Andrew Davis
Andrew W. Davis is a researcher, analyst, and opinion leader in the field of collaboration and conferencing. He is a...
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Andrew Davis | April 12, 2011 |


First Impressions of Cisco umi

First Impressions of Cisco umi
There's a lot to like about the quality of the video, but installation proved challenging in this evaluation.

umi to umi Calling
Our first umi-to-umi, Boston-to-Atlanta call failed, despite onscreen confirmation that both systems were online and registered to the service. Lacking any detailed technical information (the system does not provide any call statistics or diagnostic information), we performed a few basic troubleshooting steps including rebooting both systems, having one system try the other, and then vice versa. We lamented the fact that Cisco did not include any test number to call so that customers can gain some confidence that they have installed the system correctly. We had no choice but to contact umi technical support.

The umi technical support representative presented what she thought was the cause of the issue: the network router. Apparently some consumer routers are not compatible "out of the box" with umi. As a result, if both of the users on the call are behind such a router (which both Wainhouse Research (WR) testers apparently were), the call will fail.

In order to resolve the issue, the umi support rep recommended one of three paths:

1) Connect the umi directly to the network interface box (in this case the cable modem). This would mean that the Internet connection could not be shared.

2) Configure the network router to forward a handful of network ports to the umi device. Port forwarding in a DHCP environment however, did not appear to be a long term solution and is not supported on all consumer-grade routers.

3) Place the umi in the network DMZ to bypass all firewall protection.

To expedite the troubleshooting session, WR temporarily used option #1 above. This required rebooting both umi and the cable modem. Once done, we made our first successful test call. Later that day, we changed to option #3 and placed the Boston mi in the DMZ. Fortunately, this WR location did not have any other devices in the DMZ, so this was not an issue.

We find it hard to believe that a networking company like Cisco would market a umi solution that does not include robust NAT/firewall traversal capability. Such capabilities are quite common with other videoconferencing service offerings (e.g., Skype, Google Chat--both of which are free) and other rich media services (e.g. Netflix). We suspect that expecting the typical home user to reconfigure his network router to get umi working would make umi a non-starter for the vast majority of the target audience.

When we discussed this concern with a umi technical support engineer, we were told that the problems we faced are not common. In fact, he estimated that only 5% of users have such an issue. We remain unconvinced.

umi Customer Support
* umi comes with a short "getting started" guide that does not include any troubleshooting guidelines. If the call doesn't work the first time, the customer can call technical support, or go to umiconnect.com where there is a growing FAQ and a user guide (124 pages at last count) pdf to download. The user guide contains NO information about configuring routers, and the information on placing/receiving calls with Google Video Chat users is well hidden and terse. We think both of these shortcomings deserve attention.

* Tech support was prompt, courteous, and diligent, but unable to solve our problem outside of offering the 3 options shown above. More surprising is that Tier 1 support did not have a umi device, and was therefore unable to participate in a test call. Tier 2 support was able to place test calls with us (after we re-configured our router to place the umi in the DMZ) and was diligent in making sure our problems were resolved and that we were satisfied.


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