Enterprises using Cisco's cloud-based Spark collaboration service can now control its use through a centralized management hub. The new Spark Control Hub also adds new "breakthrough" support for end-to-end message encryption, detailed analytics, mobile security on users' personal devices, and on-premises-like security, Cisco said.
Launched earlier this week, the new Spark services also come with a premium option for advanced compliance, data loss prevention and identity management.
According to Cisco, the new Spark capabilities are the result of several years of research and development in enterprise collaboration. First announced in late 2015, Cisco Spark provides cloud-based messaging, calling, and meeting services on a subscription basis with pricing based on the level of service and number of users per month.
New Levels of Encryption and Data Security
Cisco claims the new Spark capabilities for encryption, analytics, mobile security, and key server security represent "major breakthroughs" for enterprise customers. For example, it said, Spark is the first enterprise messaging product to provide both end-to-end message encryption and additional tools for e-discovery and data loss prevention.
Another first, Cisco added, is the new level of protection Spark provides against attacks on its cloud-based services.
"We've enabled the ability for customers to run an on-premises key server to encrypt and decrypt all content sent to Cisco Spark," Cisco's Jens Meggers wrote in a blog post earlier this week. "This on-prem key server establishes data security equivalent to on-prem data storage."
Meggers is senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's cloud collaboration technology group.
In-Depth 'Fluid Analytics'
With this week's updates to Spark, Cisco also unveiled something it calls "fluid analytics." Managed via the Spark Control Hub, the new analytics capabilities let users of both Spark and Cisco's WebEx conferencing service view a wide range of collaboration performance data.
"With just a few clicks, you can tell who suffered the worst call quality, pinpoint where they are in the world, and see whether the problem is widespread or localized," Meggers noted.
Cisco also rolled out several changes that make it easier for IT administrators to control mobile security on BYOD (bring-your-own-device) phones and PCs that aren't directly managed by the organization. Those changes include Web-smart timeouts that automatically log out users running Spark outside of the organization's network, "graceful" enforcement of device-level PIN locks that doesn't exclude users who haven't set a personal PIN for their devices, and enterprise certificate pinning.
According to Cisco, the new certificate pinning support protects users from malicious hotspot providers and access networks without requiring them to enable their organization's VPN client. Cisco said this is the first time pinning is being used in this way.
In addition to the Spark Control Hub, Cisco has also launched a new premium Pro Pack for hub users who want more advanced security, compliance, and analytics capabilities. The Pro Pack includes integration of a number of third-party services for compliance, message and file archiving, data loss prevention, and identification and authentication. The Pack also offers expanded hub support for content searches, downloading and exporting, as well as more detailed reporting on user adoption trends, quality of service, and license usage.