Video conferencing is moving from a nice-to-have to an essential business tool. This is, in part, due to the ease of which video solutions have become available along with the removal of many barriers to B2B video calling. Here’s a look at a few of the most prominent obstacles and what has been or is being done to overcome them.

A User Friendly Dialing Plan:
Placing a call over video used to be a complicated process due to the lack of a universal number system. Users had to remember an IP address, often up to 12 digits with no logical sequence. Today, there is more consistency video calling standards. Advancements in technology allow organizations to assign unique video addresses to endpoints or personal video accounts. These can be formatted like an email address and can use the organization’s domain name instead of having to remember a 12 digit IP address.

A High Quality Experience:
Technology itself has improved significantly since the birth of video conferencing, creating a stronger and more consistent experience. The shift from standard definition to high definition displays and codecs has allowed video conferencing to become increasingly more realistic. This is significant since eye contact and other visual cues play a crucial role in communication, collaboration and business meetings in general.

Interoperability Between Systems:
Interoperability was traditionally one of the biggest barriers to B2B video conferencing. Existing video solutions did not connect well with each other and in many cases didn’t connect at all. This severely limited the number of individuals who could use video, thereby inhibiting the effectiveness of video conferencing. The creation of video protocol standards along with interoperability bridges has created a much larger network of users who can utilize video, which increases the value of video to businesses.

Reliable High Speed Network:
Network issues can destroy a video call; from packet loss and frozen images to completely dropping the call. Successful video meetings require a reliable, high-speed network. Unfortunately, the bandwidth necessary for a solid call used to be very pricey. Today, the cost of bandwidth is decreasing rapidly as well as becoming more widely accessible.  

Security:
Massive traffic between a private business network and the public Internet can create both real and imagined concerns. Firewalls have always played an important role in protecting internal applications and data within an organization, however, these firewalls can present many challenges for B2B video conferencing by restricting access to who can and cannot be called over video. Thankfully, firewall traversal devices along with virtual meeting rooms have made it easy to connect with external video users without compromising the security of an organization’s network.

While there are still challenges to B2B video calling, it has gotten significantly easier. Businesses are able to connect with colleagues, partners and even customers easier than ever before and with continued improvements it’s only a matter of time before video calling is as easy as picking up the telephone. 

The proliferation of desktop and mobile video solutions, along with WebRTC, has allowed participants to join a video call virtually anywhere there is an internet connection. However, a poor internet connection can destroy a video conference. Here are a few things you need to know when joining a video call over the internet:

Download Speed:
Download speed is the amount of bandwidth people have coming to their computer from the Internet. Think of a road coming toward an office; the more lanes it has the more traffic the road can handle. Similarly, the more downstream bandwidth people have the more internet traffic they can accept. For a point-to-point business quality video call it is recommended to a minimum download bandwidth of 384Kbps. For each additional call participant an additional 384Kbs is recommended. For example, a 4-way call will need 1.5Mbps + 20% for overhead. For High Resolution (HD) video conferencing, a minimum of 1Mbps (+20%) download speed is recommended.

Upload Speed:
Upload speed is the amount of bandwidth people have going from their computer to the Internet. This is the road going away from an office.  Again, the more upload bandwidth one has, the wider the road is and the more traffic people can send. The upload requirements remain the same as the download requirements regardless of the amount of participants on the call.

Latency (Delay):
Latency is the amount of time it takes for the traffic sent to reach its destination. Using the previous analogy, even if there is a wide road going to and from the office, if a car is moving slowly on the road it will take a lot longer to get where it is going. If you notice it is taking a long time for your co-worker to respond on a video call or that you are talking over each other it is most likely being caused by high latency. Latency problems are often caused by network congestion; if you experience problems try ending the video call and starting it again. It is recommended that latency be below 250ms.

Jitter:
Jitter is the time difference it takes data packets to reach their destination and is usually caused by congestion in the network. This is akin to getting off of work and hitting the evening rush hour. Due to the congestion and high volume of drivers hitting the road at the same time it may take longer to reach your final destination.  Jitter causes packets to arrive at their destination with different timing and possibly in a different order than they were sent (spoken). Some arrive faster than they should while some arrive slower than they should. Low jitter, or a few packets off causing a slight flicker or flash, can be frustrating but tolerable.  High jitter on the other hand can make video nearly impossible to use as the image can be completely distorted. It is recommended that jitter be below 30ms.

Packet Loss:
Packet loss is when one or more of the data packets fail to reach their destination and is also caused by congestion on the network. Essentially, some of the packets are dropped by network routers or switches that become congested (lost packets), or they are discarded by the jitter buffer (discarded packets). This is similar to an audio call breaking up where you miss every few words and cannot understand much of the conversation.

Test Your Network:
There are a number of ways to test your network connection both for quality as well as any firewall/security restrictions. Check out IVCi’s new Cloud Video Experience Video Network Assessment test to see how well video is expected to perform on your network. Click here to star the test.

Cisco MX 300 G2

When it comes to video conferencing everyone seems to be talking cloud based services and mobility. These are certainly the big trends of the moment but it is important to remember that room based collaboration is not going away. Colleagues still want the ability to grab a conference room and initiate both local collaboration sessions as well as connect to remote participants via video.

Back in October at the Cisco Collaboration Summit, several announcements were made regarding Cisco’s video portfolio. The overarching theme was to make collaboration simple. One of the hardware solutions announced was the MX300 G2. This solution is scheduled to ship to customers this month.

The G2 really represents the evolution of room based visual collaboration. The device is an all in one solution that features a 55” display with several mounting options (wall mount, floor stand, wheel base), a high definition camera with 4x optical zoom and a wide angle lens, significantly enhanced audio and integrated cable management for simplicity.

The unit is controlled by a large 10” touch display that features an  easy to use interface. This new software will be making its way to Cisco’s other hardware solutions providing a consistent experience across their entire portfolio.

Other features include the ability to host up to four party calls (connect with up to three other video systems) as well as a second display option.  The second display can be dedicated for content only as well. Finally, the system can be upgraded to support full 1080p.

As part of Cisco’s promise to make collaboration easier, the MX200 G2 can be installed in under 10 minutes.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of the MX300 G2 (and will be added to other Cisco systems as well) is Intelligent Proximity. This feature allows meeting participants to pair their tablet (iPad for example) directly to the endpoint and receive and interact with content being shared on their device. This creates a personal experience in a group setting and allows each user the ability to manipulate the content in such a way to help them fully understand what is being presented.

Click HERE to learn more!

 

 

Remote teams are quickly growing in popularity with the acceptance and growing use of telework programs. However, leading a remote team and managing remote team members is far different from traditional teams. There are many things that we take for granted being in an office, especially face time, that need to be specifically addressed for remote teams.

In a recent HBR article, Keith Ferrazzi mentions three tips to managing virtual teams. Here are a few others to ensure your remote team members function as well as local team members.

  1. Be Available:  Formal weekly status meetings are a must but don’t forget to informally check-in throughout the week. In the office, most mangers stop by and say hi to their teams and many have an open door policy. Fostering this atmosphere is just as important for remote managers. Take the time to just say hi and make yourself available for when your team has questions, needs assistance with a task, or just wants to bounce a few ideas around is very important.
  2. Trust Your Team: The majority of the time, your team will accomplish their tasks and put their 40 hours of work in, if not more. Yes, there may be a few bad apples that don’t do what they’re supposed to but micromanaging and constantly checking up on your entire team is a surefire way to disrupt productivity and frustrate your team. If you suspect one person is not putting in their hours, address it with them directly or sporadically ask them to show you what they are working on.
  3. Define Objectives:  Remote team members can’t simply walk into your office and ask what to do next. Therefore, it is extremely important to define long term goals and objectives for these employees. Consistently managing to short and long term goals will not only keep remote team members productivity but it will also make them feel that their work is contributing to the great goals of the department and the organization.
  4. Encourage Collaboration: It’s easy for remote team members to feel isolated as they don’t have the face time with colleagues that corporate employees do. Assign projects that require team members to collaborate and work on together. This will help develop relationships between remote members and allow them to feel a part of the team instead of an individual contributor.
  5. Communicate Corporate Messaging: Again, it’s easy for remote members to feel isolated from the company as they can miss out on corporate messaging as well the corporate culture. Remote managers must take the time to communicate all corporate messages and Executive teams should think about sending monthly video updates to all employees updating them on what is happening within the company as well as what to look forward to in the future.

Taking the extra time to focus on these objectives can help remote team members feel more comfortable and less isolated from the company. Additionally, it can help increase their productivity by ensuring giving them the space they need to accomplish tasks while being available to assist or answer questions.

5-W's-of-a-Video-Conferencing-Strategy

Video conferencing initiatives continue to be an increasing priority to many organizations. With advancements in technology, the promise of connecting people anywhere, any time, on any device is now an attainable goal when video collaboration is implemented correctly. The first step in this process is to put together a solid video collaboration strategy.

As a starting point, here are 5 important for getting your video strategy off on the right foot.

Who will be using video?
More specifically, what business units will be using video? Will this be for executives only? Will different departments have access to the video conferencing equipment/services?

What will they be using it for?
What type of meetings will be taking place when using video conferencing? Will they be internal or also have external participants? Will they be point to point meetings or will you need multipoint capabilities for larger meetings? Determining your priorities for these meetings will help with demonstrating immediate value.

Where will these meetings take place?
Will you have dedicated conference rooms with video conferencing equipment? Will these be in all of your locations? Will you allow desktop video conferencing and mobile conferencing abilities? These questions will also help with determining what type of technologies and if you need to implement a BYOD policy.

When will this be purchased?
What is your purchasing procedure? Will this be something that you can move forward with once the correct technologies are determined? Does your organization view video conferencing as an op-ex or cap-ex purchase? These questions are important for determining the best way to purchase this equipment and if certain options like leasing might make sense.

Why do you want to implement video?
This may be the most important question when putting together your video strategy. You must determine what your organization is trying to accomplish and what the goals are with regards to video collaboration. Once this question is answered, you will be able to choose correct technologies and implement a strategy that will work towards those goals.

Once you are successfully able to answer these 5 questions your next step will be to determine the technology, and equally as important, begin creating a video adoption strategy. IVCi can help you build a high quality video conferencing strategy and implementation as well as assist with adoption and usage strategies.

Are you ready to move forward with your video conferencing strategy? Contact us for a free consultation.