Three Skills to Take Your Azure Game To the Next Level

Microsoft Azure is quickly becoming a standard in modern IT. Many IT professionals now rely on cloud computing services instead of purchasing, implementing, and maintaining their own infrastructures for compute and storage. Azure is one of the most prominent solutions for both infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service, trailing only Amazon Web Services in most surveys of the largest cloud platforms in terms of revenue, market share and total users.
Azure is more than a single product. It is a collection related services. Azure Stack is a system that allows you to run Azure on-premises in the privacy of a company’s data center. Azure IoT Hub is designed for monitoring the many sensors and devices that make up the Internet of Things.
It can be overwhelming to try and master or even specialize within Azure at first. The Azure ecosystem is so vast and varied. AWS is more popular than Azure, so Azure is not the only IaaS/PaaS platform many IT professionals have to learn. There are some areas of Azure that are particularly useful for building skills that will be valuable in the job market. New Horizons Computer Learning Centers offers special Azure courses for AWS specialists.
What Azure skills should I focus on? These three skills are especially useful today:
1. Azure SQL Database
Azure SQL Database is often marketed as a cloud-based database, or database-as-a-service. These terms refer to the fact that the underlying infrastructure of Azure SQL Database is managed by Microsoft at its facilities rather than by the customer. This arrangement is ideal for app developers as it minimizes capital expenditures and allows them to be flexible with expenses and scalability.
SQL Database is adaptive. This means that it adapts to the development patterns of each individual user and optimizes its performance. If you work for a software-as-a-service provider, SQL Database is also a reliable tool for isolating, managing and securing the application instances of every individual customer in a complex multi-tenant environment.
Microsoft recently expanded its Azure database offerings to attract more developers. The company launched the Cosmos Database, a NoSQL database, which is perfect for “planet-scale” apps, programs that need to reach users in multiple places around the globe. It also introduced PostgreSQL and MySQL services, as well as an updated SQL Database called Managed Instances that allows for data migration to the Azure cloud.
2. Azure Bot Services
Chatbots have been a hot topic within consumer-facing tech since years past. Microsoft, Facebook, and other companies are exploring the possibility of having these automated chatbots assist with everything, from customer service requests to online payment processing. TheMicrosoft Bot Framework had 130,000 developers as of May 2017. This is an increase from 45,000 in September 2016.
Bots can be published to apps like Skype for Business, Bing search engine, and Cortana virtual assistant. They can seamlessly integrate with third-party services. These bots can be managed seamlessly from Azure Cloud via Azure Bot Services.
Like applications, bots also benefit from the scalable storage and tight security that comes with a cloud platform like Azure. Azure Bot Services offers pay-as you-go plans, automatic scaling, security patching, and templates that make it easier to create new bots.
3. Azure Active Directory
Integrating the new services with existing infrastructures on-premises, especially those that govern identities, is one of the biggest challenges in Azure deployments. Businesses are increasingly turning to hybrid and public cloud for cost-effective, flexible IT operations. However, many organizations cannot abandon the systems they have in place.
Integration is one of the biggest challenges in Azure deployments.
This is a common problem. Active Directory Domain Services is used to manage all user, computer and application identities within the corporate security perimeter. This Active Directory version is usually hosted on-premises. It is not available for use with the increasing number of applications hosted in the cloud. This can cause latency problems as requests must traverse different infrastructures before they are approved or denied.
Azure Active Directory is the answer to these performance problems. It can be used as a replica of your existing on-prem directory with all the same objects, identities, and permissions. Any changes made locally will be reflected in the cloud, but not vice versa. Azure AD Connect handles integration. Alternative to this system is to create a virtual machine in Azure that runs Active Directory Domain Services. This may include a virtual private network, Azure ExpressRoute service, or a virtual private network.
New Horizons Computer Learning Centers invites you to dive into Azure
We’ve only scratched the surface on what Azure has to offer. There are many other services available in Microsoft’s cloud. New ones (such as those additional databases we mentioned earlier) are constantly being added. Find a New Horizons Computer Learning Center in your area today, whether you are an AWS expert who wants to learn Azure or a complete beginner to IaaS/PaaS.

Three Reasons Hackers Have the Advantage

Hacker’s are not a problem that only a small percentage of the population must deal with. Hackers are a real threat that both countries as well as companies need to combat. It is crucial to recognize why hackers are so successful in order to combat them. Let’s take a look at the reasons hackers have the upper hand.
1. Society hasn’t had the time to adapt
Although technology has been a major driver for cultural change in the past, the internet revolution has changed the face of technology. This development has not only changed the way that almost every part of society functions but it has also exploded onto the international stage at an alarmingly rapid pace.
“The internet revolution has changed the world.”
The internet has evolved from a tool used by a small percentage of the population to one that is widely used by almost every industry and business in the world. It has been around 25 years since its birth. This has brought many great benefits to people, but it also means that companies and nations haven’t had enough time for adequate defense.
Yahoo! published a recent interview. Yahoo! Finance posted a recent interview in which David Petraeus, ex-CIA director, discussed cyberattacks and the development of nuclear weapons. These technologies were only available to Russia and the United States for a long time. This led to a terrifying cold war but it also allowed for gradual policy changes that made the world a better place. The idea of nuclear war was accepted by society, and nations were able create strategies and defenses against it.
Cyberattacks are a different story. They can be directed against entire countries or single businesses. IT professionals can recall a time when the idea of an average person owning a personal computer at their home was absurd. This idea was quickly realized by companies, who were quick to put their services online to make more money. They were also met with hacking attempts that continue to this day.
One hacker can adapt to modern technology faster than an entire society or company.
2. Hackers need to be successful once
Similar to the previous point, modern businesses must always be on guard. Hackers are not like the enemies of yesterday. Hackers can attack anywhere and at any time, for any reason. They can also fail. Hackers can fail, but they can always move on to the next victim.
Hackers don’t have much to lose, unless they get caught, which is rare. The criminal can just shrug off a phishing attack on a company or close a vulnerability before he can exploit it.
Unfortunately, companies don’t have this luxury. A company’s cybersecurity team must be constantly looking for weak points and closing them down before they are discovered. A hacker can easily take over an entire company’s IT infrastructure by making a single mistake. It’s a terrifying thought that modern companies must deal with every day.
3. There aren’t enough good guys
The world needs cybersecurity professionals who are willing to take on criminals who exploit weak defenses for their own gain. These professionals are well-paid because they have to succeed every single time. Despite this, there aren’t enough of them to go around.
Both the government and private sectors are in desperate need of cybersecurity talent. Cybersecurity Ventures conducted a study and predicted that the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs would reach 1.5 million by 2019. This is a frightening prospect, but it’s also a sign that hackers will be more accessible. However, this shortage shows that anyone who is interested in this field has a bright future.
Although it is not an easy field, cybersecurity can be extremely rewarding both financially and morally. New Horizons Computer Learning Centers offers a variety of courses for IT professionals interested in a career as a digital security professional.

Three Reasons to Improve Your Mobile Device Management Skills

Mobile Device Management (MDM), has become a necessity for organizations over the past decade. It is easy to see why this shift has occurred: smartphones, tablets, wearables, and mobile device management (MDM) have become a part of the work experience and play a greater role than the traditional staples of yesteryear (e.g. personal digital assistants, pagers and BlackBerry phones).
A look at the MDM landscape. Billions of new devices need management
These fundamental changes in the business office culture have seen MDM solutions market size expand rapidly. ResearchandMarkets stated that MDM solutions represented a $2.81 billion market in 2018 and could grow to $7.86 billion by 2023. This would be a more than 22 per cent compound annual growth rate during this time period.
These numbers are realistic considering that the average digital consumer already owns 3.64 connected devices according to Global Web Index. Strategy Analytics also predicted that 33 billion connected devices would be available by 2020, which is an average of 4.3 devices per person. In 2007, PCs accounted for two-thirds of all internet-capable devices. However, they now account to less than 10%. This demonstrates the shift towards mobile and the Internet of Things.
It is the right time to refresh and build your MDM (or EMM, for Enterprise Mobility Management) skills. This term has become more popular in recent years. Here are three reasons you should learn more about the top platforms in this space such as Citrix XenMobile and VMware AirWatch.
1. Protect your network against malware and data exfiltration
Protecting the corporate network against unauthorized devices and apps, which could introduce malware or facilitate data theft, is an essential capability of any MDM/EMM solution. Any tool that is worth its salt must balance data protection and ease-of-use for end users. AirWatch is one example of how this sweet spot can be achieved.
AirWatch allows single sign-on and multifactor authentication for web, cloud and native applications.Conditions such as device compliance, user location and authentication strength can be accounted for when granting or denying conditional access.Access can be easily and automatically revoked by administrators if an employee leaves the organization or a compliance policy is violated.An identity-defined app catalog ensures that the proper applications are delivered to the right people.Platforms such as AirWatch help streamline the complex tasks of MDM/EMM. IT professionals can easily advance their careers by learning the basics of AirWatch and the rest of VMware.
2. Remote offices and workers can be supported
Many companies are now open to remote work and want to take advantage of its potential benefits for employee retention and real property costs. IT administrators face some challenges when trying to support employees from home or at branch offices.
Virtual private networks, remote desktops, and virtualization are all tools that can be used to secure company applications. MDM/EMM is an important addition to this arsenal of security tools. It simplifies and enhances the use mobile devices from any location. Administrators can rest easy knowing that only approved endpoints will be allowed to access the corporate network.
3. The entire organization can simplify IT administration
The ideal MDM/EMM solution is wirelessly implemented. It can then be scaled to accommodate many more devices and services later on. AirWatch’s name, for example, reflects its role as an OTA platform MDM/EEM. It is also part of an open ecosystem because it integrates with other services like Dropbox, Microsoft Office 365, and ServiceNow.
Get your MDM/EMM skills sharpened at a New Horizons Career Development Solutions
A broad knowledge base in relevant technologies from Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware is necessary to master MDM/EMM for today’s mobile device landscape. This knowledge and expertise can be acquired at your local New Horizons Career Development Solutionscampus. We offer a variety of technical courses in MDM/EMM. Find out more today to start a new career path.

Three Reasons IT professionals should embrace Citrix XenApp & XenDesktop

Citrix XenApp, and its cousin Citrix XenDesktop, are both useful platforms for desktop and application virtualization. If done correctly, virtualization can bring significant benefits to an organization. This includes cost reductions in IT operations and greater flexibility in supporting remote employees. It also allows for easier access to desktops and apps in Linux-based environments. Citrix’s Xen team can be a great resource for IT professionals, both current and aspiring. Let’s look at three of the most compelling reasons to embrace XenApp or XenDesktop.
1. Virtual desktop infrastructure can be simplified with a simpler approach
Virtual desktop infrastructure is essential for delivering Linux and Microsoft Windows desktops anywhere users are located. It is however susceptible to many problems, including high hardware requirements and poor performance during “boot storms,” which occur when virtually every remote employee has access to VDI simultaneously.
XenApp makes VDI easier. One XenApp virtual or physical server can host hundreds upon hundreds of VDI sessions. Each user is isolated even though infrastructures are shared among the group. Traditional VDI, on the other hand, requires many more servers because each user has their own resources.
“XenApp makes VDI straightforward.”
2. Synergy with multiple Microsoft services and products
Office 365 and Windows 10 are the core of modern enterprises. They provide the familiar features and integrations that allow employees to be productive. XenApp, XenDesktop and XenDesktop allow organizations to get more out of their Microsoft solutions. Skype for Business (formerly Lync), can be virtualized using XenApp or XenDesktop. This essentially combines it with VDI. This setup makes Skype for Business a viable replacement for traditional PBX phone systems. It also provides a better user experience. Citrix is the only field-proven solution for Skype for Business, co-developed with Microsoft. XenApp, XenDesktop and XenDesktop are also available to accelerate the migration from Windows 10 to Citrix. Virtualizing apps allows you to run them from a central location instead of each endpoint. This helps to minimize compatibility issues that could otherwise slow you down.

3. Linux access is easier
Linux is a popular platform in many industries, including finance. However, securing access from multiple devices is a common problem when using Linux apps and desktops. XenApp/XenDesktop eliminate this problem by allowing Linux and Windows apps to be managed from a single console. These assets are accessible more easily by non-Linux devices, which makes it easier for them to access. It also requires less infrastructure investment.
Master XenApp & XenDesktop in New Horizons Computer Learning Centers
Are you ready for more information about XenApp or XenDesktop New Horizons offers technical courses and Citrix certifications that will help you build a rewarding career in desktop and app virtualization.

3 Reasons Cloud Migrations Failed and What You Can Do About it

Many companies have taken the migration process of cloud computing as a given, with more and more companies using it. Moving multiple apps and services to a cloud environment can be difficult, especially since every cloud is different. Every cloud migration is unique because major vendors like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all offer their own ecosystems. Companies cannot afford to take a cloud migration as a given. Instead, they must plan carefully and train their staff to deal with any potential challenges.
Cloud migrations can be difficult. According to an InfoWorld report, cloud migration failures are actually on the rise. According to InfoWorld, this rise was apparent in an Innotas report and stems from the fact that many businesses who have just moved an app or data set to cloud computing are still doing it for the first time. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a cloud migration for the first time or if you’re taking on a challenging project, it is important to understand the main reasons cloud initiatives fail. These are the three most important reasons why cloud initiatives fail.
Problem 1: Rushing into projectsInfoWorld noted that many organizations send IT professionals to rush into cloud migrations, creating unrealistic timelines and excessive pressure. The cloud can be a great tool for IT operations acceleration, but there are still many things to consider and manage, especially when it comes to a first-time migration of an app or system.
Network World also agreed with this sentiment, pointing out that organizations can get ahead of themselves by being too urgent. Sometimes a business may get so excited about the cloud that they rush to migrate the entire business. Projects can stagnate because teams don’t feel comfortable with the cloud or don’t have enough time to fully understand its implications before migrating mission-critical systems.
The solution:Organizations can take a two-pronged approach to avoid rushing in their transition to the cloud. The first step is to train IT professionals about the cloud ecosystem you are moving into. If you need to port a database to a Microsoft cloud, look for Microsoft-certified training programs. Then, develop your staff. Project management training can help leaders understand how to set expectations and manage time effectively.
Problem 2: Neglecting communication. The consumerization of IT has created a situation where non-tech users can roll out cloud services when they need them. Network World reported that shadow IT is a growing problem. Companies need to open communication channels between the business and IT teams. Many times, migration efforts fail due to a lack of clear expectations from executives. IT cannot adequately specify project requirements and IT can’t give clear business goals.
This is the solution: This is a problem that requires strong project management skills. A skilled project manager can act as a mediator between business leaders and IT leaders, helping to understand the needs and challenges of each group and ensure that the cloud migration is focused on the right priorities.
Problem 3: Insufficient support for staff. Working in the cloud presents new and different challenges to businesses than working in traditional IT environments. Network World stated that many companies neglect to invest in the necessary support systems and tools when moving to the cloud. IT training, discussions about business goals, and a clear understanding of the cloud service model stack are crucial to properly support the IT team in moving systems into the cloud.
The solution: ITtraining programs that cover a wide range can be a big help in moving to cloud computing. A holistic staff training strategy, in which employees are given the task of gaining expertise in specific but relevant areas, can help to provide the broad departmental knowledge necessary to manage a move to cloud.
Although investments in professional training won’t guarantee success, they can help improve your staff’s ability to handle any issues that may arise. New Horizons can help you, whether you’re an IT professional looking for a cloud-focused job, or an executive looking to train your staff.

3 Network Virtualization Updates 2017 You Need to Know

Service providers such as ISPs and mobile operators are rapidly embracing network virtualization. According to SNS Research, their investments into software-defined networking (and network functions virtualization) – two of the key building blocks of virtualization – are expected to grow at a 46 percent compound annual rate between 2016-2020. These additional dollars will be used to upgrade content delivery networks, customer premises equipment, and other critical infrastructures.
Network virtualization is gaining more attention
The TechTarget IT Priorities Survey found similar momentum in network virtualization among its 192 responses by network professionals.
49% of respondents reported that their IT budgets increased in 2017 by at least 10%. 49% of respondents reported an increase in their IT budgets year-over-year. This is a sign that organizations are moving away from legacy network infrastructures, which rely heavily upon specific hardware and firmware. We need to understand the components of virtualization, namely SDN or NFV, in order to see the impact of this transition.
SDN
SDN is the separation of control and forwarding planes within a network. This means that the network’s decisions are made by centralized software and not directly linked with the hardware.
NFV
NFV is a similar concept but it focuses on virtualizing network functions like firewalling, network address translation, and domain name services. These virtualized functions can run in software and be chained together to support a service-provider network without needing to navigate differences between different network appliances.
Three developments in network virtualization
Let’s take a look at the trends and facts that are being discussed so far this year for network virtualization.
1. UPDATES TO CISCO DIGITAL NETWORK ARCHITECTURE
Cisco Digital Network Architecture is a broad platform which integrates network virtualization and automation with security. Cisco announced several software and hardware updates to its platform in March 2017. These included a branch office NFV device (theEnterprise Net Compute System 5400 Series), as well as new security segmentation technology. Cisco DNA will remain an important source of network virtualization advancements.
2. VMWARE NSX – THE SPREAD OF VMWARE
VMware, a company synonymous with virtualization, bought Nicira, a SDN vendor, in 2014 for $1.3 billion. The company is on track to recoup its investment three years later. It expects $1 billion in revenue this year from its NSX platform. NSX was built on technologies developed at Nicira. According to IHS Markit, the market for network virtualization systems will grow significantly over the next few years, from $2.7 billion in 2015, to $15.5 billion by 2020. SDN and NFV also help to streamline corporate networks, allowing for greater productivity.

3. INNOVATIONS IN OPTICAL-NETWORKING TECHNOLOGIES
Optical networking is an essential component of today’s IP networks. We are looking for new technologies in this area to keep up with the demand for SDN/NFV as well as consumer-facing services like 4Kvideo and Social Media. In order to spread network virtualization, specific innovations like super-channeling in Dense Wavelength Division Multixing and hybrid Raman EDFA deployments on long haul networks will be key assets.
Are you ready for a career as a network virtualizer?
Network virtualization is a complicated beast that requires highly skilled IT professionals who are able to understand its benefits, tradeoffs, and technical requirements. Cisco certification is a great place to start due to its centrality to the SDN and NFV movements. Find a New Horizons Computer Center near to you and learn more about Cisco courses.

Three Essential Office 365 Skills Everybody Should Have

Modern office productivity requires many technological tools. Employers expect employees to be able to complete their work quickly and effectively. This has led to employers searching for individuals with specific skills that revolve around popular business platforms. Microsoft Office 365 is the most popular of all these.
This is because it’s simple to learn, hard to master, and has a depth that’s hard for anyone to match in the current market. IDC found that Microsoft Office skills were fourth most important attributes a candidate should have when entering a job interview. These skills even outperformed integrity and creativity.
This suite of products is vast and varied, so it can be difficult to know where to begin or what you need. We’ve compiled a list of the most important Office 365 skills that modern workers can have to help them on their path to better career opportunities.
“Excel is widely used in a variety of industries.”

1. Excel IF statements
Excel is a common tool for anyone who works with numbers in their job. Excel is used in many industries because it works. Microsoft spent many years developing Excel into the versatile tool that it is today. One of the most important functions of Excel is the IF statement.
These features allow you program in a response that will occur when a cell or group of cells behaves in a certain way. Imagine that you are a teacher and want to create a spreadsheet listing your students’ grades. Column A contains their names and column B their grades on a particular test. To quickly glance down the rightmost column, you will need to see who passed and who failed. Below a 65 percent mark, it is a failure. The IF statement should look something like this:
=IF(B1<65, "Fail", "Pass") To extend this feature to the rest the class, click on the square at bottom right of your original IF statement. Drag it down to the end of the list. This feature is ideal for those who have conditional reactions to the data they deal with. 2. Track changes and make comments in Word Collaboration is an important part of the work world, especially when creating written documents. Microsoft understands how important it is to work in a team, so they have added a commenting function in Word. Click the Review tab when you receive a Word document to review. You will now see a New Comment option. All you need to do to add a comment is highlight the appropriate section and click on the New Comment button. The comment you have written will appear in a red box right next to the original article. The highlighted section will also be red. You can also choose to track the words you have added with the Track Changes option. This option is located under the Review tab. It allows you to add words that are brightly colored to a document. This allows you to add sentences to your coworker's review, without them having to go through the entire article looking for your addition. 3. Microsoft Outlook Keyboard Shortcuts Computer experts will tell you that efficiency is all about keeping your fingers on the keyboard. Moving to the mouse is a waste of time and distracts you from the task at hand. You can make the most of Outlook by using keystrokes. The list of shortcuts Microsoft has created goes beyond the scope of this article. Although you can access the entire site of Microsoft, we have provided a list below of the most important ones. New Message:Alt+ H, N1, 1Reply to:Alt+ H, R. PReply all?Alt+ H, R. AInsert file :Alt+ N, A, FGoto search box:Ctrl+ ECreate contact:Ctrl+ Shift+ CGet certified and really get in the water Office 365 offers many tools that can be used to increase productivity. To fully take advantage of the platform's many features, you will need to learn more. You can learn more about how a more detailed approach can help your career by taking the Office 365 certification course offered by New Horizons Computer Learning Group.

Three Common Office 365 Management Problems that an IT Certification Can Help You Solve

Microsoft Windows and Office 365 are the cornerstones of productivity in thousands of U.S. organizations. Windows has been the dominant desktop operating systems for many years, while Office 365 is the most popular suite of applications for everything from managing expenses via Excel to editing corporate copy in Word.
Microsoft 365: The changes to Windows and Office
It’s not surprising that these two office staples were combined into a new cloud subscription package, Microsoft 365. One Microsoft vice president called it “a fundamental shift” in the way the company views its software strategy.
Microsoft 365’s value lies in the way it consolidates management of many essential business services under one umbrella. This arrangement has clear benefits for security (e.g. easier updating across devices) as well as collaboration (a unified set application across the organization).
Its new technical design and redesigned business model highlight some of the challenges associated with administering older versions of Windows 10 and Office 365. Inexperienced IT departments may find it difficult to manage these platforms due to their complexity and the numerous cyberattacks they are vulnerable to. Here are some things to be aware of:
1. A proper data recovery strategy is not in place
Windows-based systems were vulnerable to malware like WannaCry ransomware, which spread around the globe in May 2017. Although the threat was quickly contained and a patch was issued by Microsoft, the incident highlighted a serious risk to many Office 365 implementations: not having any recourse in case essential data becomes unavailable.
Barracuda Networks found that two-thirds (63%) of Office 365 administrators use Recycle Bin to retrieve data. This is not a good idea. Data from the Recycle Bin cannot be recovered if it is accidentally deleted. It also expires after a certain time. This is only applicable to situations where you need to recover data from applications like OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange.
Many administrators also fail to test data recovery mechanisms on an ongoing basis. However, many admins need to support recovery at multiple locations. This is partly why Microsoft 365 has a unified management architecture. Administrators need a consistent and reliable strategy to make critical data available to multiple devices, services, and branch offices.
2. It is difficult to defend against advanced cyberattacks
Cybercriminals are attracted to Microsoft’s platforms because of their popularity. Skyhigh Networks researchers discovered a string of brute force attacks on enterprise Office 365 accounts in addition to the WannaCry attack we mentioned earlier, which targeted Windows PCs.
This incident involved multiple attempts to gain access to sensitive information held in one company’s Office 365 implementation.
The attack was finally detected and contained in the shortest time possible. It was nevertheless representative of the wide range of security challenges, e.g. access control issues, advanced persistent threat, etc. – Office 365. Microsoft 365 is known for its “built in, intelligent security” capabilities that protect corporate information from being stolen.
3. It takes a long time for essential data to be migrated
Office 365 is a well-known Microsoft product, but it was only able to surpass traditionally licensed Office in terms of revenue in mid 2017. It is easy to understand why on-premises Office continues to be so popular. This is because it allows for a high degree control for enterprises.
The transition from Office 365 to this form of Office can be difficult. First, it is important to consider the quality of the organization’s network connection. In some cases, it may take longer than expected.
There are also potential problems with authentication and identity management. Azure Active Directory, for example, is not the same as the older Active Directory.
Learn Office 365 from New Horizons Computer Learning Centers to Get a Better Knowledge
These are just a few of the many challenges you will face. To overcome them, you need to be well-trained in Microsoft platforms and CompTIA Security+ certifications. These credentials can be obtained at your nearest New Horizons. Also, make sure to check out our webinars page for tips on finding a job in today’s market.

2Ring: How to Affordablely Integrate Your Apps with Cisco Contact Center

Guest blog alert! We are thrilled to have Michael Grebac, Strategic Sales & Marketing Manager from our partner at2Ringjoin us today in the blogosphere to talk about “How To Affordably Integrate Applications with Cisco Contact Centers.”
Michalhas gave hundreds of live WebEx demonstrations on Cisco Finesse with 2Ring Gadgets, and received valuable feedback from thousands upon thousands of contact center directors and supervisors.
This blog post provides a practical and easy to understand introduction to integrating CRM, Service Desk or any other line-of-business applications with Cisco Contact Centers. It also enables automation for supervisors and agents.
2Ring, a Cisco Partner Preferred Solution Partner, has been providing value for contact centers around the world for nearly 20 years. The 2Ring Gadgets to Cisco Finesse are already being used by hundreds upon thousands of supervisors and agents around the world. 2Ring was awarded the Cisco award for the best agent desktop tool in 2018. Click here to learn more. Cisco’s price list includes support and solutions for 2Ring.
Integrations were expensive and only offered limited benefits.

Since the release of Cisco Finesse’s first version in 2011, integration of 3rdparty apps (CRM, Service Desk and …)) has been a hot topic. 2Ring was involved with the first deployment of Cisco Finesse in Europe shortly after Finesse was released. Back then, integrations were expensive and businesses were interested. The benefits were usually limited to a screen-pop of the basic CRM screen based on a phone number. Only large contact centers were able integrate their CRM with their contact centers.
But, a lot has happened since then…
Major CRM players such as Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, ServiceNow, and Microsoft Dynamics have made significant improvements to their APIs. Combine powerful APIs with pre-created Integration Options that are part 2Ring Gadgets Cisco Finesse, and run this combo in modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Edge-Chromium, or Edge-Chromium to unlock a powerful set integration capabilities. These older release notesGadgets4.3 – Ad-hoc Integrations provide more details. Cisco Finesse 10.5 with Salesforce.UI embedded in 2Ring Browser Gadget
Cisco Finesse 12.5 with Cisco Finesse 2Ring Gadgets 5.1Why Integrate
Integrating can reduce handle times and improve customer and employee satisfaction. Agents can verify who they are speaking with, authenticate callers, then create tickets or service requests automatically. This reduces handle time significantly and improves customer and employee satisfaction. The agent’s handle time is reduced by anywhere from $788 to $1051 per year (40 calls per days, $14 an hour, and a 1.3-loaded payroll cost). This means that even small and medium-sized call centers (50 to 75 employees) can have advanced features that improve customer and employee satisfaction. You can also get a Return On Investment (ROI), in USD, in 12 to 24 month.

Why 2Ring?
2Ring bridges the gap between bespoke and out-of-the box solutions. It allows you to easily assemble building blocks and standardize out-of-the box integrations for Salesforce, ServiceNow MS Dynamics & SugarCRM.
2Ring can improve the agent experience even with standard integrations. 2Ring can build simplified input forms for CRM/ITSM systems that allow the user to stay in Finesse almost all the time. However, custom integrations can be costly. 2Ring’s integration uses existing APIs and points to backend databases. This greatly reduces the integration effort. Most custom or bespoke integrations take 48 hours to implement.
Flexibility
Cisco Finesse uses a team-based configuration. This allows each contact center team to decide how integration and automation should be done. 2Ring can deliver different sets Cisco Finesse gadgets to you and allow for different behaviors depending on your requirements.
Cisco Finesse – Each team can choose which Gadgets and the configuration. Gadgets may present different options for agents, and supervisors may have different options.
Which app should your users use?
There are two ways to bridge the gap between Cisco Contact Center, a CRM or Service Desk software.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of each.
Approach A: Live and breathe in the CRM
One approach is to live only within the CRM/Service Desk habitat. This involves integrating Cisco’s agent state as well as call control into a CRM’s user interface. This is often a costly solution as agents are forced to use a UI that is not tailored to their needs. It also results in slower screen loading times. Agents in contact centers are often overwhelmed with information they don’t need, as well as lacking the information they want – agent, queue, team performance data, agent schedules and alerts.
Salesforce integration with Cisco Finesse. An Agent is using Salesforce Console Mode while on a call. An Agent is on a call and using Salesforce Console Mode.

In 2020, Upskilling will be a corporate responsibility

Corporate responsibility is shifting away from pleasing shareholders to enhancing the skills of stakeholders. The signs have been there since the beginning. McKinsey & Company’s report found that the majority believe the system is failing and that current leaders lack credibility. People are more afraid of job loss than ever. According to the report, 59% fear losing their job due to lack of training and skills. This is more than the fear of job losses due to automation (55%), or trade policies and tariffs harming the company (57%). It shouldn’t surprise that people are concerned about their own health. What can a company do now to help?
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Corporate Responsibility in the 2010s
You must first look back at the history of how we got to where we are today in order to develop a successful business strategy for 2020. This graphic is from a Merrill Lynch Thematic Investing Report (Nov 2019). We see paradigm shifts as we move into the next decade. In the next 10 years, we will see more change than in the past 100 years.

As you can see many of the paradigms that were popularized in the 2010s have proven to be successful, for better and worse. These are some strategies that we used to maximize our business’ profits.
Globalization
In the 2010s, the free movement of capital, goods and labor around the globe was a huge success. Fortune praised these businesses as being more “global” than ever at the height of the decade. We are now witnessing waves of rejections of globalization all over the globe. According to the Merrill Lynch Report, we have reached peak globalization.
More than ever, localization is a key factor in our businesses, our economies and our Google searches. The data shows that people are not afraid of losing their jobs due to governmental policies that they don’t have control over. They are concerned because they believe their leaders don’t believe they are qualified for the job. People are saying, “Take care of me!” as these sentiments are becoming more common.
Humans
As artificial intelligence takes over, the human power that was essential to certain tasks in 2010s will no longer be required. Robotic Process Automation is already available in government spaces through the DOD’s Joint AI Center. But I didn’t want to link ad nauseam all the reports about AI taking jobs, so I began to think about the 2020s solution in this new paradigm.
Amazon, a world leader in robotic process automation, has committed to upskilling 100,000 U.S. workers for in-demand jobs by 2025. Industry Week reported that Tesla’s Elon Musk admitted that the delays in manufacturing were partly due to a heavy reliance upon robotic automation. He said that Tesla’s excessive automation was a mistake. “Humans are underrated. This complex network of conveyor belts was our nightmare. It wasn’t working.
It will not be robots and human beings in the 2020s, but successful businesses will find ways to have both robots as well as humans. Capgemini’s report shows that upskilling workers can save $1.2 billion over three years. While robots and automation pose a threat to certain jobs, many companies are beginning to recognize the social responsibility of taking care of their workers.
Shareholders
The 1980s were the era when companies’ low stock prices made them vulnerable to takeovers. The new focus of directors and executives on profits and share prices was what followed. The rise in short-term trading and quarterly investment returns as well as quarterly earnings saw the corporate responsibility of the company shift towards pleasing shareholders.
A group of 200 chief executives from around 200 companies discussed how shareholder value is not everything. The paradigm shifts towards stakeholders.
My Top 2 Executive Lessons From 2010
Upskilling Stakeholders
Who are the stakeholders?
Your company’s stakeholders are society. Leaders must incorporate the concerns of society into their business strategy. Leaders and employers, you must consider the long-term consequences of your decisions. If you believe that customers drive value, you might consider rethinking your purpose and societal impact. Employees are what make or break the customer experience.
“Society demands that all companies, public and private, serve a common purpose.” Every company must not only show financial performance but also demonstrate how it contributes to society in order to prosper over time. January 2018, Larry Fink, CEO BlackRock
Your company’s talent pool is sourced from society. This talent pool will have an impact on your business and your customers.
How can you make stakeholders happy?
In the 2010s, companies did an amazing job of returning shareholders’ money. The ones that provide returns to stakeholders will win. Upskilling is key to satisfying your stakeholders and ultimately your business’ success.
What percentage of your budget goes to training? Training your employees is more than just training customers. Have you ever asked your employees if they feel at risk because of a lack of skills? How many of your employees fall within this category? How many of your coworkers are in this same bucket?
Bill Blase, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, AT&T, stated back in March 2018 that “it’s important companies, at the top level, engage and retrain employees rather than constantly going on the streets to hire.”
Why can’t every company let employees take any class they want within a budget? Why should it be job-related? This is not the 1900s. It’s not common for people to do the same job over and over again. You could hire someone who is extremely passionate about your next strategic need.