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Top 5 Video Conference Self-Service Pointers

What you should take into account while introducing video conference self-services

The deployment of video conferencing booms in many companies. This way they can save costs and increase productivity. In earlier days video conferencing was reserved for top management but this has changed fundamentally. Today video conferences are used by all employees for their daily communication.

Today many companies own 500+ video conference rooms and 10thousands of desktop video conference users. The demand for professional video conferences is growing further and has been up to 30% a year.

The company’s structure used to be set up in a way to correspond to the needs of top management as a strictly controlled managed service. This strictly controlled managed services offers a high security standard for the company, however accounts for a big amount of the budget at the same time.

A remedy can be found in video conference self-services. The big advantage here is the high scalability and the reduced costs compared to the encompassing managed service. The video conference self-service should generally serve as an addition to the existing managed service structures.

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Photo: Interop Events

Anyone thinking about implementing a video conference self-service should take note of the following five points:

1. User expectations

In case you use a high quality managed service already, it will not be an option to not use this service in the future. It is important to manage the user expectations and clearly state for which purposes the self-service is intended. A self-service should predominantly be accessible for all employees. The managed service still makes sense for important meetings of the top management, etc. It can be helpful to communicate the costs of the managed service transparently to the users – a measure which might change their mind rather quickly.

2. Video conference infrastructure

Be aware that existing video conference infrastructure often is not tailored to the needs of the video conference self-service. Ordinary video conference infrastructures only enable low scalability, which means that video conference ports are not unlimited. It might make sense to use a software based video conference structure. These allow for high scalability and low operation costs. Initially it might make sense to use a cloud video conference service.

3. Planning business as usual

Video conference self-service does not mean that normal business can be compromised and the solution automatically works – to the contrary! For high user satisfaction the video conference infrastructure has to be stable, questions of users have to be answered timely and competent and the administration of accounts and virtual video conference rooms has to be managed.

4. Offer trainings

If you offer a video conference self-service, you also have to educate the users in a way that they are able to use the service right. Training is important. That can be seminars, booklets, eLearning training videos and intranet pages.

5. Manage growth

The introduction of a video conference self-service can lead to an enormous demand. Some companies measured the double demand within a year. Pay attention to the impact on your network and on your video conference infrastructure as well as on the daily business. The budget planning should grow too, because financial resources are especially scarce during the year.

I hope these are some good pointers for all our readers considering to look into add a self-service to their portfolio. If you have made any experiences yet around this or just want to share your thoughts, please feel invited to do so in the comments box below. Many thanks!

How to become a Videoconferencing Expert

I will start this article by answering what exactly is an expert – to me it’s a person who is really really good at something. Simple as that. This post is only about my thoughts on what it takes for a person to become such, not how he uses his expertise.

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There is more to becoming an expert than this.

I agree with the assumption that all humans are born as “tabula rasa” (lat. blank state), meaning all their knowledge comes from learning, experience and perception, but with genetics playing significant role in the process. Unfortunately, not all people take advantage of the amazing opportunities that lie ahead of them in becoming really good in something they love doing, often due to fear of failure. But failure is not something to be feared of, on the contrary, as Thomas Edison said:

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Every person can be good at anything, good in so many things at the same time. But becoming really good at anything isn’t just a walk in the park. It takes discipline, focus and more importantly a strong will to make it happen.

So how does one become expert at anything? Well, I believe the formula is pretty much the same for any skill you choose. Since this is a Unified Communications blog and it happens to be the field that I’m currently working in, I’m going to point out what I consider to be important in becoming a Videoconferencing Expert.

Videoconferencing Education

I believe education is the first step in becoming good at something. Once you identify your objective and set your goals, you have to start preparing for reaching that goal, show genuine interest in learning all the bits and pieces that are related to what you really want to do, in this case Video Conferencing. I’m talking about harvesting knowledge you can use from every source you can get your hands on: specialized courses , forums, blogs, whitepapers, industry reports, product guides…

When it comes to official training, major industry leaders like Cisco and Polycom are already offering specialized training programs for anyone interested in becoming engineering or sales expert in Videoconferencing / Unified Communications and these certifications are usually valid for 2-3 years in order to keep up with the latest trends in the industry.

Cisco recently added two new programs to their certification portfolio focusing on Video, which already included the Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist and Cisco Rich Media Communications Specialist:

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CCNA Logo by Cisco

  • CCNA Video establishes an individual’s ability to deploy video endpoints, set up new users, and operate networked voice and video solutions for job duties that include configuring voice and video single-screen endpoint devices, supporting telephony and video applications, and troubleshooting. The certification also validates a candidate’s knowledge of the architecture, components, functionalities and features of Cisco Unified Communications Manager solutions.
  • Cisco Video Network Specialist establishes and enhances key skills including the ability to configure video single-screen endpoints, set up new user accounts, support video applications and troubleshoot networked video solutions.
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Polycom Logo

Polycom is offering the Polycom Certified Videoconferencing Engineer – a program that confirms the successful candidate has the necessary knowledge to perform implementation, configuration and troubleshooting operations for small to medium-sized environments on the Polycom RealPresence Platform including. In addition, the PCVE exam will validate the individual’s knowledge of networking models, standards and protocols relevant to videoconferencing.

Plenty of free training material is also available on the Internet. Personally, I liked the old Tandberg Certified Expert Partner (TCPE) program, simple and straight to the point, it’s perfect to gain the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to Video Communication.

Forums such as the VTCtalk and the Cisco Support Community are a great place for promoting and  sharing knowledge and engage other experts in constructive conversations about topics of the Videoconferencing / Unified Communications industry. There are also great groups on videoconferencing business and technology available on LinkedIn for anyone to join and listen or contribute.

Working Experience

It has been said many times before – no amount of theoretical knowledge compares to a real world experience, no matter what field are you part of. If you’re just starting in the industry, try an entry-level position and work your way from the bottom up. There are also companies who first offer training to their personnel for couple of months, and then make hiring decision, this is another good way of getting practical work experience.

And once you get there, try to learn as much as possible, try to learn everything you can about the topic, focus on becoming better and better until you become “so good they can’t ignore you”.

The constant hunger for knowledge is what separates experts from…well, everyone else. The beauty when working with technology is that it changes constantly, there is always something new to digest. Personally, I don’t understand how some people are pretty content with doing the same thing day by day. There is much more you can do, if you want to. The internet is there, the books are written and there are heaps of people to talk to, who are more than happy to engage in discussions – so jump right into it and become an expert!

I am going to end this post with two quotes from people who were really good at something and accomplished a lot:

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Software MCU Comparison – What does the market offer?

A Videoconference Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) is a crucial part of every serious Videoconference infrastructure. It’s a system used to connect multiple media streams into a single Videoconference, therefore very often the MCU is referred to as a “bridge”.

The traditional MCU is a DSP (digital signal processing) based hardware whose primary functionality is to decode all incoming media streams, compose a single stream for each far-end participant and finally re-encode that stream before sending it out, needless to say all this requires a huge amount of processing power. More over, hardware-based MCUs define scalability on a per-port basis, which means if we want to have more participants connected in a Videoconference at the same time, we need MCUs with more video ports i.e. more DSPs and DSP hardware does not come cheap.

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LifeSize UVC Multipoint used on a Tablet

That is why a lot of companies are turning their attention towards a new type of product when it comes to multipoint Videconferences – the so-called “software MCU” or soft-MCU. A soft-MCU serves the same purpose as the hardware-based, except that all the transcoding and signal processing is done in the software which introduces big advantages in terms of cost, scalability and flexibility.

The soft-MCU eliminates the need for DSP hardware and can run on virtualized servers on private or public clouds, therefore it is significantly cheaper to deploy than the expensive hardware MCU. In terms of scalability, customers can often just purchase the number of ports they require at the time and then scale up or down easily as the need changes. Software MCUs offer also more flexible deployment, updates and feature enhancements are easy and more frequent, which gives them advantage in today’s fast evolving demands in the Videoconferencing world. Manufacturers can offer the soft-MCU for on-premise deployment on company’s internal servers (usually preferred by enterprises) but the lower end of the group video conferencing market will also benefit from the hosted services (cloud services) offered by providers.

Current market of Software MCU solutions

Although still in relatively early phase in terms of adoption, the market is all but short in offering soft-MCUs solutions for multipoint Videoconferencing. Some of them offered as pure software to be installed on industry-standard servers, some of them require some sort of hardware usually from the same provider which makes them a kind of  “hybrid” solution. I will just go briefly through some of the most talked about products out there at the moment:

 Avistar

Avistar offers the Avistar C3 Conference, a software-based MCU that runs on standard off-the-shelf hardware and operating system software, and on virtualized servers. It is mainly designed for on-premise deployment in enterprise environments, but service providers offering managed Videoconferencing services could also take advantage from it.

Each conference server can support up to 12 ports of simultaneous conferencing, video standards supported are H.263 and H.264 up to 1024 kbps call rate per endpoint with 30 fps.

 Polycom

The Polycom RealPresence Collaboration Server 800s, Virtual Edition is a multi-protocol, integrated, software-based multipoint MCU running on x86 servers. Mainly designed for mid-sized enterprises or to expand an existing RealPresence Collaboration Server (RMX) environment, it provides open standards scalable video coding (SVC) support and interoperability with systems that use advanced video coding (AVC). It can support up to 40 H.263 or H.264 video ports with 720p and 30 fps.

 Vidyo

Vidyo solution consists of Vidyo Router at its center, offered also as a virtual edition (VE), which performs transcoding-free packet switching using their patented Adaptive Video Layering (AVL) technology which introduces low-latency video-streams for endpoints over any IP network. It can be deployed on industry standard servers and is “VMware Ready” certified. Interoperability with legacy systems requires the use of VidyoGateway. The VidyoRouter VE comes in two models – VE 100 and VE 25 offering 100 and 25 concurrent HD connections respectively, supporting native rate and resolution matching per endpoint, up to 1440p at 60fps. Vidyo technology is available through service providers such as Videoconference24.

 Pexip

Pexip is a new start-up that offers pure-software based MCU called Infinity, which will be available from September. It can be deployed on industry-standard servers in a VMware virtualized environment and port capacity can be easily scaled up by adding more servers. It will support H.263 and H.264, SVC, VP8 video codecs as well as interoperability with WebRTC and Lync. We are yet to see how this product will perform in the real-world but it definitely looks promising with of supporting wide range of software clients and endpoints.

Acano

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Acana Software MCU Example

Acano is also also a new player in the industry, offering software solution that unites “previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies” in “coSpaces” which are essentially cloud virtual meeting rooms. People can use whatever devices they have to call into a coSpace, including mobile phones, tablets, PCs, Microsoft Lync clients or video endpoints. Designed for the x86 architecture, it runs on their optimized hardware, standard servers, as well as in virtualized environments and can support thousands of users per server, with further scale and resilience provided by native clustering. Major video standards are supported including H.264 AVC, SVC, WebM / VP8, Microsoft RTVideo, and said to support H.265 as well.

 Vidtel

Vidtel is primarily a service provider; does not offer soft-MCU for on-premise enterprise deployment, but they do offer hosted cloud Videoconferencing solution, labeled MeetMe – it’s a cloud-based, “any-to-any” video conferencing service which supports interoperability between SIP, H.323, Google Talk, Skype, and WebRTC. It supports up to 20 video conferencing endpoints with 720p. The infrastructure for video conferencing is hosted on a Vidtel central cloud and each participant is given a private meeting room ID and a login PIN; they use this to join the Vidtel MeetMe meeting and start communicating and interacting almost as if they were in the same office.

 LifeSize

LifeSize UVC Multipoint is a software-MCU that can be installed on industry-standard servers. It supports H.263 and H.264, SVC video standards and interoperability with Lync (Microsoft RTVideo). Customers can purchase and scale one port at a time and administrators can selectively control the quality and capacity of each port, ranging from 360p for mobile users to 1080p for room-based environments (with the Enterprise edition) and maximum of 128 participants in a single conference.

 Cisco

Cisco became the undisputed king in Videoconferencing hardware, with the acquisition of Tandberg, but they do not offer software-MCU that can be deployed on-premise. They do however offer cloud Videoconferencing service called – Cisco WebEx Telepresence, which can support up to 12 participants per conference with 1080p. At the moment it’s only available in the U.S. and Canada.

 Blue Jeans Network

Blue Jeans – similar to Vidtel, Blue Jeans is a service provider offering hosted hosted video bridging with multi-vendor interoperability including Skype and Lync. Also they are the developers of their own solution and allow re-selling. It supports up to 25 participants per meeting with 720p at 30 fps  and offers easy web based management capabilities for administrators as well as reporting capabilities.

 Avaya / Radvision

Avaya / Radvision is offering the Elite 6000 Series – software-based hybrid multi-point control unit providing high port density up to 40 full 1080p HD ports (80 720p) on a single 1U system. All the major video standards are supported as well as interoperability with other vendors.

As we can see there are lots of different flavors and there are more solutions out there, opening new opportunities for those who could not own standalone MCU before. It’s hard to say what the future holds, certainly it’s too early to dismiss hardware-based MCUs in which companies have invested a lot of money. It’s clear that the two solutions will coexist for some time and it’s up to the customers to choose the best solution for their business based on their requirements in usage, cost and features.


Software MCU Example Video by Pexip

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA2oh-4A8Qg&w=575]

What is Telemedicine?

The term telemedicine is currently a big buzzword and has been written about by renowned press, such as the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The first use of telemedicine and hence the use of the term too dates back a couple of years ago though. Generally the term telemedicine describes an approach where the physician is physically separated from his patient while examining or diagnosing him.

Through substantial improvements of modern video conferences and steady enhancement of IP networks worldwide, telemedicine has become a lot more important again. Telemedicine has been further professionalized driven by big countries and regions with a comparably low population density. Telemedicine can be used to make decisions essential to human life faster and for first diagnoses. Experts can consulted at a cheap price. Pioneers in telemedicine are the USA, Australia or the Scandinavian countries.

Modern video conference systems are often used as technical platforms, since they already offer many important features for telemedicine. Among the most important features are an optimal HD video conference quality for point-to-point connections and video conferences with more participants as well as the possibility to exchange files, x-rays or blood levels via video conference (Desktop Sharing). Especially video conference services that can be operated with different devices offer a good solution for telemedicine. Physicians can communicate with the patient via video conference from the meeting room, while the patient himself sits at home in front of his PC. Furthermore a specialist could be consulted via iPad while using the Wireless connection of his hotel.

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Example of Telemedicine:
Concept Art of Sarah Kaiser

Easy usability of video conference solutions is essential. The target group often exceeds the 60 years and is not used to handling modern equipment. Simple installation and self-explanatory user interfaces are hence crucial aspects for the deployment of telemedicine. Video conference solutions with a relatively low bandwidth should be preferred, since many patients will not have broadband Internet connections.

Telemedicine is used more often in Germany as well. Possibilities to make use of it are manifold. Physicians draw on systems for exchanging information with international colleagues. Patients can be dialled in for precaution, diagnosis and after treatment via the telemedicine system. Live broadcasts from the surgery to a lecture hall of a university are possible.

Despite the many possibilities to use telemedicine it has not spread as widely yet. The reservations can be explained with lacking experiences and high initial costs. Physicians increasingly look for easy solutions that can be rented and only cause relatively small costs per month.

Video conference hardware providers and video conference service providers have to take these requirements into account. Only some service providers are able to offer first class telemedicine concepts at a moderate price level already today.

Due to rising quality and lower costs of telemedicine and video conference services, also physicians in Germany will see the advantages of technical advancements for their patients and themselves in this sector and eventually integrate these developments in their daily processes.

Video Conference Services for Banks of the Future

How Video Conference Services can create additional value for banks of the future.

The Banking Sector and the whole financial industry have been subject to considerable change within the last couple of years. The fast development of the Internet and the growing acceptance of Internet users for online banking, entail great chances as well as great risks. Deutsche Bank AG Co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen has expressed his concerns about possible competition from big Internet companies such as Google or Microsoft, who have detailed knowledge about their customers’ preferences, which they could use for financial services.

Also video conference services play an ever growing role in the banking sector and add positively to change and modernization of business processes. Especially investment banks make use of video conference services in order to globally exchange real time information about markets, shares, currencies and other relevant information.

Deutsche Bank AG, Deutsche Bank, Zentrale, HQ, Headquarter, Frankfurt, FFM, Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland, Germany, Hochhaus, Hochhäuser, Mainhatten, Skyscraper, Bank, Finance, Financial Institute, Mirror, Surface, Modern, Design, Architektur, Architecture, Germany, Building, Sky, Himmel, Blau, DB, Taunusanlage, 12, Video Conference

“Deutsche Bank Skyscrapers in Frankfurt, Germany” by Thomas Wolf (www.foto-tw.de)

Up to now video conference services have been used seldom in areas such as Private Wealth Management, although those could potentially have an important impact on changing banking products and offers. Many banks keep themselves busy with designing concepts for bank branches of the future, in which video conference services certainly will be one of the components.

If you take a closer look at the traditional banking concept for private customers throughout Germany (provident banks, cooperative banks, Deutsche Bank, Postbank, Commerzbank and many more) you will not find a lot of creative approaches for change: During normal office hours customers get detailed advice about accounts and construction loans, leaving almost no time for individual advice.

Video conference services could leave more design scope to banks, thus helping them to offer better, faster and more tailored advice to their customers.

Improving Internal Communication

Using modern video conference services enables banks to equally inform all employees at all locations about current developments at the financial market, political changes or new products of the bank and their business partners. A big advantage compared to ordinary media channels (e-mail, intranet, video streaming, etc.) is the personal contact, which allows for further inquiries and therewith promotes a higher level of knowledge. Furthermore participation numbers are transparent.

Remote Experts Advice via Video Conference

In many cases customers confront their bank advisers with very complicated questions. The worst case is that the adviser will give the customer bad advice or has to start a lengthy inquiry within the bank to get the necessary information from an internal expert. Either way is not very customer friendly. A smart solution here would be to patch in the expert via video conference. This concept could also save travel costs where experts are shattered across the whole country and it additionally could accelerate decision processes concerning sales and distribution deals.

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This lady can talk to the right expert, thanks to video conferencing services.

Customer Advice via Video Conference

Modern video conference services can also be used to advice customers via video conference. Many video conference services permit taking part in a video conference via desktop PC, Mac or also with Tablet or Smartphone as mobile service. In the future bank advisers can effortlessly communicate with their customers via video conference. This still might sound like a vision to banks, but it should not be forgotten that the coming generation has been exposed to video conference services such as Skype since their early childhood and does not have any reservations against this communication medium. Banks certainly will have to look into this new consumer behaviour.

Consequently video conferences and modern video conference services have great potential for innovative financial services and banks. Putting technology to use in a smart way can be the decisive competitive edge for banks in creating an ideal environment for individual and superior advice also in the future.

Have you ever been using service like these or is your organisation having similar approaches? Let us know of your experiences and drop us an comment below!

Telepresence Advantages and Updates

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Photo: Wikipedia

Within the fast paced online world it’s hard establishing an intimate human connection with clients, employees, patients and customers. Businesses need the best communication tools whether maintaining fast and efficient phone lines to reach customers or working with an employee over video conference.

Countless companies, schools, and hospitals are dedicated to providing telepresence. You need a strong, capable, and expansive business class internet provider to handle the telepresence abilities. Investing in telepresence tools improves your company’s image and flexibility in the work environment.

Network Security

Discovering the most reliable corporate VoIP can prove essential for companies’ telepresence. The right internet service offers the correct data solutions to handle your business’ phone and internet needs all over one secured network. Plus, you’re telepresence will run smoothly whether in a video conference business meeting or if a boss pops in for updates on the workload. Finding a business class internet provider who customizes their service to your business at affordable rates will assist communication substantially.

Network security is important when it comes to increasing your business’ telepresence. Employees should be able to connect to a secured and private network where pertinent and confidential information is easily shared. When the network experiences lapses in security, it threatens your company’s communication skills and flexibility. The right corporate VoIP for a company establishes a strong foundation for communication and network security.

Video Conferencing

Twenty years ago who would have thought that business transactions, meetings, or even interviews could be arranged and handled over video conference on computers. The communication options continue to astound me as an employee and professional.

Why waste the time and money to travel to a job interview? Video conference saves money on both ends. But in order to conduct interviews, companies need strong network connections. Corporate VoIP is necessary for many companies to reach employees or clients over video conference. Video over IP connects two groups instantly over a clear video feed that’s more human and intimate than a phone call and it saves the time of an in person interview. If the network connection isn’t great, then that will reflect badly on the employer. A company’s inability for such communication shows that they’re behind the learning curve of technology and communication.

The best companies are willing to communicate via video conference. My video conference experiences that include countless staff meetings, interviews, and orientations have all been pleasant and reflective of my employers’ flexibility and ability to communicate.

Telepresence Robots

The telepresence field is taken to greater heights through the use of telepresence robots. These robots can be implemented for employees who work from home and still need to have an office presence. Companies use these robots to communicate with and monitor employees while out of the office, but now they are used at greater lengths in different fields.

Doctors utilize telepresence robots to interact with countless patients in hospitals or anywhere. It allows for quick communication and consultation. It improves a doctor’s ability to see more patients.

Educational systems provide funding for these robots for students who can’t be physically present in schools due to ongoing medical issues. The extent of telepresence technology is astounding.

What you need to know about Job Interviews via Video Conference

In some companies it’s already a common practice: The job interview via video conference. This article tells you what you should take into account as applicant as well as HR professional.

One can generally say that video conferences and tailored video conference services do pose a perfect setting to conduct job interviews with potential candidates. This way costs can be kept low and the process of making decisions within the selection of applicants can be accelerated enormously.

Especially international companies spend a lot of money on travel costs to invite potential candidates to their headquarters. It is for this reason that phone interviews are often a first point of contact to get to know the potential candidate. However, often these interviews cannot replace the personal getting to know each other and are at the cost of our scarcest good – time. Using video conferencing can save a lot of trouble here: A number of interviews can be conducted in short time beforehand and only a small selection will be invited on site.

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What you should consider as HR professional

Before conducting a job interview via video conference it is essential to be well prepared. A thoroughly organized video conference will leave not only a professional impression of the company, but also of its potential for innovation and the work of its HR department. Poor quality and technical problems on the other hand will leave the exact opposite impression on the candidate. It is therefore crucial to choose the right video conference services.

Before choosing a video conference service provider you should check the expert knowledge of the provider in question as well as the already existing video conference solutions within your company and the technical environment of the candidate. Ideally the provider offers so-called Video Conferencing Managed Services, meaning he will take care of setting up the equipment, checking the connection and of course managing the video conference connection during the actual job interview.

If your company has the respective facilities, these should also be used to conduct the job interview. A great advantage here is the mostly good quality and the connectivity of the video conference service facility over IP.

A job interview via video conference is also well suitable to involve more people, for example the branch manager, who dials in from his own office.

Potential candidates do not have any need of expensive equipment. Modern solutions can be operated with video conferencing software. An ordinary PC or Mac, a webcam, common headset and a stable Internet connection are sufficient. This way the candidate can participate in the interview via his or her own PC, notebook or even from smartphone.

 What you should consider as potential candidate

For many candidates participating in a job interview via video conference is a completely new experience, although the Generation Y is usually well acquainted with video chats and other Unified Communication solutions such as Skype and should not encounter problems. A professional manner of appearance in front of the camera is key, as it would be in a personal interview as well. Just before the actual interview the candidate should check what can be seen of his or her surroundings on screen. A messy desk or big piles of dirty laundry do certainly not leave the best impression.

During the conference the candidate should take care of a good positioning of the webcam and the ideal adjustment of the microphone. And a hint for the HR Professional: the printed CV or other documents should not cover the microphone if you are not using a headset.

Learn more about Video Conferences

More tricks of the trade for the ideal video conference etiquette can be found here on our blog. I am happy to hear from your experiences!

How To Maintain Security With Teleworking

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Padlock (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Advances in mobile technologies and networking have made it possible for more people to work in the convenience of their homes or outside the office, also known as teleworking. We can work anywhere – client offices, hotels, cafés, beach resorts, etc. This has made virtual companies possible and has made tapping talent from far away possible.

While it is convenient to work from different places, the devices you use are also vulnerable to malware and viruses. These things can also infiltrate your company network and these criminals can steal your company data. Smartphones and tablets are very susceptible to threats as they can easily be stolen. Your company may experience a lot of problems if your employees’ devices get comprised. Tighten your security with these tips.

Protect devices

Your first line of defence against cyber criminals are firewalls, antivirus software and strong passwords. In an ideal world, you should be able to bring your devices anywhere, connect to the Internet and do your work. That is just not the case in the real world as free Internet and public connections are very high risk. You also can’t prevent your employees from opening their personal mail and browsing the Internet especially if they are using their own devices.

Train your employees to regularly update their protective software or better yet, turn on auto-updates in the settings. Install encryption software in your devices too so you can prevent unauthorized people from accessing your data. You should also install a remote-wipe program in case the device gets stolen.

Use cloud applications

Cloud application providers have invested in robust security systems to keep your data protected. If you can’t invest in security software, use cloud applications instead. This is an affordable option for small businesses. If you need more specialized tasks, you can get them starting at $5. That’s not a bad investment especially if you can get peace of mind knowing that your data is safe. Remember to use strong passwords for your accounts.

Secure the company network

Your employees should be able to securely connect to your corporate network. The traditional system used is a Virtual Private Network or VPN that encrypts the employee’s internet traffic. It also has tools to make sure that remote computers have security patches. It can also monitor a machine for potential infections. There are different providers for this kind of security and you can surely get one that fits your budget.

Remote working gives both employees and the company a lot of benefits. The key is to be able to provide a secure working environment wherever your employees are.

VoIP is Perfect for Business Communication

In the past, the way to communicate was through snail mail and landline phone service. This was one of the major obstacles when conducting business. Mail is slow to arrive and phone lines are busy all the time. Suppliers and producers alike have to handle transactions over the phone and voice support alone is not enough to convey enough information. Today, there are VoIP service providers such as RingCentral that could make work easier and more efficient.

VoIP is now being dubbed as the future’s communication super technology and already today a part of  the Unified Communication Strategy of many enterprises. VoIP is the abbreviation of Voice over Internet Protocol. It makes your voice cross boundaries through the Internet. In any type of business, communication is the key to gain success. This of course entails the use of only the best modes of communication. So far, VoIP service is already gradually becoming a leader in this type of industry. It’s because it offers so many services and applications that landline and mobile phone services cannot.

voip-headset-logoVoIP is Easy to Use

If you know how to chat using the ones offered by email service providers, you would not have any problems learning how to use VoIP. Instructions are very easy to follow and even your employees will not have trouble toggling VoIP applications. You can use VoIP using your desktop computer, laptops, smartphone hybrids or have it directly connected to your analogue system. The best way to make use of this of course is from a computer-to-computer basis because calls will not take up any costs. 

VoIP is Very Flexible

Businesses are now making a switch to VoIP because it also offers an intra-office communication solution. Instead of each person or division having their own numbers, the employees are now required to have their very own VoIP account for easier inter-office communication. This is advantageous for the employees because they will not have to transfer desks to give necessary documents when they can just send these with the use of VoIP. It can also be used when sending and receiving messages to other people outside the office. This can also be used for outside communication. In fact, it is currently being used by businesses that have more than one office and can also be used to communicate with other business contacts such as investors, suppliers and clients.

 VoIP Offers More than Just Voice Support

VoIP is not just a service that mimics telephone conversations. It is far more progressive than that. If you have a webcam, you will be able to see the person you are speaking to, facilitating a video conference. You also have the capability to talk to multiple users if you wanted to and make it a multi-site-call. This can be an advantage if you are on vacation but need to be on call for business related activities. For example, you have a file you missed to endorse to a certain employee. VoIP can let you talk to this person and share that file at the same. What is more interesting is that text files are not the only types of documents you can share using VoIP. You can also send rich media files such as videos and audio. You can even attach a voice message using your email!

When you choose VoIP, you improve inter-personnel communication. Since people now are discovering the advantages of using the Internet when placing orders or building business contacts, you too can benefit by making yourself easily reachable with the use of VoIP and other Unified Communication technologies.

Personal Telepresence – Software Solution Comparison

Telepresence on your desk is a great enhancement to the benefits of video collaboration. It enables you to join meetings ad-hoc and (at least for me) replaced the need for doing a phone call. Even if hardware based endpoints are not available there are software solutions available for personal telepresence.

Throughout 2012 I have been using a hardware-based endpoint for quick communication via video and since January 2013 I switched to a software-based solution. I tried out a few and wanted to share the comparison with you.

In the personal telepresence solution comparison below, I listed several options on personal telepresence software clients or web conferencing solutions with video conferencing functions. You will also find links to each solution further down, in case you would like to get more details on the products.

videoconference24, vidyo, citrix, gotomeeting, cisco, webex, skype, premium, adobe, connect, license, comparison, matrix, table, feature, overview, ios, android, encryption, sip, h.323, h323, screenshare, sharing, screen, desktop, plugins, plugin, compatibility, file, upload, availability, guest, invite, link, email, integration, microsoft outlook, unified communications, phonebook, phone, dialin, dial-in, whiteboard, function, multipoint, conferences, videoconferences, telepresence, session, personal, desktop, video, recording, streaming, instant messaging, im, instant message, own branding, brand, branding, organisation, logo, company,

The Telepresence24.com comparison for software-based personal telepresence solution – Updated 22.4.13 – Click to enlarge

My requirements

In the comparison we considered most features and functions but to keep it short and sweet, we published only the most popular and relevant ones. For myself I have a strong focus on security and encryption as well as the ability to call all other H.323 based endpoints and infrastructure devices. With the Videoconference24 client for example I am able to call any box no matter if it is from Huawei, LifeSize, Cisco, Radvision / Avaya, Polycom or similar manufacturers. As long a software-client supports standard SIP or H.323 calling those is also possible – you get the idea: I want to reach them all and I want my line secure even through public internet!

Beside that I enjoy the ability to invite for multipoint video conferences without reserving resources on a separate MCU. In most cases this would cost money yet again and like this I can completely cut both the invest in MCUs as well as starting a video call for right now, without booking nor calling anyone to prepare my conference. Of course video conferencing managed services do make sense in many occasions but just for a sudden meeting I don’t need someone on top of things.

Participants of comparison:

There are more solutions than that available and if you would like to add the solution you have good experiences in please feel welcome to let us know in the comment section below. As usually I am more than happy to update the comparison in collaboration with you.

Summary

I am now using the Videoconference24 solution provided by Global Media Services and don’t have a broken heart when I think back to my hardware-based endpoint from last year. Just one thing I would like to add is that when you are saving big-time money going to software-based solutions: Get high-end peripherals for it! You don’t want to be the VGA person in a HD call because you are using the old webcam back from the days. Recommended gear (in my books) comes from makers such as Logitech and Jabra.

What are you using? And … are you happy with it? I want to know your opinion!