This-week-in-collaboration

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

1. Working Smarter: The Paradigm Shift in Business Collaboration

Great insight on how individuals embracing new collaboration tools will benefit from a more innovative, efficient, and happier workforce. In contrast to past work environments, these new disruptive forces in collaboration technologies have created new strategies for companies to implement.

2. Fufulling the promise of advanced collaboration 

Although the advanced collaboration technologies emerging in our market today are increasing productivity, there have been many IT challenges along the way. One of the most difficult hurdles for implementing these tools is the lack of an open standards-based development framework.

3. Collaboration and the future of Customer Support 

Understanding the changing nature of customer support is imperative for organizations looking to increase productivity and customer approval rates. This new wave of collaborative support is strongly tied to the mobile revolution, with the addition of social options alongside traditional phone support.

4. Five tips to ace your next video conference from anywhere 

With the rise in popularity of video conferencing, particularly mobile video, these are some important tips to remember when conducting your next video call. These include practice, position, appearance, attention and mute/disconnect.

5. Web Conferencing: Need for Today’s Business World 

With the increasing mobile workforce, the need for high quality collaborative technologies is very important for productivity. Web conferencing in particular allows individuals to connect and join a meeting any time and any place.

When it comes to understanding how collaboration services are delivered, there is much discussion surrounding cloud-based options versus on-premise and everything in between. The language used to describe the design of these services can be somewhat confusing and many of the terms are often used in the wrong way to make understanding them every more challenging!

Let’s start by discussing cloud services themselves.

What is a Cloud Service?

A cloud service is basically any service or resource that is delivered via the internet or other remote network. There are several classifications of cloud services, including:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): These services deliver software applications to customers; think Salesforce.com (Customer Relationship Management) or NetSuite (ERP software). The customer is not required to purchase hardware or servers and generally pays for access to the software based on a monthly subscription.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): In PaaS, operating systems and other connected services are delivered without the need to download or install components. These types of solutions include things like Windows Azure and Amazon Web Services.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): With IaaS, service providers purchase hardware (storage, services, bridges, etc.) and allow customers to utilize portions of the hardware on a monthly or pay-per-use basis.

The interesting thing about collaboration cloud services, and specifically video collaboration, is that the solutions offered are a mix of the different models mentioned above. In some cases, a service provider will offer access to hardware video conferencing bridges (MCUs), firewall traversal devices, and more for a monthly fee. In these cases, the provider has purchased the equipment and is maintaining it for multiple customers.

Other collaboration services are purely software that is then delivered via a SaaS model. Blue Jeans Network, for example, is entirely software based and delivered to customers throughout the world via their data centers. The hardware involved is off-the-shelf Intel based servers.

What is Virtualization?

When discussing cloud services, the topic of virtualization will almost always come up. Virtualization itself is not a cloud based service. Instead, virtualization technology enables service provides to deliver cloud services.

In a virtualized model, multiple instances of operating systems can sit on one physical server. Therefore, a provider can own one large-scale, hardware based server then effectively chop the computing power up into multiple instances that can then be delivered to customers. A software application must be designed to work with these virtual instances.

The real power of virtualization, however, is the ability to easily scale up or down based upon user needs. Since hardware resources are allocated via software, it is very easy to spin-up additional physical processing power and then have it immediately add to the power of a particular instance. This can even happen automatically. If a virtualized application detects the need for additional power, it can call for additional processor power to be allocated.

How does this translate into a real world situation? If an organization is having a special video event and requires access for 20 additional users who don’t normally connect, the needed processor power can be added, the application will dynamically adjust, and the meeting can go off without a hitch. When the event is over, the added processing power can just be turned off.

Cloud services and computing are the biggest trend in technology and collaboration services. Understanding the differences in the ways the services are delivered and what technology is involved can help make the evaluation process a little bit easier.

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.

As an employee of a visual collaboration organization I often take for granted the ease of access to video solutions and the fact that everyone I interact with on a daily basis is on video. In most organizations video conferencing deployments are often limited to a subset of users. For example, middle management or functional departments like sales are given video due to their high proportion of remote team members.

In a typical video environment, most companies use a mix of hardware devices and software, often causing interoperability issues. Conference rooms normally have some sort of standards-based video system from Cisco or Polycom, while desktop and mobile users have various software applications. Additionally, many organizations have Microsoft Lync clients that are sitting dormant either because the organization doesn’t know how to implement the client, or the client doesn’t interoperate with their current video deployment.

Today, Acano announced general availability for their revolutionary new product that solves many of these challenges, and unites previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies into coSpaces. IVCi is always looking ahead to the next big technology and we are excited to announce that we are one of the first partners selected to resell this solution.

So, what exactly is a coSpace?

It’s a virtual meeting room, only radically better. Users can connect with any device or application they have, ranging from a standard video conferencing endpoint to Microsoft Lync or their web browser. Acano also offers native iOS and Android apps that allow users to not only join from their smartphone or tablet, but also split how they attend. For example, if I am connected to a meeting from my desktop system but have to leave the office, I can “throw” the call to my iPhone with a push of a button and without disrupting the meeting. Then, when I get to my destination, I can throw the call back to my iPad.  Or, if I am in a busy area, I can view video on my iPad while sending audio through my phone. That brings new meaning to our mission of Collaborate Anywhere!

coSpaces also go beyond a virtual meeting; they provide a dedicated space for people to organize and exchange ideas by storing chat logs, meeting notes, and more. Users can create as many coSpaces as they need, one for every project, supplier or team, and then invite participants to join.

Acano’s hardware is based on standard Intel processors (similar to those found in a laptop computer) but have been modified specifically for video and collaboration. Based on the hardware and their specially designed software, a single Acano server can handle up to 2500 users, making the solution extremely scalable. Now, every user in an organization can have access to video. Furthermore, all of the inactive Lync clients floating around can be effectively utilized to drive collaboration.

Acano overcomes technology barriers allowing you to work wherever your ideas and creativity thrive. See for yourself with the demo performed at Infocomm below.

To learn more about Acano visit our website.