See the future of enterprise communications, listen to thought leaders and comprehensive analysis, attend in-depth technical sessions, and of course stop by Booth #330 to visit IVCi!

Enterprise Connect (formerly VoiceCon) is the premiere event and exhibition for all things enterprise communications and collaboration. Sessions cover areas from Unified Communications to Video Conferencing to Social Media.

Some of the sessions we are most excited about are Building a UC & Collaboration Roadmap, Building a UC Business Case and Emerging Video Technologies. Click here to view the entire conference schedule as there are a lot of great sessions.

In other exciting news, we just found out the UC Room was selected as a finalist for the Best of Enterprise Connect! The Judging Committee reviewed over 40 entries and selected six finalists based on products with the most significant technical impact, helping to revolutionize the enterprise communications industry.

The winner is going to be announced during the Keynote speech on Wednesday, March 20 at the Gaylord Palms Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

We would obviously love to see you there so we’re passing along a special offer!

Save 40% off the on-site price for the Entire Event and Tue-Thu Conference Packages or register for a Free Expo Pass with Priority Code EIIVCI.

*Photo courtesy of Enterprise Connect 2012

As another year comes to an end it’s time to reflect on the previous year and create new goals for the coming year. Video conferencing has become ever present, cloud services are continuing to grow and collaboration technology is becoming even cooler.  Here is a look at some of the top blog posts from 2012. We hope you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them!

Have a wonderful and safe New Year and we’ll see you in 2013!

Top Blog Posts of 2012:

IT Conundrum: Do It Yourself or Embrace the Cloud?
The prevalence of cloud services has sparked a debate among IT professionals about whether to handle all IT components in-house or to outsource components to cloud service providers.

Video Conferencing Adoption – The Time Has Come!
An integrated approach to video conferencing adoption must be implemented because the impact of new technology reaches beyond the equipment and affects the people and the process within an organization.

The Exponential Power of Video Conferencing
Understanding the Collaboration Curve, and how casual interactions among colleagues and business partners spark creativity, can help organizations drive innovation within their organization.

Video Conferencing and Fighting for Freedom
A patriotic (and personal) look at how communication has changed and video conferencing has helped military members stationed overseas stay in touch with friends and family.

Stop Being Such a Video-phobe!
Getting over the hurdle of being afraid or making excuses not to be on video can be challenging; but in the end the advantages of using it far outweigh any negative feelings you may have.

Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value
The more companies converse with customers and the stronger the relationship is; the more apt customers are to provide honest feedback which can help drive innovation.

Telemedicine Reimbursement – The Time is Now!
Health care organizations throughout the world continue to implement telemedicine; however a major challenge has been the lack of parity from insurance organizations.

The Promise of Unified Communications and the Cloud
A look at some of the roadblocks that prevent true ubiquity of UC solutions throughout enterprise organizations and how cloud service can help overcome some of these challenges.

The New Science of Building Great Teams
An interesting take on building effective teams and achieving a high level of cohesion among team members. How we communicate is actually more important than what we communication.

The Essential Role of Human Resources
HR departments can utilize video conferencing solutions in a variety of different ways to increase communication and expedite many of the functions within the department.

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.

This time last week I was in beautiful Monterey, California at the third annual VCI-Group conference. Today, I am hunkered down in my house anxiously awaiting Hurricane Sandy, aka Frankenstorm, aka The Ring of Evil. As I look outside at the wind and rain that are only going to get much worse I can’t help but think about sunny California.

Polycom, Cisco and Vidyo gave keynote speeches each morning of the conference. While they all gave their own take on where the industry was going there was one key theme – convenience. Convenience is what drives adoption and it’s what is driving the video conferencing and unified communication market.

Stuart Monks, VP Group Solutions, Technology and Architecture, at Polycom discussed three drivers of the video communications industry. These drivers are hybrid cloud technology, web-centric clients, and the evolution of tablet and smartphone capabilities and connectivity. The first two drivers make it easier for organizations to implement video and unified communications solutions. Enhancements to tablets and smartphones, combined with web-centric clients, make it easier for individuals to video conference and collaborate with one another.

Jacob Nordan, Senior Director Collaboration Infrastructure, at Cisco highlighted the transition to the cloud, the new virtualized workspace, and most importantly less complex solutions. The tools and opportunities needed to collaborate now exist virtually, whether it’s through video conferencing, instant messaging, or a full-featured collaborative hub powered by WebEx Social.

Once again, this provides easier access for individuals to collaborate. Another important note Nordan made was the drive toward simplicity and removing the complexity of visual collaboration solutions. Simple solutions enhance the user experience by enabling individuals to engage and collaborate effortlessly. He stated, “The user experience drives adoption and increased adoption equals better and faster ROI.”

Finally, Ofer Shapiro, President and CEO of Vidyo, also highlighted the trends from hardware to software based clients. He cited the price-performance curve of telepresence and web-based solutions. Essentially, room-based telepresence systems provide high audio and visual quality; however, this comes at high price. Advancements in software clients and web-based solutions can now also provide a high quality audio and visual experience for a fraction of the cost. While these solutions might not provide the exact same experience, the law of diminishing returns comes into play. The investment required for room-based system begins to exceed the enhanced audio and visual quality these systems provide.

A caveat to this logic is situations where high-intensity, active collaboration is necessary. Web-based solutions work phenomenally well for planning, status updates or training sessions. However, collaborative sessions that require immediate decision making under stressful situations (for example the decision to evacuate Battery Park City and other low-lying areas of New York City in anticipation of a hurricane) require a life-like collaborative experience.

To everyone in Sandy’s path – stay safe out there and good luck!

With all the buzz around unified communications including new product releases, features, acquisitions and more, it’s easy to forget the why of UC and how it can benefit an organization. In this series of posts we will examine some of the key areas of UC and what the business benefit can be. For part one click here.

Now that we have examined what some of the key features of UC solutions are, it’s important to understand who are the major players in the market and what solutions they offer. While many of these solutions have been on the market for some time; others are new and constantly evolving.

Microsoft
Microsoft has been providing UC solutions in some form for over ten years. Microsoft’s Exchange platform (which powers around 65% of corporate email systems) has had messaging capabilities since the early versions. In 2003, Microsoft released Office Communications Server which has since evolved into Microsoft Lync. Lync has shown strong growth and interest from customers, and Microsoft recently announced that the Lync business unit has seen 40%+ growth. The solution offers what you would expect from a UC platform: presence, instant messaging, screen sharing and conferencing, video, voice, and more. In addition, Lync integrates closely with Outlook and Exchange to allow for unified messaging. Essentially email, voicemail, chat, and other communications all live within your Outlook desktop.

As part of Microsoft’s video strategy, Lync is heavily integrated with the Polycom video conferencing portfolio. From the Lync client, a user can seamlessly connect to a Polycom video system or join a multi-party conference via a Polycom bridge.

Cisco
Cisco has been offering unified communications solutions for quite some time. Jabber is the most recent and robust UC offering and integrates technology from WebEx, its voice products, Cisco Unified Presence and more. As with other offerings in the marketplace, Jabber has functionality around instant messaging and presence, voice, video conferencing and more. Of particular note with Jabber is that Cisco offers clients across multiple devices, including PC and Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices.

For customers who previously used Movi video conferencing from Cisco, this product has been renamed Cisco Jabber Video for TelePresence.

IBM
IBM offers Sametime as its UC offering. Sametime provides the same features previously mentioned in other solutions: instant messaging, presence, online meetings (think WebEx), mobile, and voice. Sametime makes the UC experience more social by integrating with IBM’s social collaboration tools such as IBM WebSpere and IBM Connections. With this integration, users are able to initiate collaboration sessions within the context of their current project or assignment. For example, when reviewing documents hosted on an IBM social product for a particular project, a user can initiate a chat with an assigned team member to discuss that particular deliverable.

Avaya
Avaya offers multiple UC solutions including best-of-breed solutions that integrate with many of the tools currently available in the marketplace. Avaya’s most integrated option is Avaya Flare. Flare integrates conferencing, web collaboration, social media, presence, IM, video and more into a single interface. Perhaps one of the most compelling features of Flare is that the interface is identical across PCs, iPads, or even an Avaya Desktop Video Device (a result of Avaya’s acquisition of video conferencing manufacturer Radvision).

The Unified Communications market continues to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. There are clearly a number of strong offerings available for any size organization. When evaluating these solutions it is important to look not only at the key features but also how it can integrate into your current environment.

 This post is part of a series on unified communications solutions.

Part One: What’s in the Box?