Tag Archives: Presence

Effective Communication with Clients and Colleagues

Business communication is defined by Wikipedia as “communication that promotes a product, service or organization; relays information within a business; or functions as an official statement from a company”. Topics communicated usually include marketing; brand management; customer relations; consumer relations and public relations. In each one of the above you are representing your company so you need to handle yourself in a professional manner.

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When you have to go speak on behalf of your company you need to determine what you are trying to communicate and to whom. Sometimes you have to communicate with your co workers and at other times with clients. If you need to show a presentation to one of your clients face to face, PowerPoint will always work best but you need to be able to communicate to present your presentation. You cannot prepare for this too much, and you need to be simple and to the point.

Web Conferencing – a New Mean of Training

Among many influential tools that could be used in an online learning or training is Web Conferencing. Web conferencing offers online training participants easier and convenient access also known as e-learning or TeleEducation.  In addition, it is much more cost-effective, faster and better. Web conferencing is becoming a popular means of providing training, the benefits are astounding, and here are some of the reasons why.

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Photo by Steve Garfield

  1. Convenient

    If you are an employee, attending seminars or trainings can be quite a daunting task. But with web conferencing you have the chance to learn from your own workplace, home or even on the road at your won flexible time. No matter where you are web conferencing can function for you.  Another scenario, if one participant got sick, there is no need for the training program to be cancel or delay. With web conferencing you can still be able to reach one other (trainees and trainer) and proceed with the program.

  2. Fast and Easy

    Sharing knowledge can be done with just a few mouse clicks and maybe a registration. But other than that, no need for any other complex steps. In addition, web conferencing allow any number of trainees to learn all in one time.

  3. Fun

    Lectures are enhanced. Forget about the wide screen projectors. There are various VoIP provider, desktop applications and internet tools that made interaction much more interesting. One can make revision and commentaries on every file types that flash on screen. Trainees or trainer can edit and draw on a document visible in their computer screens through the use of annotation tools. Desktop sharing applications can also be used to share resources that are pulled from the worldwide web. You can learn from other video presentations (if video conferencing functions are included), downloadable files, and the like to stimulate the discussion further.

  4. Friendly and Easy to use

    Just open your computer and connect to internet, participants are up and you can start learning. Survey also says that people can communicate more through web conferences than personally. Mainly because other people are shy to talk in person but in web conferences they can show their true self.

  5. Affordable

    According to a survey, it is 93% cheaper than instructor-led courses. Of course it is. Online training doesn’t cost a classroom, it doesn’t cost electricity, you can learn/teach at the comfort of your own houses.

Regardless of how gifted an individual is, he or she should still need to undergone generous amount of training so as to fit for a certain occupation. Specialized fields such as information technology and healthcare are vital in today’s living, and they require a standard of performance to sustain their proficiency. Aside from that, training empowers the workers to work in agreement to the mission and the vision that the company takes after. Without unified objectives, the company will have no clear heading to pursue and thus no end of the line to arrive at. With Web conferencing all these can be done without the worry about the location, budget and availability of an individual.

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]

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!

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.

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!

Do You Need A Policy For Your Remote Workers?

After Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has previously reaffirmed the ban on telecommuting, discussion spread across the social web. Not only potential remote workers and telecommuters are affected by such policies but als the employer. For those who cannot agree on her decision, we would like to give some pointers around the creation of a remote working policy and what you should consider.

A remote working arrangement can be a great way to increase your company’s perceived flexibility, and it’s particularly beneficial for parents of young children. Working from home makes it easier for employers to recruit globally, and to hire otherwise-qualified but physically disabled workers who wouldn’t be able to make it to the office. The arrangement that’s best depends on your company’s location, work type and culture; if you’re planning to allow some of your workers to operate remotely, you’ll need a sound policy. Below, you’ll learn more about remote working policies and the parts to be included.

Creating an Effective Policy

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to foster a productive environment. Making the switch to remote working can be difficult, because it requires that you give up some degree of control over that environment; after all, who’s to say that employees won’t game the system? How can you effectively supervise workers whom you don’t see each day? Before a remote working arrangement can be implemented, those questions need to be answered. The first step in implementation is to create a remote working policy, which is a set of guidelines for work-at-home employees. As you’re drafting your policy, keep the following ideas in mind.

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Telecommuting (Photo credit: jessamyn)

Will you Need Multiple Policies?

The first question you’ll need to answer is: Do you need two policies, or one umbrella policy? If at all possible, avoid having separate policies for in- and out-of-office workers. Separate policies can confuse workers and lead to unfairness and resentment. Put together a unified policy that amply covers the job’s basic requirements, but make it broad enough to allow workers to operate in the most efficient way.

Outline Your Expectations to Remote Workers

To ensure that your workers remain on-task, you’ll need to set forth some expectations. Employees like working from home because it offers greater flexibility, but you’ll still need to let them know that you expect work to be completed on a certain date. Allow employees to work from home, but establish deadlines and measure output so productivity stays high.

Assign Responsibility for Expenses

When drafting a work-from-home policy, you’ll need to assign responsibility for business expenses. With remote working, the boundaries between work and home life tend to blur. Do you buy employees’ office supplies if they work from home? Do you change your mileage-tracking method if employees begin their commute from home? Your company should already have a policy for in-office workers, but you should have guidelines in place for remote workers as well.

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Barry Mulcahy Makes His Point (Photo credit: topgold)

Technology Toolset and Unified Communications

To provide your remote workers with an environment close to or equal to what they have in the office, you need to consider the technology that they will require. You should liaise with the IT department around your unified communications solution that you have in place and make sure it can be utilised from a remote position as well. If you are planning unified communications strategy and roadmap, you should make sure to consider your remote workforce as well.

Data Security

One of the largest remote-working challenges is keeping sensitive data secure. Working from home allows for greater flexibility, but it also requires a certain degree of data vulnerability. If information security is an important part of your corporate philosophy, collaborate with the IT department to properly secure and access data, and give remote workers the security tools and training they need.

If your company allows for remote working, you should have a policy in place. Remote working policies protect both you and your employees, and they set forth clear expectations. When drafting your policy, be clear and consistent without taking away any of the flexibility that makes remote working such a popular option—and once the policy is completed, be sure everyone knows what’s expected.

Polycom enables Telepresence with Skype, Facebook and Google

Telepresence with anyone?

Today I would like to present you something I considered rather exciting news. So far only the Blue Jeans Network MCU solution was able to bridge Skype users into enterprise-class video conferences but this might change and might even be bested by Polycom.

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So what’s new?

Announcing “Business Class Video Conferencing with Anyone”, Polycom is extending their RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite to be compatible with pre-industry telepresence applications including Skype, Google Talk and Facebook Video Chat. Beyond that it is said that anyone with merely a browser and webcam will be able to join video conferences as well, no matter if they are within the firewall or outside of it.

All your contacts from those directories along with your corporate contact list will be available in a single platform. Simply point and click your participants to establish an enterprise-grade secured video conference. Further they are including smartphones and tablets to be available for video calls.

Content sharing is said to be available even though it is yet to be seen how that works with clients like Facebook Video Chat that do not support a content channel by default. I am keen on seeing more of this solution.

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When will it be available?

The extension is expected to be available in April 2013. Contact your Polycom Sales Rep or visit their webpage for further information. If you already had some insight into the solution feel welcome to share your comments with us below.


Demonstration of the Polycom RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite with new features to work with Skype, Facebook and Google

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICVttZzDysM

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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Unwanted Guests: How Easy Is It To Hack Into Corporate Video Conferences?

Is your video conference solution safe? It’s up to you, to set it up safe.

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Image by codepinkhq

History

For as long as recording technology has existed it has been used for espionage. From the ever-so-stealthy tape recorders (often hidden in books in James Bond films) all the way top the wires used by police agencies to catch a criminal in the act, there is no better way of foiling your enemy than listening to him when he doesn’t think he is being heard.

Nowadays

These days however it is not just living people you need to worry about. It is often said that your computers webcam can be accessed even when you’re not using it; a terrifying prospect for many and considering how long people have been able to listen in on phone calls, are video conferences really that safe? Video conferences are now an important and effective way for modern businesses to communicate. Instantaneous communication with anywhere else on Earth is amazing, but being able to visually gauge the reaction of the person you are talking to make it one of the most powerful tool in any company’s arsenal.

But..

But what if you are being looked in on? If someone watches in on a business deal than they can make money at your expense, work to crush your plans or even make your move before you do. So how safe are they? Hackers like HD Moore say not very! Moore, the creator of Metasploit, has managed to hack his way into the offices of law firms, courtrooms and even the boardroom of Goldman Sachs with ease, suggesting that peeping toms might have more power than previously thought. While this may seem fairly reminiscent of Back to the Future II there isn’t really too much to worry about at home. Moore says that the reasons these companies fail so spectacularly at securing their cameras is because they set them up outside of their company’s network firewalls, meaning easy access to those with prying eyes and hacking know-how. At home in fact, it is not the outside hackers you should worry about but the companies themselves.

And beyond the board room?

Skype has previously stated that it is able to gain access to cameras even when not in video call and a simple Google search can turn up thousands of programs designed purely to hack into webcams without people knowing. It’s not just the anonymous hackers you have to consider. In the early 2000s there was controversy over the US government’s plans to allow phone hacking to counter terrorism. Last year the US government set up an agency called the DCAC (Domestic Communications Assistant Centre), collaboration between the FBI, the DEA and the US Marshall’s Service which is specifically designed to enable wire-tapping on wireless and internet conversations. A court order is required to allow the agency to listen in on their targets (the same as with phones) but this time there was very little controversy at all.

Conclusion

So what conclusion can we come too? Is video conferencing safe for corporations or people at home? While there is plenty of evidence to the contrary I would say yes. If you have the right firewalls, security and managed video conferencing infrastructure then it is incredibly difficult for any peeping toms to get it and if anybody is really that determined to listen in to your conversations then video conferencing is just another tool in their box. If you learn HD Moore’s lessons and don’t underestimate the importance of online security, your company’s secrets should be safe. Are you guys convinced by Moore’s Argument?