At the 2018 Collaboration Summit, Cisco announced the convergence of Cisco Spark and Webex to become Cisco Webex Teams, and will go into effect June 2018. This means Webex Teams is now the primary Cisco brand for cloud-based modern team collaboration, file sharing, screen sharing, white boarding, meetings and much more.
While on the surface it might appear as though this is a simple re-brand, Cisco showcased there is a lot more under the hood. The keynote speakers at the event revealed a number of new products, tools and features to back it up. The end goal? Continuous teamwork, and better connection between co-workers, teams, clients, and customers (and tackle Microsoft Teams and Slack head-on).
How does Cisco Webex Teams work?
From June, Spark meetings will be Webex meetings and they will have one set of features: roster, meeting controls, PSTN connectivity, etc. You will be able to join Spark meetings from the Webex app. Previously there was Spark app for Spark meeting and Webex app for the Webex meeting; now it's simplified to just one place. Jonathan Rosenberg's exact words are: “Spark Meetings are dead. Long live Webex meetings.”
Spark and Webex will join their meeting capabilities using the Webex IP network. The meetings servers will be in public cloud and Cisco data centers with the Webex backbone interconnecting them both. There are three advantages to this: customers will get better quality, lower latency and because the webex backbone was purpose built for video meetings – Spark customers should see a marked difference in video performance.
Spark Calling will now become Webex Calling, with PSTN dial-in/out powered by Broadsoft. You can expect this to expand in the future. Finally, Spark Boards and Room Kit will become… you guessed it: Webex Boards and Room Kits.
Spark's hybrid media service has also got a facelift in the form of Cisco Video Mesh. This service delivers hybrid video connections from premise and cloud connected video devices. Now you really can simplify teamwork. Through screen sharing, everyone can see across every platform when a file has been shared and work on it together.
What's New with Cisco Webex Teams
Cisco have a new AI voice assistant. To be honest I get excited about anything AI, but to see it being rolled out for large B2B environments is a big deal. The Webex voice assistant will allow you to control dial-in, volume control, mute functions and more. Best of all; it's launching in May.
Share hardware device – this is something I can really get onboard with. The official line on it is: a palm-sized device that can plug into any TV or monitor to turn it into a wireless presentation screen via the Webex app, greatly improving the end user experience.
You can get the Webex Teams download for your computer, mobile device, or web browser for a seamless online user experience. Pair your app to a Webex device, such as the Webex Board, to do things like wirelessly control meetings. You can install it on multiple devices and switch between them hassle-free because the app automatically knows which device you're using. It makes content management easy because everything is stored in the cloud.
Webex Teams solves previous security issues, arising from guest accounts and accidental or deliberate sharing of company information. All Webex Teams users reside in a single, shared cloud instance, and each has a single account. There are no guest accounts. B2B collaboration is built in, so users can work with everyone, both inside and outside of the company, from the same application, without asking their IT guy for help. Companies can ensure that participants in their teams don’t share confidential information outside of the company, and if they do, it can be detected and remediated. Webex is the industry’s first Team Collaboration solution to deliver secure multicompany collaboration.
Is Cisco Webex Teams free?
Depending on what size business or budget, or what you'll be primarily using Webex Teams for - there's support for all users.
The free version allows:
- Unlimited team messaging
- Webex Teams video meetings for up to 3 users
- File sharing
- Making or receiving SIP calls
The added benefits of the paid version:
- Hosting larger video meetings for up to 200 participants (depending on subscription)
- Full control over who is invited to the meeting, as well as other moderator functions
- More enterprise level features including access to analytics and metrics
- More security features
What Won't Change with Webex Teams
Much of the underlying Webex infrastructure won't change. As indicated in the what's different section – it's mostly around what will be different for Spark, not necessarily Webex.
The Cisco Flex licensing plan enables per user pricing for cloud or premise solutions and this will still allow for use of cloud and/or premise collaboration and calling technology for users within the same organization.
Low brand awareness of Spark is touted as one of the big reasons for driving the change, understandably if there were very few people knowing or talking about Spark it's hard to compete against the media machines of Microsoft and the “cool” collaboration/UC disrupters Slack. Cisco needed to make a big change to gain attention. Leveraging the existing and well known Webex brand was a natural choice. All round, this is a positive move for Cisco and as part of the Cisco Global Price List, through the Cisco SolutionsPlus program, we welcome this change.