Here’s how to take advantage of the Apple-Cisco partnership

wifiWe’ve been anxiously awaiting the fruits of the Apple-Cisco partnership and now we finally have the details.

Apple and Cisco have integrated their mobile and networking technologies to give users optimized Wi-Fi connectivity and streamlined VoIP capabilities, all while prioritizing business traffic. That means more reliable and faster speeds for employees connected to Cisco wireless networks.

Cisco and Apple have laid the groundwork for these enhancements, but system administrators will need to check a few boxes to make sure their users are up and running.

Let’s run through what network admins must know about these capabilities and how to enable them.

1. Wi-Fi intelligently keeps users connected. They’re calling it a handshake: iOS 10 devices and enabled Cisco routers intelligently talk to each other. Using the IEEE 802.11k wireless standard, iOS 10 devices can communicate with Cisco access points to find the most reliable or strongest signal, which isn’t necessarily the closest signal. If switching to better access points is necessary, the mobile device will switch automatically.

And as an iOS 10 device strays from one access point, the network device will offer up six other prioritized access points thanks to 802.11r technology (think of the “r” in 802.11r as roaming). As a result, users can move from one access point to another without network interruptions or slowdowns.

Cisco’s newest routers come equipped with these capabilities in their firmware, so system administrators have a limited role behind the initial network setup; the controller has to be running Cisco AireOS 8.3 or above and may require a restart. The fast roaming capability is limited to iOS devices released in 2015 and later.

2. Business traffic gets priority bandwidth. System admins have used router-equipped quality of service (QoS) features to prioritize network traffic in the past, but it’s been a fiddly job and traffic shapers, while more capable, are expensive and cumbersome. Now, Cisco routers can prioritize bandwidth and give designated iOS applications a higher rank so business-critical work won’t be slowed by non-essential congestion.

Here’s how easy setup is: Turn on a router’s fast lane capabilities, define the apps to receive priority, and check a box in your MDM-deployed Wi-Fi profile. That’s it – you’re ready to go. These new traffic controls get pushed out to all enrolled devices, and designated apps (not content) with QoS markings will be given network priority.

Organizations can also add a few lines of code to their iOS enterprise apps to take advantage of the fast lane and automatically receive priority network bandwidth.

3. VoIP is now integrated seamlessly. Baked into iOS 10 is CallKit, an API framework that integrates VoIP calls into the native phone user experience. Cisco Spark is the first app that’s CallKit certified, and allows users to place and receive VoIP calls seamlessly on iOS devices; users can swipe to answer incoming VoIP calls, and place calls through Spark from the “Recents” tab in iOS 10’s phone app.

Again, this is an easy install for IT: Download and log into the app, and users are ready to go. Spark even works with Siri.

A bit of setup, maximum payoff

These three capabilities can boost productivity through improved network reliability, and it all occurs behind the scenes, with no downtime or server interruptions. Your employees can continue working as usual, with no training required.

That’s a benefit to your IT department, as well. Enabling these capabilities is relatively simple. With them, your network will be more elastic and fluid, and you can reduce network traffic jams by shifting bandwidth to business-critical needs.

Contact your SHI Account Executive so your organization can capitalize on these new features.

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