The companies making and selling video conferencing – Do they use it?

It seems obviousYou would be surprised.  Often they don’t use what they make or what they sell.   One manufacturer gave an update on their product line to resellers using WebEx.  A reseller pitching a major prospect on a large video conferencing deployment couldn’t meet with the prospect via their own video conferencing equipment because they did not use it.  Needless to say they did not get the account and lost it to a much smaller provider who did use it and in fact closed the deal on a video conference using their own equipment.  Do not buy any video conferencing equipment from any manufacturer or reseller who does not use the technology in their day to day operations.  How can they be of any benefit to your enterprise in video conferencing deployment when they clearly do not believe in the technology?  Frankly they have no business making or selling video conferencing technology if they don’t use what they sell.

Radvision_Yaniv_levi_iPad2_Scopia_Mobile_V3The first question any potential company should ask the manufacturer or reseller is — How do you use video conferencing in your day to day operations? The second question is — How has your organization benefited? A sales person selling video conferencing should have a public video number on his or her business card.  If they don’t, consider purchasing video conferencing technology from another vendor.  We purchase video conferencing technology every day from manufacturers and distributors.  We only work with companies that use what they sell.  It’s very easy to get things done and build solid working relationships with these companies.  It’s no coincidence that we get very good service with knowledgeable resources.  The best analogy we draw from is corporate aircraft.  Certainly you can bet that Gulfstream uses Gulftstream equipment in their fleet and Lear Jet uses Lear Jets in their fleet of corporate aircraft.  The sales person calling on large enterprises who can afford to buy them arrives at the appointment via their own equipment.

Our firm uses video conferencing technology every day.  We use the hosted service we sell, Scopia, to make sales calls and field service technical calls.  We use Aver and Radvision products in our board room.  In fact our boardroom is part of an international network of public video conferencing rooms for rent.   In our private office we have a separate desktop video codec with a dedicated public IP address to meet clients using our products.  Through the mobile apps we sell and the hardware we provide, we can meet via video with any client or prospect on a moment’s notice.  Clients can also call our office via video 24/7 to test their connections – And yes, our public video number is printed on the card.  Also printed on our card is our hosted service access for those who do not have video conferencing equipment.  Download our app at: www.tryscopia.com and call us for the meeting room number.  We will show you how we use video conferencing technology in our day to day operations.

The Business argument for video conferencing

The first thing you need to do is forget about how video conferencing works.  Think about what video conferencing can do; not how it works. Think about your business and how you communicate to the supply chain, key clients and other locations in your organization.  Your network, telecom, cell phones, company cars, and travel budget are critical and help your business grow and stay in business.   Look at video conferencing the same way you look at these other expenses.

Business_Argument_iStock_000022112075XSmallThe potential return on investment is tremendous, especially in small and mid-size enterprises.  Imagine what would happen to your business without email, faxes and cell phones.  Now image what you can to with video conferencing if you are a small to mid size enterprise.   Your sales forces can make more face-to-face calls in more places faster and more efficiently.  Customers and prospects do not need any video conferencing equipment – Only internet access and a computer, iPad, iPhone or Droid.  The average salesman can increase face-to-face time with customers by 30% to 50% with very little additional time with far less expense.  One small business eliminated the need for field techs to go on calls.  Salesmen have iPads and bring the field tech people with them via hosted video conferencing.  Clients are impressed with the efficiency and the salesmen are happy because they have an opportunity to sell other products and services on a trouble shoot call.

Another new developing application is found in healthcare. There are several companies designing doctor kiosks to be placed in drug stores –Kiosks have video conferencing.  Patients can meet with their doctors for a general check up and get their prescriptions right in the drug store.   Health costs are only going up.  This application will certainly have a major impact on keeping these costs down and leveraging the doctor’s limited time.

Mergers and Acquisitions are another very good application for video conferencing.  When two parties need to meet, standards based video conferencing makes this a simple process.  If one company has video conferencing in their board room and the other company does not.  No problem – There is an International network of public videoconferencing rooms that can be rented by the hour.  The principals, lawyers and accountants can meet face-to-face and collaborate with their computer input seamlessly.  The decision making process is compressed.

Look at how technology made our businesses more efficient.  Finding applications for video conferencing in your enterprise is simple.  You just need to think about what video conferencing does; not how it works.

 

Microsoft Lync – Why this is an important part of video conferencing in the enterprise?

Lync_PhotoMany large companies are embracing Microsoft Office 365 with Microsoft Lync.  Within the enterprise Lync is a seamless and very efficient way to video conference and to collaborate.  Additionally, the Office 365 program eliminates the entanglements of software upgrades and trouble shooting.  Users simply subscribe to the software and upgrades are automatic.  One company migrated 1,200 people to Lync and in the process eliminated 1,200 IP phones and replaced 38 IP sets in common areas and meeting rooms. This creates a tremendous savings in the enterprise. Since most companies are on the PC platform end-users adapt quickly and are provided with soft phones and headsets.  Lync can act as a PBX replacement and users seem happy to adopt the technology.  This adoption is critical to successful deployment with a tangible return on investment.

New features in Lync 2013 include:  Video preview; One-click meeting joins; Persistent chat; Shared OneNote for meetings; Gallery view; Lync Web App client and Improved mobile support for Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad,or Android device.

Here are some tips for building a successful Lync deployment(Provided by Enterprise Connect)

  1. Make sure Lync is the right option for you
  2. Define, document and prioritize your business objectives
  3. Assemble a strong cross-functional team
  4. Assign a Project Leader
  5. Recognize communication, training and change management as critical
  6. Monitor adherence to metrics.

In regard to video conferencing there is only one stumbling block in using Microsoft Lync.  This stumbling block is the connection to installed standards based video conferencing cameras or CODECS.  The good news, this is easily resolved by purchasing a Gateway with a video conferencing MCU or bridge — Avaya / Radvision produces both.  The quality and reliability is superb with the Avaya / Radvision products.  Another solution is using a hosted video conferencing service, preferably one using the Avaya / Radvision products.  For mid-sized and small enterprises the hosted service is the most economical.  (If you use Microsoft Lync and need to video conference outside of your company — click here)

Is video conferencing really all that practical?

The same question was asked in the mid eighties when cell phone antennas started to appear in the middle of the back windows on automobiles.  Back then cell phones worked within a limited area footprint and they only worked from the car because they were mounted in the car.  The early adapters of cell phones certainly experienced more time savings and efficiency.  Sales people loved it – They can make more calls in an area and more spontaneous appointments with prospects and customers.  Service people loved it —They can confirm more appointments from the road or call customers to say they are running late.  Now it’s hard to imagine a cell phone tethered to a car with no access to the internet.

We are seeing the same thing with video conferencing. First you needed a dedicated room and technician to make the call.  Today you need an app on your smart phone or iPad and a child can make the call.  In the conference room the system is simple to install and simple to use.  Soon it will be hard to imagine how we managed without video conferencing in our homes or businesses — We will have video numbers for both.

Here are three clients who understand how practical video conferencing can be:

One of our clients is a nationally recognized medical college. Professors use our cloud based mobile video conferencing service to meet face-to-face with interns around the state. They can collaborate through their computers showing x-rays or other medical related material.  Professors can also use the cloud based service to accommodate a guest speaker in their lecture halls with standards based video conferencing capability built-in.  This is very practical – In fact this particular client is expanding this service to other departments.

Another client is a national manufacturer with 4 offices – Ohio, Florida, Texas, and California.  They serve key national accounts from all four locations.  Video conferencing allows this client to meet in all locations simultaneously to efficiently manage sales, inventories and deliveries better, serving their national clients.  They also have more management meetings without any travel between these locations.

We have a not-for-profit video conferencing customer who needs to meet with incarcerated clients throughout the state for substance abuse counseling.   They have three locations in Ohio.   Counselors save up to 20 hours per week travel time using video conferencing.  Staff meetings are also easy as the multi-site feature allows simultaneous connection between all three offices.  Counselors really depend on the technology now.  If a system goes down, they call immediately as this has a major impact on their efficiency.   If you don’t think you need video conferencing – Think again.  You may be leaving money on the table.

Can I rent videoconferencing equipment at a large hotel or convention center?

 Hotel_Meeting_Room_iStock_000021579016XSmallYes one can certainly rent video conferencing equipment in a larger hotel or convention center.  You will, however confront three problems — One of them is a very big problem!  Let’s address the big problem first – The Network or lack thereof.  These days’ most large hotels and convention centers have a network, but more often than not they cannot accommodate a video conference because their network is shared by other guests and there is no dedicated public IP address for an outside connection.  There are two ways to resolve this issue. One way is work with the hotel to make adjustments in the network. This is the hard way and there is a very good chance the network will fail.  The second and preferable way is to bring in your own network.  There are providers that can offer wireless dedicated bandwidth with a static, public IP address.  This will cost money, but if you want a good night’s sleep before your big meeting its worth every nickel.

On to the other two problems — One is where do you rent the video conferencing equipment and the second is the audio.  Generally the hotel does not have the video conferencing equipment, but they often work with an AV rental house that does.  This should be your first option.  Make sure the AV rental house has experience renting video conferencing equipment and has the expertise and technical staff to operate the equipment in the meeting.  Ok – Two problems are addressed including the first problem, the network.

We will assume that your video conference is in a large hall and the presenter, perhaps your keynote speaker is the one on the video conference. This brings us to the third problem – Audio.  Audio is in a video conference is critical.  Your entire video meeting will fail if the audio is poor.  Large halls in convention centers often have in-house audio, but this generally accommodates a presenter at the facility not on a video conference.  The AV rental house should have the amplifiers, audio mixers and appropriate speakers to produce clear and easily heard audio through a video conference in a large hall or meeting room.

Some convention centers do have the video conferencing in-house, but this is rare.  The centers that do, generally do a very good job.  One example of quality in-house capability is the John S. Knight Center in Akron Ohio.  They can move video conferencing to a large room or small room. They also have a knowledgeable staff. Their network accommodates video conferencing, and they are great people to work with. If you are planning a large meeting and need worry free video conferencing call Bill Stewart at the John S. Knight Center in Akron. You will get a good night’s sleep with no worries about your meeting.   This is how you contact Bill – 330-374-8922.  If you call Bill make sure you reference this article.

Why are there too many options for hosted video conferencing?

First and foremost we need to understand what “hosted video conferencing” is.  Also we need to understand the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), and its impact on “hosted video conferencing.”  Hosted video conferencing is any service that provides a video conferencing meeting with multiple locations to your computers, mobile devices or video conferencing endpoints in your conference rooms.   Reputable hosting services also connect a regular phone to the conference.  Telephone participants will certainly hear everybody and vice versa. The ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), establishes the algorithm standards the makes all this connect seamlessly worldwide.

Video conferencing is simple – The ITU made it that way by establishing the international algorithm or connection standards.  Hosting services certainly work within these standards making it easy to connect and collaborate to any endpoint.   Confusion continues because it seems there are too many options for hosted video conferencing.  There are two basic hosted video conferencing solutions – 1) Standards based video conferencing, and 2) Proprietary based video conferencing.  Standards based VC connects to any company with any video conferencing equipment or mobile device.  Proprietary based VC only connects to endpoints within its operating framework — One example is  GoToMeeting.  Everybody needs to be in GoToMeeting to meet.  Webex is another example of proprietary conferencing.  Both do video conferencing, however it’s limited in capability.  Additionally, these options are stuck in “communications silos.” It would be like buying a cell phone that only connected to those using the same phone or same service provider.

There is a very large untapped market for hosted video conferencing, thus many options are popping up.  Over time they will sort themselves out with many failures especially in the proprietary conferencing arena. Inevitably, hosted standards based video conferencing will dominate.  The ITU standard for computer screen sharing on a video conference is making proprietary web/video conferencing solutions obsolete.

You can purchase hosted video conferencing by seat, port, endpoint, etc. for a monthly fee – Seat, port and endpoint all mean the same thing.  Prices ranges go from zero per month, i.e. Skype to almost $100.00 per month.  There is a major value increase with the cost.  For example the higher end hosted service is more secure has more features and amazingly easy to use.  The higher end also provides “floating ports or endpoints.”  This means you can invite anyone to a meeting without them subscribing to buying a license or have the app dedicated to their computer or mobile device.  Some use the higher end hosted service with floating ports or endpoints as a company car.  Because they are floating ports and the app is free they can email a meeting invite with a link to the hosted service.  The recipient simply clicks on the link and downloads the free app. They enter their name and password or room number and they are in the meeting.   In renting two ports or endpoints those using the higher end hosted service can meet face to face with anyone in the world with any video conferencing equipment, on any computer or mobile device.  They can collaborate with computer input and annotate in real time.  The recipient can keep or delete the app. It makes no difference because the app is free to the recipient and not dedicated or licensed to their device.  This can certainly scale up to as many endpoints as a client needs.  If there is a quarterly management meeting with any number of participants, they can all meet in a secure, high end and simple to use virtual environment.  One way to describe the difference between a Skype meeting and a high end hosted meeting would be the difference of having a meeting in a phone booth vs. a large comfortable conference room with all the amenities.  Click on this link for a PDF file describing the difference between Standards based video conferencing and Proprietary conferencing.

What are some of the display options available for videoconferencing?

You can use any type of electronic display for video conferencing.  The first consideration is the venue.   Are you in a large conference room, small conference room, auditorium, class room or private office? The venue will certainly determine the display options.  For example if you video conference in a large auditorium you will need a very bright projector with high resolution.  You will also need separate reinforced sound, which means an amplifier, sound mixer and very good speakers.  Also, you will need a large high gain screen, preferably motorized to minimize wear and tear.  There are many very good LCD/LED projectors for this venue.  The best recommendations are come from a local A/V integrator experienced with installing video conferencing in large venues like an auditorium.

Most conference rooms accommodate a flat panel display.  The good news is that there are a variety of flat panel displays available.  Sizes range from 55 inch to 70 inch and higher.  Most conference rooms fall within this range.  Keep in mind that most conference room FTD’s, flat panel displays, are used to display Excel spread sheets and other computer input — not just for video conferencing.  You need to calculate the distance from the far end of the conference room to make sure small type is readable when using the display for non-video conference meetings.   Most A/V integrators know how to calculate the best size screen for your particular conference room.

What’s important is the size of the flat panel display when determining a solution for a conference room.  One rule of thumb for the conference room – DON’T USE A PROJECTOR.  More often than not this is a bad idea.   A projector causes all kinds of problems in a conference room.  First it’s too expensive to integrate because of the need for reinforced sound. Second, there is the risk of specular light blinding far end participants.  Remember the projector is aimed right at the camera.  If the angle isn’t just right it will look like train’s head light charging through a tunnel to the far end.  Also, the projector needs to be extremely bright as you need to keep all the lights in the conference room on, so far end participants can see your faces.  The other problem is maintenance – projector lamps cost up to $500.00 to replace.

A small office is easy. You can use a standard 24 inch computer display.  Several manufactures have a display built-in right with the CODEC — Very simple to use. The good news — there are many display options for video conferencing.  The bad news – there are many display options for video conferencing.  Make sure you first consider the venue then consult with an A/V integrator familiar with video conferencing.  A good A/V integrator with video conferencing experience will certainly outline your best display options.