Should I Lease Or Buy Video Conferencing Equipment?

As video conferencing becomes more and more crucial, the decision goes from whether or not to invest to how should we invest? When it comes to buying video conferencing equipment, leasing or buying are the two main options. Which one is the best option? This all depends on each individual companies requirements, bottom line, and preference. Here is a look at some of the pros and cons of each to help you decide what’s best for your organization.

Buying Equipment

Pros:
1. Provides more options and increased flexibility since organizations have total control over what they purchase.
2. Endpoints and infrastructure can be customized to meet the organizations exact specifications and requirements.

Cons:
1. Larger upfront costs associated with purchasing equipment.
2. Equipment can become updated prior to it wearing out.
3. The equipment can be complex and difficult to install and maintain if company does not have the right technical resources.

Leasing Equipment

Pros:
1. No upfront costs & predictable monthly payments.
2. Equipment is easier to update and replace, giving companies access to the latest and greatest technology.

Cons:
1. In the long run, leasing is normally much more expensive than purchasing and companies will always have an equipment payment.
2. Leasing is more complex as it requires more paperwork, credit checks, and financial information to procure.

The decision to lease or purchase often comes down to how much flexibility a company needs and how much cash they have at hand for an upfront purchase. Depending on budgets, this comes down to if a company would prefer to purchase the equipment as a cap-ex or op-ex expense. Once you determine how your organization would like to purchase the equipment, the next step will be determining your use cases and how you will be using video conferencing in order to determine what solutions make the most sense for you.

Want to learn more about your leasing options? Contact us to schedule a consultation where we will walk you through your purchasing options as well as help you determine what video conferencing equipment makes the most sense for your organization.

This Week In Collaboration

 

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

First Look: Why Banks Should Copy Amazon s Mayday Video Support

Financial institutions should take notice of Amazon’s video on-demand customer service feature and think about utilizing a similar service on their mobile and tablet applications. Giving customers the ability to speak to a customer service representative face-to-face from their mobile device or tablet could exponentially improve their users digital experience.  This could not only help customer service but also be further extended as a sales tool when branch personnel help with remote assistance to their customers.

Getting Great Audio in a Video Call

Video conferencing has helped to make communication an increasingly enriching experience. However, quality audio in a video call is an essential aspect that cannot be overlooked. Some of the important ways to get great audio include; good echo cancellation, a wide range of frequencies carried by a system, directional microphones, specialized signal processing, high quality speakers and an audio visual optimized room. Any effort to achieve better sound will quickly pay off with more productive and energetic meetings.

Virtualizing Video

Cisco announced it is virtualizing Videoscape, their leading immersive video solution, by putting it in to the cloud. It now is offering cloud software capabilities that can run on public and private clouds, enabling service providers to deploy new video applications on demand. They are also offering Videoscape Cloud Services functionality “as a service” using a unique consumption based model. Cisco Cloud Fusion for Videoscape ties all of the implementation options together. It allows SP’s to seamlessly integrate various models of deploying Videoscape to best support their business needs, maximizing return-on-investment.

A Third of Meetings Use Mobile

According to Blue Jeans Network’s bi-annual “State of the Modern Meeting” report, a 1/3 of all meetings now include a participant on a mobile device. Some other findings include that 71% of people believe they lost a deal due to the lack of face-to-face interaction and 6% admitted to falling asleep during an audio-only meeting. Using video conferencing has proven that visual collaboration is possible regardless of budget-cuts, holidays, bad weather, or geographic dispersion.

Collaboration Wanted; Employee Buy-In Required

Collaboration technology promises many benefits. These advanced solutions remove traditional communication barriers and make it easier to conduct business and speed up decision-making. These solutions can also provide travel savings and reduced office space necessary when implementing telework policies. However, to truly benefit from collaboration tools, end-user buy-in is critical. Because collaboration technology is designed to improve the way people interact, it is very personal. Due to this, users need to have a firm understanding of how the solution is going to meet their own unique needs.

Web Conferencing vs. Video Conferencing

Video conferencing and web conferencing are two commonly confused technologies. Traditionally, these two applications were very different. At a very basic level, web conferencing focused on content sharing while video conferencing focused on providing face-to-face interaction.

Web conferencing is and was often used for lectures, presentations and webinars for larger groups of people. They were also designed for individuals to easily join from their desktop. Depending on the solution, web conferencing had either two-way audio capabilities or only one-way audio for the presenter.

On the other hand, video conferencing was most frequently used for meetings between two different locations. The video conference consisted of two-way video and audio transmission. Likewise, the equipment was designed for conference rooms and meant for groups at two locations as opposed to individual usage from their desktop.

However, lines are now blurring when deciphering the difference between these two conferencing tools. This is due to web conferencing applications adding two-way video capabilities and video conferencing solutions including the ability to share content and present. Furthering the confusion, both web and video capabilities are being built in to other collaboration software solutions. These changes and additions to the technologies have transformed two separate tools in to very similar offerings. One might say that it is now a matter of what features you need in your collaboration tool as opposed to the old question of “web conferencing or video conferencing?”

When trying to sort out what technology and tools makes the most sense for your organization, the best place to start is answering a few important questions;

  1. What types of meetings will be conducted?
  2. How many people/locations will be participating in these meetings?
  3. Will people be joining these meetings from a conference room, desktop, mobile, or all three?
  4.  Are people or content the focus of the meetings?
  5. What do you want your collaboration solution to accomplish? What are your end goals?

These are just a few of the important questions that must be answered when determining what collaboration technology makes the most sense for your organization. Once these are answered, it is important to put together a full collaboration plan in order to get the most from your technology deployment. This includes everything from technology selection to usage and adoption plans once the tools are implemented.

Still confused on what conferencing technology makes the most sense for your organization? Contact us for a consultation and let us help you in determining where your business needs lie and what technology fits those best.

5 Ways Santa Uses Video Conferencing

Christmas-Blog-Post-Banner

Santa is officially headed out and is on his way to our homes to leave gifts for everyone all over the globe. While he is away, how does he stay connected to all back at the North Pole? On second thought, how does he stay connected all year round? Well video conferencing plays a big part in Santa’s role as CEO, husband, and global gift giver. Take a look at a few of the ways that Santa uses video collaboration to make his life a little bit easier.

Driving Elf Productivity

Santa has a demanding job being the CEO of the entire elf workforce. Therefore, using video conferencing helps him to expedite decision making, enhance the ability for him and the elves to function as a team, creates more efficient meetings with the elves while he is out on the sleigh, and betters his ability to quickly ensure toy quality while the elves are on the production floor. All of these help elf productivity and allow Santa more time to spend time with Mrs. Clause.

Staying Connected With Mrs. Clause

That brings me to my next point. We all know how important it is to spend time with your significant other. This applies to Santa as well. Whether he is out on the sleigh traveling around the globe delivering presents, or spending time at the toy production facility, he can still connect with Mrs. Clause via video conferencing. Even better, with BYOD abilities, Santa can use his tablet or mobile device to conduct video calls instead of having to lug his computer around on the sleigh. Video conferencing with Santa makes for a happy Mrs. Clause, and we all know the saying….happy wife, happy life!

Collaboration With Parents

It is quite the task for Santa to go through the lengthy naughty or nice list every year. Utilizing video conferencing to speak to parents about how their children are acting this year, makes going through the list much more efficient. Santa can also use video to share content about trending toys to help get ideas and input for toy production the coming year.

Elf Recruitment

As the elf population continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to find efficient ways to conduct elf interviews. Likewise, with toys being more and more technologically advanced, it is imperative to recruit the best talent possible. By using video conferencing, Santa can conduct interviews regardless of the elf’s location. Santa can also conduct more interviews in less time by alleviating the need for elves to travel to Santa’s workshop to partake in the vigorous interview process. Video conferencing gives Santa the ability to find the best and the brightest elves from all over the North Pole without even leaving his home.

Connecting With Sick Children

Some children in hospitals are not able to get to wherever Santa is to sit on his lap to let him know what they want for Christmas. By working with Cisco Systems, he has come up with a program called Connected Santa. This allows Santa to connect with hospitals all over the world and use video conferencing technology and equipment to make bedside visits to sick children. Santa does not want to forget any child around Christmas and this use of video collaboration allows him to make sure he gets to all of them.

Collaboration: A Year In Review

2013 has been another great year for collaboration. A few trends that continue to be at the forefront of innovation include big data, SaaS, Mobility, Content, Social, and Telework. Below we will look back on some of these popular collaboration trends of 2013 and why they continue to help shape collaboration.

Domination of SaaS and the “Cloud”:
SaaS and the Cloud have continued to influence the IT industry this year. SaaS companies have continued to grow, and many providers of on-premise software and hardware options are now introducing SaaS solutions to both complement existing solutions and give alternative options in order to retain their customer base. The benefits of these SaaS solutions include no installation of hardware or software, faster release cycles, pay as you go usage and no maintenance costs. Another reason organizations are moving to cloud-based options is the ability to scale. This flexibility with cloud services allows organizations to purchase for their current usage, expand the solution as demand and usage increases, and add functionality as the business grows.

Mobility Wars:
BYOD is here, and it is not going anywhere. According to IDC, there will be 6-7 mobile devices to every PC by 2016. The challenge is no longer if you will support BYOD, but which devices will make up your BYOD strategy. The mobility war between mobile device manufacturers remains as well, and applications to make these devices more effective continue to expand at rapid rates. With that said, questions are now centered around vendor preference/combination, security, versions, scrubbing and customer data. No doubt, these concerns and decisions will be a main focus this coming year as mobility continues to dominate the forefront of technology and collaboration.

Collision of Video & Content:
Although most people think of video collaboration as only video calls, the ability to display, discuss and annotate content while conducting a video call is extremely important to achieving effective collaboration. Video collaboration and content collaboration have both been around for years as separate entities. This integration of the two has finally matured this year resulting in companies experiencing better collaboration, faster decisions, and ultimately, BETTER experiences!

Convenient Social Collaboration:
Social collaboration is about the casual interactions among colleagues, business partners and even customers that enable creativity and drive innovation. Creating both formal (video/web conferences) and informal (IM or quick video chat) collaboration sessions enables colleagues to brainstorm and make decisions in the most effective manner. Unified communication tools with presence makes it easy to tell when people are available and easily hop from email/IM to video chat. This quick and convenient connection increases interactions among colleagues, which in turn increases productivity and drives innovation.

The Year of the Video Start-Ups:
This year could be called the year of visual collaboration start-ups. Some noteworthy ones include Videxio, Pexip, & Acano. Pexip introduced a scalable software platform that provides personal meeting rooms for any number of users on video, voice, & mobile. Videxio, a subscription based, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering, makes large scale and rapid deployment of video conferencing both possible and easy. Acano brought us coSpaces; virtual meetings rooms where users can connect with any device or application they have with the added benefit of dedicated spaces for people to organize and exchange ideas by storing chat logs, content, and meeting notes. These companies continue to bring innovative solution to the visual collaboration world.

Big Data Boom:
Data continues to grow and based on IDC estimates, will continue to grow at 50% a year and more than double every two years. Companies continue to need to analyze large amounts of data streaming in, understand the voice of the customer in the social media world, and find better ways to create visual data in order to facilitate better and faster decision-making. The growth in big data has created a culture of data-driven analytics used to make key business decisions. Organizations have also been forced to take a closer look at data security and data privacy in order to address and prevent security threats. How organizations use data to gain competitive advantage continues to be a debate, however, the information gathered from handling and managing big data collaboratively is advantageous to any organization.

To Telework or Not to Telework? –  That is the question:
The telecommuting debate has emerged with a vengeance this year due to noteworthy announcements like Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer discontinuing telework policies and the Federal Government’s  introduction of the Stay in Place Cut the waste initiative. Marissa Mayer’s controversial ban on telework centered around her belief that collaboration and communication are important in continuing to build the business and for that to happen effectively, people need to be working side by side. This new policy received harsh criticism ranging from anti-feminisms comments to the belief that Yahoo was moving backwards by removing the ability to telecommute. On the other end of the spectrum, the Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act was introduced in July. This would require the government to develop a plan that reduces agency travel expenses by up to 50% by 2017 by implementing video conferencing technologies. By utilizing video conferencing, individuals can stay connected face-to-face without the need for expensive travel and loss of time. Other advocates for telecommuting argue that not only does productivity increase, but employees are also happier and achieve a better work/life balance when they have the option to work remotely. As research continues on both ends, the debate will remain.

Looking back at 2013 illustrates just how important collaboration has become. Organizations throughout the world have upgraded collaboration technologies to mission critical applications. The above trends tell a compelling story about the need to address not only the technological challenges of connecting people but also the social, psychological, and business issues involved in people working together. Ultimately, moving any business forward requires a keen eye on the power of people. In 2014, organizations who have not embraced those ideals will find themselves struggling to compete.

This Week In Collaboration

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

Santa’s Special Connections

Connected Santa is a program that Cisco Systems has created in which volunteer elves visit hospitals to help make the connection between children and Santa using Cisco Telepresence and Jabber technology. The elves will make a video conference call with Santa so they can have the important conversations about whether they have been good or bad and what is on their wish list.

The “must-have” of mobility

Mobility is no longer a nice to have in healthcare, it is becoming a necessity and an expectation. Two technologies reviewed in this article are ad-hoc video conferencing and streaming technologies. Mobile technology brings new thinking about collaboration and EMR.

Inside The Huddle Room: The new collaborative work space

The huddle room has changed the conference room business. The huddle room is basically where personal telepresence meets group collaboration. From HD video conferencing to desktop collaboration, these high powered systems for huddle rooms can make these small rooms into powerful capsules of collaboration.

Businesses Embrace the Total Collaboration Model

Teamwork is undergoing a revolution with organizations weaving tools, technologies and systems together. One of the main factors in how to operate an enterprise successfully depends on how effectively workers are able to effectively communicate and collaborate. The answer to this lies in unified communications including mobility, cloud capabilities and social collaboration

Mobile and online collaboration leading the way in events management

Events have changed over the last few years. They have gone from just attending an event and then leaving, to being a much more collaborative experience both during, before and after. To achieve great events, organizations need to include online collaboration tools such as video streaming, Facebook, Pinterest and twitter for example, to foster communication between attendees and exhibitors. Using these technologies also helps brands both listen and interact with their community, which is essential for not only successful events, but also a successful brand.

Driving Usage & Adoption of Video Conferencing

The benefits of video conferencing are undeniable and technological innovations have made video more accessible and easier to use than ever. Unfortunately, some organizations are finding it difficult to drive usage and adoption of these solutions among their workforce.

We created the below infographic to illustrate some of the key elements of an integrated approach to adoption. This not only ensures more users will embrace the technology but it will also make achieving a great ROI possible.

To dig deeper and to understand some of the best practices and key areas to consider, download the whitepaper as well.

AdoptionWhitepaper

This Week In Collaboration

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

1. 5 Ways to Untether From the Desk With Video Conferencing 

Using video conferencing to be able to get away from your desk but still stay connected takes some of the stress out of this busy holiday season. Video conferencing can make sure you stay connected, maintain your presence, and meet on the go.

2. Time to Pledge Allegiance to Telework 

March 3-7, 2014 federal employees will be asked to stay at home by their agencies and not come in to the office. This is part of Telework Week, the Mobile Work Exchange’s annual global initiative that encourages governments to pledge to telework.

3. San Antonio License Plate Readers and Video Conferencing Resolve Overdue Traffic Tickets 

Video conferencing improves overdue ticket collection in San Antonio. When officers pull over drivers who have arrest warrants due to unpaid tickets, the offenders can speak with a judge immediately via video conferencing and settle the issue remotely.

4. How Web Conferencing Benefits Employee Training

The use of video conferencing for employee training is becoming more prevalent because it lowers costs to employers, provides a solid training foundation for employees, and makes training of current employees seamless.

5. Establishing Open Lines of Communication is Worth the Investment

Successful businesses rely on the technology solutions that foster collaboration on the go. Have the ability to stay connected from wherever employees are equates to a happier workforce, which often leads to happier customers.

10 Tips for Conducting a Video Interview

As the times change, the interview process is changing as well. In this case we are talking about video conferencing. Although video conference interviews have not completely replaced face to face interviewing, they are often done at a very important point in the interview process; the first impression. This first impression will help to determine if candidates are an initial good fit for the position or not. As important as it is for the candidate to make a good first impression, it is also very important for you and your organization to come across in a positive and professional manner.

Video interviews can be as effective as an in-person interview but it is very important to understand how the process works so you can conduct these conversations as productively as possible. Here are 10 tips for conducting a high quality video interview.

1. Set Expectations: At the beginning of the interview make sure the interviewee understands the goal of the call and what you would like to get accomplished. Understanding what will take place right from the start will help to ease any jitters the candidate might have with this form of interview.

2. Make interviewee comfortable: In addition to setting expectations up front, do your best to make them feel welcome and comfortable. In most cases the interviewee will become more comfortable as the interview goes on so allow plenty of time. This will also help to avoid any rushing in case of technology issues.

3. Shut off all other technologies: Make sure you turn off all other technology to ensure you are not distracted while interviewing the participant. Hearing email or instant message notifications is not only distracting to you but can be very distracting for the interviewee.

4. Talk Slowly: Video calls can speed up the pace of your words so make sure you take your time when speaking to the interviewee. Sometimes connections can get choppy as well so if that starts to occur make sure to speak slower and repeat when necessary if you are having connection problems.

5. Have high quality equipment: During a video interview, the interviewee should have a high quality picture of you and your team. Try to avoid connecting via wireless for quality purposes and make sure you have a high quality microphone to ensure good audio quality.

6. Keep a clean presentation area: Have a clutter free, well lit area to conduct the interview, just as you would expect the participant to have. Make sure you are facing the camera at an appropriate angle, as this will create a more engaging experience for the participant.

7. Maintain good personal presentation: Along the lines of a clean presentation area, you should also have good personal presentation and conduct. Dress as if you were conducting a face to face interview and present yourself over video in a natural way.

8. Provide instructions ahead of time: Send both interview materials as well as any technology best practices or log-in information in advance to make the interviewee more comfortable and to help avoid any issues ahead of time.

9. Be patient: Understand that not all people are comfortable with technology and some candidates may stumble at first when participating in a video interview. Along the same lines, it is important to realize that technical glitches do happen so try to make the interviewee comfortable if they do.

10. Deliver a virtual handshake: Due to the inability to give a real handshake in a video interview, it is important to deliver a thought out sign off statement indicating that the interview is over. This can be as simple as a “thank you, we will speak soon.”

3 Things To Be Thankful For On Your Next Video Call

As I sit here on the eve of thanksgiving, thinking about the holiday and what I am thankful for, one of the first things that comes to mind  is how thankful I am for the ability to work remotely. With the use of video conferencing I have been able to travel and spend the holiday week with my family all while still staying connected with colleagues and able to conduct face to face meetings.

The ability to connect and collaborate with people from anywhere at anytime is just one of the many benefits of video conferencing. That being said, there are a few specific features on a video call that I am very thankful for every day.  So in honor of the thanksgiving spirit, I have chosen my top 3 to share with you.

1. Muting – Nothing is more distracting when trying to focus during a video call then hearing loud background noise, keyboard typing or phones ringing. Having the ability to mute participants while on a call is very beneficial when dealing with those obnoxious distractions. Many video conferencing offerings have the ability to either mute all (convenient when someone is giving a presentation) or to individually mute unruly participants.

2. One-click calling – The age old problem with video conferencing has been how difficult it is to use. With one-click calling video can be as easy as making a phone call. This means no more confusing meetings where no one can figure out how to get the video call started, remote participants can’t dial in, and inevitably everyone ends up dialing in over audio out of pure frustration.

3.  Self view functionality – When first starting to use video, having the self-view window was very important to me as I was always concerned about the facial expressions I was making during the call. The self-view window also helps for making sure the lighting and your positioning in front of the camera is correct because nothing is worse than talking with someone who is sitting with a sunny window behind them and the camera positioned so you are looking up their nostrils.

What video features are you thankful for? Share in the comments section below!

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.