Teleworking with Cisco Virtual Office: What’s New
In my last blog I described how Cisco employees have adopted teleworking, using either a software VPN client, or a hardware VPN solution called Cisco Virtual Office (CVO). Cisco employees who telework on a regular basis prefer CVO over software VPN because the connection tends to be more stable and Cisco Virtual Office saves them the trouble of constantly logging back in. In addition, CVO provides QoS (quality of service) for voice and video which is critical to a high quality audio and video experience.
The preference for CVO is reflected in the fact that our employees who use the software VPN client work a little over 1 day per week from home while the 21,000 employees who use CVO report that they telework an average 2.5 days per week.
The difference is attributable to the additional features CVO provides. In essence CVO creates an office environment at home, providing wired and wireless network connections, a dedicated office telephone and recently high def video. We bundle Cisco Unified IP Phones with Cisco Virtual Office. The IP Phone acts exactly like our office phones and can ring both in a client’s cubical (if they still have one) and in their home office. As mentioned, this solution supports QoS for voice, which is critical when you’re on a conference call. QoS only works with a hardware phone though, it doesn’t work for softphone.
Recently Cisco has been providing CVO for our Contact Center agents who frequently work from home. Cisco is also using the same technology with a few additional services for small offices (under 10 employees), to avoid the cost of a dedicated WAN link.
When we first started our telework program in 2005, the Cisco Virtual Office setup included the Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) 831 in 2005. In 2007 we switched to the Cisco ISR 871, which has the QoS feature to provide enterprise-class voice.
In June 2010 we upgraded to the Cisco ISR 890 series for three primary reasons:
- HD video: Video is becoming the norm for internal Cisco conversations. The ISR 871 supports 4Mbps upstream speeds—more than adequate for 720p video, but short of the 6Mbps needed for 1080p life-like video. The Cisco ISR 890 supports 20Mbps upstream speeds. That’s more than enough for those using Cisco TelePresence systems at home, not to mention the many of us who use HD cameras.
- Power over Ethernet: PoE topped the list of requests from Cisco teleworkers. Now we only need only one power outlet in our home office for the router, integrated access point, and IP phone.
- Even better wireless: Down the road we hope to provide more flexibility on our wireless offering capability – delivering multiple wireless access points for different purposes from the same router.
If people have a concern about telework, it’s that they can feel isolated at times. The feedback we’ve received is that adding video to interactions helps people feel more connected. My manager it typical in that he likes 1:1 video calls on a regular basis and encourages team members to turn on video for Cisco WebEx conferences.
I predict that we will see even more video when people start using the Cisco Unified IP Phone 9900, which has its own built-in camera. Of course, people can also use their built-in laptop cameras, but video delivered over the phone instead of the PC a little easier to use, you don’t even have to have your PC turned on.
To give an idea of how popular the new gear is, at the time of writing we have 1500 Cisco Virtual Office kits on back order, and that’s without any internal promotions.