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. 

This-week-in-collaboration

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

1. Distance Education 2.0

The MOOC movement allows professors to reach anyone in the world with an internet connection through these online open courses. Specifically, China has put a focus on MOOC’s in order to try and improve their domestic education.

2. Taking Video Conferencing out of the boardroom

With mobile devices being used for video conferencing increasing over the last couple years, companies have been able to expand their video environment outside of the boardroom. This is due in part to the interoperability and decreased costs that mobile devices bring to the video conferencing industry.

3. Doctor Visit in the Palm of your hand

New technology allows mobile users to pay a fee to find a practitioner for an immediate live video visit. This can help increase access to doctors regardless of time or location.

4. The tricky balancing act of mobile security

As the demand for mobility and BYOD increases, the need for more advanced mobile security policies increases as well. The main challenge when creating these policies tends to be allowing employees the information that they need without compromising the data or infrastructure.

5. The many advantages of Video Interviews 

Both employers and job seekers can benefit from using video conferencing for interviews. This outlines the benefits for both parties as well as certain things to take in to consideration as the interviewee.

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.

Security Consultation

I use video on a daily basis whether it’s to collaborate with colleagues, catch up with friends and family out of state or simply say goodnight to my husband when I’m out of town. There is something about connecting face-to-face with someone who is hundreds or thousands of miles away that still amazes me and I’m constantly trying to convert people I know into avid video users.

Unfortunately, I’m still met with a significant amount of resistance from some people who have, what I deem as, irrational fears of video. Here are some of my favorites:

People can (and will) spy on me
I was visiting my family in St. Louis when I went to talk to my mother, who was in her office, and I noticed a piece of paper taped over the top of her laptop. I asked her what it was and she very nonchalantly told me she was covering up the built-in webcam on her computer because she didn’t want people spying on her. I just rolled my eyes and said I was pretty sure her coworkers had better things to do than sit and spy on her.

Yes, it’s possible for someone to hack into your camera to spy on you but, as long as you’re careful, it’s improbable. A few tips to keep yourself safe is to first and foremost turn off any auto-answer capabilities. This applies to consumer and especially enterprise video applications including software clients, personal and room-based endpoints. Second, make sure you are on a secure network, behind a firewall and use a decent antivirus and spyware detection software. Here are a few other tips to keep your webcam from being hacked.

I can’t multitask
Alright this is true; you can’t get away with everything you can on the phone. But let’s face it, you really shouldn’t be multitasking; not only is it rude, it actually decreases productivity. Need proof? Read the HBR blog article How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking. Video essentially forces you to focus on the matters at hand which can lead to enhanced creativity and quicker decisions.

Now, we’ve all had a chatty Cathy talking our ear off when we have about five thousand other things to be doing. It’s difficult to interrupt over audio so you simply put her on mute while you go about your businesses and feign interest here and there. With video it’s easier to escape; simply look at your watch or hold up a finger to catch her attention then let her know you have to run into a meeting or finish up a deliverable that’s due shortly.

Video creeps me out
Personally, I think being able to see someone’s facial expression over video is pretty darn amazing. Unfortunately, I have heard many people say that video is downright creepy. It took me a little while, but I finally understood what they meant – just replace the word creepy with vulnerable. Yes, video is more vulnerable as participants can pick up on visual clues, such as facial expressions, that would otherwise be missed over audio.

I have to admit this does take some getting used to and there are times I would love to roll my eyes or laugh at a ridiculous comment someone made. But, more often than not, being able to see my colleagues’ expressions has helped meetings progress. I can easily tell when they’re following along and when I’ve lost them in a field somewhere.

Now please get over your fears and join me on a video call. Thank you!

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Stop Being A Video-phobe Part Deux