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5 Things You Should Not Forget When Inviting To A Meeting

Today I would like to show you 5 things to consider when inviting others to a local meeting or video conference. These methods have developed throughout years of hosting and participating in meetings all over the world and I hope they will be of value to you. So without further ado don’t forget the coffee and … enjoy!

1 – Identify Participants

Meetings can be a nice way of bringing relevant people together on a table (or virtual table) to analyse the status quo and decide for the best way forward towards a common goal. However a meeting host, who is to send out the meeting invites, has to consider carefully who should participate and who does not add value. That might sound harsh but the reality is that even people often forget it, every person’s time costs money. Maybe they are not charged for it but at some point the time they were involved in this meeting could also have been used differently. That is especially a critical factor if meetings happen with more than just one organisation involved.

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!

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.

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“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!

Unified Communications List

New to Twitter and looking for a good feed on Unified Communications news? We know that problem and have prepared a little something with the help of Listly.

We have started and embedded a social listing below. You can engage in the listing and add as well as remove ranking points from the list. You can even add your own favourites if you think there were some overlooked.

Enjoy and happy voting!

 REPORT
126 items   3 followers   72 votes   817 views

UC - Twitter Users

A list of people and companies who are tweeting about Unified Communications.

Source: http://www.telepresence24.com/?page_id=2001

UC - Twitter Users | Christopher Isak (ChristopherIsak) on Twitter

The latest from Christopher Isak (@ChristopherIsak). Professional Services @GMS_GmbH - Editor @ http://Telepresence24.com - My subjects: #Videoconferencing #ITSM #Leadership #BI #ServiceDesign #Innovation #UComms. Frankfurt, Germany

UC - Twitter Users | Stephanie Watson (SteffWatson) on Twitter

The latest from Stephanie Watson (@SteffWatson). Telecoms Industry Analyst and GM of MZA, Mother, UC, Contact Centre, IP PBX, thoughts own. UK

UC - Twitter Users | UCStrategies (UCStrategies) on Twitter

The latest from UCStrategies (@UCStrategies). A resource for enterprises, vendors, and system integrators regarding Unified Communication techs and strategies incl VoIP, SIP, UM, Presence, msging, and more. California

UC - Twitter Users | Global Media Service (GMS_GmbH) on Twitter

The latest from Global Media Service (@GMS_GmbH). GMS is a service provider focused on Audio Visual support, media solutions, global videoconferencing networks and managed services. Eschborn, Germany

UC - Twitter Users | LifeSize (LifeSizeHD) on Twitter

The latest from LifeSize (@LifeSizeHD). LifeSize, a division of Logitech, delivers high definition video conferencing with no compromises

UC - Twitter Users | Cisco TelePresence (TelePresence) on Twitter

The latest from Cisco TelePresence (@TelePresence). The official feed for Cisco TelePresence where you can get the latest updates and info. @JulieeMcPherson is your host. Virtually

UC - Twitter Users | Polycom (Polycom) on Twitter

The latest from Polycom (@Polycom). The global leader in open, standards-based unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions for voice and video collaboration. San Jose, CA

UC - Twitter Users | UC Ling (UC_Ling) on Twitter

The latest from UC Ling (@UC_Ling). I tweet about Unified Communications and Technologies to keep in touch and collaborate - #UC #FollowBack - Love all my Tech Head Nerds!. Hong Kong

UC - Twitter Users | Jeff Wu (JeffWu_224) on Twitter

The latest from Jeff Wu (@JeffWu_224). UC Solutions Director - Passion about #UC and #Telepresence - My tweets are my own and do not reflect @HuaweiPress. Shenzhen

UC - Twitter Users | Huawei Technologies (HuaweiPress) on Twitter

The latest from Huawei Technologies (@HuaweiPress). Official Huawei Twitter page. Huawei is a world-leading telecom solutions provider. http://t.co/V5EqJhOK http://t.co/l2rTvSrm

UC - Twitter Users | Telepresence24.com (Telepresence24) on Twitter

Independent Unified Communications Industry Blog - We got news, reviews, opinions and future outlook for you - #ucoms #ucc #telepresence #videoconferencing. English and German language

UC - Twitter Users | Avaya (Avaya) on Twitter

The latest from Avaya (@Avaya). Your official source for information on Avaya news, events, technology and innovation. Need support? Please contact @Avaya_Support

UC - Twitter Users | nojitter (nojitter) on Twitter

The latest from nojitter (@nojitter). Website for Unified Comms, mobility, social networking & collaboration; official editorial website of Enterprise Connect, the industry's leading event brand. Chicago

UC - Twitter Users | Blair Pleasant (blairplez) on Twitter

The latest from Blair Pleasant (@blairplez). unified communications & collaboration and contact center industry analyst & consultant, fan of social software. Beatles freak, mom, wine lover. Santa Rosa, CA

UC - Twitter Users | Microsoft Lync Team (DrRez) on Twitter

The latest from Microsoft Lync Team (@DrRez). The latest Lync Server info to inform and educate the UC community, from Microsoft developers, writers, support, and field. One Microsoft Way

UC - Twitter Users | Siemens Enterprise (SiemensEnt) on Twitter

The latest from Siemens Enterprise (@SiemensEnt). Siemens Enterprise Communications is one of the world's leading suppliers of unified communications. Improving team performance through #amplifyTEAMS

UC - Twitter Users | Sean Wilder (seanwilder) on Twitter

The latest from Sean Wilder (@seanwilder). Channel Dev Mgr. at LifeSize but tweets are my own. UC. Social Media. Sales 2.0. Kentucky basketball. Running. Beer. Nashville, TN

UC - Twitter Users | Sally Li (sallysl) on Twitter

The latest from Sally Li (@sallysl). Polycom product management for cloud and mobile solutions. Geek. Runner. Trekkie. And proud mom and wife. Silicon Valley, CA, USA

UC - Twitter Users | Hyoun Park (hyounpark) on Twitter

The latest from Hyoun Park (@hyounpark). COO @cambervillechow & @NucleusResearch Principal Analyst #analytics #bigdata #telco #MoneyBall LinkedIN: http://j.mp/hyounpark Tumblr: http://j.mp/TheFinalWord. Read my research at

UC - Twitter Users | David Maldow (LetsDoVideo) on Twitter

The latest from David Maldow (@LetsDoVideo). Telepresence Evangelist

UC - Twitter Users | Audrey_William (Audrey_William) on Twitter

The latest from AudreyWilliam (@AudreyWilliam). Frost & Sullivan analyst focusing on Unified Communications, Videoconferencing, Contact Centre, Collaboration, Social Media, Cloud Computing, Digital Signage. Australia/New Zealand

UC - Twitter Users | Keisuke Hashimoto (cnarjp) on Twitter

The latest from Keisuke Hashimoto (@cnarjp). Analyst focusing on conferencing and unified communications. Here, we'll keep you up-to-date with what's happening in Japan market. Funabashi, Chiba Japan

UC - Twitter Users | Philipp Bohn (PhilippBohn) on Twitter

The latest from Philipp Bohn (@PhilippBohn). CEO staff at Siemens Enterprise Communications, former ICT industry analyst at Berlecon, focus = technology, design, strategy. Munich, Germany

UC - Twitter Users | Charlotte Sturman (CharlotteTataTP) on Twitter

The latest from Charlotte Sturman (@CharlotteTataTP). Part of the Tata Communications Telepresence Revolution!! Vast experience in the public and private rooms space as Relationship Manager for Telepresence EMEA. London, England

UC - Twitter Users | Viju (VijuGroup) on Twitter

The latest from Viju (@VijuGroup). Viju: a global visual communications specialist - video conferencing, telepresence, audio visual, collaboration & visualisation solutions. (Formerly @CityIS). USA, UK, Norway and Singapore

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!

What is WebRTC? – Overview for Busy People

webrtc, logo, chat, bubble, shapes, colours, colorsNo other topic is roaming the news and social media as much as WebRTC these days. But what is WebRTC and what should it mean to you?

Today I would like to give you an overview around this trend and where it came from. In this article I would like to try out the “For Busy People” article format by consolidating all hot topics into quick facts to add value to you without getting side-tracked. I know you busy people are busy and so you can just skip the parts of the article that you are not interested in.

What does WebRTC stand for?

WebRTC means Web Real-Time Communication, so we are talking about ways to communicate without any delay, based on a web-browser, without the use of software that needs to be installed beforehand.

What is WebRTC?

WebRTC is an open framework for placing real-time communication components on web-pages and is controlled by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who are also taking care of other web-standards such as HTML, XML, CSS and others. WebRTC components could include methods such as VoIP, Instant Messaging (or just “chat”), video conferencing or a combination of these. Personally I would count WebRTC to the umbrella of Unified Communications, but the actual use of the WebRTC solutions depend on each enterprise.

Where does WebRTC come from?

WebRTC technology was first developed by Global IP Solutions (or GIPS), a company founded around 1999 in Sweden. In 2011 GIPS was acquired by Google and the W3C started to work on a standard for WebRTC. Since then Google and other major players in the web-browser market, such as Mozilla and Opera, have been showing great support for WebRTC.

How does WebRTC work?

The framework is based on HTML5 and JavaScript but does not utilise SIP or H.323 like other Unified Communication solutions. The signalling and transfer of data works over RTP and with an XMPP extension called “Jingle”. With the newly introduced JavaScript Session Establishment Protocol (JSEP) direct connections can be established without the need of a piece of hardware in the middle. Depending on the deployment audio, video and / or other data can now be exchanged to allow WebRTC to happen in your browser.

And for our firewall traversal specialists: WebRTC can do STUN, ICE, TURN, RTP-over-TCP and supports proxies. What else do you wish for?

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How does WebRTC work? – Click for larger pop-up

What does WebRTC mean to me?

Imagine the impact of 1,000,000,000+ endpoints. Not bad! This is the potential amount of endpoints talking to each other and making VoIP calls or even video conferences. Even though Microsoft is strongly pushing Skype for desktop video conferencing, they are also making sure that their Internet Explorer is ready to take on the WebRTC challenge.

But the missing link right now is: Will there be interoperability between WebRTC and other Unified Communication solutions? I believe the first developers, making both worlds compatible to each other will have edge.

Examples for WebRTC?

The possibilities are impossible to count. Especially in the age of BYOD everyone has their smartphone always ready and beyond that every notebook and desktop PC could participate in WebRTC. Here are some examples I could think of:

  • Customer service via video conference (the end of the service hotline?)
  • Working together on documents via web (web-collaboration beyond firewalls)
  • Smart-TVs allow you do do video conferences without infrastructure or service running in the back (if there’s a browser – there’s a way!)
  • Not interested in video conferences? Have a video diary! (takes only cloud storage and WebRTC)
  • WebRTC might change the face of Social Media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter completely if implemented (why not quickly talk about it?)
  • Instead of displaying phone numbers to your common window-shopper, provide a QR-code or a NFC space, so users can reach directly to you with their smartphone or tablet (we got a camera, a mic, a speaker – so let’s use them!)

Is there a WebRTC presentation?

You are lucky! Google has recently released a web-based presentation with a lot of interesting slides. I have also added a video below, for your to get some more details on WebRTC, Let me know of your thoughts!


Web Real-time communication – Google I/O 2013 – by Justin Uberti

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2HzZkd2A40&w=575]

All New Viber: Cross-Platform Monster for Consumers

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Viber Desktop with all new features (Image by Viber Media Inc.)

Some of you might know Viber already and that they are  now also providing a solution for Windows and Mac based workstations. For everyone else here is a quick introduction to Viber:

What is Viber?

Viber is a cross-platform VoIP solution for consumers developed by Viber Media Inc. It was first introduced to iOS in December 2010. Since then they have been increasing support for other smartphone platforms such as Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nokia Symbian and Samsung Bada. Their app does not cost anything but the initial registration requires a SMS to be send for validating your phone number.

What’s new?

On May 7, 2013 Viber released software clients for Windows and Mac. So you are able to install the application on your computer or notebook and register with your phone number to synchronise contacts. When you are logged in with both your smartphone and a desktop client at the same time you can move any active call to the other device.

Features

So what value does it add to your unified communications environment? Here are some of the new (and some old) features that might come in handy:

Positioning

The Viber solution is clearly positioned in the consumer market and gained wide popularity among users in that category. So far I have not come across enterprises utilising Viber as part of their unified communications strategy. If you are using Viber for professional purposes please feel invited to share your experiences in the comment section below.

Competition

As the Facebook Chat app is currently tested for possible VoIP features and beta tested, Viber seeks to increase their solution portfolio to maintain market share and this release seems to be the result of that. Other in-direct competitors of consumer-based unified communication tools are solutions such as WhatsApp for instant messaging and Skype for video conferencing.

Possible Business Usage

If you and your social network connections list their smartphone number along with the social profile, and install the apps of such on their smartphone they will see each other on Viber. Being completely synchronised  they will be able to communicate via VoIP, video conference or instant message beyond their enterprises unified communications abilities. This should serve for non-critical communication only though, as consumer solutions might not be sufficient to match your organisations IT security policies.


The Viber Desktop Introduction Video

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEqS5W-KfRw]

Microsoft Lync 2013 – New Feature Overview

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Main Window

Are you planning to upgrade your unified communications IM client? Following up on the article “What Is Microsoft Lync?” by Mark Stubbles we would like to introduce you today to all new features of Microsoft Lync 2013.

In comparison the Microsoft Office Communicator (also known as OCS) had the look and feel of Windows XP, the Lync 2010 update brought it up to speed with the Windows 7 design and finally Lync 2013 has the looks of the Windows 8 and Office 365 environment. But of course there is much more under the hood than just eye-candy. I listed below a few of the new features that were most interesting to me.

Overview of new features in Lync 2013

Visual Features:

The main window has been optimized to provide better access and a more intuitive using of the application. The new tabbed conversation feature gets rid of having several chat windows open at the same time – so you can keep track of all your conversations in a single place and just have to browse through them. Similar to the tabbed browsing of Google Chrome you are also able to move a certain chat out of the tabbed conversations and provide them with their own window and naturally you can move it back into the tabbed conversation window.

And for everyone who would like to display the images and fonts larger they can easily adjust the display setup in the configuration of the client. This is not only a help to users with sight challenges, but also can be useful for a deployment on wall-mounted displays.

Easier Deployment:

The main Lync 2013 client and the Online Meeting add-in is now included in the setup program of Office 2013 so deployment on the software side has been made significantly easier, especially for large enterprises with many thousands of workstations.

However because this part has changed Microsoft has also changed how the group policy is deployed. Instead of working on the communicator.adm file to define policies, certain ADMX and ADML admin templates are provided along with Office Policy Administrative Templates to work on. For more information on this particular topic I suggest reading the Microsoft article on “Group Policy Settings for Lync 2013“.

BYOD Enhancements:

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Calling a Smartphone

With Lync 2010 the App for smartphone, there was only support for presence and instant messaging while the new Lync 2013 App for smartphones and tablets also supports Voice calls and mobile video conferencing over WiFi and cellular data connection alike. Regardless of the fact that many desk phones can be connected with your Lync client, utilizing Lync on smartphones and Lync on PCs within your organisation your permanently replace the requirement of having a separate hardware phone on your desk and cutting costs for invest and maintenance by enforcing unified communications technology. For a more detailed overview of the features for mobile Lync I recommend the “Mobile Client Comparison Tables” page by Microsoft.

The users accessing from non-corporate workstations via browser also get some good news. The Lync 2013 Web App for web-based conferencing received support for voice and high definition video conferencing devices. Meeting participants can also show their screens for collaboration or presentation and re-assign the presenter role to others – They get the full Lync 2013 meeting experience without having the software client installed on the machine.

Functional Features:

The Lync 2013 client can handle virtual environment better. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) fully supports audio and video devices, like a headset and a webcam, to be connected to the client even though you might be using a virtual machine such as a thin client or a differently re-purposed workstation. For more details on how to deploy the Lync VDI plug-in please check the Microsoft TechNet article.

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Chat Room Integration

Another interesting new feature is the chat room integration (also known as persistent chat rooms or topic feeds). In older versions you were already able to create group conversations for multiple users to chat or hold a presentation for instance. In the new Lync 2013 however these can be promoted to be permanent and will be also available for others to be joined, including all the content that was added and when. It might not be applicable to all services and organisations, but this feature might the need for static email lists and adds a new dynamic way of sharing information and making such available for all. If you don’t want it to be available for all users, there is also the option to limit the visibility to certain users or user groups.

Also newly implemented is a feature that lets Lync 2013 automatically assign you with “presenting” status, to block incoming communication unless the sender is in an approved group. If you are a two-screen users however this is not automatically done for you, if you use the secondary screen as presenting space.

You may have made experience with previous versions of the client that you would like to keep a certain conversation up for reference but you need to restart the machine. What happens? The information is gone. In the new Lync 2013 once you are back booted up, the conversation comes back along with the content of the conversation, you held before rebooting. I found this to be quite the time-saver in those moments.

Improvements of already deployed functions:

  • Outlook Meeting Scheduling updated
  • Native Video Conferencing enhanced
  • Web App and Mobile App now support voice and video conferencing
  • Contact and card view was improved
  • Meeting participation functions were heavily improved for better collaboration

Have you tried Lync 2013 out yet? Missed your favourite new feature? I would be delighted to hear your opinion. Drop us your comment below!