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NaaS, UCaaS give IT leader flexibility

Paul Czarapata, VP and CIO of the multi-campus Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS), says adaptability is the best approach when it comes to meeting the needs of students, faculty, visitors, and internal IT staff.  

Czarapata oversees all IT systems for the state-run higher education system that includes 16 different colleges and over 500 buildings. 

KCTCS began partnering with CBTS in 2003. Today, CBTS operates the KCTCS Unified Communications solution, as well as a wireless Network as a Service (NaaS) solution with Cisco Aironet access points that provides WiFi at all campuses, and access to a virtual data center containing 26 servers. 

The CIO also manages an internal IT staff of 35 people, and works closely with IT employees at the individual colleges.  

Employees provide extra expertise across a range of areas, including security, managing SaaS applications such as Office 365 and Salesforce, and keeping the KCTCS ERP system from PeopleSoft up-to-date.   

IT staffers at individual sites, meanwhile, help CBTS manage the UCaaS and NaaS solutions. 

“CBTS is so experienced and has so many clients that they’ve seen it all. They know just what to do with just about every conceivable issue,” Czarapata says. 

Recruiting IT staff 

When it comes to recruiting and retaining high-quality IT staff, “flexibility is the key,” Czarapata says.  

Consequently, Czarapata is flexible when it comes to staff scheduling. Attendance at some activities, such as IT staff meetings, is mandatory.  “But beyond that, it’s OK if someone wants to work from 10-6 instead of 9-5, or to telecommute from home a couple of days a week. Everyone faces their own life issues.”  

As another enticement, all KCTCS employees can take six college courses per year for free. Benefits also include three or four weeks of vacation, two weeks of institutional closing, and a generous retirement program. 

Meeting end users’ IT demands 

Czarapata worked with CBTS to customize the UCaaS and NaaS solutions to meet the IT needs of campus end users.  

Typical features of the CBTS-managed UCaaS solution include Voice over IP, videoconferencing, instant messaging, email, contact center, and enhanced 911. 

In addition to these features, CBTS helped KCTCS integrate a phone-enabled alert system that is capable of sending instant alerts to the 7,500 Cisco IP phones used by staff about any type of emergency.  

The biggest IT challenge for KCTCS is meeting the constantly increasing needs of students, faculty, and guests for WiFi bandwidth, the CIO said. 

The KCTCS system does not include dorms, but students do much of their coursework on campus, and course materials include increasingly bandwidth-intensive videos and other courseware solutions. 

Czarapata worked with CBTS to deploy wireless access points that provide students with WiFi across campus, including parking lots in some cases.  

Solutions will also meet future demands 

The WiFi solution also meets the demand from guests who include everyone from K-12 teachers and local residents using college libraries, to high school students touring campus. 

Soon, members of the state police will take continuing education classes at KCTCS instead of going to the training headquarters in Richmond, KY via streaming video which also requires WiFi access. 

KCTCS is prepared. Czarapata and his IT team worked with CBTS to ensure the WiFi solution can leverage the state Wide Area Network backbone and the local backup provider. 

As Czarapata says, it’s all about flexibility.

To read more about the CBTS-KCTCS partnership, read this case study.


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Creative business people meeting via video conference The ability to run Voice over IP has unleashed a wave of innovative Unified Communications solutions that are delivering value from a mobility, collaboration, and cost perspective to organizations of all sizes.

CBTS, which manages, hosts, or maintains more than 700,000 end points across our suite of Unified Communications solutions, regularly meets with clients to help them understand the advantages of these products, and to tailor specific solutions that will help deliver business outcomes.

Tony King, Solution Lead for CBTS, recently discussed the workplace and technology trends that are moving organizations toward Unified Communications solutions, and the benefits these solutions offer.

What is driving clients toward Unified Communications solutions?

The No. 1 driver is total cost of ownership. That’s what we see from small business all the way to enterprise clients. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) gives them an easy, pay-as-you-go, predictable monthly expense, and the service and equipment refreshes as needed. Unified Communications solutions scale users and applications up or down easily. And Unified Communications solutions allow internal IT organizations to focus on value-added initiatives, as opposed to worrying about running a communications platform.

How is the shift in workplace environments impacting demand for Unified Communications solutions?

A typical office today looks nothing like it did 10 years ago. Everybody used to have a designated cube with a designated phone sitting on their desk. They came in and worked from 8-5. You had a mobile phone, but it was separate from your business phone.

Today, you walk into many offices and there are open areas where people come in and work. Many employees don’t even have a designated work space. And everybody uses their smartphones.

Our solutions have to be centric to that. But we also have to be centric to the fact that each client wants a business identity of some type. Employees are still using phones, but the phone may be in a conference room. Or, the employee may not spend very much time in the office and so they have calls forwarded to their mobile phones. Or, the employee needs the ability to pick up any phone in the office, or their mobile phone, and have the call appear as though it’s being delivered from a single business number.

It all goes back to mobility being in high demand. We need the ability to access information immediately on our mobile devices, whether it’s a business call, e-mail, or another application. And we want to do it from anywhere.

What else do your clients need from their communications platform?

Our clients demand the flexibility that collaboration software brings to the table. A lot of that software is focused on making meetings more efficient. How much productivity is lost when people can’t physically make a meeting on time?

Our suite of Unified Communications solutions meets all of these needs for mobility, efficiency, and collaboration. And, getting back to my first point, our solutions provide significant cost of ownership advantages.

What does total cost of ownership look like for organizations that still manage their own communications platform?

The alternative to a managed Unified Communications solution is going out and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars – or, in the case of an enterprise organization, millions of dollars – on a platform that the client really doesn’t know how to run, and that the client is not familiar with from a technology perspective.

Total cost of ownership also includes staffing. If a client has an aging communications platform, the expertise required to manage that platform at some point becomes difficult to find. So it’s not just the cost of buying the platform, it’s the difficulty of keeping a highly trained, full-time employee on board.

And you have the hamster wheel of life cycle management. You purchase something in Year 1, knowing that you’ll need to upgrade sometime in Years 3-5. By that time, the technology you’re using may very well be out of date.

That brings me back to this question: Do you want your IT organization managing your communications platform, or do you want it focused on initiatives that generate revenue or some other positive outcome for your business?

The needs also must vary with respect to different verticals. How does that inform the CBTS approach?

That’s right. Some retail businesses, for example, are very transactional. Other retail businesses hardly use the phone. An automotive parts retail shop will take a lot of phone calls every day from multiple customers, so they need a platform that facilitates that connectivity. A shoe store, on the other hand, may take one phone call an hour and have different needs.

We also have clients in verticals like healthcare that are experiencing a lot of consolidation. A client might have 10 different PBX vendors because it grew by acquisition, and each site had its own telephony platform. The client might not even know what they have, and come to us for help with managing the current system, and to create a plan that will eventually migrate them to a Unified Communications solution with single pane of glass management.

So understanding business needs – even when those businesses are inside the same vertical, or in a complex vertical like healthcare – is critical and central to the CBTS approach. We have deep experience in delivering Unified Communications solutions, and tailoring those solutions to meet our clients’ specific needs. That ability sets CBTS apart.

Wearable tech helps golfers master game

A golfer takes his shot into the late afternoon sun at Euphoria Golf course in Limpopo South Africa. Regardless of who else is on the green, golfers are always competing with one player in particular: Themselves. And in recent years, wearable technology and devices have helped golfers improve on their last best game.

Devices for golfers interested in “the quantifiable self” have come a long way since they first debuted more than five years ago. Zepp Golf, for example, is a pioneer in helping golfers analyze their swings. Its products have evolved to include on-course performance and provide resources for coaches.

Golden State Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala has been using wearables including Zepp Golf to improve his swing, but as he told SportsTechie last summer, we’re merely scratching the surface of what’s to come in terms of devices that track athlete performance. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP is also a tech investor and avidly watching the wearables market. He sees a lot of opportunity for devices geared toward amateurs.

Several companies offer wearable technology

Companies including Samsung and Garmin are putting their own golf tees in the ground. Garmin, which is known for its GPS devices and fitness trackers, recently unveiled its Approach X10, a wearable for rookie golfers. The company’s new golfing buddy is compatible with its existing golf app, and tells golfers how far they are from the pin on more than 41,000 pre-loaded courses worldwide. Its built-in GPS knows when a golfer has moved to the next hole, and it provides distances to the front, back, and middle of the green, as well as any hazards.

Samsung’s most recent foray into golf metrics is via a partnership with myRoundPro, which tracks performance through the strokes-gained statistical analysis metric that the PGA Tour made popular. The collaboration includes an exclusive myRoundPro app developed with Samsung that provides front, middle, and back yardages to each green. The app records scores and provides a statistical breakdown after each round. Golfers can also assign a club to each shot for more detailed analysis.

Wearables and apps are the primary ways golfers – amateur or professional – currently better understand and improve performance either at the range or over 18 holes, but competition is coming in the form of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). This future may include a wearable that covers your whole body.

Is the wearable full-body suit the future of golf?

An India-based startup is developing what is categorized as a mixed-reality wearable. Kaaya Tech’s full-body HoloSuit tracks the body as it goes through a variety of motions using pants, a jacket, and gloves. The product can create meaningful and accurate simulations by collecting data about how people move.

The HoloSuit tracks and visualizes the movements of the golfer’s swing, and then provides insights into how the golfer can correct inconsistencies and swing problems developed over the years with automated suggestions that are stored in the cloud.

The HoloSuit computer currently learns what to look for and encourages the golfer to meet certain standards. Future simulations will tap the knowledge of a specific trainer that provides more personalized feedback.

Kaaya Tech’s HoloSuit is a sign of what’s to come for sports trackers in general, golf swing analysis in particular, and future PGA competitors.

CBTS helps governments use telehealth technology

Businesswoman showing laptop to doctor in hospital Telehealth and telemedicine aren’t new concepts, but emerging technologies and robust networks mean they can be implemented more easily and effectively.

However, there are still challenges to adoption and effective deployment, especially for government-supported initiatives. Key hurdles include budget constraints, siloed IT departments, and organizational structures that traditionally haven’t had to work together. To solve these problems, governments at all levels, in collaboration with community organizations, are turning to their technology partners.

Tim Lonsway, Regional Director at CBTS, works with many state and regional governments to adopt telehealth and telemedicine technologies. Adoption is growing, but there are still growing pains.

What is the state of telehealth today, and what’s driving it compared with a decade ago?

There’s private healthcare, but there are also hooks all over the place with education, higher education, and then, of course, government activity, because governments have hospitals. They do healthcare activities and health services. There are other opportunities such as addiction services and corrections facilities care for individuals, and even out into rural K-12 schools, where it’s hard to get nurses.

There are federal or state requirements that require a certain amount of capabilities to service the constituents of a given community. It’s exemplified by the fact that the federal government is funding certain programs to implement telehealth solutions into those rural areas to provide some additional help, or even in urban deserts where it’s difficult to attract and maintain a workforce.

What are some of the newer technologies that are helping deliver on these mandates?

It can be as simple as a laptop with a camera, a microphone, and an internet connection. But you still need the software and the software packages behind the scenes. You must document changes because ultimately there are compliance rules. Hospitals do a lot of collaboration and sharing of information, and they leverage a lot for training.

It’s really the ability to use, store, and share anything over a distance. You’re taking your entire hospital capabilities and putting them in the palm of your hand with mobile devices, laptops, and tablets.

Are there still technological challenges given the bandwidth available to remote communities, or do we have all the pieces?

The pieces are there. It’s the distribution of the capabilities that is always going to be a challenge, and the consistencies of the deployments. There are other technologies that may suck away bandwidth from those mission-critical life-saving activities. And then it’s the deployment of the individual technologies. Do the applications feed back properly into the various systems? Did you deploy the technology properly so it’s sustainable and supportable?

And you go into some of these smaller areas with these great ideas, like with K-12s, where you’re putting big kinds of multiple video box, all-in-one monitor, speaker, camera, keyboard, into a school, and the technology just sits there. And then, of course, there’s the quality of the individual implementations once you get out to remote and rural areas.

What are the key challenges for governments looking to support telehealth aside from budget constraints?

The biggest challenge is multiple governments or entities or agencies. Better end user services are different than mental health and addictive services, for example. It’s different than youth corrections facilities or adult corrections facilities. You not only have administrators and policy makers at the top, but your technologists within each of those silos. They all have different challenges and they create their own organizations. There’s lots of overlap. But those are starting to consolidate. It’s about the money, but it’s also about the inefficiencies of how the money gets allocated and distributed to deploy technology.

How are governments looking to technology partners like CBTS to solve these challenges?

The trend away from doing individual siloed work has really been going on for about 10 years, and has gotten a lot of traction over the last five or six years. The IT partner comes in and says, “We’ll take those basic infrastructure services off your plate. We’ll worry about compliance and adoption and availability, security vulnerabilities, bandwidth constraints, computing constraints, resource management, all that stuff. You can focus on the business of treating cases or educating students or whatever it is you might be doing.”

That’s really where the partnerships come together. They help governments focus further upstream and break down those silos.

How beneficial are emerging technologies and “as-a-Service” models for deploying them?

In these environments, they may or may not have an enterprise network. Plain internet connections aren’t secure or robust enough to handle the traffic. The ability to leverage software-defined networks to prioritize the traffic and create what looks like an enterprise network meshes it all together and creates the right environment.

Network-as-a-Service or compute-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service, SD-WAN, even wireless LAN-as-a-service enables organizations to basically create line items on their monthly invoice at a consumption level. You can predict it, you can plan for it, you can budget it. Those types of services are tremendous for government. The adoption of partnerships are there and they’re continuing to expand and grow.

Reds, CBTS partner to leverage NaaS

Network as a Service (NaaS) technology isn’t typically associated with Opening Day and baseball, but with the 2018 season now under way, it’s a great time for us to share details about a technology partnership between CBTS and the Cincinnati Reds.

The Reds are leveraging the CBTS NaaS solution, built on Cisco Meraki technology, to create pop-up networks at each of the team’s minor league facilities and Spring Training facility that are accessible through Meraki’s Auto Virtual Private Network technology.

This technology allows Reds Front Office executives and scouts to watch players in real time at any one of the team’s locations across the United States. In previous years, Reds officials had to wait for videos of players to be transmitted digitally, which is an inefficient, time-consuming and expensive process.

CBTS provides monitoring, management of NaaS

Video conferencing Hosted Enterprise UC

CBTS sourced the necessary Internet connectivity at each Reds location, deployed the solution, and provides 24/7/365 monitoring and management of the network. CBTS’ NaaS solution is secure, flexible, and will scale to meet the team’s future needs.

“MLB is an extremely competitive landscape, and leveraging NaaS technology from CBTS will give the Reds an important edge as we work to develop top talent and scout across our organization,” said Brian Keys, Vice President of Technology at the Cincinnati Reds, in a release announcing the partnership.

Click here to learn more about Network as a Service from CBTS.


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Cities help fans make wireless connection 

When the NCAA Final Four comes to San Antonio this weekend, part of the excitement will be under the stadium seats. That’s where many of the Alamodome’s 750 new wireless access points were installed to ensure that basketball fans have connectivity even at the most intense moments. The connectivity boost is part of a larger, $50 million renovation project, and is designed to improve coverage to accommodate a sellout crowd expected to reach 65,000 people, according to published accounts. 

“We always thought we would improve the WiFi,” Alamodome General Manager Nicholas Langella told MSR. “We took the bull by the horns and got it done.”

Alamodome extends wireless, cellular signals

Upgrading data connectivity is a challenge for many cities hosting major sports events. Earlier this year, Minneapolis focused on improving connectivity citywide in advance of hosting the Super Bowl, which drew as many as 1 million visitors to the city. Minneapolis’ $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium, completed in 2016, features more than $60 million in technology capabilities, according to local media accounts. This technology includes 1,300 wireless access points located on railings and underneath seats, and a DAS that was upgraded for the Super Bowl.  

Woman on cell phone in city

Wireless connectivity not just about stadiums

Two smartphone apps designed for the Vikings and U.S. Bank Stadium provide driving and public transit directions to the stadium, and also help visitors find their seats and amenities using a system similar to turn-by-turn navigation commonly found in cars. These apps are powered by 2,000 Bluetooth beacons that help pinpoint each user’s precise location within the stadium. This technology also helps facilitate in-seat ordering and other services.  

Cities that hold large events are also working to expand connectivity beyond stadiums. Minneapolis, for example, boosted wireless and WiFi capacity at its airport and convention center. Wireless carriers increased capacity to a downtown pedestrian mall near the stadium by adding small cell technology to new bus shelters built for the event. Even the Mall of America, located far from downtown, added 1,200 antennas, 50 miles of cable, and temporary WiFi access points to accommodate the Super Bowl crush, according to published reports. 

Common threads 

Host cities and their stadiums have undertaken common strategies to boost connectivity, including: 

  • Bringing wireless closer to users. Bringing wireless access points closer to users—not on the ceiling or elsewhere in the building – is a key to handling so many connections at once inside stadiums. 
  • Connectivity analyses. It’s critical to identify problem areas for wireless signals that can lead to congestion. Some carriers have even used drones to identify trouble spots within stadiums. 
  • Keeping it neutral. Many DAS investments have been designed as “neutral hosts,” which allows multiple wireless carriers to install their own equipment on the systems, instead of building duplicative ones. 
  • Focusing on the future. Cities, carriers, and stadiums view connectivity investments as part of their economic development efforts that will drive prosperity long after the party’s over. 

“Our city is the Midwest’s premier tech hub and quickly becoming a serious player nationally,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told the Associated Press. “To keep that momentum trucking and continue recruiting top talent, we’ll need a 21st century communication infrastructure — and these investments will help make sure that we have one.” 

CBTS is helping governments leverage Smart City technologies to help improve the customer experience for residents and visitors. To learn more about our expert insights, please click here.


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How retailers keep up with competition

As Jon Lloyd sees it, leveraging UCaaS and SD-WAN technology to meet retail business challenges is a lot like using your athletic skills wisely in competitive sports. Every player has strengths and limitations, and you can’t control what the competition does. However, you can control your own effort, and if you do that, you can win, says Lloyd, who is a senior solution design engineer for CBTS. 

Jon’s been with CBTS for the past six years, designing voice and data systems that help retailers and other businesses of different sizes  gain ground over their rivals by getting ahead of the technology curve. Over the past year, he’s focused on SD-WAN as an alternative to the much more costly and less efficient MPLS. 

To get a solid leg up on the competition, says Jon, C-Suite executives need to take advantage of technology as a tool for fostering better interactions with their customers as well as for improving communications among employees. Here are more of Jon’s thoughts on how technology can help retailers overcome business challenges. 

What kinds of issues do retailers face today? 

In their advertising, retailers have always highlighted their own competitive advantages, whether that’s being the best, the biggest, or the least expensive. Now, however, there’s an increasing push among retailers to emphasize their mobile apps and other aspects of the online experience. I call this the Amazon effect, or ‘Keeping up with the Joneses.’ 

For example, Starbucks a few years back came out with a pioneering mobile app. Dunkin’ Donuts recently followed suit with a huge, six-month advertising blitz for its own new mobile app.  

Today, even a small pizza shop needs an online presence. Restaurants use their web pages to play up promotions like, “buy one pizza, get one free.” Companies like Grubhub work with restaurants of all sizes to provide web-enabled meal delivery. 

How can technology like UCaaS and SD-WAN help retailers?  

With the right call center technology in place, for instance, a small retailer can look like a Fortune 500 corporation, providing an omnichannel experience to customers.  

Through Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) systems, a retailer can receive a fully managed, company-wide network that might include Internet access as well as services such as call centers, VoIP, instant messaging, email, videoconferencing, and data.  

This is all without any upfront capital expense. Retailers pay only for the services they need, on a monthly OpEx basis.  

UCaaS architectures are also highly scalable, enabling companies to quickly add or drop branch locations and apps in keeping with the business climate. 

SD-WAN technology permits easy and affordable any-to-any routing among headquarters and far-flung branch offices, while also letting businesses give priority to any apps they want.  

Why should retailers choose CBTS?  

On the whole, retailers don’t want to be technology nerds. They don’t want to be spending their time counting how many packets are crossing the wires. What they do want is to attract customers who’ll spend money on their goods and services. 

CBTS is not a chef. We don’t know how to whip up delicious meals for hundreds or thousands of guests a night. What we do know is how to support a retailer’s business challenges and brand messaging with technology.  

We have 140 years of experience as a technology innovator, and 20 years as a UCaaS provider. CBTS allows retailers to keep up with – and even to far surpass – the “Joneses,” by offloading the IT portion of the competitive equation and letting retailers concentrate on what they do best – their core businesses.  

To learn  more about how CBTS is helping retailers leverage technology, please click here.

CBTS helps clients drive business outcomes  

CBTS helps clients drive business outcomes through the right technology products and services.

These business outcomes don’t just include financial goals. Healthcare providers, for example, consider providing value-based care a critical business outcome as they move away from volume-based models of care.

Healthcare has experienced massive consolidation over the past decade, a trend that is taxing internal IT resources. CBTS is partnering with several large healthcare organizations that, after growing through a series of mergers and acquisitions, are managing disparate voice technologies across multiple locations.

These organizations need a cost-efficient, holistic solution that meets their current needs, scales for future growth, and gives their internal IT organizations bandwidth to focus on value-added initiatives.

CBTS is there to help drive these specific desired business outcomes.

The Case in Point

CBTS recently implemented a Cisco-based Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution for a major regional healthcare organization with $5.6 billion in assets and 33,000 employees. This organization is the largest healthcare provider in the State of Ohio, and has hospitals and physician offices throughout Ohio and Kentucky.

Ultimately, the client had to replace a mix of outdated PBX systems that it inherited through a series of acquisitions, and move to a single UCaaS solution for all locations. The solution also required improved quality of service (QoS) for voice calling, supporting the quick addition of new properties, meeting compliance requirements, and supporting teleconferencing and other apps that are essential to improving the patient experience.

Business woman and doctor

A Fully Managed Healthcare Solution

CBTS recommended a hosted, fully managed voice solution in this case to support the client’s desired business outcomes and IT resource needs.

With this solution now in place, the rapidly growing healthcare provider can focus its internal IT resources on value-added initiatives while CBTS manages its voice network, which must be available 24x7x365 to support continuous patient care.

CBTS also is managing the client’s migration from legacy PBX to new VoIP systems on a site-to-site basis. Currently, the older equipment and new UCaaS systems are centrally managed from the CBTS Enterprise Network Operations Center (ENOC).

The CBTS solution also supports TelePresence Video Centers now available across acute care facilities throughout the client’s healthcare network for videoconferencing among medical practitioners. After an initial rollout at 50 sites, new units are being added on a gradual basis.

CBTS staff at the ENOC also administers a Cisco Emergency Responder (CER), which works with the Cisco phone system to enhance 911 calling. CER is designed to ensure calls are routed to the correct Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for the caller’s location, and that emergency calls are returned if necessary. The emergency response system also tracks phone locations.

A number of integration points are included in the network for easy addition of third-party healthcare apps.

People Power, Too

Engineering expertise is necessary to fully leverage this innovative technology.  CBTS deployed two dozen employees to the client’s network sites – including project managers, design architects, and implementation and design engineers – along with approximately 40 professional consultants specializing in various aspects of this project.

This is what we mean when we say CBTS helps our clients drive business outcomes.

CBTS has extensive experience working with multi-site health care organizations on their voice application needs. Want to learn more about this ongoing healthcare IT initiative? Read the case study here.

CBTS offers broad expertise across practices

The IT professionals at CBTS have broad expertise across multiple practices: Communications, Cloud Services, Infrastructure Solutions, and Consulting Services. This allows CBTS to engineer and implement solutions that are tailored to meet customer needs.  

CBTS clients include Fortune 20 and Forbes Global 2000 companies. We serve organizations in all verticals, including Education, where we recently demonstrated our broad expertise and customized approach with client Morehead State University (MSU).  

MSU serves nearly 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 41 states and 31 countries, and operates a main campus and regional campuses throughout eastern Kentucky. MSU engaged CBTS while moving to a universal communications infrastructure that integrates voice, video, and data. The solution also reduces costs across MSU’s five branches. 

MSU invested in a cloud-enabled collaborative communications system from Cisco, which CBTS fully manages.  

Lower Costs for Voice Calling  

The new solution allowed MSU to move from an antiquated analog PBX system into the Hosted Enterprise Unified Communications (UC) solution from CBTS, which features a utility based pricing model and consistent experience across MSU’s footprint. The solution includes 1,500 Cisco handsets with charges billed per phone on a monthly basis, which creates a predictable pricing model. 

This solution is also driving more collaboration and greater productivity among MSU’s faculty and other staff.  

Woman at computer

Additional Collaborative Tools 

Hosted Enterprise UC from CBTS features a full suite of unified communication apps from Cisco, including telephony, messaging, softphone, instant messaging (IM) and presence, video, conferencing, and more.  

CBTS also incorporated a centralized SIP trunking system for MSU, which provides a secure digital PBX environment. Other components include a call manager and call centers. CBTS provided all network design, installation, training, and monitoring for the unified cloud infrastructure, and handles remote monitoring and management. 

MSU is just one example of how we have broad expertise throughout the IT landscape.  There are many more examples like this with other technologies such as cloud, consulting and infrastructure. 

Want to discover more about the fully managed networks at MSU? Read the case study here. 


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Why is SD-WAN Critical to Your IT Strategy

Part 1 – Legacy WANs are Complex. 

Historically, WANs (Wide Area Networks) are complex. In a distributed enterprise with multiple locations, you had to invest in dedicated MPLS circuits to connect all sites together.  Even then, you weren’t able to get the bandwidth necessary to truly meet the needs of your business.  For example, you’d have to purchase a T1 at all of your branch locations from your service provider for the MPLS connectivity.  That provider would then place a router at the edge of your network, which you do not have access to, route all traffic back to a head end.

In this type of deployment, you had one primary goal:  Give me a private, dedicated circuit to connect to my head end that has consistent quality and reliability to ensure by business does not suffer.

MPLS was a great solution at the time because the transition to the cloud really hadn’t started.  All of your compute (servers, etc), was still on premise, as were your applications and storage.  You HAD to connect back to a head end, so what better way than MPLS?

To meet this goal, you HAD to invest in this technology.  First off, lower cost bandwidth was nowhere near as reliable and you certainly couldn’t get quantity of bandwidth that is readily available today.  A simple cost/benefit analysis would prove that this just wasn’t an option.

The downside of the MPLS investment is two-fold:  1. Lack of bandwidth speed, and not easily scalable.  2. Lack of visibility.  Sure, you’re getting better quality and reliability – no argument there; however, you can’t truly see what’s happening across the MPLS network, you can’t guarantee control of your applications, and you have no real mechanism to hold your MPLS provider accountable if they are not meeting their SLA.

Part 2 – Movement to the Cloud. 

As the 2010s came around, there has been a historic shift to “Cloud Services”.  It’s almost cliché to a point, but it’s true.  There is such a large shift in cloud investments, that keeping services on premise is becoming a rarity.  For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are making on premise compute and data centers essentially obsolete.  They make it so easy to spin up and migrate data centers to the cloud  that businesses are able to become more nimble than ever before.  The same rings true for phone systems.  You used to have to invest in a large phone system that would sit in a telecom closet somewhere in your facility.  If your building lost power, you were done.  Now, if you buy an on premise phone system you are in the minority.  Cloud Phone Systems give you so much more flexibility and features than an on-premise ever would.

Those two are the low hanging fruit, but let’s not forget about Software-as-a-Service.  The days of keeping local servers for applications such as email, customer relationship management, billing, etc. are long gone.  You can now move almost any application to the cloud to give you much better flexibility, quality, and reliability than ever before  The list goes on and on: Storage, Security, are just a couple of more examples.

This movement to the cloud has two HUGE implications if a business is still running on a legacy WAN.  1. Not enough bandwidth to support the demand of cloud applications.  2. Can’t guarantee quality and reliability to cloud-hosted applications outside of your existing WAN.

Part 3 – SD-WAN, Another Cloud Service

I mentioned in the last paragraph about all of the services moving to the cloud.  Why does the network have to be any different?  It doesn’t.  This is where SD-WAN comes in.  SD-WAN, by Industry Terms is:

The software-defined wide area network (SDWAN) is a specific application of software-defined networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections, which are used to connect enterprise networks – including branch offices and data centers – over large geographic distances.

In the MPLS days, as you are designing the network, you talk in terms of “What kind of bandwidth do I need at the branch location to connect back into my head end”, but there isn’t really a lot of talk around business outcomes.  That conversation changes with SD-WAN, where we start talking about Outcome-Based Networking. 

When we talk about Outcome Based Networking with our clients, we start asking about what applications are critical to your business in order for you to be successful.  Thus, what outcomes do you need from your WAN to make you succeed?

Learn more about SD-WAN from CBTS.


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First things first: What is SD-WAN?

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