Being READY for Disaster with Communications Solutions


Being ready for disaster includes keeping a business operating even when employees may be forced to work remotely. The Avaya SCOPIA solution offers real time ‘meet-me communications’ from anywhere on any device to enable the smooth flow of interaction and collaboration by employees and customers. Fletch sits down with Rob Romano to discuss Scopia and it’s unique ability to solve this communications challenge faced by businesses today.

Fletch: September has been the National Preparedness Month. We at Avaya have been talking about how to be prepared. In addition, the citizens’ businesses can also be seriously impacted, and while resources can be made available online, communications can significantly be impacted.

Now, Avaya offers several solutions that can provide core communications. One of these is Scopia. Joining me today is Bob Romano, who’s in charge of marketing activities over at Scopia. Welcome, Bob. What exactly is the Scopia Solution?

Bob: The Scopia Solution is a conferencing solution with great capability to have video included in it. It was born really in the video conferencing marketplace. In the sense, it’s growing up to include not only video, obviously audio, but good rich data collaboration, moderation capabilities. Really probably one of its biggest strengths is the fact that it has the capability to be able to join Scopia call from virtually any device that you have and whatever network that device is on.

Fletch: I’ve been using Scopia quite a bit internally in Avaya. I’m having more Scopia calls now than I’m having regular phone calls. How exactly does a customer deploy Scopia? Are we talking about hardware, software. What’s this look like?

Bob: There are several options. Many of our customers will purchase a Scopia system, and then includes servers that are delivered from Avaya. They get installed in their network. That could be a distributed network where they can put those servers around geographically dispersed. Then from that, the rest is all software that allows them to be able to connect in with desktop or mobile devices.

We also have conference room video conferencing systems that we’ll go into a conference room to provide extremely high-quality video conferencing in the conference room environment.

Fletch: One of the biggest things that I find that’s annoying with the various different conferencing utilities that are out there, I’ve always got to go somewhere. I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the software updated. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it’s a pain. How does Scopia handle the client side of the software?

Bob: That’s one of the beauties of Scopia. In fact, if you look at video conferencing’s history, it really focused on conference rooms, room video conferencing where people went to the video. It wasn’t because they necessarily needed to meet in the conference room. It’s because that’s where the device was.

One of the things that Avaya really pioneered was they extension of that video conferencing paradigm out to desktop and mobile users. We have developed technology. This all came from Avaya’s acquisition of Radvision. Radvision was an early pioneer in desktop and mobile capability. What we do is we allow you on a desktop device or a mobile device to be able to simply click on a link that you’ve been invited into a conference.

It will automatically push whatever components are needed on that device, and automatically join you into the conference. It’s the simplicity of it and the reach of it that really has made this such a valuable tool.

Fletch: In general Bob, what would you say are the requirements for the remote users that are going to dial in from a device perspective? Are there any limitations there?

Bob: Well, that’s the beauty of it. There really aren’t. We have clients for PCs both whether they’re Windows based or whether they’re IOS Apple based. We cover Mac and PCs. We have clients that are supported on the Apple devices. That’s iPads, iPhones. Then we have clients for Android devices. That’s a wide variety of different manufactures that provides tablets and phones and mobile devices on the android platform.

That covers a very wide percentage of the users out there that are using either their desktop, their laptop, or their mobile device. The client as I mentioned is 100% free and freely distributable. There is no licensing with it, so the simplicity of that model works very well.

We really tailored it after the web conferencing model, where you get invited into a conference and you click and join. The host is the one that is hosting forward and supports the conference, but guests can come in from anywhere for free. That’s what we adopted to the video conferencing model. It’s worked very well.

Fletch: A couple of weeks ago, I was out in some customer meetings on Long Island, and I had to be over in Connecticut. I took the ferry, the Bridgeport ferry over in the morning. I just happen to have an internal conference call scheduled that came up while I was on the ferry. Without even thinking about it, I just picked up my phone, and I clicked the link to join the bridge because we used Scopia for that. Immediately, everybody was like, “Where are you?”

All they see is me out in the water somewhere taking a ferry across the Long Island sound, but because of the LTE connection that I had, it was just like I’m in my office, which really was interesting.

Bob: Exactly, and really that’s the beauty of it. The idea is that you can use whatever devices available to you. Sometimes I use my PC when I’m home. I work out at my home office. That’s the majority of the time, but quite often if I’m travelling or doing whatever else, I can join with my phone or my tablet.

The beauty by the way of joining on those devices is not just participating in the audio-video component, but fully participating in the data that’s being presented and also being able to moderate it. If I have my staff meeting and I’m on the road, from my mobile device, I can see all the participants in the participants list. I can mute everybody. I can invite new participants. I can lock the conference. I can record it. I have full moderation capability.

The richness of that experience from any device that you’re on is a very important component of our solution.

Fletch: Yeah, and I think one of the benefits that I’ve experienced, because I was one of the initial users on Scopia after the Radvision acquisition, so I’ve been using it internally since day one. The thing that I’ve noticed is that when new features, when new functionalities are being deployed out, you always got that because it’s a click link, right, on your desktop. You’re always being refreshed. You don’t have to manage the clients.

Bob: That’s very important for the IT organizations that are supporting an application like this. For them, the nightmare of having to ensure that all of the users are updated … Remember, we mentioned that it’s not just internal users, but it’s external users that you invite into the call. Anytime somebody clicks the link to join the call, it will automatically test whether the latest software is deployed. If not, it will push the updates and join you in the call.

When you mentioned the Avaya deployment, that’s actually something I’m very proud of. I came with the acquisition of Radvision. In June of 2012 when we were acquired, we decided to deploy Scopia to a select group of sales people so that they could experience, and quite frankly reach out to their customers and use it as a tool.

That started with the deployment of about 4,000 sales people. It has since grown now to almost 10,000 people within Avaya that have virtual rooms, Scopia virtual rooms. Last month in the month of August, and I’m looking at the report now that we pull every month, there were 53,453 meetings with an average of about 3.75 people per meeting across all of it. The maximum number of attendees in a single meeting was 296 by the way with an average of about four participants.

That was over 200,000 participants in the month of August. Those are participants internal to Avaya, that are internal Avaya people using it, but also external. We use it with partners. We use it with analysts. We use it with customers. It’s really been amazing, the adoption of this. That really only happens when a technology is invisible, when the value and the utility of the solution and the simplicity of using it is such that people just adopt it naturally.

Fletch: Well, in addition to eating our own dog food so to speak, I think we really learned about that deployment. When they first started expanding this out, we very quickly saw where we needed to tweak out network, where we needed to tweak our policies. We learned quite a bit from our own deployment, which is ultimately going to make the customer deployments go nice and smooth.

Bob: Exactly right, and we have many customers that have very large deployments like this. We can look at that. We look at our own deployment. We can tell them all kinds of statistics about how we think their usage will be in, how they need to deploy their network. As an example, we know that of these meetings, typically about 84% of them are desktop and mobile users attending the meetings. About 7% are room video conferencing systems join in the call. Multiple people in the room of course, but the device is about 7% of them are room systems.

About 7% are just pure telephone calls that come in and join just the audio only. We have that understanding of the usage of the solution. We do all that by the way through our simple management tool that pulls all that data. We can help customers when they are deploying and looking at this by using our own usage patterns and help them with theirs.

Fletch: That was one of the first things that I appreciated as a user early on in the beta program is when we first started, there were two separate audio conferencing instances so to speak, one that you would use on day to day basis that we had deployed, and then the Scopia one. Then very early in the beta, that all emerged together to where you’ve now got one common audio bridge.

Quite often, I’ll open up Scopia, and it will be all audio participants in there because it’s mostly external people. We weren’t really setting up an audio bridge, but I’m just dialing in through my Scopia, so it’s kind of all there. It really brought there all together in one interface for me. I’m using Scopia as my normal means of communications.

I mean, you don’t normally make phone calls on it, but I’m finding myself when we want to discuss something, instead of calling somebody or setting up a bridge, I’m setting up a Scopia event, which is really interesting to see how it’s changing my way of communicating.

Bob: It’s a meet me here. We call it a virtual conference room. It’s a virtual conference room in the cloud. Everyone in Avaya, there’s 10,000 people that have their own virtual conference room, has this unique ID. We have a plug-in that goes into outlook, which we use for scheduling. When I schedule a meeting in outlook, I just click that little button that says “Scopia meeting”. It automatically populates the invite with all the information for somebody to join the call regardless of what they’re on.

It says, “If you’re on a desktop or mobile, click here.” Again, that pushes that client. If you just want to make a telephone call in, click “dial this number”. If you’re on a room video conferencing system of any vendor by the way, we’re fully standards and fully an operable, dial this way. With that, then it allows people to be able to join from wide variety of devices and again from whatever network those devices are on.

That’s really the utility of it. In our work, we were talking about the National Preparedness Month. It is interesting when Hurricane Sandy came through the East Coast. There was a lot of disruption in terms of Avaya and many other companies obviously, but Avaya employee is able to do business. Our New Jersey office was closed for several days. People were impacted at their homes with their ability to get around.

We utilized Scopia extensively during that period. Those employees to be able to continue to have meetings, and many of them were in coffee shops trying to get a wireless connection. They would come in with their iPads. We had one employee that was stuck and couldn’t get back into the New Jersey area, and stayed in Chicago on a business trip, but just had all of her meetings on Scopia, and really never missed a beat. It was quite amazing.

Fletch: I set up in my local coffee shop as well. I would just go in every morning, and just set up office, and would literally work out of there because they had power. They had food. They had something to drink and bathrooms and WIFI. That’s all I needed.

Bob: The interesting thing about it is that we use technologies on all of our endpoint devices. Specifically, we use a high profile codec. What that does is it compresses the video much more efficiently than normal codecs. It uses about 30 to 50% less bandwidth at any given resolutions. That dramatically improves the ability to be able to have high quality video over all of the networks.

As the network gets faster, that just becomes better, but still bandwidth management and bandwidth utilization is very important. We use other technologies that correct for air packet loss in the network, which is very typical. When you’re on the open internet or you’re on a cellular data network, there will be packet loss. We use technologies like scalable video coding that allows it to be able to not be as impacted by packet loss.

Particularly the video, we’re used to get blotchiness. Now, we have a very smooth video even if there is packet loss in the network. There is a lot of things technologies in the background that significantly improve the quality of the experience. At the end of the day, users don’t care about that. They just know that when they get on, they have a great experience no matter where they are.

Fletch: What did we do at Avaya over the last couple of months? There was a significant change in the quality of the video. It was like we turned on HD one day or something.

Bob: That’s exactly what we did as a matter of fact, Fletch. When we first deployed it, we set it up so that mobile users, desktop, and mobile device users when they came into a call would come in at about half HD resolution, DVD quality. It is what it was. We did that because when we’re deploying it to 10,000 users and we have an over 200,000 participants in a call at any time, we wanted to make sure that we were efficient with our bandwidth usage.

What we found was with the new high profile codecs that we now have across all of our device, our mobile clients have it. Our desktop clients have it. Our room system clients have it. It’s fully supported in the servers. Then we decided, “We can go to HD now with very little impact to the overall bandwidth utilization,” and so we upgraded all of these services to support HD across all of the devices that join. That’s why we’re seeing what was very good quality before, now looks like it’s stunning HD quality.

Fletch: I know. That’s what it is. It is stunning. The day it happened, I looked in my screen. I’m like, “Oh my God! What happened? There’s a big difference here.” Then it was amazing. The cool thing is we didn’t have to go out and touch 10,000 endpoints to do that upgrade either.

Bob: Not at all. There was actually no change to the endpoints at all. It was just a service change internally that we turned on, and because we upgraded our servers with the new high profile capability, then that allowed us to do that.

Fletch: There is going to be a lot of interesting use cases around that. I’m certainly going to want to sit down and talk to you about that in upcoming podcasts. For today, I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us. This has really been interesting to see some of the backend to the Scopia product that’s out there.

Bob: Well, I’m happy to do it. I’m always happy to talk about Scopia. It’s a phenomenal product. I’m just really happy that so many people around the world are using it. Certainly within Avaya ourselves, but the deployments now are amazing. Some of the use cases of what people are doing with it are really interesting and a lot of fun. We can talk about those in future podcasts. I’d be happy to do that.

Fletch: I’m absolutely be looking forward to it. Where can someone go to find out more on Scopia and how they can add that functionality into the enterprise environment?

Bob: Go to of course. Then underneath there, you’ll find the Scopia product pages, and full descriptions of those. We certainly invite you to go there and take a look.

Fletch: We’ve been talking with Bob Romano, who brought the good technology with him from Radvision. Thanks for sitting down and talking to us.

Bob: You are welcome, Fletch. Thank you.

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As Consumer Tech Remakes the Workplace, a Thoughtful Security Strategy Is the Best Defense

I think we’d all agree the business landscape has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Think back to the last time you wrote a paper memo or sent a card inviting a colleague to a meeting. It’s been a long while.

For the most part, we’ve enthusiastically embraced this technology revolution in business, but recently it’s evolved to a point where consumer technology is now reshaping the workplace. In this blog series, we’ll discuss this phenomenon, how it’s made us more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and what measures and solutions we can employ to protect against security breaches.

Think about it. We carry multiple devices to stay connected both professionally and personally. These devices have become our modern day Filofaxes or Franklin Planners. So much so, that we’ve blurred the lines between these two worlds—once separate and distinct. We have one calendar, one set of contacts, one laptop and, for many of us, our social networks are a mix of work and play.

So when we hear about the latest cyber-attack or hack, the question we always ask ourselves is, “Can I be affected?”

The fact is our growing dependence on consumer technology puts our companies and us at higher risk to become victims. We become more vulnerable with every new tech toy, gadget or app we place at our fingertips … and we’re not talking just smartphones. Look at Smart TV (connected to the Internet), home automation devices (e.g., Nest or Hues), even the cars we drive. Everything is becoming connected, delivering real-time information to our smart devices, whenever and wherever we are.

Our demands have also extended to where we use these smart devices. We want connectivity in Starbucks, a shopping mall, a sports stadium … we want to remain in touch, irrespective of location. This presents a challenge for many, but especially for our CIOs who not only have to secure corporate information but also weigh potential exposure as a result of our hyper-connected world.

Also consider the increasing number of employees working from remote locations … the CIO, who once had total visibility of what we’re doing and using during business hours, now has only a glimpse of what’s deployed in our homes or coffee shops. And let’s not forget collaboration tools and apps that allow for real-time connectivity and electronic file sharing between anyone with internet access, from anywhere and from any device. While these capabilities have enabled us to work smarter and more efficiently, with those benefits comes the increased risk of enterprise security issues and data breaches.

For most organizations, it’s not a question of if a security breach is going to occur, it’s when will it occur. And when a company is attacked, so too are the people affiliated with it (think customers, employees, vendors and partners).

Perhaps we need to consider how hackers go about their work to understand why the decisions we make (or don’t make) today could have immediate and devastating consequences.

For starters, hackers look to identify a point of entry that will allow them to establish a command and control base. Remember if it has a processor, memory and connectivity, it’s a target. All the examples I cited above fall into this criteria.

Once they’ve established a control point, they explore their surroundings. Imagine for a moment a hacker gaining access to your home automation, then having the ability to eavesdrop on all your communications: banking services, business services, media content … potentially watching your every move. Now all your personal and business activities are compromised. It’s a frightening thought, right? But it’s one that can be proactively addressed.

There are two common methodologies for eliminating or greatly minimizing security breaches. The easiest is to say “No, you can’t do that” (seldom effective). We recommend a more thoughtful, practical, and deliberate approach that involves both active and passive security measures.

The Avaya approach is complementary to your existing security measures, not a rip and replace approach but one that supports your business operations. Whilst other solutions will address vulnerabilities on the devices, or only allow certain traffic to pass a specific point in the network, Avaya adds to your security posture by eliminating the ability of the hacker to move around your network at will. This is commonly referred to as lateral movement, and with the use of Avaya SDN Fx hyper-segmentation capability, we’re able to prevent this exploration. We have more than 16 million service identifiers to use—it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

If you can’t see it, then you can’t hack it! Avaya also has the ability to run these services in stealth mode, the ability to convey these services in a manner that is quiet and careful in order not to be seen or heard.

This provides you with security that’s based upon the services you support on your network, not focused on the routes that traffic may pass through. This dynamic approach to security is elastic in nature: as the demands for your network change, the ability to expand and contract these services follows the natural rhythm of your network. (Avaya Chief Technologist for SDA Jean Turgeon wrote a three-part blog series exploring these three core pillars. Read about hyper-segmentation, native stealth and automatic elasticity.)

In addition to this, we expand our capability to the edge of the work, the access layer. Here through the use of standards-based approaches, we’ll examine not only the device coming onto the network, the credentials it’s presenting, its location, but we’ll also examine its behavior on the network—its digital fingerprint.

Through years of experience in real-time apps, we’ve been able to capture, identify, quantify and then react to a whole range of activities. The same is also true for the emerging world of the IoT (Internet of Things) and the explosion in connected devices. Through the innovative use of Avaya Breeze™, we’re able to blend the worlds of infrastructure and apps, keeping a watchful eye on everything that passes through the network, and when something does catch our eye, having the ability to react, in real-time, to circumvent that anomaly.

The Avaya capability plugs the gaps that so many hackers exploit, and through our use of innovative technologies, we allow the network infrastructure to support the business in a dynamic, elastic, and secure manner, giving business the agility to use what it needs, when it wants to, and where it wants to use it.

IP Office Leads the Way: How Doubling Down in One Product Area Can Drive Best Practices

Just over a month ago, we released the latest version of Avaya IP Office, one of the most popular SMB/MM UC systems on the market today. Over the past year, we’ve doubled the number of partners who are offering IP Office as a cloud deployment and have now shipped more than half a million systems globally—but this kind of success didn’t come overnight.

We’ve evolved Avaya IP Office a long way over the years, growing the product from something geared towards the SMB space (typically 100 users and below) to something that can scale all the way up to the midmarket, serving up to 3,000 users. Adding this scale to the product was extremely important because as our customers and partners grow, we can now grow right along with them. It also opens up the potential market served by the product.

Evolving with Our Customers and Partners

At Avaya, we have two groups of people to keep happy—our end users and our channel partners—and both want to make long-term investments in a communications solution and trusted business partner. That’s why, instead of concentrating on multiple product lines, we’re focused on continually enhancing Avaya IP Office with new features and capabilities, such as the new release 10, which adds a number benefits for businesses in terms of security, resiliency and end-user experience.

Our partners are happy with this approach because their salespeople now only need to know one single product, making it easier to sell, manage and configure the technology for a wide range of businesses (anywhere from a 10-person to 3,000-person company). And our customers are thrilled because as they expand and evolve, they have a flexible, scalable communications solution that can still meet their every need.

Businesses can even expand the solution into a simple and robust multi-channel call center. With IP Office Contact Center or Avaya Contact Center Select, companies can integrate voice, e-mail, and web chat channels, and proactively manage the entire customer interaction lifecycle. They can start at their own pace with one channel such as voice, for example, and add other channels such as e-mail as business objectives evolve. In June, Avaya also announced a highly affordable, simple-to-deploy workforce optimization solution that enables a wide range of insights into the customer experience, allowing midsize businesses to create the most value through every customer interaction.

Providing Investment Protection

While many businesses are aware of cloud, not everyone wants it right now. Because Avaya IP Office is offered as a cloud, hybrid cloud, or premises based deployment, businesses can move to the cloud at a more measured pace—adding new features and capabilities from the cloud as they become available or needed, and leveraging the investment they have in a premises deployment.

For instance, a business could start with an IP Office solution today on premises, and then migrate to cloud or hybrid cloud in a year or even five years from now—and all the features and training they’ve given to employees will stay exactly the same because the end-user experience will be the same.

Providing further investment protection, Avaya even allows customers running on old Nortel technology to seamlessly move their user licenses to IP Office at minimal cost.

A Relentless Focus on Quality

Doubling down in one product area has also allowed Avaya to put a premium on quality. Today, Avaya’s Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a measure of the willingness of a customer to recommend a company’s products or services to others—hovers around 58, which is considered excellent in almost any industry. The Net Promoter Score for IP Office has been over 70 for the last several quarters.

This sky-high NPS is all the more impressive when you consider Avaya IP Office is for small 10-user customers and larger 3,000-user customers. This ability to meet high- and low-end needs is pretty unique in the industry, and is only achievable because of the company’s relentless focus on quality and features.

Always striving to understand the needs of our customers, we’re constantly adding new enhancements to IP Office. Leveraging much of the knowledge and experience we learned at the enterprise-level with Avaya Aura, we continue to add usability and resiliency to IP Office. In fact, the latest version of the platform features built-in signaling and media encryption for endpoints and UC clients, helping preserve privacy and data integrity. This increase in security is especially significant to the midmarket, where the number of attacks reported by midsize companies increased 64% between 2013 and 2014, according to the 2015 global survey report.

Beyond other pure cloud deployments, the latest version of IP Office also takes a unique approach to resilience, providing system failover cloud to cloud, cloud to premises, premises to cloud, and premises to premises, keeping your system active and users connected through any outage.

Moving forward, we’ll continue to add enhancements to Avaya IP Office, relentlessly driving quality and features for our growing list of customers and partners.

Heads in the Cloud: Digital Natives and Unified Communications

Millennial—a four-syllable word that may as well be a four-letter one. Millennials are polarizing, and everyone seems to have an opinion about Gen Y, especially when it comes to the workplace.

For many 20- and 30-somethings in the workforce, an unfortunate reality is a stigma around their generation—a disdain for their unwillingness to cope with the status quo of conventional workplace policies. But with that comes the realization that the guard has changed, and they now make up a majority of the workforce, driving the future of their chosen industries.

Young workers are driving a paradigm shift in the working world, putting a greater emphasis on work-life balance and striving for career advancement, with an unprecedented willingness to jump ship from a current position to find something that better suits their needs and goals. Companies need to be able to court and retain the best of the digital native generation, making adjustments to suit the employees of the future.

As a proud member of Gen Y, I can say that the technology and services available in the workplace are some of the most important factors to me, and I’m not alone. I’m part of a contingent of employees that have more than just our heads in the cloud and having access to our work anywhere and everywhere is vital. In a survey conducted by, 84% of Gen Y-ers polled said they would prefer to work remotely full time. While that may not be realistic in every situation, there’s no doubt that the workplace is becoming more mobile, and productivity is not limited to a desk in an office building. Cloud-enabled unified communications and collaboration tools are the new wave, and something that Avaya excels at.

It’s for this reason that I’m happy—even proud—to work for Avaya. They see the way technology in the workplace is moving, and continue to make it easier for companies to go through digital transformations, moving smoothly into the future. And I, like many Avayans, can speak to the quality of our products and solutions first hand.

I use Avaya solutions just about every day of my life to collaborate and get my work done, from wherever and whenever I need to. I’m still amazed at how fluidly and effortlessly I can communicate with colleagues from around the world, from any device. While it’s nice to disconnect from the working world temporarily, it’s also immensely comforting to know that through Avaya technology, I can be face to face with anyone I need to talk to in a matter of minutes.

Effective communication is important in our mobile world. My generation of digital natives comes predisposed to being connected with one another effortlessly and near constantly. Having the right unified communications technology in place to facilitate fully formed and engaging collaboration experiences is vital, and something that Avaya can do for a business of any size in any industry.

This generation of employees does not want work to be easy; rather we want it to be easier to get work done. Having technology in place that allows people to maintain flexibility in their lives while still producing quality work is a necessary step for any business that wants to retain young talent and maximize results.