Tag Archives: confusion

video conferencing Connect Two Boardroom 2_edited

The Elephant in the Video Conferencing Room

The fundamental challenge of running enterprise-wide video conferencing (VC) is keeping users happy. Happy users feel empowered, not foolish when confronted with the challenge of setting up or running a VC meeting. If you keep users happy you have most likely cut support costs while increasing utilisation – both metrics critical to any AV service manager come review time.

However for some inexplicable reason the VC industry as a whole has done a very poor job of keeping users happy. Regardless of what the respective vendor marketing departments say, most VC users consider the experience to be at best annoying, at worst completely off-putting. Integrators try to put lipstick on the vendor-grown pig, but inevitably only add cost and introduce unneeded complexity.

What is “the Cloud”? And what is it not?

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Clouds on summer sky (Photo: fastjel)

The Cloud – One of the hottest buzzwords and most abused in describing products or services recently. In this article I would like to mix facts with personal experiences I made, in order to assist everyone, who would like to find out what the cloud is and does and the things that is does not do (hence the title). Cloud has been buzzing around for a while now but when I witnessed both my parents talking about “the cloud” and how they use it in private I understood that this technology has arrived in mainstream and it is here for good.

Cloud??

So what is the cloud in few words? The cloud, or cloud computing is a technology design to enable users working with solutions independent from device, location and network. Of course there are specialisations with a larger or smaller focus on one or two subjects but in general this is it.

Origin of the Term

There are many theories on the origin of the term, yet there is no proven story. Feel free to check some good options on the Wikipedia article for cloud computing. My theory is that it developed from the use of cloud clip-arts and stencils in technical drawings or presentations, created to visualise a network setup. I am sure that even before the term became a buzzword, most of you have seen presentations with little black boxes, switches and routers in and around a large cloud to set a virtual border between realms.

Is the Cloud something new?

I am afraid it is not. The ideas and designs for such concepts have already been around since the 1950s but like with many breakthroughs in the user world, it required certain cultural and technological thresholds to be reached before the adoption could take place on wide-scale.

What is the Cloud?

  • Agility – The cloud is agile and therefore allows users to upscale or downscale their service based on business demand. Further the actual hardware, used to host a virtual machine, can be re-purposed if necessary. This is however not a cloud-only benefit, please read further down on infrastructure virtualisation.
  • Availability – Services have the technological possibility of being available independent from devices, network and location. This is of course relative to the design of each service along with its purpose but technically this is no limitation. For instance you can use cloud video conferencing services to join any enterprise-grade video conference call from your smartphone, notebook, office workstation, tablet or even from a private computer at your home or maybe somewhere else. Of course your conference partner needs to have their own environment set up to accept connections from outside in general. Cloud technology is not a wall-breaker and cannot bypass security of an organisation, if they don’t allow such connections by policy.
  • Business Continuity – Cloud services are set up with redundancy and failover automation in place. So that even if single devices would fail, users would not notice and can proceed using the service. Such reliability would traditionally cost a lot of money when investing in owned or dedicated infrastructure black-boxes.
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Asus product presentation event of cloud-enabled tablet device with Windows 8 (Photo: Tecdencias)

What is the Cloud NOT?

  • Cloud = VirtualisationVirtualisation of infrastructure is a great way of deploying new solutions and upgrading your environment. But if you do this within your WAN this does not automatically mean you are using the “cloud”. You are just virtualising your infrastructure. Fair and square.
  • “No more hardware” – Well that’s a lie. Using software solutions or virtual infrastructure there will still always be servers and databases that require a physical body. Only the deployment and usage is changed but there will always be hardware. You might not own the hardware and you will most likely never see or touch it but it’s there, somewhere in a physical data centre.
  • Grid computing – No, grid computing is not the same as cloud computing in my opinion. Even though, it might be its scientific opposite. Where grid computing allows many computing units to work on a common target (e.g. movie rendering in render farms or Bitcoin mining), cloud computing allows a single user to utilise just any infrastructure in the pool offered by the cloud service provider to achieve their objective.
  • “Private Cloud” needs to be on-premises – No that’s not correct even though it seems to be a common assumption. A cloud service can be deployed dedicated for your organisation without anyone else having access to it, but the location of the physical hardware is irrelevant in order to provide that. In most cases the service provider will utilise hardware that is physically near to the user base in order to avoid performance issues that could occur on long “open internet” routes.

Challenges of Cloud Technology

  • Security – Any cloud service can be set up in secure manner if the solution and the environment of the clients allow it.
  • Privacy – Yes, privacy is a hot topic nowadays. But actually, it always were even in pre-internet age. Privacy is nothing impossible even in the cloud, even in the internet if you choose the right service provider. And if you are looking for good providers but affordability is a concern, make sure that your selected partner has a few good reference clients to show-case to you.
  • Compliance – When you are in phase 2 of the provider selection, bring in the techies of your organisation to make sure all offered functions and features are compliant to any active IT security policies that you need to consider.
  • Vendor Strategy – Cloud providers equal single vendor lock-in? Yes, it can be the case but if you want to avoid that, talk about this particular subject with your provider candidates. A few providers out there have established alliances and offer support to avoid any lock-ins.
  • Online works, offline it doesn’t – Depending on what your solution looks like make sure that your workforce  can use the solution when they are online and when they are offline. For instance when changing a file being on a flight, the data should update and synchronise itself in the cloud again when they are online. However there are some services which this does not apply to such as real-time communication (e.g. WebRTC, video conferencing, VoIP telephony, instant messaging).

Examples of Public Cloud Solutions

Summary

I hope this cleared some confusion around cloud terminology and technology. Further I hope it helped you through your process of picking a good service provider for your organisation if that was your objective. Further I would like to thank Simon Dudley of LifeSize and Phil Karcher of Forrester Research for hosting the webinar, which sparked the inspiration to write this article. LifeSize is often arranging interesting webinars and announces them on their social media platforms. Maybe I will see you on their next event – until then.

Have anything to add or feel I got the wrong picture? You are welcome to comment below and join the discussion. We at Telepresence24.com love your feedback!

How Unified Communications Can Improve Your Business Strategy

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Unified Communications in Enterprises (photo by Victor1558)

More and more businesses are using advances in technology to further their reach and expand. A number of businesses are already familiar with Skype, and that tool has enabled businesses to contact clients and team members who may work from home at a seconds notice. Unified Communications have created a system that has all the benefits of Skype and incorporates other forms of communication too, making it the complete package.

What is Unified Communications?

Unification of communication systems can really give your business a competitive edge and enable you to keep all your forms of communication in one place, making it easy to maintain and man-manage on a day-to-day basis. It enables you to combine telephone and business data on one single network, and gives you the flexibility in your communication to combine and use voice, video and data in applications. You can also save and forward instant message streams, phone calls, faxes and emails, voicemail and video conference sessions as data files. This way, nobody is left out of the loop.

The data is encrypted to ensure that it cannot be obtained and fall into the wrong hands, giving you complete security when passing data across your network. If there is sensitive or important information being sent across, you can rest assured that it will stay in the appropriate circles, regardless of whether it is sent in the form of an email, voice call or video.

How Can Unified Communications Improve My Business Strategy?

The name of the game here is ease of use and a lack of complication. When you have ten plates spinning, there’s a good chance that any could become neglected and fall. Unified Communications allows you to keep everything in order and in one place, meaning that one person can take care of everything if need be, and without any confusion or frustration. The team member can use a single phone number or handset and a unified inbox for all the available communications too. An easier life for your team is the ultimately goal for everybody, and this system provides it.

Cost Saving

Every business strategy needs a budget in place, and every business needs to know what costs are going to be made and saved by the strategy they put into place. Unified Communications save businesses a great deal of money by having all of your communications related outgoings being billed as one item. This makes it a great deal easier for businesses to set a budget and fill out a profit-and-loss. If a business can budget easier, it makes it a lot less difficult to plan ahead.

The systems are pretty inexpensive too, meaning that more small businesses are turning to Unified Communications so that they can save on a variety of systems they would have to set up individually and just focus on the one system that unifies everything, from voice, to email, fax and SMS.

Time is a valuable commodity when putting together a business strategy, and with a unified communication system in place, you can save time and money on training team members on how to use a variety of systems. Once you have a team member trained to a high standard on a unified system, you would have covered all channels of communication, which in turn will help keep your customer service to a high standard and improve efficiency.

Improving Customer Service

Every business strategy has to include ensuring that the customers are taken care of and that their issues and queries are dealt with quickly and effectively. A number of customers will make their complaints heard via social media, email, fax and by telephone contact, so it is essential that all businesses have a clear strategy for taking care of these customer service issues the moment they arise. With a unified communication system, a query or complaint will be noticed immediately, and can be actioned right away. It also takes away the possibility that a complaint or query could be missed by a team member, as it will be right in front of you on the system. With customers demanding a quick service, this form of communication system can see your customer satisfaction stats skyrocket. A quick response can be the difference between a happy customer and a dissatisfied one, after all.

The key points here are: Speed, efficiency and ease of use. There really is small room for error with a Unified Communication system. Your business strategy is designed to help the company move forward, improve and exceed what it was delivering before. Unified Communications could be the key ingredient to your business doing just that.