Collaboration means different things to different people. But at the end of the day it’s all about connecting people and giving them the ability to work together. The need for these types of connections continue to grow as workforces become more global and dispersed.

When people are connected they can share ideas, brainstorm on new initiatives, collaborate on deliverables and so much more.

We created the below infographic to highlight the many forms that collaboration can take, what some of the benefits are, where collaboration happens and the tools available.

Organizations are investing in collaboration tools and environments as the importance becomes increasingly prevalent. Not to mention, many organizations have recently started to break down walls (figuratively and literally) in offices. Companies are eliminating office spaces and creating open floor plans to facilitate interaction among colleagues.

Physical spaces, namely conference rooms, where employees can gather to work on deliverables or projects are necessary components to facilitate collaboration. However, since these rooms are shared resources, scheduling is necessary to make sure meetings don’t interrupt each other. This can be frustrating for teams who want to meet spontaneously.

With that in mind, huddle spaces or teaming rooms are being implemented in more and more organizations. What are they? Simply, a huddle space is an area within a company where a group of people can come together and collaborate; whether it is the corner of a room or open space near the cafeteria. These spaces are generally unscheduled resources and are available on a first-come first served basis.

The make-up of a huddle space varies significantly across organizations, but here are a few examples of solutions we have seen:

The Content Sharing Space:
These spaces are built around an LED TV mounted on a simple floor stand/cart. Attached to the unit is a wireless content sharing component that allows participants to attach a small device to their laptops and easily share their screen with the click of a button. Up to four participants can see their content on the screen at the same time, making it easy to compare work and collaborate on deliverables. A large professional services firm has implemented these content sharing stations in hallways and other open spaces throughout their office.

The Video Room, Everywhere:
When it comes to deploying video conferencing, a choice usually has to be made about what rooms and which employees to equip. This is due to both the cost involved and the scalability of infrastructure need to make video work. A media firm decided that they didn’t want to make an investment in higher-end video room systems and instead chose to go with desktop video software (that can be scaled to very large numbers). They simply took a small television cart and equipped each one with a PC and webcam. The result was a low cost video conferencing system that could be easily placed into any room or huddle environment.

The Web Conferencing Room
Web conferencing solutions, such as WebEx and GoToMeeting, provide functionality around content sharing, white boarding, chat, and some video conferencing. Many organizations have chosen to use web conferencing across their entire enterprise as a means of collaborating. One major manufacturer realized the importance of giving as many people as possible the power to connect, both remotely and in the same room, and implemented a web conferencing room solution. For the hundreds of meeting spaces that they have not equipped with video, they have implemented a low cost solution that allows employees to walk into a room and immediately join a web session. From there, individuals can work together in the room and connect with remote team members.

The above examples only scratch the surface of the concept of the huddle room. Ultimately, these solutions are about untethering collaboration from a finite space and making it possible for employees, both those in a local office and remote, to collaborate on an ad-hoc basis without having to schedule static resources and without a huge investment.

This Week in Collaboration

September 13th, 2013 | Posted by Danielle Downs in Industry News - (0 Comments)

This-week-in-collaboration

Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the weeks’ best articles surrounding collaboration. 

1. Mobile Video Collaboration

Cisco explains what they are doing to better their infrastructure and technology to better suit mobile video needs. Those needs include high quality audio, video, and application sharing.

2. Video conferencing for your business

This article explains to some of the use cases and benefits of using video conferencing as opposed to audio conferencing for meetings.  It also briefly speaks to the different visual collaboration tools available.

3. Polycom enables Green Cross International 20(th) Anniversary Earth Dialogues Conference to Deliver Interactive, Live Broadcast from the United Nations

Details about how Green Cross International used Polycom video technology to stream their Earth Dialogue event. Using this technology allowed Green Cross to over 1,000 participants to view and interact from all over the globe.

4. The Latest Business Productivity Technology Comes From…Surprise…Video Conferencing

Interesting article about how advancements in video conferencing technology are creating a better video experience that is increasingly flexible and easy to use.

5. Can BYOD lift the IT support burden?

BYOD strategies tend to make IT folks cringe but this insightful piece explains how BYOD can actually reduce the burden on IT. However, it also states how certain boundaries and limits need to be taken in to consideration to ensure successful implementation.

The benefits of visual collaboration are expansive and cross just about every job function and industry. European retail giant Kingfisher recently sat down for a Cisco case study to discuss how collaboration technologies have helped overcome challenges in their supply chain,  improving profitability and shortening product development cycles.

One of the biggest challenges Kingfisher faced was how to connect direct sourcing suppliers located in Asia, with buyers and quality control teams located in Europe.  Not only was travel time consuming and expensive, the entire product design process was lengthy and cumbersome as people had to physically handle product prototypes, artwork or packaging before providing feedback.

As a result, Kingfisher decided to implement Cisco Telepresence systems in six locations across Europe and Asia. The business case was undeniable. It was calculated that 85% of products could be physically taken into one of these rooms which would help “take weeks, even months off of time to market, resulting in millions of pounds of additional revenue,” according to Richard Oats, Synergies Director at Kingfisher.

The results have been just as remarkable. Rapid and effective problem solving is accelerating products’ time to market, along with helping cut costs and increase revenues.  For example, a team in charge of developing a range of power tools is able to meet frequently and on very short notice to address any issues which keeps the project moving forward.  Additionally, Kingfish has been using video to standardize procurement practices by allowing buyers from all of the operating companies to collaborate with each other.

Watch the video below for more details on how video has helped improve Kingfish’s bottom line.

Video conferencing security continues to make news every now and then. Last year, it was HD Moore who hacked into conference rooms around the globe and this year German magazine Der Spiegel said the NSA hacked into the United Nations video conferencing system. In the wake of these events, many users of video conferencing get worried and some get downright paranoid.  However, video can be extremely secure if it is configured properly.

All standards-based video conferencing systems include 128-bit AES encryption which secures the audio and video data being sent between users. Encrypting the audio and video packets prevents hackers from seeing where the data is going or what the contents are. According to an article from the EE Times, it would take one quintillion (1018) years to crack AES encryption using a brute force attack meaning the data is highly protected.

So if AES encryption is so strong, and most video systems support it, why do there continue to be stories of systems getting hacked? Because faults in configuration create weaknesses that leave systems vulnerable to attack.

The most common, which also happen to leave systems the most vulnerable, are leaving systems outside of a company’s firewall and having systems configured to automatically answer calls. This allows virtually anyone to dial into the video conference system undetected because there is no firewall to prevent unwanted access and the only visual evidence that a call has been connected is a tiny light on the camera.

While these are the most severe configuration issues, a recent post on No Jitter mentions other common faults that can leave video systems vulnerable. These include:

  • Using outdated video systems that don’t support encryption
  • Failing to use the most current software on video systems and other devices
  • Connecting to other devices like gateways or video bridges that either don’t support or have encryption turned off
  • Failing to use proper passwords, not changing passwords often enough, or failing to keep those passwords secure

So, what can be done to help keep video conferencing environments secure?

One of the best things to do is  invest in a firewall traversal device such as a Cisco VCS Expressway or Polycom VBP. This allows devices to remain behind a firewall but retain the ability to connect to the public internet. As a result, members located on an internal company network can connect with other participants located outside the network without compromising the network’s security.

An alternative to investing in hardware is to subscribe to a cloud-based managed service. These services provide access to a team of highly trained video professionals that will ensure every call is connected in a secure manner, as well as, confirm all endpoints are configured to security standards.

Additional security options include:

  • Change encryption settings from On (If Available) to On (Required) to require encryption for every call
  • Disable auto-answer functionality
  • Disable far end camera control on the system
  • Close camera shutter when the system is not in use

As with anything, there is a balance between increased security and added functionality. Restricting access to only users located on the internal network provides the highest security but is not very functional. Leaving video systems on the public internet makes it easy to connect with users outside the network but presents numerous security and privacy risks. Every organization is different and the best video networks fall somewhere in between. The bottom line is there is a way to have a highly functional video conferencing environment while mitigating many of the risks that leave a network vulnerable.

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