As many of you know Hurricane Sandy roared through the Northeast earlier this week and wreaked havoc in New York City and Long Island (IVCi’s Headquarters). Monday night my husband and I simply watched the sky light up as trees blew over and knocked down transformers. Approximately 90% of Long Island’s power was knocked out, along with all of lower Manhattan, due to immense flooding and downed trees/power lines.

The effects of Hurricane Sandy will be felt for days from as close as New York to as far as Japan. The New York Stock Exchange closed for the longest time since 1888. Airports from Washington DC to Boston closed while New York’s LaGuardia flooded in dramatic fashion. Unprecedented damage has been done to New York’s subway system with seven tunnels completely underwater; keeping the city’s main method of transportation closed.

However, just because New York is shut down doesn’t mean the rest of the country, let alone the rest of the world, stops working. Therefore, it is extremely important for organizations to have a business continuity plan in place. This allows the business to continue functioning; even if at a reduced capacity. Redundancy and communication, both internal and external, are key components of any business continuity plan. Management must ensure they are able to communicate with employees effectively and minimize the impact on customers.

Most importantly, a back-up generator is crucial to keep an organization’s operations running. Email, video and voice calls are only valuable if they work; therefore, it is important to ensure email servers and other key applications have power, even if the actual office is closed. This allows remote employees to continue working; either from home, their local coffee shop or wherever they can get power and a wifi connection.

Additionally, video conferencing and unified communications solutions are useful not only in the wake of natural disasters, but in the planning and preparation for one as well. For example, city officials and other emergency response teams need to communicate with each other to minimize the disaster’s impact and ensure the safety of citizens. The ability to quickly connect over video results in faster updates and quicker decision making which are critical in any emergency situation.

Finally, as the clean up and rebuilding process continues, we appreciate your understanding with delayed responses. In addition to little power, approximately 25% of cell towers and many network/data lines are down. As a result, communication is extremely difficult for many people.

For those of you looking to help, a little donation goes a long way. Visit http://www.redcross.org/, call 800-Red-Cross, or text the word “redcross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. All donations will provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by the storm. Thank you!

*Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

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!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to the approach of Hurricane Sandy and the likelihood of a long-term power outage, we have decided to postpone this event.  Please register for the event to ensure you receive updates when a new date has been established.  Thank you! 

As we embark on another school year, many colleges and universities are working feverishly on an engaging curriculum that will prepare students for the fast paced and ever changing “real world” they will enter upon graduation.

Join IVCi at a webinar that demonstrates how learning institutions can utilize cloud video and other solutions to extend the reach of education beyond the classroom. 

In this webinar you will learn about:

  1. Distance Learning: Students and professors can connect to a virtual classroom or study group from any desktop video client including Skype, Google Video Chat and even their web browser!
  2. Guest Lectures: Allow professors and other distinguished leaders from all over the world to present to a group of students without costly and time consuming travel. 
  3. Research: Collaborate and share content with subject matter experts and research groups through an interactive forum.

Sign up today!

Take Learning To The Next Level With Video Conferencing
[Click here to Register]
Date: Postponed Until Further Notice
Time: 2:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM Pacific (US)

Today at the Visual Communications Industry Group Annual Expo, IVCi unveiled its comprehensive suite of distance learning solutions. Combining the best of Audio Visual Integration, Video Conferencing, and cloud services, these solutions enable educational institutions to extend the reach of education far outside of the classroom. IVCi is exhibiting at booth #201. If you are out at the show, come by and take a look! We are also showcasing our new UC Room solution.

Additional Resources:

IVCi Distance Learning Solutions Press Release

UC Group Systems

 

This past week people from all over the world attended the Cisco Collaboration Summit for a variety of updates on Cisco’s strategy and product offerings. This year’s theme was Empower, Engage, Innovate. Empower people to make the best use of their workspaces and engage in today’s virtual work environment through mobility, cloud and video. The result is to innovate by discovering new relationships and ideas. Watch the powerful keynote speech along with a case study from Virgin Media here.

The highlight of the keynote speech was a demonstration of the major enhancements to WebEx resulting in a full-scale unified communications solution.

WebEx Meetings, the online meeting application we’ve used for years, still provides an interactive forum for groups to meet and exchange ideas. The major addition to the offering is WebEx Meetings Server. For the first time, an organization can choose to deploy the same WebEx Meetings functionality within their data center on a dedicated server. This allows for greater control and a private cloud implementation.

WebEx Telepresence (formerly Callway) enhances traditional WebEx Meetings with video capabilities. Features include point-to-point video chat or up to nine-way video calling, as well as, a private company directory.

WebEx Messenger provides instant messaging and presence capabilities which includes recommended methods of communications. For example, if a user is on a video call, it will suggest sending an email or leaving a voicemail.

WebEx Social (formerly Quad) provides a social hub within an organization and facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing. For example, users can type in a project or a question and obtain a list of results. Furthermore, users can seamlessly connect to others within the application from a click of a button.

In a compelling case study, Virgin Media discussed how a combination of these solutions helped enhance both vertical and horizontal collaboration within their organization. Vertical collaboration is enhancing collaboration with the same people users already collaborate with. Horizontal collaboration, on the other hand, creates new opportunities for people to collaborate by expanding the network of people available to collaborate with.

Room based telepresence systems, along with WebEx UC solutions, create a more efficient means of collaboration by connecting a larger and more diverse group of people. The results include increased collaboration along with faster and more agile business decisions.

Additional Resources
Cisco Announces New Cloud Collaboration Capabilities