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Enhance Your Virtual Conference With The Help Of Latest Technologies

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Web conferencing example (Photo credit: davidherrold)

Virtual conferencing is considered one of the most efficient and modern collaborative tool for businesses in the last decade. The technology behind virtual conferencing has been around since the early 2000s, but it has evolved a lot over the years. During the initial days, virtual conferencing was inefficient, lacking in quality, and required expensive items. Today, the quality of these conferencing services and programs has improved and the cost has also come down. It is not uncommon to see small and medium businesses also use web conferencing for their own benefit. If you use a virtual conferencing program, chances are that you are getting a pretty decent service. So now, what latest technological innovation can you use to enhance your virtual conferencing experience? Here is a look at some of them.

Mobile conferencing

Today’s mobile phones are no longer limited to talking and instant messaging- they have become powerful mini-computers and portable offices for those who travel a lot. Many web conferencing service providers offer apps for the iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry operating systems. These apps let you join a conference and take part in it through your mobile phone on the go. For employees who travel frequently, this kind of mobility can help them perform their jobs better and, in turn, improves the efficiency of your workforce.

Get good virtual conferencing equipment and check it appropriately

A great virtual conferencing program is only as good as the tools that are available, and fortunately you can find high quality equipment for conferencing at a very low price. If you are fixing the budget for your conferencing hardware, extend it a little because more than half of these meetings are started late because of technical issues. The vendor offering the conferencing service and the host can only do little when the tech hardware is limited. So, make sure that everyone uses decent headsets, webcams, systems, and other peripherals for the meeting before it begins.

Email integration

When you integrate the virtual conferencing solution with emails, you basically get a more organized meeting setup. Invites for online conferences have been traditionally difficult to send out because you have to track dial-in numbers, audio keys, and login information. Thankfully, some web conferencing programs can be set up so that email invitations are sent through email and participants can enter with a few clicks securely without worrying about changing passwords and numbers.

Video Conferencing

In addition to to the above you can add high quality video conferencing add-ins to your virtual conference or directly use services that provide both screen sharing and video conferencing in one solution. You can use a room, especially designed for video conferencing or just use a software solution with the aid of a webcam and headset.

Get file sharing and editing abilities

If you work with a team spread across various offices and locations, one of the best ways to enhance productivity is to get a virtual conferencing solution that has file sharing and group editing capabilities. With this kind of program, you can share presentations, documents, and other files with other participants for them to see. The group editing allows participants to not only view but also edit the shared files in real time. Other participants can review these changes and make their own revisions.
Basically, you get a virtual conference room where you can show files and work on them with your team, irrespective of where they are located at the moment.

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.

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!

Join the Call – VoIP vs ISDN Telephone Conferencing

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Technology is constantly evolving and being adapted to make things easier for us, to make tasks more efficient – and even automated in some cases. Technology is one industry that moves at an overwhelming speed. You can buy a computer today, and then next month new and improved components could come out making your computer no longer ‘state of the art’.

Technology for Consumers

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What a Social (Media) World!

As personal consumers, we tend to think of technology more in terms of social media, smartphones, tablets, computers and video games.

Every year we see fantastic new updates to the consumer technology market, things like the iPhone which get updated every year, computer components like memory, hard drives, processors, graphics cards and motherboards all see radical improvements year after year, even TV’s and the technologies we see in those are updated on a yearly basis; Blu-ray, 3D etc. technology is a huge part of our day-to-day lives, and it makes things a lot easier for us.

But technology plays a huge part in business too, without technology in business, the world as we know it would not exist! In-fact, business users probably account for a huge percentage of smartphone and tablet users…

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Connect to the World

 

Technology for Business

Technology helps businesses and organizations in a number of ways. It helps them to collaborate, it helps to manage time and productivity, it can help to manage products and inventory, and it can even automate or dramatically reduce the costs and time involved in certain tasks – like marketing, communication, collaboration, invoicing and so much more.

One of the oldest and most prominent uses for technology in business is for conferencing / meetings. Telephone conferencing and holding meets via telephone call (ISDN) instead of conventional methods save companies millions of dollars each year.

Despite how popular telephone conferencing is among business users (and personal users, Skype is a VoIP service which is very similar to telephone conferencing), it hasn’t changed a great deal over the years. The only big changes to this particular niche in the tech industry were when VoIP was introduced into the mix, and then of course when video conferencing came about.

What is VoIP?

voip, voice, over, ip, internet, protocol, blue, globe, tech, technology, icon, logo, shadow, reflection, emitting, radar, waveVoIP is the abbreviation of Voice over Internet Protocol, and the term basically covers any technologies, protocols, methodologies or equipment used in voice and video communications over ‘Internet Protocol’ networks like the internet.

If you’ve ever made an audio call on your computer using software like Skype, then you’ve made a VoIP call before! VoIP took off properly in 1994 with the first ever VoIP application being released – MTALK for Linux.

What is Video Conferencing?

Video conferencing is the same as a standard telephone conference, only with the addition of video. As long as you have a webcam or network camera, a computer and internet connection, then you can hold a video conference online.

man, dude, headset, webcam, video, conference, videoconference, telepresence, laptop, notebook, grey, icon. screen, shineVideo conferencing (also known as Telepresence) allows you to make your meetings and conferences more personal. If you were having a meeting with a client then a video conference would seem more welcoming than a telephone or text based conference, it’s as close as you can get to being ‘face-to-face’ without actually both being in the same room hence the term “Telepresence”.

 

Comparison: VoIP vs ISDN

VoIP

  • Overview: Uses software installed on your computer or mobile phone to place your call over the internet. It supports real-time, two-way transmission of conversations over Internet Protocol. It’s popular among business users as well as personal users, and can also include participants using a standard telephone.
  • Required Equipment: You will need VoIP Software, a computer with internet access, computer audio system and microphone.
  • Benefits: VoIP allows you to access calls anywhere there is an internet connection, it’s often much cheaper than teleconferencing, and often includes additional features and functionality like video conferencing or IM and file sharing features too.

Telephone Conferencing (ISDN)

  • Overview: Requires a conferencing service provider and places calls through telecommunication networks using a landline phone.
  • Required Equipment: You will need any standard telephone, a telecommunications service provider (you can also get special conference phones for meeting rooms if you need them).
  • Benefits: Telephone conferencing delivers the same audio quality as a regular telephone call, it’s as easy as placing a regular phone call and it works without an internet connection. Often these services include recording and playback services, and they are not impacted by internet usage limitations. You can also get 800 number conference call services that allow people to call in to the conference at no charge.

As you can see, VoIP conferencing and telephone conferencing both allow you to do the same thing, and perform the same functions, but different requirements are needed for each. The decision on which one is best for you and your business depends on your current setup and capabilities.

One of the best benefits of VoIP conferencing and conference calls is the price, it’s much cheaper than conventional methods of holding meetings and relaying information via conference and there are rarely extra costs involved for utilising services like video streaming and file sharing in IP based conferences.

If you work in a business or organization that isn’t making use of conference call technologies at the moment, then it’s definitely something you should be looking in to because it can save your company time and money!


For your information we have also attached an infographic around the comparison of VoIP and ISDN based telephone conferencing. Enjoy!

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Telepresence Technology Connect Remote Employees

The benefits of working in a home office and using telepresence from the perspective of the employee.

Seven years ago, I was pregnant with my son when my husband decided that it was imperative for me to find a job. At the time, I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby to go to work, and so I decided that even if it made my job search an arduous one, I would hold out for the opportunity to work from home.

I was lucky, and within a month or so, I was offered a web content writing position with a tiny, semi-local internet marketing firm. The manager wanted me to come in for weekly meetings, but preferred for me to do the rest of my work from a home office. The company was only occupying a small space at the time, and finding a place for me to work there would have been a difficult feat, so I was able to sign on for the remote work I wanted without inconveniencing my new employer. I was thrilled.

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When this …

The Early Stages

In the beginning, I had a lot of questions, and finding useful ways to stay in touch with my supervisor led me to investigate affordable video conferencing options. Often, I felt as though it would be easier for me to do my job if I could still see and interact with my co-workers as if they were right there in my home. We tried Skype and other free services, but eventually I began doing more work with clients, the company grew, and our sales team expanded. At that point, it became worthwhile to research and employ more advanced telepresence solutions both at home and in the office.

When my employer presented me with what seemed like a giant monitor and camera set up, I was initially uncomfortable. It wasn’t life-sized, but it was much more intimidating than popping up on his 13” laptop screen when we needed to work on a project. Still, the possibilities for collaboration were endless.

Afterwards

I used multipoint video conferencing from my home on the East Coast to present information to clients in California. When a new customer was having trouble understanding our service, I set up my HD video conferencing equipment, and used a white board and my computer screen to walk them through the process. Technology connected me to meetings, sales events, and significant opportunities, all from the comfort of my own home. It was an ideal way to work, especially with young children in the house.

As more and more companies begin seeking out talented employees while paying less mind to their location, the video conferencing industry has taken massive steps forward in connectivity, user-friendly operations, mobility, definition, and more. Remote workers are signing in from tablets, mobile phones, and advanced equipment alike, all in an attempt to stay close and connected while doing their jobs from afar. Some, like myself, are parents who need to be at home for their children. Others are simply located at a great distance from the businesses that can most benefit from their services. Many are freelancers, but many more are doing full-time work for large and small corporations.

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… turns to this.

The Future has Arrived

Telepresence solutions are increasing in affordability and quality as well, and as they do, I predict that more offices will shut down. Start-ups and small businesses will cut costs by eliminating monthly rent and allowing their employees to connect from home. This is the sort of technology that, when used correctly, can attract a wider base of clients and pull staff from the widest possible pool of talented individuals. Video conferencing isn’t just a high tech toy these days – it’s a real solution that can help businesses grow their bottom lines while also contributing to employee satisfaction, and it’s just another indication that the future we dreamed about years ago is finally here!