Cisco Flex Plan: 5 questions customers are asking
This article was originally published in November 2019. Since then, Cisco has released Flex 3.0. Please see these more recent SHI resources for the latest information:
In 2018, Cisco introduced a dramatically new way for customers to acquire Cisco Collaboration software and associated support, as well as Webex: the Cisco Collaboration Flex Plan.
With traditional Cisco licensing, you have to make a large upfront licensing purchase for each of the different products you require — Communications Manager, Voicemail, Attendant Console, Survivable Remote Site Telephony (SRST), Cisco Emergency Responder (CER), and so on — and you pay an annual fee for maintenance and support on each product. It requires a large upfront expenditure, an educated and hopefully accurate guess on how many licenses you’ll need down the road, plus a lot of time to manage the agreements for various products.
The new Flex Plan addresses some of these challenges, and simplifies procurement and management of your collaboration services and software. But as with anything new, it elicits questions from organizations used to doing things a certain way.
To make things easier, we’ve compiled and answered five of the most common questions organizations have asked about the new Cisco licensing plan.
1. What is Cisco Flex licensing?
The Flex Plan gives organizations a single subscription to Cisco Collaboration products, including cloud or on-premises solutions for calling (Communications Manager, Communications Manager Express, Webex Calling) and meetings (Webex Meetings and Cisco Meetings Server). It bundles licenses, maintenance, and support for those products into a single solution while offering you flexible terms and payment options.
2. Does Cisco Flex cost more?
As with most things in life, the answer is that it depends. There are a lot of moving parts to consider, but for most organizations, the Flex Plan will save you money.
For example, in previous plan generations, metered audio was a large portion of an organization’s Webex spend. But Audio is becoming commoditized.
The new Flex plans dramatically reduces metered audio. Unlimited Bridge Country Call-in is included with all Webex Flex plans, while Unlimited Call-back can be added for a small fee. For larger organizations that really want to reduce their Webex audio, Cisco even offers solutions for bring-your-own (BYO) public switched telephone network (PSTN).
Flex also helps organizations leveraging Cisco Unified Workspace Licensing (CUWL). The plan includes all the features of CUWL plus things like SRST, CER, and Attendant Console at an additional cost that is less than the recurring maintenance cost on CUWL licenses alone.
Additionally, Flex includes more features (for example E911, attendant console, and SRST capabilities) than traditional licenses; most organizations will get value out of the additional capabilities. Changes to licensing structure generally reduces a company’s licensing footprint. In this case, purchasing one item (the Flex Plan) provides access to myriad functionality that would otherwise be piecemeal — free public space device licenses, conference room licenses, etc.
3. What happens to my existing licensing and support investments if I switch to Cisco Flex?
For Flex contracts of three years or more, Cisco is currently offering trade-in credits on existing perpetual licenses that will be extended for the life of your Flex Plan contract.
Additionally, up to 18 months of Software Support Service (SWSS) can be credited on new Flex Plan orders. This means that you won’t be throwing away your existing investments.
4. When is the best time to convert to Flex?
Given the potential advantages, you don’t want to renew or sign a new agreement without looking at Flex.
It’s critical that you know when your current licenses and support expire. Most existing contracts require some conversion time or have cancellation notice clauses, so it’s generally recommended that you start reviewing your options about 90 days out from any expiry.
5. Who is Flex best suited for?
Flex plans are marketed toward customers with more than 250 calling users, or more than 40 meeting host accounts. The Cisco Flex Plan has two primary components, each with its own qualifiers:
- Calling. While Named User Plans for calling exist, the best value comes from Enterprise level agreements within Flex that start at 250 users. We’ve also seen instances where customers with fewer than 200 seats experience a better ROI than traditional licensing.
- Meetings. The best value is going to start at around 40 meeting seats. For meetings, a seat license is required for anyone who schedules or organizes a meeting (not for attendees of a meeting). Meetings licensing can be used for Webex (Enterprise Edition with all four suites: Meeting Center, Event Center, Training Center, and Support Center), or for on-premises meeting solutions such as Cisco Meetings Server.
To determine whether Flex is right for you, compare these two offers against the traditional licensing models. If both offers (calling and meetings) are appealing, you can receive additional discounts by bundling them together.
The Flex Plan has had significant impacts on the customer buying process. And while traditional licensing options will continue to be available, you should seriously consider whether the new model will benefit your organization.
If you have any additional questions or wish to learn more about how the Flex Plan might benefit your organization, contact your SHI account executive.
And please remember to check out these more current resources for information on Cisco Flex licensing: