Fourth of July is almost here. Bring on the fireworks, the barbeques, and the fun! Before we celebrate though, let’s take a moment to say thanks to all the men and women who have fought to preserve our freedom.

In honor of our military, let’s take a look at the evolution of technology that has allowed troops to keep in touch with their families back home.

My (now) husband was Army Infantry and deployed with one of first units sent to Iraq - back when instant messaging was all the rage. I remember waking up at four o’clock in the morning so I could get thirty precious minutes chatting online with him. We would constantly say can you imagine life before IM?

Back in the days of Vietnam or World War II, soldiers had to depend on snail mail to keep in touch. I had a hard enough time waiting two to three days to hear from my husband; I can’t even imagine having to wait weeks let alone months!

But now, less than ten years later, I see all of these families who are able to stay in touch with their deployed loved ones over video. It’s simply amazing, these men and women are thousands of miles away; and yet they can still interact with their family as if they were sitting right next to them. Even if it’s only every few weeks, deployed parents are able to look into their children’s eyes, smile and reconnect. It’s such a dramatic difference from simple email or instant messaging and I must admit I get a tiny bit jealous at times. But, then I remember I have the luxury of seeing my husband every single night and at least I had IM capabilities when he was deployed.

At any rate, when I get home tonight I am going to put my flag out and fly it proudly. Then I’ll thank my veteran and every other member of the military who lost or put their life on the line to protect the rights that many of us take for granted. I hope all of you will do the same.  Happy Fourth of July!

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.

As video conferencing continues to become ubiquitous in the business and consumer world, the entertainment industry has taken notice and continues to integrate the technology into the plots and characters of television shows and movies.  Here’s a look at some of the more popular instances of video conferencing appearing in our favorites!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
With the planet in peril once again, the Transformers must maintain communication with the command center of the NEST (Non-Biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty) team.  The Transformers are in the field with their human counterparts, meeting with national security advisors and heads of defense departments. The briefing is about the latest threat and how to address it. How do they meet? Via telepresence. There is no better way to see the power of video communication than to have Optimus Prime laying down the law 4 inches away from the camera!

NCIS
NCIS (Navy Criminal Investigation Service) is one of the most popular television series on the air today. The premise of the show is a team of Navy officers who investigates crimes within and related to the Navy. The show has its fill of quirky forensic specialists and one liners (what crime drama is complete without them)?  Video conferencing comes into play with the quirky forensic specialists.  In many cases they are able to connect to the field teams to review the evidence they have analyzed back in the lab and this helps guide the next moves of the men and woman investigating and interviewing.

24
24 has been off the air for a few years now but represents the first major appearance of telepresence in entertainment and Cisco went as far to promote its inclusion in several ads and promotions.  In the show, telepresence is used in several different instances. Throughout the entire series, the plot focused on the current sitting president.  In many occasions this president is isolated and must communicate with their cabinet and national security teams remotely. Telepresence provides the life-like communication needed to make decisions that could potentially save the country from utter doom!

Up In the Air
George Clooney hired to fire you? Ouch. In this movie Clooney flies around the country as a hired gun for organizations doing massive layoffs. George loves to travel and not deal with what’s going on with his life on the ground. Video conferencing plays a pivotal role in the plot as a young new hire attempts to replace the in-person firings of the entire company with an outsourced, video conferencing based approach. This threatens Clooney’s way of life but also makes him deal with the reality of his life. This is an application of video conferencing we hope never comes to be!

Clearly video in entertainment is ever growing, just as it is in real life!

Video is becoming ubiquitous; everywhere you look there is a new application or platform. Plus video enabled smartphones allow you to bring video virtually anywhere. Countless organizations have used the technology to connect remote workers, cut travel expenses and create a competitive advantage. Here are a few overlooked industries that use video in a fun and exciting way.

Post-production: Directing a movie is a strenuous job, when one movie wraps another one starts, making it difficult to complete the final product. While the editors are back at the studio in Los Angeles, the director is already on a new film set in Thailand. Video conferencing allows the director to work through key scenes with the editor in real-time, ensuring post production stays on schedule.

Help predict the weather: Weather patterns are notoriously unstable and meteorologists have one of the only jobs where they can be right less than half the time. Video conferencing can easily connect local meteorologist to national weather experts so they can prepare residents for any severe weather or provide up to the minute updates that could potentially save lives.

Review the plays: Despite their best efforts, referees can miss a play or a professional athlete can cross the line. Sometimes a second opinion is needed for a game changing call and other times the league needs to step in for supplemental discipline. League officials can easily review the plays and confer with one another. If needed, officials can hold supplementary discipline hearings with players

Crime scene investigation: investigating crimes and finding those responsible is getting more and more difficult by the day. Advanced forensic science has allowed experts to unlock crime secrets while also freeing those who are wrongly accused. In some situations, blood spatter or other experts can be consulted over video during the initial investigation. This brings the highest level of expertise to any location in the world.

Finding the perfect outfit: The retail industry has been known to use video conferencing to view clothing samples and make alterations with manufacturing partners overseas. Consumers can also use technology to help find the perfect outfit. Not long ago, I started a video chat with one of my friends so she could help me decide on the right dress for an event because, let’s face it; my husband’s opinion just didn’t cut it.

With so many organizations either using or implementing video conferencing, the technology is becoming ever-present. Whether an organization is implementing the highest quality immersive telepresence, or rolling out video across iPads and smartphones, someone at some point had to sell their boss on the value of video.

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation? Here are some tips to make it just a little bit easier to sell the power of video to your superiors.

Teamwork – Selling your boss on the value of video conferencing to connect disparate teams is crucial. Maybe you work with a sales person in Los Angeles, an engineer in Dallas, and a support specialist in Chicago. Connecting the team face-to-face will help make all of you more productive and foster better relationships. This type of increase in productivity will only help to increase the bottom line.

Travel Costs – This is an oldie, but goodie. There is no doubt that organizations save significant dollars on travel once video has been implemented. To make this process easier, see if you can get your hands on the company’s travel expenses from the last few months. If you can’t get that much data, look to your own expenses for travel. Take that number and calculate 25% to show the potential savings video can provide on travel. When presenting this to your boss, point out that 25% could be a conservative number.

Outsmart the Competition – With the rapid communication abilities of video, your company will be able to stay one (or maybe more!) steps ahead of the competition. Whether its responding to a customer issue in the shortest time possible or getting a product to market faster, this type of rapid response is only going to make your company and your boss look good!

Recruiting Top Talent – Remind your boss of the last time he recruited a new sales executive. It started with 10 phone interviews then four were brought in for face to face interviews. When the candidates showed up, none of them had the appearance or polish of a sales rep. It almost seemed like there was a different person on the phone! With video, the first interview can occur visually, making it easier to find the right candidate sooner.

There are many more ways to sell your boss. If you are in a particular niche industry (healthcare, legal) there are very specific use cases to present as well. But if you begin with the four points above, you will be well on your way to selling your boss.