Editor's Note: This Cisco HCS product overview is part of a series on unified communications as a service, or UCaaS. Part one examined the evolution of UC in the cloud, and part two discussed the business case for UCaaS. Part three detailed the purchasing criteria and key features to consider, and part four compared the top vendors on the market.
Cisco is undoubtedly a dominant player in the unified communications (UC) market, and it has now entered the UCaaS market with its Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), complementing existing UC products and services.
While most vendors host their cloud-based services and offer them directly to the public, Cisco has taken a completely different approach by developing Cisco HCS, which allows Cisco partners to host unified communications and collaboration products and services within their own environments. Partners can create their own public, private or hybrid cloud services based on Cisco products and sell them to their customers.
This approach has relieved Cisco from selling and supporting its cloud-based services directly to the public. However, this means they will now depend on their partners' abilities to promote, sell and support the services.
For organizations and end customers, this means Cisco HCS and other UCaaS products will be delivered and supported directly by the Cisco partner with whom they are dealing.
Despite the model Cisco has selected to follow, its portfolio of UC products and services is, without a doubt, impressive. Enterprise-class offerings include Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM), an advanced and highly sophisticated call control platform that is capable of supporting small to large multinational companies, while offering robust voice over IP services and collaboration capabilities. Supported features include standard telephony services, such as caller ID, call forwarding, call transfer, the ability to place a call on hold, on-hold music and much more.
CUCM supports endpoints using Cisco's proprietary Skinny Client Control Protocol, as well as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). Support for SIP is essential, as it gives organizations the flexibility they require when selecting endpoint devices.
Presence services and instant messaging are also available, thanks to the Cisco Presence and Instant Messaging Server. Endpoint clients, such as desktops, laptops and mobile devices, use Cisco's popular Jabber application to utilize presence and instant messaging services. Jabber is available across all popular platforms, including Windows, Mac, and both iOS and Android-based mobile devices. Users can also make and receive phone calls using Jabber, while also having access to their voicemail.
Messaging services that integrate with Cisco HCS are provided via Cisco's Unity Connection server -- an enterprise-class messaging platform that integrates automatic call distribution functions, voicemail boxes, voicemail to email functions, connectivity with Microsoft Exchange and much more.
Cisco Expressway services -- under Cisco's Edge Architecture portfolio -- enable Cisco mobile clients, such as Jabber mobile, or even guests, to connect to the CUCM system from anywhere in the world via a secure and encrypted connection.
The Cisco WebEx platform is also offered as part of the Cisco Cloud. With WebEx, organizations are able to host meetings and video conference calls via the web using a single web browser. WebEx is a very powerful collaboration tool that provides an extensive amount of features, including presentations, desktop control, video conferencing, session recording, file transfer and remote support. WebEx has been optimized for internet-based environments, making it robust even when there are connectivity issues, such as delay and packet loss. It is also worth noting Cisco's geographically dispersed technical assistant centers only use WebEx to support customers around the globe, so this is a service that has been heavily tested and used throughout the world.
Cisco HCS is a solid portfolio of hosted unified communications services. While it would have been nice to see Cisco offer these services directly to end customers, it should still be possible to find a qualified Cisco partner who can deliver these services and provide the necessary support.
Read more about the Cisco UCM unified communications system.
Learn more about Cisco's cloud UC strategy.
Read about the pros and cons of the Cisco and Microsoft cloud UC offerings.