critical business impacting risks. They require the competent advice of experienced security professionals, who are in short supply in the market. Indeed, according to the United States Department of Labor, Cyber Security Analysts will experience annual job growth rates of at least 18% from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average for other occupations. Recently the CEO of Symantec, a cyber-security leader, stated, “demand for the [cybersecurity] workforce is expected to rise to 6 million (globally) by 2019, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million.”
CloudSelect® SECaaS combines:
+People – Sentinel’s world class Network Operations Center (NOC) and technology experts are available to all SECaaS customers under guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs) to augment a customer’s IT organization. The team is available 24x7x365 for proactive engagements, ongoing SECaaS monitoring and triage services.
+Process – SECaaS customizes mature process and procedures to meet business security needs. Security policies are defined and built into the SECaaS platform tied to Sentinel’s state-of-the-art service and support ticketing protocol and measured against strict service level agreements.
+Technology – CloudSelect® SECaaS technology enables the enforcement of policy, advanced alerting, zero-day protection from threats, extensive ongoing reporting and provides a rich executive dashboard. Sentinel customizes the solution to leverage existing enterprise investments and augments them with sensors, prevention systems, behavioral analytics solutions, user behavior tracking, data protection services and much more. This protects a company’s digital assets from attack, malware, email attacks and other threats. Additionally, the technology provides ongoing scoring against industry peers along with recurring security assessment services and comprehensive inspection of network traffic and technology systems to assist with cyber security forensic activity and investigation.
Security as a Service allows for the rapid implementation of a complete cyber security platform and threat protection solution complete with architecture backed by a team of cyber security experts. Because this is delivered as a hybrid cloud service from Sentinel’s CloudSelect® data centers, our sensors can be deployed in as quickly as a few hours with simple changes to the network, providing a tremendous amount of visibility. This can all be done remotely to deliver fast visibility worldwide for global network deployments.
Combining ongoing measurement and monitoring with people, process and technology, Sentinel has put together a powerful solution for our customers to meet the most demanding cyber security needs and help achieve and maintain regulatory compliance to the strictest of levels. Various vendor products for threat protection and monitoring are packaged with customization, scripting, alerting and policy to enable an organization to meet and exceed its objectives quickly and with a depth of experts available 24x7x365 to handle any issues that may emerge.
Sentinel also offers multiple options for ongoing measurement, assessment services, penetration testing, social engineering, security scoring, and customized services to assist in risk reduction and ongoing measurement of an organization’s cyber security program and readiness. Many of the services are also useful for cyber insurance underwriters and are easily demonstrable to investors and executives in quantifiable, easy to understand metrics. A company can subscribe to the CloudSelect® SECaaS offering and have an ongoing score by third party industry recognized experts similar to a FICO score before and during the SECaaS engagement.
SECaaS solutions along with Security Operations Center (SOC) services are often driven by the need for regulatory compliance. Sentinel’s cloud data centers along with Sentinel as an organization maintain annual SSAE 16 SOC 2, Type II attestations. Beyond that, the CloudSelect® SECaaS offering supports compliance requirements including but not limited to:
+DIACAP / DIARMF
Finally, unique to most IT solutions companies, Sentinel also offers high-end business process consulting and technical advisory services for our SECaaS customers, utilizing ITIL best practices, Six Sigma methodologies, and other industry-leading process methodologies to achieve these requirements with both legal advice as well as policy definition, enablement and ongoing assessment services. To learn more about SECaaS or any other Sentinel solutions, please contact us.
Sentinel CTO Robert Keblusek on How XtremIO Can Change the Way You Do Business
XtremIO is an all-flash platform, and while it isn’t the only all-flash platform in Sentinel’s offerings, it is the most mature and offers advanced scale-out capabilities so customers experience the best resilience and scalability possible. Most platforms are positioned to deliver storage services for 3-5 years of life, but XtremIO has been designed to deliver an estimated 7 years of service. Because of the power efficiency, ease of use, amazing performance, powerful scale-out capabilities and high storage efficiency, this platform offers a tremendous overall total cost of ownership.
XtremIO is an excellent platform for the most demanding workloads, including high performance virtualization, enterprise applications such as ERP solutions, analytics, virtual desktops and much more. Workloads that demand nonstop activity will benefit from the integral high availability built into XtremIO, as well as the capacity to work with technology such as EMC VPLEX for active/active dual data center services. Because XtremIO works over both fiber channel and IP networks there are plenty of connectivity options to integrate XtremIO into the customer environment. In addition, XtremIO provides an excellent environment for application development environments with always-on storage efficiency, immediate copy capabilities, API integration and much more, bringing tremendous agility to the most demanding development environments and providing a great platform for DevOps initiatives.
Sentinel’s customers have experienced some unexpected benefits of XtremIO in both performance and storage efficiency. All-flash platforms are known for excellent performance, but all platforms are not created equally. XtremIO was designed with enterprise-tier resilience and reliability in mind to take on the most demanding enterprise applications. Customers are replacing very large enterprise-class traditional arrays with the XtremIO platform and realizing both availability and significant performance improvements.
In one case, a client of ours delivered an SAP ecommerce workload on a new XtremIO VSPEX solution we designed and integrated for this high growth application. The development team was running some normal operations on a hybrid traditional array, but when it stopped after less than 10 minutes they re-ran the operation assuming it had failed. Eventually they realized the operation was not failing but actually completing the task in that short period of time. The team was extremely impressed with the new performance and capabilities. It’s also a great example of how a test/dev team can increase the amount of testing they perform, so there’s less time spent waiting for processes to complete and more time spent improving application experiences. This has a tremendous return on investment that’s often overlooked up front when comparing storage platforms without engagement of the application development team.
In another test case, a customer described the performance of Sentinel’s CloudSelect® computing platform as “breathtaking.” The client was an independent software vendor, and before signing up for high growth services delivered through CloudSelect® they wanted to run some tests on our premium platform. In a matter of hours, our team was able to connect their cloud workloads to our platinum tier of services powered by EMC Vblock with XtremIO. What was breathtaking to the client was Sentinel’s ability to prove that their high performance MongoDB application was able to consistently realize 65,000 operations per second with over 1 million operations across 100 threads. They are currently moving these high performance MongoDB services to our CloudSelect® platinum tier in preparation for explosive growth.
Very few platforms today are designed to reduce storage use while delivering all of the performance, resilience and efficiency across an expected 7-year usable lifespan. This is what makes the overall total cost of ownership for XtremIO so incredible worthwhile. Three primary factors are used by XtremIO to make the best use of space while delivering a non-stop experience:
When sizing an environment, Sentinel does performance advisory assessments based on a number of factors. One of these compares the current customer data to the expected efficiencies that will be realized by XtremIO. In most cases, customers are expected to reach between 2x and 6x greater levels of efficiency. The amount of improvement will vary based on the existing platform capabilities. Some platforms only deliver portions of these services and efficiencies. Others might deliver them post-process after the storage has been written to the array. Very few offer these with limited to no performance impact in memory with an always-on architecture.
Sentinel recently replaced a large financial services customer’s legacy hybrid arrays with a new XtremIO platform. In preparation, Sentinel provided an advisory services assessment that determined the organization’s business functional requirements as well as data center and disaster recovery in-depth sizing for performance, storage space and growth. This large organization with many branch banks is expected to double in size over the next 5 years through mergers, acquisitions and other factors. Based on this assessment, XtremIO provided a 7-year plan that could exceed these growth projections for reliability, performance and scale.
Since the migration, the expected results from the advisory engagement have been realized. Below are some specific metrics measured before and after for comparison purposes. It is noteworthy that the migration also included consolidation and added new applications, which impacted the pre-migration to post-migration results. but the results are almost exactly on target to the advisory engagement expected results.
*Space Efficiency Summary*
+Savings from compression and deduplication were slightly lower than expected
+Savings from removal of zeros is higher than expected
+The overall efficiency improved by 4.8x, higher than the estimated 4.34x
+ Before: 26,043 IOPS from both arrays
After: 81,392 peak IOPS from XtremIO with capabilities for up to 300,000 IOPS
+Before: Latency of 10.63ms and 6.31ms from each array using the lowest 95% I/O
After: Average under 0.5ms latency including times of intense migration operations not adjusted for 95th percentile
+ Scalability to 16 units for space and performance growth
I would say that this customer’s experience is exceeding expectations as measured before and after XtremIO. At Sentinel we focus on Always Leading and not only meeting, but exceeding expectations. When I see results like this, I am proud of our performance and feel confident that we have installed a solution that delivers proven results and will allow our customer to grow their business without constraints. If you’d like to learn more about XtremIO and other Sentinel services, please contact us.
Sentinel CTO Robert Keblusek was also recently featured in an EMC partner video. You can watch that here.
An Introduction to Cisco Spark From Solutions Architect Jimmy Hanus
Cisco Spark is a complete collaboration service for businesses that enables your employees to message, meet, or call anyone, anywhere at any time.
**What is the Cisco Spark Platform?**
The Spark platform consists of 3 key components: Message, Meeting and Call. Its primary features include Persistent Chat, Document Sharing, Conferencing, Web and Video Conferencing, Video Rooms as well as Cisco Phones and Video Endpoints that register directly to the Cisco Collaboration Cloud.
Cisco Spark Messaging is a key part of the platform’s collaboration offering, which is supported on multiple devices including mobile, desktop or web app through your browser. Messaging starts with a virtual room which supports 1-on-1 or team collaboration. Users have the ability to create personal meeting rooms with the touch of a button. Persistent Messages are included by default, which also allows for file sharing within the virtual rooms.
Security is of the highest importance when transferring personal or sensitive data to a user or many users. Spark offers end-to-end encryption of content which includes messaging, files, voice and video. You also have the option to moderate room participants and content that is shared within the virtual room.
You can start a collaborative meeting with Spark by simply adding their name or email address within the room. It’s that simple! Unlimited virtual rooms give you the scalability to meet with everyone.
Users have the ability to start a video conference instantly with the touch of a button from any of your virtual rooms. Sharing content within the meeting enables better business alignment and can accelerate decision making.
Cisco Spark Meetings have revolutionized the way users communicate and collaborate with each other. They are WebEx powered, which means you benefit from all the features that WebEx offers today. You can schedule meetings with the click of a button from your mobile device or computer. Connect face-to-face with HD video & audio, and share content quickly and easily on any device from anywhere.
Spark offers room systems which are telepresence-enabled devices. This gives you the ability to bring a room full of people into a video conference. Cisco’s SX-10 device includes an integrated camera, codec and microphone. Pan/Tilt/Zoom, Remote Control, PoE and video stream of up to 1080p30. You can receive content on both your Spark mobile app and your room system to make sharing content from devices that much easier.
Using proximity technology, mobile devices and room systems are able to pair automatically. That means everything you can do on your Spark mobile app is controllable through your room system.
Make and move calls to and from the room system and your mobile device with the touch of a button. If you are ready to leave the meeting room but not ready to leave the call you can simply use the Spark app to drag the call to your local device. You also can choose whether you would like to hang up the call on the Spark room system or leave it active for another participant in the meeting.
Cisco Spark calling offers a couple different ways to make calling easier. Users can make calls with cloud PBX or through the hybrid service using an on premise PSTN. Cisco calling also supports voice and video with messaging integration. The new Spark Phone OS supports the latest generation of phones such as the 7800 and 8800 series phones. Video is available on the 8845 and 8865 phone models. Wideband codecs such as G722 are supported for high quality calls.
Basic features such as video calling, single number reach, call forwarding, call transfer, do not disturb and hold/resume are included with Spark. Auto-attendants, hunt groups, shared lines, video on hold, desk phone control, ad hoc conference and zero touch meeting are among the advanced features.
Device provisioning is simpler than ever with Spark. A unique QR code is generated for each phone. Video capable phones can simply hold the QR code in front of the camera to integrate the phone into the cloud automatically.
**Cisco Spark Hybrid Services**
Cisco allows customers to integrate on premise applications with those in the cloud. Some of these include Cisco Call Control, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Active Directory.
Directory Services – extends enterprise directory contacts to the cloud, for both Cisco UC & Spark customers
+ In sync cloud & premises directories – removing user from AD deactivates cloud service & removes user from all rooms and services.
+ Provides directory accuracy and consistency so users know who they are talking to.
+ Uses single sign-on to mandate company-approved passwords and help enforce corporate security standards.
+ Add people to Spark rooms from your company directory
+ Simple admin for AD and cloud services – one action to remove a departing user
+ Schedule meetings simply with anyone listed in your company directory, with certainty and confidence
Calendar Service - connects your calendars and enables meeting scheduling on the move, for both Cisco UC & Spark customers.
+ Schedule meetings from your mobile device’s calendar app or Microsoft Outlook / Outlook Web Access
+ Add @webex into the location field to add your WebEx details (your personal room to host the meeting)
+ Add @spark to create a Spark room for all invitees, allowing the conversation to start before the meeting
+ Schedule meeting from your mobile device simply and with no plugins
+ In one step, provide a place for your invitees to get to work and be more productive when it’s time to meet
+ Extend Spark service mobility to the entire enterprise UC system from any browser WebRTC-enabled real time communication (audio, video, data)
+ Calls & notifications without configuring call forwarding or having the app open - mobile push services
+ Move seamlessly between phones, devices, video room system - even WiFi-to-cellular connection
+ Make and receive voice and video calls from anywhere you have Internet access, simply and securely
+ Get notified when anything important happens - a call, a message, or a colleague posts the latest plan
+ Seamlessly transfer a call to where it suits you - a different device or a room, all with no interruption
+ Call any enterprise or PSTN number from Spark, and answer any inbound call with the Spark app
Call Service Connect – Cisco Spark & the enterprise phone system – so they behave as one. Your Spark app becomes an enterprise softphone.
+ Provides voice and video interoperability between Jabber and Spark
+ Use Jabber or Spark to call anyone without worrying about which you or the other person is using.
+ Be reached on Spark, Jabber or a desk phone. Choose to take the call on whichever suits you best at that moment.
+ Call company extensions, PSTN numbers, Spark-only users and even video bridge numbers
+ Dial from the Spark app as you would from your desk phone - call PSTN numbers via enterprise phone system
+ Start a call on a mobile device and hand off to a room system when you arrive
*Unified Call History*
Call Service Aware – makes Spark aware of calls passing through the entire enterprise UC system
+ Desk phone & Jabber call history is pushed into the cloud and made available across Spark service
+ When combined with Call Service Connect you can call people back from Spark easily
+ Convenient access to your call history regardless of device or app used
+ Quick and easy redial or call back of missed calls, from anywhere
+ Call history is made available in 1-on-1 Spark rooms along with messages & content - reminds you when you last spoke
*Easy Content Sharing*
Call Service Aware - makes Spark aware of calls passing through the entire enterprise UC system.
+ Place a call to another Spark user and the service automatically starts a meeting between the two of you
+ The meeting surfaces in the Spark app and you can click a single button to share your screen
+ When the call ends, so does the sharing session. There’s no need to close it out separately.
+ Once you start a call, you also start a meeting
+ Share content with a single click
+ Share your screen or send documents/messages in the Spark room in which the call is happening
Cisco Spark can fundamentally change the way your business operates, communicates and collaborates by enabling your efficiency and productivity to reach unprecedented levels. If you would like to learn more about Spark, please contact Sentinel.
Sentinel Perspectives: Cisco Live 2016
This past July, several members of the Sentinel team headed to Las Vegas for the annual Cisco Live conference. It presented an opportunity to learn more about Cisco and their products, as well as do some networking while having fun along the way. We asked some of our employees who attended to tell us a little bit about their experience.
*Matt LaSota, Director of Support Services Network and CloudSelect*
Cisco Live 2016 hosted in Las Vegas was yet another great learning event full of exciting speakers and breakout sessions to spark anyone’s interest, no pun intended. Cisco had a number of breakout sessions around ACI, security, UCS, and Spark to name a few. Cisco’s ACI solutions were discussed in deep technical detail to include extending ACI fabrics between sites which was a particular favorite. Cisco Live 2016 also came along with lots of great conversations with our customers, thank you to everyone who stopped by booth 2510 to chat! The event also brings some special meaning to myself, having passed the CCIE Data Center lab exam at the Las Vegas mobile lab on July 10th, making myself a 4xCCIE! Looking forward to Cisco Live 2017, back in Las Vegas, and all of the advancements and announcements another year will bring to our industry.
*Stephanie Fornarelli, Sales Executive*
So I had the privilege of going to Cisco Live once again this year and was so excited to see how much we have learned from the first one. Our booth was neat, simple, and informative. We had banners that kept our services simple, as well as a colorful PowerPoint going through various Sentinel slides to catch the eye. Our drone giveaway was a hit as well and helped with the initial approach to the booth in some cases. Emily, Alex, and myself worked hard to be out there in front of people and bring them in, answer questions, and find out what IT initiatives they have coming up that we can assist with. Our engineers as well as Bob Keblusek, Ryan Santry and Matt LaSota made it easy to elaborate on our services and were able to dive deeper into our technology which was a huge benefit. Our customer appreciation event at Tom’s Urban was fantastic. We had more people show up than last year and had a wonderful time networking and really getting to know our customers as well as meet new potential customers. We definitely strived to leave our customers feeling a closer bond to Sentinel as well as leave a great impression on future customers. Overall, it was a great event and I can’t wait to see how Sentinel does next year!
*Mark Combs, Enterprise Account Supervisor*
I had the opportunity to attend Cisco Live 2016 in beautiful Las Vegas. This was my first time attending Cisco Live even though I have been in the networking industry for 20+ years. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, but my anticipation was really high given the great things I heard about this event in the past. I’m happy to report that Cisco did not disappoint. Right from the start, I was immediately impressed in how organized the event was. From initial registration, getting to and from your IT sessions, or just eating lunch. The mobile Cisco Live app made it extremely easy to register for new sessions or to find out what’s next on the agenda so you were always be where you wanted to be and not walking around aimlessly. The seminars were great and you could literally sit in just about any technology or session you prefer to learn about. From ACI to deep technical breakout sessions regarding industry IWAN designs, the choice was basically yours. The amount of tech sessions available felt a bit overwhelming at times, however the good news is that they are all available to watch on the Cisco Live website at no cost. That being said, I believe the most valuable piece of attending Cisco Live was the “World of Solutions” booths. This was where vendors from all over the globe could showcase their newest technologies. The collaboration alone was worth the price of admission. Nowhere else can you get so many people together with the same interests to discuss real world issues or scenarios and the exchange of ideas pertaining to those issues. I guess that’s why they call it “Live” - you have to be there to experience it firsthand. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to experience Cisco Live in 2017 and all that it brings.
Solutions Architect Keith Ippolito on Why Your Business Needs A Microsoft Upgrade
Your IT back office can often be a “set it and forget it” implementation. Servers and their hosted applications are installed and set up to fulfill a business need. As long as operations continue without a hitch, those components remain unseen and get placed on the back burner of attention. As a result, it can be quite the grueling experience when an inevitable upgrade occurs. It doesn’t have to be. Here are the top two reasons your organization should regularly maintain various Microsoft infrastructure-related software.
**Compatibility and Support**
Have you ever tried to pair a Bluetooth headset with a rotary phone or attempted watch the latest YouTube sensation on your Commodore 64? Sounds silly right? It’s a bit of an extreme example, but quite similar to how software works. Most software companies, Microsoft included, try to maintain backwards compatibility to allow for interoperability between multiple versions of a product. There becomes a point though when these companies have to make a decision, usually financial, to depreciate certain compatibilities. This translates directly to Microsoft’s Support Lifecycle when legacy versions of products stop becoming compatible with the latest versions.
Each of Microsoft’s products has a support term that falls into one of two categories: mainstream support or extended support. During the time a product is under mainstream support, Microsoft provides product bug fixes or patches, feature enhancements and security updates. This is the period of the product lifecycle where customers can rely on a working product that Microsoft stands by. It is within this window where the software is most ideal and companies assume the least amount of risk. The extended support period only provides security updates, making it less ideal but still within a tolerable risk level. Once a product reaches the end of the lifecycle, all support ends. Most IT professionals might remember when Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 reached end of life (EOL). Many organizations still operate using these software versions. In the event of a failure, the costs are almost guaranteed to exceed what would have been spent on an upgrade.
Do you always lock your car door when you aren’t in it? If you answered no, consider this alternative question: Would you always lock your car door if you had a stack of $100 dollar bills sitting on your seat? If that was your life savings, it would make sense to take as many precautions as possible to ensure it was protected. Security should be treated the same way. Servers today store a great deal of sensitive public and private information. Digital security gets compromised all the time, especially when the underlying technologies are out-of-date.
Microsoft continues to improve the security of its products with every release and regularly provides security updates to protect against the latest developed threats. New products such as Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA), a cloud-based platform that analyzes and monitors an infrastructure to detect threats, are also available to help your business establish additional layers of protection.
There are other important reasons and benefits to consider maintaining the latest version, including end user experience, increased feature set, and performance to name a few. The reasons detailed above should be a starting point for any business to take a closer look at their IT back office roadmap and begin planning to update their infrastructure.
Don’t be that business spinning cycles when an emergency happens. Sentinel can help you upgrade today! Contact us for more information.