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The proper noun WebEx has become a common noun for web conferencing, much like “Jello” has become a common noun for “gelatin” and “tweet” has become a verb. This is because when someone has a new, game-changing idea, what they name their idea or product is what sticks.
So it is with WebEx. They were first to market with the idea of bringing together multiple people across a network to hold a virtual meeting.
Web conferencing is such a necessity that one cannot imagine not having it. Cisco has kept its forward momentum by migrating WebEx to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). They have made it fit with and work with other platforms and tools that comprise the modern office.
WebEx In-House or In-the-Cloud
There are two ways that companies can use WebEx today. They can sign up at WebEx.com and use Cisco’s own cloud infrastructure. Or they can install it in-house. At Fidelus, we help companies with the second option, including integrating that with the rest of their Collaboration and Cisco Unified Communications infrastructure and strategy. Below we explain how.
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WebEx lets multiple people all come together to hold meetings on the Internet and do so from any kind of computing device. But it’s not just a meeting. It’s the form of working together simultaneously on one object across a network that we now call collaboration.
With WebEx, one person, the presenter, shares his or her screen with multiple parties. Those people watch and can type notes into their own screens and interact with the presenter and others on the call with voice, audio, and chat.
To do that, they ask questions and can take over the podium to let people see their screen or point the camera their way just by speaking. Any participant can take over the presenter’s screen or engage with it using remote control. And since it is a collaboration tool, participants can work on the same screen at the same time too, either marking up what is on the screen or turning it into a whiteboard. Everyone on the call sees and interacts with the presenter’s screen.
BYOD and Mobile and Nothing Else at All
All that WebEx requires is a camera and a microphone. So it’s different than other Cisco products, like TelePresence, that use dedicated equipment like IP video phones with a dedicated camera.
The meeting participants see the presenter’s screen. At the bottom the display shows up to five others on the call. The display pivots to whoever is speaking.
In the BYOD office, people can run WebEx from cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. Because WebEx has an app for almost every operating system, it’s easy to invite people outside the organization, like partners and vendors, since compatibility is not an issue.
This way, WebEx is designed to meet the needs of the mobile workforce. People can attend a WebEx meeting from the office, the hotel, or Starbucks using whatever device they happen to have handy.
And for those who cannot attend, WebEx lets you save a presentation online so that others can play it back later. Or you can download it. It also integrates with other office products so that you can schedule a WebEx meeting and have that pop up in the calendar using almost any email program.
No More Browser Plug-in
WebEx from the user’s view does not require installing anything. It uses HTML5. That is an advance in browser technology that gets rid of the need to install any kind of plug-in to play video or audio. In the past, plug-ins frequently caused problems with YouTube and other types of video broadcast.
People dial into a WebEx and punch in a code to join the call. But WebEx can also dial out. In fact, it can even call hundreds of users. Participants can use either SIP, POTS, VoIP, or the regular Internet. The organizer gets an access code that people enter to join the call or just click on the screen. That becomes their Personal Conference Number.
The Cisco WebEx Meetings Server
Companies that wish to set up their own WebEx system would install the Cisco WebEx Meetings Server. It’s designed to run on VMWare. However, even a company that uses Amazon EC2, Xen, or any kind of hypervisor can fit one of those into their infrastructure to do that.
It does not require setting up the sometimes-problematic VPN. The server comes in four sizes, allowing 50, 250, 800, or 2,000 concurrent users. The last option supports failover with active-active configuration across multiple data centers.
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The system works with your corporate directory too, as you can connect it to LDAP. It also lets people log in lots of other ways, like social media, by supporting SAML. You can even connect it to your SMTP server so that it can email out invitations. It uses port forwarding so traffic flows through the open ports on the firewall, so there is no need to change that.
Working with Cisco Collaboration and Cisco Unified Communications Manager
WebEx is part of the Cisco Collaboration and Cisco Unified Communications Manager set of tools. Therefore, it is designed to be installed alongside those tools. Or, for companies who are using other vendors of no corporate system at all, it can also be installed by itself.
So make it part of your communications strategy. It’s an easy fit.
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Fidelus Technologies handles all of the installation and integration processes.
Watch the video below to find out what WebEx can do for your business.
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