Tag Archives: Provider

Are you being served?

Mike Horsley, CTO at VQ, throws some light on the self-service video trend among enterprise video conferencing users 

Our customers – among which are some of the largest enterprise users of video conferencing in the world – have traditionally been highly advanced users of the technology. They often approached us because the video service delivery solutions supplied as part of the manufacturers’ toolsets didn’t fully meet their needs.

These early adopters and visionaries knew what they really wanted in terms of management and reporting and we basically listened and built it, allowing us to exactly deliver the services they envisioned. They used our solution to deliver video conferencing that worked well and their users liked; adoption and usage-levels grew as a consequence.

Several generations of refinements later, we’re at the stage where users trust video and want more; the problem now is one of success. Delivering an exclusively managed service to a large user-base is not economically viable in the long term and the challenge is to enable that user-base to take control and serve themselves, whenever and wherever they need video – this is where a growing number of our bigger customers are heading.

Mike Horsley VQ Chief Technology Officer

Mike Horsley, CTO at VQ Communications

Several key pieces of the jigsaw have dropped into place in recent years that now enable self-service. One of these pieces is Microsoft Lync. Users like its simplicity and the fact that it looks and feels like they expect (click-to-call is a great example of this); the barriers to using it are suitably low, which encourages mass-adoption. Another part of the jigsaw is the infrastructure needed to host enterprise video and allow previously incompatible technologies – whether voice, audio or video – to work together. New entrants to this side of the market, and one I really like in this respect is Acano, solve the problems of making the slightly proprietary Lync work with traditional video equipment. This has been possible before but only just, and not without a great deal of hoops to jump through. Where Acano is different is that it makes the ‘joining the dots’ component of the problem significantly easier. For example, the Acano MCU automatically handles many of the differences between the various flavours of Lync – it just works. Acano also solves many of the scaling issues with traditional video conferencing MCUs, which have limited capacity and therefore the complexity of video conferencing was traditionally compounded by requiring lots of boxes. With the Acano MCUs, a single server can host many hundreds – if not thousands – of calls. So, essentially, anything can call anything and it scales like you wouldn’t believe. Technology like this makes huge self-service deployments viable for the first time.

Many customers are now exploring platforms that can deliver a traditional managed service but also allow them to introduce self-service. Managed video services will probably stay about where they are in use-level terms, but we are seeing a transition to planning and deployment of self-service systems; this is where we see the most future growth. Consider the voice conferencing model (people give out numbers and the participants dial-in to join the call). This is the model self-service video is moving to; users understand it and are already using it for conference calls.

To enterprises considering self-service I would highlight several factors that influence success and are worth considering. Firstly, video conferencing is inherently complex, whether managed- or self-service. It pushes your network harder than normal data and it will find all of the network issues you were blissfully ignorant to before. Technology solutions and partners will help make this easier but it is never truly easy (and don’t trust anyone who says it is). If you don’t have any experience, go to the experts first: video conferencing managed service providers. They have been through the pain before and having them on board will increase your chances of launching a service that works and meets your users’ expectations.

Not only is it not easy, it is also not a ‘quick fix’. Cutting corners predictably results in poor experience, low adoption and therefore higher overall costs due to low return on investment. Do it right and work with experts.

High levels of adoption massively reduce the cost-per-call-per-minute to the business so remember, just as with managed-service video, it is good user experience first and foremost that drives adoption. When developing a self-service solution, the focus must always be on guaranteeing reliability, usability and convenience.

Stay informed

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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!

The Benefits Of Wide Area Networking Using Cisco Technology

Cisco Nexus Switches (5010 and 2248)

Cisco Nexus Switches (5010 and 2248) (Photo credit: pchow98)

Long before the internet became the phenomenon that it is today, Cisco was providing networking solutions, so efficiently that it has become the world leader in computer, IT and communications networking. In fact, the company has become a household name, recognised even by people who haven’t a clue what Cisco does. This is why, to those who are in the know, Cisco technologies are the perfect choice when planning Wide Area Networking (WAN) solutions for anyone from home users to corporations operating around the globe.

Cisco Offers Bespoke Solutions

One of the most appealing advantages of using Cisco Technologies for WAN is the company’s flexibility to tailor its networking products and solutions to customers’ specific needs, meaning no prospective customer is only offered the choice from a range of off-the-shelf options. This also offers the scope for growth and future updates without installing a complete new system.

Connecting Through Switching

Wide Area Networking using Cisco Technology is where the company comes into its own. While many other providers have moved into the smaller Local Area Network and Personal Area Network markets, Cisco have undoubtedly looked at the big picture for the future and provide a service that is used and trusted across the globe. From a base or local station, information sent to a remote geographical location must travel via one or more WAN links, connected through switches that are dedicated to sending the information. A computer in London, for instance, would communicate through a router to a WAN that then sends the data to a router in, say, Munich, Montreal or Mumbai. Three different technologies, cell switching packet switching and circuit switching, are used, each with its own advantages, disadvantages and optimum uses.

Benefit From Unbeatable Flexibility

At the heart of all of the company’s products and solutions is the Cisco Internetwork Operating System, or Cisco IOS. The IOS brings together diverse and different systems and devices to integrate varied protocols into a cohesive whole system. The integration of all components of the network increases security, as well as speed and quality of communication. With these solutions available, network designers can work more freely and flexibly, delivering solutions to their customers in a smooth process.

Modern Communication with Cisco TelePresence

Cisco TelePresence

Cisco TelePresence (Photo credit: dolanh)

Using high-end video conferencing technology Cisco was among the first organisations to produce TelePresence infrastructure and endpoints alike. With the Immersive TelePresence suites they have reached a milestone that was unparalleled until now allowing important meetings to be carried out with participants from around the world with the same effectiveness as if they were all in the same room.

Cisco Technology Is Future-Proof

One reason that Cisco technologies lead the world is that the company has never stood still. It has acknowledged advances in technologies in networking and connectivity, which means that the company is trusted by a wide pool of users. Consumers and network specialists look to Cisco for future developments. Cloud technology is the latest development to have captured the imagination, but it will not be the panacea it is predicted to be without the nuts and bolts of everyday use. Whatever comes out of the cloud in the future, integrating WAN with Cisco technologies gives its users optimum usage out of their broadband and network to do their own jobs with the maximum of efficiency, while Cisco runs the system unobtrusively under the bonnet.

How To Maintain Security With Teleworking

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Padlock (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

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

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

Protect devices

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

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

Use cloud applications

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

Secure the company network

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

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

VoIP is Perfect for Business Communication

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

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

voip-headset-logoVoIP is Easy to Use

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

VoIP is Very Flexible

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

 VoIP Offers More than Just Voice Support

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

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

Personal Telepresence – Software Solution Comparison

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

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

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

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

My requirements

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

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

Participants of comparison:

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

Summary

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

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

Join the Call – VoIP vs ISDN Telephone Conferencing

VoIp, Telephone, Conferencing, Voice, Comparison

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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The Not So Obvious Advantages of Telepresence Versus Chatting

Telepresence? Why not just use instant message chat? Let me tell you why..

Telepresence of Unified Communications is one of the greatest invention for the business world. In today’s society, business is no longer limited to the 4 corners of the office. The most successful businessmen and businesswomen are always looking to branch out, and this involve doing business with other people from a different city, or even a different country. Obviously, telepresence is a great way to reach out to these people. Through telepresence, it is possible to have conversations and meetings with individuals far away. However, there are some telepresence sceptics who believe that whatever conferencing may accomplish, chatting can too. Not to be argumentative, but there are many advantages to telepresence that are not covered by chatting, although they may not be so obvious.

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  1. Telepresence awkward situations made by misinterpreted statements

    We’ve all been there- gotten into an argument with someone because a text or a statement sent on chat was misinterpreted. Because chatting is flat and does not involve the use of voices, certain statements can easily be taken to mean something else. For example, the statement “get to work now” may sound harsh or motivating, depending on the speaker’s intention. However, on chat, one may not be able to tell the difference. With telepresence, it is possible to avoid misinterpretations, as the tone of one’s voice already conveys so much.

  2. Telepresence may help with possible language barriers

    We mentioned earlier that many companies deal with other businesses from other places on a daily basis. Therefore, it is possible to hold business meetings with people who may not even speak the same language as you. In cases like these, it may be very possible to hit a language barrier, especially if the other party is not fluent in your language of vice versa. Obviously, once a language barrier occurs, chat becomes pretty much useless, as the person on the other end is not able to articulate the word he wants to use. However, with telepresence, it is possible to see the other person, so it may still be possible to figure out what the person is trying to say though his body language, sign language, or what have you.

  3. Telepresence makes it so much easier to gauge a person’s mood and overall demeanour

    Chat takes so much away because even if the person on the other end is pissed or frustrated, what he says will always look and sound the same. Telepresence certainly comes in handy especially when it is sensitive business matters that are being discussed. If you see and sense, based on how he looks, as well as his tone of voice, that the person on the other end isn’t feeling too happy or pleased, then you will know how to proceed accordingly.

Although chatting and telepresence set out with the same goal- to communicate with those far away, it becomes obvious that there are more benefits to one compared to the other. For better business communication, It may be a good idea to invest in telepresence for meeting rooms as well as desktop solutions and consult a service provider for all types of organisations.