Tag Archives: video conferencing

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The Concept of Virtual Meeting Rooms and the Challenges

A recent report from Transparency Market Research indicates that the Video Conferencing Market  valued at US$ 3.31 Bn in 2013 is Expected to Reach US$ 6.40 Bn by 2020 Globally. The growth doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone involved in the industry, but the numbers are impressive nevertheless.

Driven by the savings in business travel and increased productivity through greater collaboration and utilizing remote workers, companies are reaping the benefits of Video Conferencing and deploying on-premise solutions on a large scale, offering both managed and self service  model to its clients.

The Video conference self-services have been particularly interesting as they lower operational costs but also tend to increase utilization as the technology becomes more easier to use. At the core of a self-service solution lies a so called “Virtual Meeting Room”.

 What is a Virtual Meeting Room?

A Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) is an online collaboration place where people can communicate over video. Participants usually join by dialling a specific number or an address with a simple name like John-VMR@company.com. Once created the Virtual Meeting Room is permanent and can receive calls at anytime, although the host usually controls access to the VMR with a host PIN.

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Benefits Of Video Conferencing In The Business World

In a world where people are becoming more and more busy in their daily lives, conferences and business meetings can become a slight issue. Attending a conference can cause an issue for certain business workers because they are already busy on vacation, need to take time out of their work or even on the other side of the world. With continuously evolving of technology and continuously growing the demand for productivity, video conferencing is becoming more and more used in the business world. Below are the several benefits of utilizing video conference technology in the business world.

New SaaS Offer: The Lifesize Cloud

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Lifesize, a division of Logitech

The revamped and refashioned logo of Lifesize indicates its desire to rebrand itself in the video collaboration circuit and bring in new innovations and technologies to better suit the needs of organizations and businesses today. Having brought in HD video conferencing nearly a decade ago, an introduction that changed the face of business communication, Lifesize has reinvented its video conferencing technologies to suit today’s need for easy, flexible and economical collaboration to ensure effective and efficient transfer of data and information within and among organizations. With “cloud” playing a predominant role in video collaborations in recent times, Lifesize has come up with the new “Lifesize Cloud” to bring the benefits of cloud into video conferencing.

5 Things You Should Not Forget When Inviting To A Meeting

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

1 – Identify Participants

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

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.

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

Follow VQ on Twitter: @VQComms

Introduction to Session Border Controllers

High definition video conferencing is a standard right now. If it will change, it will only change to an ever higher definition such as Ultra HD (involving 4K and 8K). Virtual workplaces, telecommuting and working from home becomes more and more easy and so organisations go expanding, sometimes forgetting about network requirements ending up with new capacity limits or reduced quality of their video communication solution.

A Session Border Controller can help with many problems there might be, but it is not a remedy for every issue ever to occur on your video conferencing network. I wrote this article to give you some more insight into what a Session Border Controller is, what it does and how it can help your corporate communication.

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Click for large version

What is a Session Border Controller?

A Session Border Controller is a network component designed to safely link networks with a different security requirement and setup. They are mostly utilised for VoIP and video conferencing networks to establish secure connection sessions. The Session Border Controller therefore allows control of signaling and transfer of media data in a secure way.

What can I do with a Session Border Controller?

Session management allows service providers to control the session routing, establish interoperability across environments with differentiating standards, enforce bandwidth policies or create an interface to a third party application. To keep it short and simple: A Session Border Controller optimizes solution performance and overall service quality, it allows a rapid service deployment or growth and it protects infrastructure from malicious attacks.

Who develops Session Border Controllers?

Based on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers from October 2012, Acme Packet (recently acquired by Oracle) excels in execution as well as vision scope, making them the leader of the magic quadrant (see graphic). Other competitors are Huawei, Sonus, Genband, Metaswitch Networks, Dialogic, ZTE and Technicolor.

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Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers by Gartner Research

Acme Packet is very interesting due to their focus on unified communications networks and even offering solutions especially designed for video conference networks of manufacturers such as Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya / Radvision, Cisco (including former Codian / Tandberg technologies), LifeSize, Polycom and Vidyo. Supporting and enabling interworking these technologies the Acme Packet solution avoids potential for vendor lock-in, protecting the investment made in video conferencing infrastructure and endpoints.

What are the technical functions of a Session Border Controller?

The functional scope of a Session Border Controller can vary, depending on what the individual device is designed to do. However to reflect a maximum of capability information, we would like to list the following functions that can be found in Session Border Controllers:

Connectivity

  • IPv4 / IPv6 interworking
  • SIP manipulation
  • NAT traversal
  • VPN connectivity
  • H.323 / SIP interworking

Quality of Service (QoS)

  • Traffic policies
  • Call admission control
  • ToS / DSCP bit setting
  • Resource allocation
  • Rate limiting

Security

  • Defense against DoS attacks
  • Can prevent toll fraud
  • No topology hiding possible
  • Malformed packet protection
  • Signaling protection via TLS and IPSec
  • Media protection via SRTP

Media processing

  • DTMF delay and interworking
  • Media transcoding
  • Tones and announcements
  • Data and Fax interworking
  • Support for Voice and Video calls

Regulatory

  • Call prioritization (e.g. for VIP usage or emergencies)
  • Auditing functions for internal audit or for law enforcing organisation
  • Business Intelligence, reporting, management information, source for billing information

Summary

Even though not a mandatory part for VoIP or video conferencing networks, Session Border Controllers have a great potential to add value to the communication services of organisations. The relevance increases for service providers companies as the functions described above can significantly increase the quality and performance of a serviced network.

If you have questions, remarks or other types of feedback please drop us a line in the comment section below. Thank you!

5 Business Ideas That Enable Working From Home

For the last couple of years, the internet has provided opportunities for people to work not only in the offices but also in their homes. This is through “working from home” business that is currently popular among many people in the world because of the numerous business ideas possible through it. So, what are examples of business ideas that enables people to work from home?

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Example of a home office setup (Photo: Kevin Shorter)

1. Working from Home – Freelance

Freelancing is one of the home based business idea that will enable you to work from home while providing services to the rest of the world population. Currently numerous websites offer online businesses that make a good business idea once implemented. This will let you work from home at the same time enhances create jobs to other people whom you hire to assist in your everyday chores.

2. Academic Assistance

TeleEducation – Internet technology has enhanced the process of education by enlarging the accessibility of these services. This is a great work from home business opportunity. Through video conferencing services, you will be able to tutor thousands of students that need tutoring services through internet in your home. Many people are currently using this new business opportunity to earn amazing amounts of money. This has allowed people working from home without the need of travelling to these academic institutions.

3. Medical Services

TeleHealth – Provision of medical advisory services is another idea to work from home business especially if you have a medical background. Instead of seeking to work in a hospital, you can subdivide your house to medical room where you offer services to clients that are indeed of medical services. This will not only create huge amounts of dollars but also create jobs for those people who will help you conduct the services. In addition, you can also offer virtual medical assistance through the internet where you help even those people beyond your geographical reach.

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An example TeleHealth setup with Polycom equipment (Photo: USDAgov)

4. Online Office Virtual Assistance

The internet also offers another amazing opportunity to provide virtual assistance especially in office functions. Through the internet, at your home, you can find a job as an office assistant. This will enable you to exercise any delegated office job such as answering of mails, drafting letters as well as memos among other numerous services. This will not only be a good opportunity to earn money from home but also ensures that corporate communication with the clients is enhanced to greater heights. To gain leverage, you have to be familiar with some of the most common tools used by businesses. Look at this Pure Leverage review to learn a few.

5. Construction Or Engineering Advisory Services

Offering advisory services in the engineering services is one of the ways to create a home based business especially if you have an engineering training background. Currently there are numerous clients both online and offline that needs construction services. Through your services, you can solve their problems that will help you make money at home without the worry travelling to an office. This will also improve accessibility especially when you are settled in a strategic position.

Summary

I believe the above top ideas on how start a home based business that will enable you working from home without worrying about the need to reach the office at the appropriate time.

How Video Conferencing Technology Can And Is Changing Marketing On The Internet

Video conferencing, once the domain of larger organizations with bigger budgets, has come down in price dramatically during the last decade and a half. At the same time, not only its quality but also its versatility and portability have increased exponentially. The end result (at least up to now) of these trends has been a dramatic explosion in how many people use video calling and the ways in which they do so.

Aside from the many coordination and communication benefits that have stemmed from the video calling revolution, another major bonus has also been discovered in the myriad ways by which this rapidly advancing technology can be used to serve as a marketing and promotional tool for not only large companies but also smaller business and even individuals following their own business or professional goals.

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Pitching via Video Conference (photo: gcbb)

From personalizing customer relations in an effort to draw in more sales to using video calling for online sales pitches and demonstrations of products or services, video conferencing has become a powerful marketing tool that carries its own unique position in the online promotion landscape.

Here’s a look at some of the major innovations found in using video conference call technology when marketing to clients, buyers and anyone else.

More Face-to-Face Client / Seller Relations

The first and most obvious marketing innovation of video calling is the ability it has given marketers to engage their clients and buyers in face-to-face consultations or Q&A periods.

If someone is running a service or product business on the web, making sure to highlight the fact that their customers can interact with real people in real-time over any questions, doubts or issues they might have before or after buying is a big selling point to many potential clients, especially if their previous experience with customer service in a particular niche involves being ignored or unable to reach some solid customer support.

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, if you really want to enhance your customers experience and decision-making into something that’s memorable, be sure to do exactly this and underscore it in your marketing materials now that video conferencing offers you the ability to schedule actual life Q&A sessions with multiple people over interactive video media.

Interactive Long Distance Pitches

The long-used art of pitching a product, service or idea to potential buyers during a face-to-face meeting is a tried and true marketing tactic that numerous business owners use worldwide. With video conferencing, this very same strategy can reach into the digital world by allowing a marketer to lure clients or potential buyers toward a one on one consultation which is then in essence used as a sort of digital pitch that tries to create a purchase through interactive salesmanship.

Although this tactic might have some implementation difficulties that stem from problems with getting people to actually sit down for the sales meeting, if you’ve already built strong interest in your leads through a sales funnel and have motivated them with some sort of freebie into actually listening to your video call, you could really create a door-to-door sales level of interaction with a completely digital and much more targeted audience. Video call based pitching would be especially effective for high priced products or services that offset time costs even if your eventual sales closing numbers are low.

 Online Seminars through Video Conferencing

This is a really major and still largely unexplored region of the online marketing landscape that could benefit immensely from video conferencing. While physical sales seminars are a common thing in just about every hotel conference room you’ve ever passed through, and online video “webinars” where you can listen in but not participate are already completely established as part of online marketing strategy, a major and still very undeveloped leap would involve joining the two into a completely digital, massive video conference style seminar with full interactivity.

Thanks to the rapidly developing technology of video conferencing, the attendees can interact with the sales presenter just like they would be able to if they had physically gone to a real sales conference while enjoying the convenience of joining in from home as people do with classical online marketing webinars. On top of that there are many consumption based video conferencing software solutions that allow the use of the technology even with a smaller budget.

The marketing benefits this can potentially offer your business are considerable. For one thing, you as a marketer would save on the high costs of arranging for a sales seminar in an actual location where you’ll have to pay rent and present printed promotional materials. And furthermore, you could duplicate everything available at live sales seminars in an online environment while still being able to take questions and speak to leads in real-time. A somewhat heavier telepresence software bundle would be needed to pull off this kind of online marketing maneuver, but the potential benefit could be completely worthwhile.

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!