Want to know how to start using Spark? it’s FREE and useful – lets meet in Spark

Cisco spark is a great and useful cloud collaboration tool that integrates Messaging, Calling and Meeting features very nicely. Shortly in this post I will be sharing interesting features that I think you can begin leveraging at work. I will also show a sneak peak of things that you can start using right of the box.

How do I get started with Cisco Spark?

The first thing you are going to do is register with Cisco Spark, its FREE, follow this link Cisco Spark
spark_1

By entering your email the Spark system will send you a confirmation just to make sure you confirm you are who you say you are, and also to create your account, next you will enter your password.

Now its time for you to become familiar with the interface

Teams & Rooms? what’s up with that?

When I started using Spark I could not find too much use of because I thought it was just another IM client, however this gives you the ability to create different groups were you can section different places to interact with different people.

Teams

This concept is very easy and I will do my best to not confuse you too much; You create a team to add all your co-workers to it. This will then allow you to interact with one another by sending messages, sharing documents, or creating Meetings.

Rooms

Rooms are instances that exist inside a Team. In my case my team is all the Engineers in South Florida; now we have a group of that Team that only talks UC and Collaboration… so we created a Room were we only talk about UC and Collaboration. If you ask me is a way of segmenting your team into smaller pieces, but more freely is acting as a way to other Engineers to get involved into specific conversations about different technologies.

The Teams + Rooms idea has an interesting concept that is important to mention. If a user is part of a Team, he then can choose which teams to Join, this gives access to anybody in the Team level to have access to any room inside such Team.

Now lets say you want to invite someone just to a Room? you could add that person just to the room and he/she/it (I will show you why “it” shortly) will then have access just to that room.

The main Question Security

So as mentioned at the begining, this is a cloud solution… now wait a minute, what happens to all the messages and stuff that I share with my team? – is that visible from the internet? –> Here is what Cisco says about this:

One of the key benefits to enterprises consuming cloud services is the ability to leverage value-added features and functionality as quickly as the cloud service provider can deploy them. But for many cloud providers, “adding value” often means having full access to user data and content. For collaboration applications, most cloud providers directly access message, call, and meeting content in order to offer features like message search, content transcoding, or integration with third-party applications. Conversely, modern consumer collaboration services tend to be geared toward protecting consumer privacy by offering end-to-end encryption at the expense of value-add features.
Cisco Spark is the best of both worlds: an end-to-end encrypted cloud collaboration platform that offers enterprises the ability to choose what, if any, value-added integrations Cisco and third parties provide. Cisco Spark uses an open architecture for the secure distribution of encryption keys, allowing
enterprises to gain exclusive control over the management of their encryption keys and the confidentiality of their data. This means that content is encrypted
on the user client and remains encrypted until it reaches the recipient, with no intermediaries having access to decryption keys for content unless the enterprise explicitly chooses to grant such access.

Just to scratch a bit of the surface with the security infrastructure Cisco Spark uses, here are some important information to look forward:
End-to-end Security
Security Realm Deployment options
Key Management Server (KMS) Federation
Verifiability
Real Time Media Encryption
Encrypted Search
Integration and Extensibility

To get a complete picture of this follow the Cisco Spark Security and Privacy White Paper document that lists them all

Now shifting gears, lets talk about Integrations

Cisco Spark allows you to integrate with other applications to create flows and to extend many Services to your Cisco Spark. An example will be a Spark room that receives a message with information every time your Companies Twitter account is followed… there is an app for that!
Send text messages, post important information to other services is also possible, lets see what the Spark Team has to say about this:

A preview of integrations is here! Simplify your daily routines and automate tasks so you can react faster to change and focus on what’s really important. You don’t need coding skills or complicated APIs. Using Cisco Spark for Web, you can connect the Cisco Spark app to your app in only a few clicks using our native integrations.

Keep in mind we’re still tweaking a few things so please share your feedback with us. And keep checking this list because we’ll keep adding to it.

Native integrations:

PagerDuty: Post incident updates to a room as they happen so your team can share information and escalate issues fast.
Trello: Send a feed of new tasks and board updates to a room so your team can respond quickly to changing projects and priorities.
Zendesk: Post real-time ticket updates to a room.

If you don’t see your app listed, don’t panic. You can find hundreds more by using one of these app integration services.

Built.io: Set up your own custom flows that combine workflows from multiple services and bring that all in to Cisco Spark.
IFTTT: Create recipes to connect other services with Cisco Spark.
Zapier: Create zaps that take updates from other apps and post them in to Cisco Spark rooms.

How do I use Cisco Spark?

Initially I started using Cisco Spark to collaborate with my team mates… this is being great! and has worked very nicely for us as a team. But I wanted to get the ball rolling and maybe go a bit beyond only this.

Crate a Spark Team for every Client I work with

This one is the main Team that I can Manage myself, in this case when you create a Team in Spark automatically a General Room gets created, I most of the times don’t use this when working with clients. In other words I create this one to have a baseline of how I will divide my Rooms, which I can use to add different Projects if my client is working with my company in different engagements.

Crate a Spark Room for my company’s team

I create this room to talk to the engineers, Project managers, my boss and key important people in my Team that need to be aware of what is going on with the Project, in this one I share only information regarding the different Projects we are working on.

Crate a Spark Room for My client’s team

This one is to add my team and the client’s team, this way all communication that regards to my client is entered into this locations. My client will then be able to collaborate with me and my team in different issues and circumstances. This is a great tool for large Projects that involve multiple individuals and many moving parts.

Many variations can be used of this model, for now this is the model I’m sticking to lately. I have to be honest adoption is still very low but I think that it will grow in the months to come.

Integrations Quick Demonstration

This post got bigger than expected, so I have created a new one that will go over on how to use Zapier with Cisco Spark, it will be published tomorrow!

Join my Collaboration Room at Cisco Spark

This is exactly what the post from tomorrow is going to be all about – This form will add you to a Collaboration Room in my Cisco Spark

Last words

Thank you very much for sticking and reading this long post… Only if you made it to the end 🙂
As I always like to close it, in case you have any questions and there is something I can help, please feel free to reach out to me by filling out the comments section

About the Author:

Andres Sarmiento, CCIE # 53520 (Collaboration)
With more than 13 years of experience, Andres is specialized in the Unified Communications and Collaboration technologies. Consulted for several companies in South Florida, also Financial Institutions on behalf of Cisco Systems. Andres has been involved in high-profile implementations including Cisco technologies; such as Data Center, UC & Collaboration, Contact Center Express, Routing & Switching, Security and Hosted IPT Service provider infrastructures.

You can follow Andres using Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook

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