Law Firm to use smart technology to connect employees

Stephen Gillies, editor

Minter Ellison, one of the largest full-service law firms in the Asia Pacific region, has embarked on a significant technology project to improve business video-based collaboration and knowledge sharing across its more than 290 partners and 1,000 legal staff in Australia, Hong Kong, the People's Republic of China, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. 

Included in the rollout is a pilot for a new internally controlled social media platform, which provides a platform of integrated Facebook-like environment to employees.

Utilising Cisco video conferencing, collaborative workspace tools and heavily virtualised Cisco servers, Minter Ellison aims to significantly improve interoffice communications over the existing WAN network, making it easier for staff to interact. Using this technology, clients will also benefit from access to the wealth of legal knowledge distributed throughout the Minter Ellison locations in the region.


"A key focus for us is to ensure that all our people – regardless of which office they are located in – are seamlessly integrated and working as ‘One Firm' to deliver a superior client experience. With Cisco business video and data centre virtualisation technology, we're making it easier for them to connect, collaborate and share information across the whole of the firm for the benefit of our clients," said Peter Westerveld, Minter Ellison's CIO.

The initial Cisco TelePresence deployment is between the Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Hong Kong offices. Cisco TelePresence systems can operate at several different bandwidth levels ranging from symmetric 2 to 5 Mbps for configurable, variable bandwidth consumption, maximizing the Cisco TelePresence experience while preserving frame rate and low latency and reducing packet loss.

Most interesting from a security point of view is the pilot of Cisco's social media platform Cisco Quad.

Fearing the dangers of data security breaches, enterprises have long employed tight access restrictions on their IT and network infrastructures. But amid the growing popularity of consumer collaboration tools and mobile devices, many employees have called for more relaxed governance and increased integration of personal mobile computing devices into enterprise settings. 

Faced with such requests, some companies have begun to view the tried-and-true "lock it down" approach as outmoded - and perhaps even bad for business.

Cisco Quad combines the power of social networking with real-time communications and integrated business and content management systems through a very familiar interface not unlike Facebook or Google+. 

By providing an internal enterprise focused collaboration software platform, organisations can better control the information published and offset the need for employees to use external services to collaborate. This presents a happy medium - employees can use social media collaboration tools as part of their working life, and the organisation can control access and identity through security controls built into the platform.

Cisco Quad

Recently a white paper published by strategic research firm Frost & Sullivan warned that enterprises need to be aware of the network infrastructure required to handle the data-intensive traffic that results from the use of Enterprise Social Software (ESS) solutions. 

The implementation of network and bandwidth optimization, real-time application monitoring, traffic prioritization load balancers and highly available servers may be required to provide employees with a platform which performs with the same speed and functionality of external social media collaboration platforms.

Wweb interface security, directory integration for identity management, deployment of VPN services to make use of iPad/iPhone/android clients and the monitoring of the internal ESS environment also need to be considered in the total cost and return on investment calculation.

It is difficult to assess how successful Cisco has been with the Cisco Quad platform in the market. In a video announcement last December, Cisco VP of Communication and Collaboration IT, announced that Cisco Quad had been rolled out to "over 100,000 Cisco employees and contractors worldwide" but there are only a few customer references available.

Local Managed Service provider Alphawest has been convinced of the solution and if offering the Cisco Quad environment as a managed service.

Cisco Quad enterprise collaboration as a managed service platform is a new direction for Cisco. Announced in June this year, the platform will be offered as a hosted and managed deployment model for customers who aren't able or don't want to deploy or manage Cisco Quad themselves, and will extend choice and flexibility in how customers implement and use the platform. 

Cisco hopes a managed service will create professional services and integration opportunities for channel partners, and in turn strengthen and broaden channel partner customer relationships.

Additionally, Cisco announced its upcoming release of Quad 2.5, which will include pre-built integrations with leading content management and instant messaging platforms from EMC, Microsoft, and IBM, as well as a new mobile application for the Android-based Cisco Cius tablet.