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Cisco Spark Review: Flexible Collaboration for Virtual and Physical Spaces

August 2, 2017 | Telepresence Options

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Story and images by CommsTrader

Read our Cisco Spark team collaboration review

Understanding of the role communications technology can play in business has undergone a shift in recent years. A combination of mobility, multi-modal platforms and devices capable of delivering all forms of communication under a single pane of glass has led to the realisation that comms need no longer be just about keeping people in touch. UC can actually play a pivotal role in how people work together.

Enter team collaboration tools.

Collaboration platforms - software which allows users to share files over distance, to discuss and make changes in real time, to schedule and organise around a shared set of desktop tools - have been around for some time. It could be argued that video conferencing is a type of collaboration platform. Typically, these tools have been tagged on as added extras to UC suites..

But as interest in collaboration has developed, we have seen the emergence of standalone team collaboration solutions. In terms of the functions available, they are not dissimilar from standard UC suites - it's often just a matter of emphasis. Team collaboration focuses on everyone working in the same space, with close integration of tools. They are often built around IM, as the quickest and most convenient way for dispersed groups to interact, with one-click access to voice, video, conferencing and file sharing.

Cisco Spark is a typical example, a cloud-based hosted collaboration service which ticks all of the above boxes. But with Cisco Spark, Cisco also aimed to take the concept a stage further, delving into the realm of what it calls 'continuous workstreams'. In a nutshell, the concept is this - instead of just focusing on providing virtual shared workspaces for dispersed workforces and distant colleagues, what about enabling and enhancing physical, face-to-face collaboration, too?

The continuous workstream Cisco talks about is therefore a single unified approach which links all devices people may work on in a single cloud-based space. Whether you are working on a whiteboard in a meeting room or holding a conference call with overseas colleagues, Cisco Spark saves everything in the same place, creating easy to navigate histories and records accessible to everyone who needs them

In this review, we will take a closer look at the potential advantages of bringing the virtual world of collaboration back to the real world. Please remember, CommsTrader is a completely independent service and does not endorse or promote any particular products.

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What can it do

Cisco Spark is a cloud-based service built around a series of communication and collaboration apps. A key feature of the service is the deep integration of all of these tools - whether you want to make a call, send an IM, share a file or start a meeting, everything is done from the same place, with all users sharing the same interface and the same network. Cisco Spark is therefore marketed as offering a complete collaboration experience, with no need for extras or add-ons.

Cisco Spark's various features can be grouped into three core functions:

  • Meetings: Cisco Spark provides a ready-to-go platform for HD video and audio conferencing, from any device. Documents can be shared or created collaboratively, and saved with versioning history. The intention is to make it as easy as possible to organise, prepare for, host and then review contents from meetings, whether they are virtual, physical or a mix of both. Content and discussion threads can be accessed in real time to grab information from different sources during meetings, and it is equally easy to review, follow up and distribute action points afterwards
  • Messaging: Cisco Spark includes an enterprise-class IM engine which supports unlimited group and private messaging, file sharing and straightforward directory search for finding contacts to message
  • Voice: Cisco designed Cisco Spark to be fully compatible with Cisco Unified Communications telephony and call management solutions. Existing Unified Communications Manager, Business Edition 6000 and 7000, and Hosted Collaboration Solution customers can access all of the benefits and features of these systems while making voice calls from within Cisco Spark

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