The prevalence of cloud services has begun a heated debate among IT professionals and spurred two different types of thinking. One side consists of professionals that prefer to handle all IT components in-house and more or less resist the cloud. The other side consists of professionals who are embracing the cloud and prefer to outsource certain components to different experts.

This leads to the challenge most IT professionals face; should we continue to do everything ourselves or embrace the cloud? Let’s start by further defining the two different positions.

While some IT professionals fear the cloud because they believe it will steal part of, if not their entire job; the majority oppose the cloud due to a loss of control over their entire IT environment. This position often stems from a distrust of things they cannot control directly and the security associated with keeping the power in the hands of people located within the organization.

As a result, these professions prefer to keep all IT aspects in-house to maintain order. If anything goes wrong, these IT directors know exactly who is responsible and whom to go to; allowing them to monitor the situation until it has been fixed. With the cloud, all they can do is call their service provider and pray for a speedy resolution which leads to frustration.

But, the cliché “jack of all trades, master of none” still holds true. What happens when those people don’t know how to fix the situation in an efficient or effective manner?

This has led to a new school of thought among IT professionals; built on open minds and forward thinking, as the concept of IT has changed almost as rapidly as the technology itself. IT is no longer a range of similar tasks applied to similar technologies, but a sprawling universe of ever-changing technologies that is so vast and fluid it is nearly impossible to master all of its intricacies. Visual collaboration, unified communications, cloud computing, digital signage and content distribution make up only a fraction of the technologies organizations use to conduct business today.

Ongoing innovations in these fields change on a monthly basis and the rate of progression will only continue to increase. The best organizations are able to stay ahead of the technology curve creating a competitive advantage while organizations that fail to adapt fall further and further behind.

The bottom line is IT for the modern corporation is not what it was five years ago. Failing to stay on top of the latest trends and innovation can mark the death of your IT career faster than outsourcing or the cloud.  Therefore, if you decide to keep everything in-house, invest not only in certified professionals but in their continued training and development.

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It’s here, Friday the 13th, and I have a huge meeting today. I woke up in a panic last night because I had a nightmare that I completely bombed the presentation and then got fired. I don’t understand why they had to schedule this meeting today – do they not understand I have the worst luck ever?

Then I’m walking to my car this morning and a black cat crawled right in front of me and gave me the stare down. This is a bad omen, something is going to go wrong, I just know it. As I’m driving, I start making a list of everything that I need to do to ensure this presentation goes well.

I checked with our receptionist to make sure the conference room was booked and then scheduled a pre-test with the client to ensure we could connect easily and push content without any issues. While I was in the conference room I straightened up to make sure everything looked nice as well.

After that, I went back to my desk and put together an outline of what I wanted to cover. Then I went through my PowerPoint slides to ensure I wasn’t missing anything. With about a half hour before the meeting, I decided to just get to the conference room so I could get set up. Everything seems to be in place, but you just never know.

I connected my laptop, got the presentation ready and decided to do a quick test run with Barry just to be sure everything was working properly. He said the content was crystal clear and everything looked good.

Time for the call, here goes nothing!

Wow the call connected perfectly and I’m speaking to the CEO about his weekend plans. Everyone else has joined the call so it’s time to begin. The presentation is displayed and it looks great. This is going too well something is bound to happen.

Next thing I know, it’s time for questions which I answered quickly. Now everyone is saying goodbye and have a great weekend. I disconnected the call and just sat there for a minute. Wow, everything went perfectly, a little planning goes a long way I guess.

As I was strutting my stuff back to my desk I tripped over the carpet and went flying. Not exactly sure how I managed to save my laptop from getting crushed but whew that would’ve been embarrassing!

Ah well happy Friday the 13th!

Conference rooms play a major role in any organization. They’re where presentations are made, ideas are formed and innovation happens. Management teams go to discuss business strategy, work teams go to collaborate on projects, business partners go to discuss relationships, and sales representatives go to court clients. The bottom line is conference rooms are where business happens. Therefore, it is very important to consider the factors that make a space conducive to meetings.

Before designing and implementing an audio/visual integrated room it is important to take some time to consider the meeting space itself, where the room will be located in your building, and some of the key components of the room:

Location: Conference rooms should be located in low-traffic areas to minimize background distractions and maintain confidentiality. Soundproofing or speech privacy solutions can be used in busy areas to mitigate unwanted noise and preserve privacy.

Acoustics: A conference room’s acoustics ensure an optimal audio experience for both in-room and remote participants. The room’s size and shape, as well as, surface materials (walls/floor/ceiling) can lead to reverberations or echo. In some cases, noise cancellation devices may be needed to improve audio quality.

Doors & Windows: Too much direct sunlight can become uncomfortable, not to mention blinding, for participants. Additionally, glass windows and doors tend to let in more outside noise which can disrupt a meeting. Blackout shades and solid doors can be used to minimize light and background noise.

Furniture: Proper seating arrangements must be designed to provide optimal viewing and comfort for each participant. If video conferencing will be integrated, furniture should be chosen that minimizes the glare on cameras.

Power: A conference room should have a few dedicated circuits to power all equipment (displays, projectors, video conferencing, etc) along with convenient ports for participants to plug in personal devices.  There should also be enough power to handle any HVAC systems that will need to be added to the room to support larger numbers of participants.

Many of these areas of concern can be adjusted in the selected room space, However, selecting a room space that meets many of the above criteria can help to reduce costly room remediation and provide an environment that will be far more conducive to meetings.

Learn more about creating an optimal collaboration environment from our Audio Visual Buyers Guide.

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The video conferencing industry is changing faster than anyone can keep up with. The technological innovations are staggering and many have led to greater reach and lower cost, higher quality video solutions.

One of the latest trends emerging is video conferencing directly within the web browser.  HTML 5 and a new standard known as WebRTC are making many of these solutions possible. WebRTC allows browsers to facilitate real-time communication; including voice, video, and point-to-point file sharing. This new technology will soon be standard in all popular browsers.

This standard is still in a “draft” format from the Web Standards Body but many of the applications that have experimented with it have been quite impressive. Small software companies to major manufacturers of hardware based video conferencing systems have been working with web clients for some time. The advantages of this approach are:

  1. Users can be connected to a video meeting with little to no download and setup time. Currently WebRTC is not finalized so small plugins must be downloaded the first time a user enters a video meeting. In the near future this should be eliminated and the browser will be able to launch directly into the video call.
  2. Beyond a web camera, there are no hardware requirements to participate in a video meeting.
  3. Browsers exist on devices beyond PCs; mobile devices, televisions, tablets, and more. Soon these devices will be video conferencing ready out of the box without any configuration.

There have been a number of announcements that have centered on video conferencing in the web browser including:

Blue Jeans:  This service has bridged the gap between consumer and professional video conferencing offering “meet-me” rooms in the cloud that allow users of pretty much any traditional VC system  to connect with users on Skype, Google Video Chat and Microsoft Lync. Last month, Blue Jeans added a browser-based option to their service. When a user receives an invite to a Blue Jeans meeting, they can click a link and attend via their web browser.

Polycom:  Last year Polycom acquired ViVu, a small organization that had been offering “embeddable” video conferencing into web applications. This week Polycom announced the first initiative based on that acquisition. HP is now shipping a Polycom HD video application with their new web cams. The app makes it easy for users to connect, via video, to any of their contact lists from Facebook, Skype, Google, etc. When a user invites a contact, the receipt simply clicks a link and is immediately launched in a web based video call.

Cisco: A few weeks ago Cisco announced some significant updates to their Quad social portal. The newly branded Cisco Webex Social features integrated video calling that all happens in the browser.

There are sure to be many more announcements and releases around web-based video conferencing. Its impact on the industry remains to be seen, but it is sure to be significant and will only make video even more accessible for everyone.

Social collaboration, a combination of social media, visual collaboration and unified communications, is becoming a significant trend in business today. When used together, these technologies can improve products or processes and ultimately drive true innovation which has a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line. This is the third post in a series discussing the benefits of social collaboration. For part one click here.

Today’s global environment is moving at a faster pace than ever. New products and services are continuously being created and modified to adapt to changing consumer and business needs. As a result, organizations need to find renewed effectiveness and efficiency in their business model; a balance between doing the right things and doing things right.

Many organizations are turning to business partnerships to create new avenues for innovation in a variety of different ways. From new products and services to new processes and procedures that can enhance a firm’s productivity while inspiring ingenuity. Wal-Mart, for example, was a pioneer with supplier collaboration by implementing technology that provided real-time, point of sale information to their suppliers. This not only decreased stock-outs but increased sales and customer satisfaction by ensuring products were always available for purchase. Similarly, Apple has created valuable partnerships with manufacturing companies to produce their products; allowing them to focus on their core competencies of technology design and innovation.

The most successful business partnerships are built on a strong foundation of trust which is established through open and honest communications and face-to-face interaction. Two-way data sharing and peer-to-peer collaboration can provide new insights for partners on how to make their relationship more effective and ultimately improve their bottom line.

Vendors, suppliers, joint ventures and other forms of business partners can not only meet face-to-face through video but collaborate through interactive whiteboards. Additionally social networking helps expand an organization’s network providing access to thought leadership, top talent and other potential business partners.

Geographical diversity presents a major challenge in developing meaningful relationships as most business partners located in different countries, if not continents. However, collaboration technologies are continuously evolving to create an effective means of communication. One of the biggest roadblocks for partner or B2B collaboration has been the disparate nature of networks and network providers.

For many organizations that choose to move their video communication to a dedicated network, there can be a “walled garden” created where they are unable to connect to other systems outside of the network. Service providers have been providing so-called B2B exchanges for many years as a way to combat this. Recent trends towards cloud services and carrier interoperability relationships have helped make this type of collaboration easier to achieve.

This post is part of a series covering the benefits of social collaboration within an organization.

Part One: The Rise of Social Collaboration
Part Two: Unified Communications, Unified People
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value