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Cisco Unified Communications migration strategy and checklist

IR Media

Written by IR Media

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No matter what the size of your enterprise, more and more organizations are choosing Cisco as their preferred platform for integrated unified communications (UC), collaboration, video conferencing and contact center solutions. Cisco is undoubtedly one of the biggest players in the UC arena, not only in the United States, but worldwide - with the firepower to provide complete communications solutions on site or in the cloud.

Whether your organization is considering a complete Cisco unified communications migration, or an extension or upgrade of your current setup, this guide highlights critical areas to address along your journey, proven tactics to successfully manage the transition and a strategic migration assurance checklist.

Any change or update to your organization’s infrastructure may involve a major investment of money, time and resources. It’s important to know why you’re doing it and what you’re hoping to achieve.

Before you start, ask yourself some basic questions. Are you:

  • Replacing an aging system?
  • Implementing additional functionality?
  • Looking to implement the productivity gains that Cisco provides?
  • Investing to gain financial savings?
  • Taking advantage of the Cisco Flex Licensing opportunity to test the water in the cloud?

Answering these questions will help you start a plan, identify stakeholders and determine how to measure success.

It’s also important to remember that all IT projects involve three key components; people, process and technology.

People

The people aspect is too often neglected; however, it's usually the people who are going to make or break the project. Your Cisco migration may give your employees and other users access to a whole array of new UC elements, information and services, but the vast majority of these new services and their benefits will be invisible unless you educate your users about new capabilities. Communicate to your people early and often, clearly articulating the vision, to get their buy-in and make them feel like active participants in the process.

To publicize your new solution, the management model that helps people come to terms with individual and organizational change - the ADKAR approach - has been proven to work well:

  • Awareness: Familiarizing users with the system
  • Desire: Explaining why the migration is important to them
  • Knowledge: Providing training programs and information, reference guides and support to users.
  • Ability: Acknowledging new skill sets
  • Reinforcement: Realizing that your communications may not reach everyone the first time and periodically offering support through proactive management application and reminders.

Process

Assuming you've already created a migration team, assemble and manage them to start planning the migration initiative. Create your planning checklist using a governance model constructed around your key tracks such as project management, change management, communication etc.

Technology

A successful cloud migration strategy involves a migration tool designed to automate and streamline the transfer of data. Choosing which migration tool is best will depend on price, functionality and compatibility.

Download a PDF copy of the Cisco Cloud Migration Checklist

So let's get down to your new Cisco cloud migration checklist. This guide provides information on migration planning and execution based on the 4 phases of the migration lifecycle:

01: Understanding Your Environment

02: The Migration

03: Ensuring Stability (on-going monitoring)

04: Run State

  • Pre-migration testing & assessment
  • Scoping the migration
  • Track migration & monitor performance
  • Train users and track adoption
  • Analyze & remediate
  • Rapid & predictive troubleshooting
  • Measuring usage & ROI

01: Understanding Your Environment

Before you start, it is imperative to understand your current UC ecosystem, network quality and capacity. Stress testing critical components will help ensure compliance with quality and performance, as well as aligning key business drivers and system requirements. After all, gathering as much information as possible will always allow the best outcomes.

Pre-migration testing and assessment – test technical deployment and network architecture:

There's an old adage in carpentry circles that says you should 'measure twice and cut once'. This principle makes good sense, and applies equally to migrating your workloads to the cloud. If you don't measure the efficacy of an application before your transition, then you may end up wasting precious time, resources and money. So bearing this in mind, here are some steps to undertake:

  • Check the health of your network.
  • Check network connectivity.
  • Note the tools and resources you require to set up a test environment.
  • Document the tools and techniques you use to ensure the proper assessment and provisioning of the underlying network.
  • Take baseline measurements of existing usage prior to deploying new Cisco UC, Collaboration and Video Conferencing platform.
  • Assess whether the test environment is scalable to test larger or more complex deployments.
  • Record the existing systems (e.g. ticketing, monitoring, etc.) that will need to be updated or reconfigured for your new Cisco UC ecosystem.
  • Plan back-ups of all databases impacted by migration.
  • Ensure that you have the necessary license files for the new release.
  • Use the Prognosis license report to monitor the Cisco licenses in use, relinquish any licenses you are paying for, but not using or new licenses you may have to purchase. The Cisco Collaboration Flex Plan bundles licenses, maintenance and support into a single management solution while offering flexible terms and payment options.

TIP: there may be a massive cost saving to be made here!

  • Utilize an end-to-end testing solution to pinpoint weaknesses in network and infrastructure.

Scoping the migration:

  • Plan migration in phases or controls groups, rolling out smaller locations before moving critical functionalities/departments to new Cisco platform. Apply lessons learned to each new phase.
  • Determine whether you want to deploy new end-point hardware – phones, headsets, video conferencing devices, etc.
  • Check that the software version you are upgrading from is running on virtual machine.
  • Determine whether you need to update the virtual machine configuration.
  • Identify whether you can upgrade or migrate directly from your current installed version, or whether you need to upgrade or migrate to an intermediate version before proceeding.
  • Identify the type of deployment you have – on-premise, hosted, managed service, private or public cloud, or hybrid.
  • Utilize the Cisco suggested upgrade documentation based on the needs of your deployment and the recommended upgrade or migration method.
  • Verify whether your existing servers or network services the requirements of the release you are migrating to. If it doesn’t (or if you are changing vendors) move your deployment to a supported hardware platform.
  • Leverage multi-vendor, network and UC performance management, monitoring and troubleshooting tools with end-to-end visibility to ensure success of your migration.
  • Build in the potential for future transitions. Perhaps 'huddle rooms' are just what you need today, but down the track you may find that it isn't providing the services you require, and you want to try something different.

02: The Migration

When migrating or upgrading, it is vital to have a robust Cisco monitoring and troubleshooting solution in place to give you the migration assurance to mitigate risk. Third party monitoring tools, like Prognosis, can help manage this process by providing end-to-end visibility and ongoing support for your new and legacy UC ecosystem and simplify troubleshooting during these transitions.

Track migration success and monitor performance:

  • Use pre-migration discovery findings to ensure minimal impact to end-user during transition.
  • Check connectivity of all systems to CUCM – including IM and Presence.
  • Collect configuration and login information.
  • Record the registered device count, number of assigned users and key parameters.
  • Export user records.
  • If your organization is deploying a hybrid environment, determine whether the on-premises equipment (SBC’s, video equipment, etc.) will operate smoothly with your managed or hosted service provider.
  • Ensure you have end-to-end visibility to quickly diagnose voice or video quality problems.
  • Define your success criteria (e.g. call quality, user-experience, timing, cost, etc.).
  • Perform regular and ongoing testing to confirm that you are delivering on quality expectations and meeting internal service level requirements.
  • Have a clear understanding of the features and services available in your geographic region (e.g. PSTN calling plans and availability).
  • Deploy and turn-up new UC platforms – hardware, applications, databases, end-point devices, etc.
  • Verify critical services are up and running, then begin validating all other connected applications are operational and have migrated to new platform.

Train users and track adoption:

  • Ensure all departments are receiving training from your internal IT team.
  • Determine how will you track adoption and usage patterns in your environment.
  • From a licensing perspective, allocate the right mix of features and functions for each type of user.
  • Track whether users have the information they need to adopt new Cisco UC features and applications.
  • On the other hand, don’t give users excessive features or information that they won't be needing.
  • Throughout the migration journey, communicate clearly to users about what changes they will experience (e.g. lost/added features).
  • Ensure your plan has realistic expectations that are aligned with your desired outcome. Have reporting available to track usage, user experience, performance and utilization of new Cisco UC, collaboration and video conference platform and end-points.

03: Ensuring Stability (on-going monitoring)

Once you have deployed your new technology, the key to long-term success is to provide ongoing support to end-users. Make sure you have systems in place to continue to refine tools and processes, and gauge progress as time goes on.

Analyze and remediate:

  • Determine your support model now that your organization has deployed the solution and users have migrated to the new Cisco UC platform.
  • Put in place a dependable and efficient method of identifying and correcting failures, monitoring services or enabling features for users.
  • Continue to refine processes for monitoring and managing your environment.
  • Evaluate the ability to leverage APIs to integrate UC platforms into business process applications?
  • Ensure you can troubleshoot issues reported by the users effectively and easily.
  • Set threshold alerts to preemptively avoid costly service outages.
  • Establish reporting information that provides an understanding of your calling patterns to ensure you are meeting SLAs.
  • If you chose a hybrid environment, understand your on-premises infrastructure and how it relates to your cloud providers, so you can monitor performance in real-time.
  • Have clear demarcation points of UC environment component ownership to ensure success and speed any issue resolution (e.g. internal IT, UC provider, and telecommunications provider).

Rapid and predictive troubleshooting:

Teams managing a Cisco or multi-vendor deployment should be able to identify where issues are occurring and have the ability to drill down to the root cause. Contextual data on any issues, provided by a performance management tool empowers teams and provides the information they need to quickly troubleshoot those issues.  Knowing that a problem exists is only the first step. The contextual data shows why a particular router is down, or why a certain SBC dropped a call, or explains the reason for poor video quality during a conferencing call.

It's the use of this data that gives L0 and L1 engineers the power to troubleshoot less complex issues, while freeing up L2, L3 and L4 engineers to focus on more critical issues and business transformation initiatives. So the key takeaway here is to:

  • Have adequate support staff or help available to answer questions and provide Cisco UC troubleshooting capabilities.
  • Before problems arise, ensure you have the tools set in place to allow you to quickly pinpoint and resolve issues including privacy, security, device failure etc.
  • Have a performance monitoring solution that will enable you to pre-emptively avoid costly outages by providing alerts before problems occur.
  • Get tools in place to monitor, report and troubleshoot all aspects of the Cisco UC ecosystem to optimize overall performance.

04: Run State

The main point of moving to the cloud is business transformation, but it may be difficult to see where savings can be made, or what additional costs have been incurred. As with any project undertaken in a business environment, it's important to have information that supports ROI as a measure of success.

Migrating to the cloud is like any other business investment, but one difference is that the cost is usually based monthly, rather than outlaying a high capital expenditure. This may suit some businesses, but may not suit others. As well as the 'actual costs', such as migration and transition, extra training, investment in additional IT staff or running extra back-up costs there are also some intangibles to consider. Customer satisfaction for example may be difficult to measure, as well as the additional business flexibility that accrues to the business. So the key takeaways here are:

  • Adopt a lateral thinking attitude, and consider the hidden costs and benefits - not just the obvious ones.
  • Set utilization and adoption reporting strategies, using a tool that provides complete visibility across your entire UC ecosystem and network infrastructure.
  • Determine if you were able to successfully and effectively manage costs during the migration to Cisco UC platform.
  • Track your return on investment (ROI) to determine if you realized the ROI expectations made during your initial forecasts.

Optimizing the new solution

Once the transition is complete and your new network is running smoothly, effective management and optimization should be a continuing focus.

Deploying new services or applications can create issues. The rapid growth of the 'work from home' culture and the increase in mobile users and devices can gradually cause performance problems.

Even if your technology platform is running at peak efficiency, you may still have a user adoption issue, so allow for periodic assessments and reviews as part of your maintenance plan.

The benefits and challenges of migrating to the cloud with Cisco

Now that we've presented our Cisco cloud migration checklist, let's check off some of the obvious benefits and challenges.

Benefits

At its most basic level, the cloud's strength lies in its flexible infrastructure. Advantages include, but are not limited to:

  • Decreased hosting costs. Moving your workloads to the cloud means you don't have to worry about the costs and conditions of physical servers. Third-party data centers manage the servers, cutting down costs of capital expenditure.
  • Agility and scalability. CIOs tend to rank operational flexibility as a main reason for cloud adoption. Cloud based services allow a high level of collaboration and automatically scale capacity to fluctuating demand. This can give businesses an increased competitive edge.
  • Decreased footprint. Server capacities scale up and down to fit your cloud requirements, meaning you use less resources and energy. It could even mean reducing the number of physical data centers, or doing away with them altogether.
  • Disaster recovery. With the implementation of superior backup and recovery solutions, the cloud is helping reduce cost and time for businesses.
  • Security. The cloud offers better security than data centers by storing sensitive data centrally. With regular updates and vigilance, the cloud keeps out unwanted traffic and reduces the risk of threat.

Challenges

Smooth application migration can present problems for IT departments. Even after finding the right cloud provider, the migration process can present a set of risks.

  • Data loss. During the move, your data is at its most vulnerable. Scenarios include loss, or the risk of breach. This is why cloud security controls like app encryption and privileged access management is critical.
  • Downtime. Migration may involve taking in-house servers offline for a time. Outages can negatively affect application performance and consequently customer loyalty if not properly backed up.
  • Interoperability. Getting your existing applications to communicate efficiently with new cloud environments can be challenging, and it could mean adapting your processes to those of your cloud provider.
  • Resource management. Trust is often an issue with IT professionals when considering cloud migration. Those familiar with managing physical servers will need re-education on new infrastructures, and sometimes cloud transition means new IT management roles that transform the way businesses operate.

Conclusion

So with the checklist complete and the pros and cons carefully weighed, a successful cloud migration depends on planning, testing, monitoring and troubleshooting. Ideally, you should be able to see an entire set of scenarios from a single pane of glass.

IR has had a long standing alliance with Cisco teams for many years, supporting, monitoring and troubleshooting all Cisco applications. IR Prognosis supports Cisco communications solutions for enterprises, branches, service providers and in the cloud to ensure you can deliver the very best management experience.


Download a PDF copy of the Cisco Cloud Migration Checklist

Topics: UCaaS management Voice system testing Real-time monitoring Cisco

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