As cloud services pick up speed in the private sector, questions about security, cost savings, implementation and best-practice models have emerged in concert with its rapid growth and adoption. But are institutions of higher learning following suit? Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Consulting turned their focus on 12 universities in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, India, and New Zealand, surveying CIOs and IT directors for their July 2012 report “Cloud Bursts Into Higher Education.”

They found out how and why these schools are employing the cloud; plus they give some suggestions as to where the partnership between higher education and the cloud is headed.

So, how is Higher Ed approaching cloud services?

The Forrester study found that universities are adopting cloud services to boost productivity, and speed, budget, and scalability were the top three features university interviewees valued most about cloud services. But the study uncovered an interesting dynamic: professors and department staff are leading the way with cloud services at their universities, implementing cloud applications as needed, and circumventing the IT department. One side benefit of this autonomy is that IT departments can then focus their resources on other, critical IT tasks.

Echoing concerns coming from the private sector, universities are concerned about security. In fact, the report states “security is the No. 1 roadblock to cloud service adoption.” For schools, the two primary concerns are keeping research (intellectual property) and private student information confidential and secure.

The most common cloud adoption right now is the private cloud, with many of these schools keeping private information, like emails and research, on their private cloud, and “student-related information” on the schools’ servers. The report does note, however, that hybrid clouds are in use, and expected to increase. Additionally, as academic institutions partner up to offer expanded learning experiences, often online, expect to see a growth in the use of community clouds for sharing research and course materials.

Lastly, schools are looking to the cloud for cost savings; however, as cloud usage goes up so do costs. While several interviewees claimed significant cost savings with adoption of various cloud models, in one example the “expanded use of the services over three to seven years raised the cost of SaaS to nearly even with the cost of a perpetual license and on-premises deployment.” In other words, as academic staff and students become more familiar and comfortable with using cloud services, related costs increase, thereby erasing some of the gains.

Related Articles:
Learning the Cloud Way – Part II

The past year has been full of exciting announcements in the video conferencing and visual collaboration industry. The industry is rapidly changing and 2012 was a particularly noteworthy year for video conferencing. The term ubiquity was thrown around more than ever before due to increased access to video solutions . Here are some particularly noteworthy announcements and trends from 2012.

Greater Interoperability
Always a hot topic, interoperability continued to be a major trend in 2012. The Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC), of which Polycom was a founding member, continued to expand its membership; and in late 2012, the first services that connect its members’ clouds became available. This was a major step to breaking down barriers between video conferencing and telecom providers.

Video Conferencing in Your Browser
The introduction of HTML5 and WebRTC have made video conferencing widely available by allowing participants to video conference directly from their browser. Participants no longer have to download software and set up different accounts for different platforms. This provides numerous opportunities for business-to-consumer video conferencing. Blue Jeans greatly enhanced its service this year with a browser connection option.

Higher Quality Mobile Video
Mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, are being equipped with better cameras on the front of the device making high quality video more readily accessible. Users no longer have to sacrifice quality for mobility; as long as they have a solid internet connection, users can have the best of both worlds. Both the iPhone and iPad were updated to include 720p resolution on their front cameras.

Pervasiveness of Cloud Services
Cloud services have become one of the biggest trends in 2012. Cloud services play a major role in business continuity by providing an extra layer of redundancy. Additionally, these services help expand an organization’s network by easily connecting remote employees. The cloud has also been incredibly powerful in expanding interoperability.

Nintendo and Vidyo Partnership
In a revolutionary announcement, Nintendo announced that the Wii U will support point-to-point video conferencing capabilities powered by Vidyo technology. This has the possibility to represent the largest deployment of living room video conferencing systems in history and truly makes video available to the masses.

Polycom
Polycom continued to shift its focus to software and cloud based services. In October, Polycom made a slew of announcements that included new room endpoints, mobile applications, software based infrastructure, and most notability, its CloudAXIS suite. This solution (another browser based option) enables users to video conference with anyone on their social contact list including Facebook, Google Chat, Skype, and more. The user simply drags their contacts into a window, clicks connect and each participant receives a link on whatever service they are logged into.

Cisco
In 2012, Cisco continued to expand its collaboration footprint beyond video conferencing. Key announcements included the expansion of their WebEx offering, as well as, moving its Quad offering (a social collaboration tool) to the WebEx brand. Expect Cisco to unveil a slew of new video offerings in 2013.

This past year has been significant for the world of visual collaboration. As we move to 2013 (provided the world doesn’t end tomorrow), the industry will continue to grow and evolve. Each announcement and service has the potential to bring the true video ubiquity that many have envisioned.

 

 

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, now dubbed Superstorm Sandy, many organizations are taking a second look at their business continuity plan. This storm knocked out power to over 90% of Long Island and all of lower Manhattan leaving many businesses vulnerable. New York is a major hub, as well as a headquarters for many corporations so losing power for an extended period of time can have drastic effects throughout an entire corporation.

For example, if an organization’s video conferencing and unified communications infrastructure was hosted at a site with zero power, the entire organization would have been unable to use the tools. In New York, contingency plans failed as backup generators were destroyed due to unprecedented flooding; plus a gas shortage left many without the fuel necessary to run their generators.

The results can be damaging for any organization. While customers in the surrounding area will be more than sympathetic, customers located thousands of miles away may not be as understanding. Why should a natural disaster in New York affect customer service in California or Tokyo? Therefore, it extremely important to have multiple layers of redundancy built in to an organization’s platform.

With our headquarters on Long Island, IVCi faced several challenges from flooding and impassable roads to neighborhood destruction and more downed power lines than one should ever see. However, multiple contingency plans prevented our Managed Video Experience (MVE) customers from missing a single meeting. Temporary operations centers were set up and customers were able to communicate with our MVE team via public IM or an alternate telephone number until power was restored to our headquarters location.

Cloud services provide an additional layer of security as infrastructure is typically hosted in multiple state-of-the-art data centers in multiple locations. If one data center goes down, there are still several others to handle the load of video meetings. IVCi hosts the infrastructure for MVE across the country and the world. Data centers are designed to withstand storms and power outages like those presented with Sandy. As a result of this, IVCi was able to immediately move into redundancy mode and continue to serve our customers.

Additionally, the MVE team proactively reached out to sites that were located in the North East and offered free use of our Mobility Experience which allowed individuals affected by a loss of power to connect to a video conference via their smartphone or tablet. As a result, every single meeting scheduled since Sandy terrorized our town continued as originally planned.

If your organization was in the path of Sandy, did your video conferencing go down? Were you able to continue business operations despite the storm? Bottom line, IVCi’s MVE provides a consistent, uninterrupted experience. Video conferencing has become a mission critical application within organizations and cloud services can ensure continuity no matter what the circumstances may be.

Today at the Visual Communications Industry Group Annual Expo, IVCi unveiled its comprehensive suite of distance learning solutions. Combining the best of Audio Visual Integration, Video Conferencing, and cloud services, these solutions enable educational institutions to extend the reach of education far outside of the classroom. IVCi is exhibiting at booth #201. If you are out at the show, come by and take a look! We are also showcasing our new UC Room solution.

Additional Resources:

IVCi Distance Learning Solutions Press Release

UC Group Systems

 

If there is one feature in the world of video conferencing technology that has undergone the most improvement over the years, it is the quality of video itself. We have gone from lower resolution images to life-like high definition and immersive telepresence experiences. It is fair to say that when properly configured with the right amount of bandwidth, the quality of video conferencing today is pretty amazing.

What continues to be more challenging is the reach of video conferencing and more specifically, the ability to easily connect to anyone you want. The term B2B refers to video calling between different organizations, but this can include individuals as well.

If you think about your cell phone, you dial the number of anyone you want to reach and simply connect. Unfortunately, video conferencing has not made it to that level of ease and connectivity. But why? Here are some of the hurdles holding video back from achieving total reach, and some solutions.

Network
To achieve the highest level of video conferencing quality, many organizations choose to implement a private network dedicated to video conferencing. The advantage of this is that video is separate from the rest of the organization’s network traffic, ensuring the highest level of picture and sound quality. In addition, many organizations will place their immersive telepresence systems on a network exchange from a telecom or other cloud services provider which provides connectivity to others on the same exchange. Again, the highest level of video and audio quality is available, but the challenge with this setup is that users can typically only talk to other video and telepresence systems on the same network. So if you are on a private network of your own and a partner organization is on a different telecom network exchange, you’re out of luck!

Security
This could be placed under the network category, but security is also a major factor preventing true B2B calling. For organizations that implement video conferencing, firewalls are incredibly important for protecting internal applications and data. Firewalls, however, can cause major issues with video conferencing. Fortunately, the technology offered from many of the video conferencing manufacturers provides the ability to get around this roadblock. Products that enable firewall traversal have made B2B video a little easier to achieve, assuming your network has connections to the public internet.

Mobility
With the introduction of camera equipped mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, video conferencing has an entirely new audience. The problem that presents itself is the ability to get these mobile users connected in a standard B2B conference. With so many users taking advantage of these devices, it is incredibly important to make these connections possible. Fortunately, a number of cloud services have been brought to market to address this issue.

Process & Expertise
Perhaps even more challenging than the technology and network issues of B2B video conferencing are the issues of process and expertise. Even if networks are able to connect to one another and firewalls are properly configured, there are still challenges on how to physically dial another system, how to ensure audio and video flow seamlessly, and how to bring mobile devices into the loop. On top of all of these challenges, how do you determine who is on what exchange, who you need to talk to for support on connecting those exchanges, and how do you make sure your iPad is connected as well? Organizations must build processes and have the expertise to execute on these challenges. This can be built internally or outsourced to a managed service provider.

There are many challenges to B2B calling, but the technology is constantly evolving and there is hardly a day without a new announcement bringing new innovation to connecting disparate technology and networks. With the pace of this change it’s only a matter of time before true B2B video calling is ubiquitous.