The prevalence of cloud services has begun a heated debate among IT professionals and spurred two different types of thinking. One side consists of professionals that prefer to handle all IT components in-house and more or less resist the cloud. The other side consists of professionals who are embracing the cloud and prefer to outsource certain components to different experts.

This leads to the challenge most IT professionals face; should we continue to do everything ourselves or embrace the cloud? Let’s start by further defining the two different positions.

While some IT professionals fear the cloud because they believe it will steal part of, if not their entire job; the majority oppose the cloud due to a loss of control over their entire IT environment. This position often stems from a distrust of things they cannot control directly and the security associated with keeping the power in the hands of people located within the organization.

As a result, these professions prefer to keep all IT aspects in-house to maintain order. If anything goes wrong, these IT directors know exactly who is responsible and whom to go to; allowing them to monitor the situation until it has been fixed. With the cloud, all they can do is call their service provider and pray for a speedy resolution which leads to frustration.

But, the cliché “jack of all trades, master of none” still holds true. What happens when those people don’t know how to fix the situation in an efficient or effective manner?

This has led to a new school of thought among IT professionals; built on open minds and forward thinking, as the concept of IT has changed almost as rapidly as the technology itself. IT is no longer a range of similar tasks applied to similar technologies, but a sprawling universe of ever-changing technologies that is so vast and fluid it is nearly impossible to master all of its intricacies. Visual collaboration, unified communications, cloud computing, digital signage and content distribution make up only a fraction of the technologies organizations use to conduct business today.

Ongoing innovations in these fields change on a monthly basis and the rate of progression will only continue to increase. The best organizations are able to stay ahead of the technology curve creating a competitive advantage while organizations that fail to adapt fall further and further behind.

The bottom line is IT for the modern corporation is not what it was five years ago. Failing to stay on top of the latest trends and innovation can mark the death of your IT career faster than outsourcing or the cloud.  Therefore, if you decide to keep everything in-house, invest not only in certified professionals but in their continued training and development.

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Will the Cloud Really Kill Your IT Career?

In a recent InfoWorld article, Adopt the Cloud Kill Your IT Career, Paul Vezina makes a handful of arguments. General ideas include adopting the cloud leads to integration issues, causes security concerns and most importantly, leaves organizations susceptible to a monstrous disaster that is waiting in the wings. While some of these arguments hold true in certain situations, many do not apply for visual collaboration and unified communications technologies.

More often than not, integrating the cloud does not produce more problems than it solves. As with anything, a lack of experience or expertise can cause major problems and organizations should do their research when selecting a cloud service provider. While there certainly may be cloud providers that do not have high levels of expertise, many distinguished service providers have highly trained, expertly certified engineering teams.

Of course, this does not lead to infallibility as there are always different challenges or unexpected events that can occur during implementation. It is like completely overhauling your bathroom or kitchen, you never know what to expect until you get behind the walls. However, the chances of a major integration issue, extended downtime or complete disaster is far less when left to specialized professionals.

The experience and expertise distinguished cloud service providers have obtained allows them to not only resolve potential issues quickly, but proactively address problems before they arise. Take major software revisions for example; several organizations will simply upgrade the software on their video conferencing unit or UC client not realizing the potential effects on the rest of their environment. Distinguished service provides will thoroughly test any new updates that are released to ensure compatibility and a seamless transition. Many IT departments within an organization simply do not have the time or resources to do this.

Organizations must find a balance between IT activities to keep in house and IT activities to outsource. For example, issues regarding an employee’s phone, email or computer would be handled by an in-house IT representative and not be directed to a highly specialized engineer. Similarly, point-to-point video conferencing calls can most likely be managed end users or local IT staff. However, multi-platform video bridging and firewall traversal are better left to specialized professionals because of the sheer volume of intricacies required.

Sure, there are some people who will be able to handle these situations but in the long run it’s going to pull them from other, more productive, activities. IT departments should be able to focus on what’s most important to their organization; developing and maintaining the systems to keep the operation running efficiently.

Even if an organization is budgeting video troubleshooting, management and support into their daily agenda they are pulling resources from the areas that they can have the most impact and drive the most effective outcomes.

With the rising popularity of video conferencing applications on mobile devices and desktop units, it is easy to forget that this technology once had the most appeal with c-level executives such as CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs. Video conferencing has transformed from an elite technology used mostly by corporations with big IT budgets to a ubiquitous communications tool that now reaches a large portion of the business and consumer markets. However, c-level executives are still a group that has much to gain from use of the technology and its implementation throughout their organizations.

When executives use video conferencing for meetings with staff members or clients they expect the calls to run flawlessly every time. They neither have the time to wait for issues to be fixed nor the patience to sit through troubleshooting. The only solution that is appropriate for c-levels is one that includes high-quality systems paired with a managed service that provides total monitoring of the people, processes, and technology that are required for video meetings to be successful every time.

Interestingly, while executives enjoy great benefits from using video conferencing including reduction in travel time, holding more meetings throughout the day, and the improved quality of interactions that comes from face-to-face collaboration, video also appeals to executives because of how the organization as a whole benefits from use of the technology. The following are some of the ways corporations benefit when c-level executives implement visual communication solutions company-wide:

Increased shareholder value: Good communication is the foundation of any successful company. Video conferencing provides the ability to hold instant, face-to-face meetings with colleagues or customers located across the globe.  A company that communicates well is more efficient, increases productivity and creates value for the shareholders.

Competitive advantages gained:  Video is one weapon in a company’s arsenal that adds instant competitive advantage. For example, video helps cross-functional teams get products to market faster thanks to higher-quality collaborative meetings that can take place more frequently. Video also gives   organizations an edge by improving customer call center interactions, facilitating board and management meetings, and uniting disparate team members at a moment’s notice.

Corporate culture enhanced: Employees that join companies today have vastly different expectations for the work environment than they did even a few years ago. Mobile devices, combined with the use of video collaboration, mean that team members can do their work from just about anywhere with an internet connection. Job flexibility, such as working from home, and the reduction in travel time and expenses not only add great appeal to a company but help meet corporate initiatives like going green.

While c-level executives have unique concerns and requirements for the use of video depending on their role in the company and the type of industry of which they are a part, all executives share two common goals: making the best use of their time each day and ensuring the company is earning revenue in the most efficient way possible. Video helps executives achieve these goals while gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Cloud video conferencing providers are popping up everywhere, each one promising the best service with the best features. Comparing all of the different offerings can become quite overwhelming. How do you determine which company is the best fit for your organization? Here are a few things to help narrow down the options:

Expertise: Video environments consist of several different components; endpoints, infrastructure, desktop software clients, tablets and complete audio visual integrated rooms. Look for service provider with a wide range of expertise which allows them to assist with all aspects of your video environment. This eliminates the frustrating finger-pointing when you are having an issue with one of the components.

Adaptability: An organization’s initial video needs typically differ significantly from its future video needs; therefore, select a video service provider that has a wide range of offerings. This helps build a comprehensive video environment and enables the solution to adapt to an organization’s changing needs.

Experience: The best type of experience comes from running a true production environment for a customer. A service provider might have a strong background in monitoring network activity and hardware, but have they managed the day-to-day operations of a corporation’s video environment?

Security: Sensitive data is continuously transmitted during video meetings; therefore, a service provider’s security measures are paramount to ensure this data is not intercepted. The network should be encrypted in addition to containing firewalls. Furthermore, non-disclosure agreements should accompany any comprehensive managed video service.

Attitude: Most likely, you will have a very close relationship with your video service provider; therefore, selecting a company with a customer oriented attitude is important. The best service providers realize that every organizations needs are different and will customize their offerings to best fit their needs.

While only you can determine which service provider is right for your organization; these tips can help provide a foundation for the selection process.

I spent my childhood in St. Louis, MO and by the time I graduated high school I was ready to leave. I decided to go to college 1200 miles away in Boston and eventually moved to New York where I’ve finally settled down. Now, my best friends and I are all scattered across the country – Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, Washington, DC. We went from seeing each other every day to only during the summers and holidays and now it’s been a few years since we’ve all gotten together as a group.

Last year we were talking about getting a group trip together but schedules just never seem coordinate properly and trying to agree on a central location was practically impossible. As we continued through our crazy lives I couldn’t help but miss those crazy slumber parties and wondered how we can stay in touch better.

Then one day, while talking to my friend it hit me, why don’t we start a book club over video chat?  Shortly thereafter the most amazing idea was created.

Wine Wednesdays! One part book club, two parts happy hour, and six parts great laughs and good conversation.

Since we are all avid readers, we selected a fun book to read; then about a month later, we all gathered in a cloud meet-me room with our books and bottles of wine. We started sharing our thoughts on the book and as the night (and wine) progressed we were reminiscing and sharing funny stories of things that this book reminded us of. Next thing I knew it was going on 1am and my husband was yelling it’s bed time, you have work tomorrow.

So we all said goodbye and vowed to do it again soon because it was completely amazing and so much fun. We recently picked our next book which I am eagerly reading because I cannot wait for our next date. Although, I think we’re going to move Wine Wednesday to a Friday because I’m just not cutout for late night drinking on work nights.