How one company fixed their videoconference problem

You may have seen the scenario – A company implements videoconferencing and everything is working fine in the beginning.  Overtime problems emerge – Unreliable connections; no audio from the far end; poor video quality; and finally no connection.  More often than not these are network issues and the equipment is working just as advertised.  Videoconferencing equipment is not the problem it will however reveal problems in the network.

In today’s business environment things change constantly.  In the enterprise the network changes all the time. Internet and circuit providers change because of increasing competition.  The network in the company changes with added services like VoIP.   When this happens videoconferencing gets lost in the shuffle.  IP addresses are dropped and servers are moved and upgraded.  One of our clients deployed videoconferencing several years back.  They are growing quickly and the network changed with new providers and an expanded typology.  This company works with sensitive financial information so security and firewall maintenance is extremely critical. They need videoconferencing more than ever because of accelerating growth, but unfortunately they had chronic problems with the videoconferencing.  They finally gave up using their videoconferencing equipment all together.Article_89_CLEC_Bundle

Finally the solution presented itself through a CLEC, or competitive local exchange carrier.  This circuit provider combines the videoconferencing hardware with a dedicated circuit.  There is no upfront capital expense and everything is taken care of including the installation, support and managed services. Because the circuit is dedicated to videoconferencing there are no entanglements with their network.  Security is no problem — The IT team does not have to worry about opening ports on the firewall to accommodate videoconferencing.  There is no need to contact IT for support — A laminated remote schematic is included with the unit with 800 numbers for both the network and the equipment. Support numbers are also affixed to the remote.  The interface is so simple some clients felt they didn’t even need the laminated remote schematic.

There are no more worries about connecting because of the managed services that includes both the videoconferencing equipment and the dedicated circuit.  The videoconferencing vendor at the CLEC constantly monitors their endpoints making sure they connect all the time.  The IT department can now focus on other critical applications on the network.

Any company, who deployed videoconferencing and experienced these chronic problems — Unreliable connections; no audio from the far end; poor video quality; and finally no connection, really should consider a dedicated circuit for the videoconferencing CODEC, better yet a bundle program with the local CLEC.

The Board Meeting – How videoconferencing accommodates everybody being everywhere

The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce – Ohio, (SACC-Ohio), accommodates quarterly board of directors meetings. Participants are business leSACC_Gothenburg_02aders and business owners who sit on other boards of companies and large financial institutions — They are important, and their time is valuable.   Several are retired or semi-retired executives with second homes in different parts of the world.  Needless to say synchronizing schedules for a board meeting is a challenge.  SACC-Ohio addresses these challenges with the use of the Avaya Scopia mobile videoconferencing app and standards based videoconferencing system in the boardroom.

In their last meeting, two board members were vacationing in Florida, but attended the meeting right from their condos on the golf course.  They simply connected on the wireless network with a laptop which brought them right into the boardroom. In the past another critical participant would drive to Cleveland for the meeting from his home base in Columbus.  The board meeting is three hours with no breaks.  The drive from Columbus to Cleveland is about two hours one way.  The Columbus board participant attends from the comfort of his home office and because he saves four hours driving, he was able to attend another meeting in Columbus that would have otherwise been postponed.SACC_Gotheburg_03

Collaboration is critical in these meetings.  It was simple to connect a computer in the boardroom and share content with everybody instantly.  Because the Scopia mobile app is build on the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), standards, nobody had to think about what app is being used or what videoconferencing equipment is in the boardroom.  The presenter simply pressed the presentation button on the remote and everybody could see the content in real time instantly. This really came in handy as the SACC-Ohio web site needed to be reviewed and updated.  Remote participants did not have to go the website and participants in the boardroom viewed the website on a large flat panel display.   The presenter navigated the website in his presentation and everybody could see what was referenced without hunting and picking on their computers, and getting confused on what content is discussed.  This saves a tremendous amount of time. Collaboration is critical in any videoconference. (See collaboration article)

Important decisions for the entire year had to be made at this last board meeting.  Without the videoconferencing capability these decisions would have been delayed for weeks and major international opportunities would be lost.

In today’s business environment the quick and the nimble wins. Any board of directors not utilizing videoconferencing technology now will be outmaneuvered and passed up by competitors communicating and making critical strategic decisions at light speed through videoconferencing.

Speaker addresses Swedish American Chamber of Commerce via videoconference

The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce – Ohio, (SACC-Ohio), featured a speaker from Reston Virginia at one of their events last February.  The topic was perfect for this group – “The Imperative for Change — Why management style, personal views, and work attitudes have changed over the years.”   This presentation illustrates how the different generations communicate — Baby Boomers; X Generation and Y Generation.

There were three major challenges in getting this speaker.  The first challenge, Geography — The SACC-Ohio meetings are in Cleveland and the speaker is in Virginia.    The second challenge, Weather – Virginia is snowed in the month of February. The third challenge, Time – The speaker is a partner in a small consulting firm thus her time is extremely valuable and she could not be drawn away for two days for a one hour presentation.  Other challenges include:  The speaker never having any experience with videoconferencing; a PowerPoint® presentation that needed clear and well timed execution; and the fact that the chamber is meeting in a hotel in Cleveland, and as with most hotels, has lousy network and poor internet access.AVER_HVC310_Meeting_01

The first three challenges are easily addressed as SACC-Ohio decided to use standards based videoconferencing.  They engaged Glowpoint to secure a public videoconferencing room in Virginia minutes away from the speaker’s home.  The speaker never used videoconferencing before, but this was not a problem as the location had the expertise to set her up comfortably in their conference room.  They plugged her computer into the system for a seamless display of her PowerPoint® presentation using the standard Duo Video, H.239 collaboration algorithm. (See collaboration article).  At the hotel in Cleveland they used an AVER videoconferencing system, that automatically splits the screen with the speaker and the PowerPoint® Presentation.   This is a great feature as other systems cover content in the PowerPoint® image with the PIP or picture in picture showing the speaker.

The last challenge is the network.  Not having a reliable network will crash the entire meeting, but this was easily resolved.  As mentioned, hotel internet connections are very bad for videoconferencing.  The safe assumption is no reliable network and not enough bandwidth.  SACC-Ohio contracted with a Verizon distributor who brought in a wireless 4G router with a public static IP address — Very simple to hook up with the videoconferencing system.  SACC-Ohio has access to a very bright projector with a robust speaker and amplifier, thus all of the 25 attendees could hear the presenter clearly and see every detail in her PowerPoint® Presentation.  The question and answer portion worked smoothly.  The presenter can hear all the questions clearly and the audience can hear all the answers.   The pan-tilt zoom camera with automatic presets accommodates panning from one side of the room to the other during the question and answer period.

This is relatively easy and simple set up if you have the right resources. SACC-Ohio definitely knew who to contact to execute a successful event via videoconference at a hotel with no reliable network or internet access.

3 ways to implement videoconferencing with no capital budget

Twenty plus years ago the only companies that implemented videoconferencing were very large firms with likewise budgets.  A videoconferencing endpoint in one conference room required at least a $65,000 budget.  Often this budget was augmenting the aviation budget, funding corporate aircraft.  Like the corporate aircraft requiring a pilot these legacy systems require a technician and only connected through proprietary algorithms.  Needless to say there was a very low return on investment.  Over time the technology become less costly and connectivity became much easier because algorithms and connecting protocols are now standardized.  Today an endpoint for a conference room can be as little as $1,000 with the ability to connect anywhere and share content from a computer or mobile device. If you know how to make a cell phone call you already know how to make a video call — No technician required.  Additionally, there are hosted services available that require no equipment or capital expense. Cutting costs

Many small companies are serving larger firms well entrenched with videoconferencing and have the latest technology.  With a dramatic cost reduction and improved reliability, this allows much better communication and access for a small firm to call on and service the larger firms.

So here are three ways a small company with no budget can implement videoconferencing:

  1. Use a hosted service that provides      videoconferencing with collaboration; multi-site; live chat; and      annotation.  Make sure you have all      the billing options, i.e. by the event; month or year.  (See videoconferencing without equipment)
  2. Rent a public videoconferencing room.  These are available worldwide through a      variety of room brokers.  (See Glowpoint)
  3. Ask a competitive local exchange carrier or      phone company to include new equipment as part of your monthly circuit      bill.  (See Worry Free videoconferencing offer)

There is no excuse not to use videoconferencing.  All of the above options connect on the ITU, (International Telecommunications Standards).  Make sure whatever option you try works on the ITU standards. This is critical because any videoconferencing application or equipment not on the ITU standard will technically fall behind and be pigeon holed in a communication silo.

You can meet us on video anytime – Just call 330-677-5566 and reference this article.  We will send you a link to download our standards based videoconferencing app and we can meet — and it won’t cost a dime.

Is audio conferencing on the way out?

Serious Business People On Conference CallWe hear a lot these days about the dreaded audio conference call.  People muting out and not engaged; background noise like a child crying;  a participant puts everybody on hold and everybody hears elevator music; someone starts typing on their keyboard making it sound like wood peckers are invading the meeting.  Many question the productivity of audio conference calls.    In spite of all of this it will be a long time before audio conferencing becomes a thing of the past.

Phones are easy and certainly ubiquitous with competitive audio conferencing companies everywhere.  It’s simple to dial into an audio conference, but not so simple to run an effective meeting.  We don’t think it’s on the way out, but there will be some migration towards videoconferencing.  One of our companies, BtoB Connect,,  uses Scopia by Avaya.  This platform accommodates the world wide video standards and we can integrate a regular phone connection for those who don’t have a mobile device or computer with a web cam.  We conduct monthly meetings on this platform and it is interesting to observe how video participants interact vs. audio participants.  The Video participants are much more engaged.  You can see clearly how they are reacting to the agenda and the presentation input from the computer.  Often audio participants are tuned out and when addressed there is dead air for a moment because they are multi-tasking or otherwise not engaged in the meeting.  The contrast on who is engaged is overwhelming when you mix audio participants with video participants.

What we like about the Scopia solution is it’s easy to control the meeting.  It’s very simple to mute and un-mute participant’s mics, eliminating echo and background noise instantly.  Also video participants have their names displayed right below their video image — this is like an electronic name tag.  Phone participants get a gateway ID number and this gets highlighted in bold type when they speak.  We write their name down next to the gateway ID as they enter the meeting.  Because Scopia works within the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), video standards we can seamlessly connect to a conference room using videoconferencing.   This platform allows us to stay above the fray and confusion with the “video app flavor of the month” that’s not built on the ITU world standards.

In time, routine videoconferencing from any computer and any mobile device will be as ubiquitous as audio conferencing, but audio conferencing will be around for a long time.

See the enclosed Wall Street Journal Report:  “Surviving a conference call”

See enclosed article: “Why audio conferencing is so ineffective”


How do I purchase videoconferencing equipment and who installs it?

Installtion_Article_84Videoconferencing is still a bit of a divergent product.   Most companies do not have videoconferencing in their conference rooms.  Many question whether they really need the technology — after all they got along without it for years.  So if your enterprise decides that they want to purchase videoconferencing equipment, where do you go?  A variety of companies supply the equipment and installation:  the phone company;  A/V Integrators; IT companies; Network providers and others.  With the refinement of international videoconferencing standards most enterprises will be compelled to implement videoconferencing sooner or later.  This will certainly become another essential way to communicate, like cell phones and email and texting.

If your enterprise is looking into videoconferencing first look carefully at your applications.  (Reference article – 10 Ways a Small Company Decreases Overhead and Creates Revenue with Videoconferencing)How  you will use videoconferencing is your first consideration. If you have multiple locations, domestic and internationally you may use videoconferencing for routine management meetings.  You may have key clients with videoconferencing, and you may want to meet with them more often without the encumbrance of travel.   Many applications eliminate driving across town.  For example courtrooms are using videoconferencing for cross town arraignments.  This saves a tremendous amount of time and expense for local townships not to mention the increased safety of not having to transport prisoners from the jail to the courtroom.  Local healthcare providers are also using videoconferencing to meet patients across town and in their homes.

Once you clearly define your applications let’s move on to how to purchase videoconferencing.  First look at the hardware options.  There are about 5 prominent manufacturers: Cisco; Polycom; Lifsize; Radvision; and AVER.  All make very good and reliable products.  You need to do some homework on the manufacturers.  Find out who owns them and if they plan to stay in the business.  For example Lifesize is owned by Logitech and Logitech was considering selling Lifesize.  This transaction could disrupt or change the support you’re getting from the manufacturer.  Narrow this down to a couple of favorites, but be open to any of the above manufacturer as they are always improving the technology and getting very cost competitive.

After you narrow down the videoconferencing manufacturer find a reliable dealer that does installation.  One big indicator of a reliable dealer is one that uses the technology.  Look for video IP numbers on their business cards.  If they don’t have one, find a dealer who does.  Do not buy videoconferencing from a dealer who does not use what they sell.  Most reliable dealers have excellent installers who work closely with their clients to make sure they are comfortable using the technology. If your company is new to using videoconferencing it’s easy to practice with the dealer using videoconferencing in their day to day operations.

Lawyers and Videoconferencing — Here are three stories

Themis 3330Early in the development of videoconferencing, attorneys were a bit slow in embracing the technology.  Over time, however law firms became very adept at using videoconferencing.  Here are three stories whereby lawyers maximized the technology and really took advantage of the benefits.  In the legal field time really is money.  You will see how these law firms became a tremendous asset to their clients because they use video conferencing.

Story One — A law firm specializing in medical malpractice needs to consult with experts around the country.  They purchased a videoconferencing CODEC with multi-point capability to connect with clients and expert witnesses.  This firm made their purchase in the late 1990’s making them a somewhat early adaptor.  They expanded this use to include depositions.  Many court reporting firms around the country use videoconferencing making it even more convenient for depositions requiring a court reporter.

Story Two — One law firm spent more than $25,000 for videoconferencing in their conference room only to discover it only worked on one communication standard that was used in VoIP but not in videoconferencing.  A rude awaking occurred as they noticed they could not videoconference with anybody.  The problem was fixed when they used the Radvision Scopia hosted service that works on all videoconferencing standards and can seamlessly connect to any PC, MAC or mobile device. They can now connect to anybody, even those who do not have videoconferencing equipment.  Radvision’s Scopia saved the day. (Link to Scopia Video)

Story Three — A senior partner in a mid size law firm was on an extended trip abroad.  A critical deposition was already scheduled and to take place while he is away.  He was planning on flying back in the middle of his extended stay, just for the 2 or 3 hour deposition.  This consideration was eliminated easily with Radvision’s Scopia mobile app.  The attorney seamlessly connected to the law firm’s standards based videoconferencing system and attended with full participation in the deposition right from his tablet.  The firm saved thousands of dollars and travel, not to mention the cost of the attorney’s time. The only thing the traveling attorney needed was broadband internet access.  Security was no problem as the video call was encrypted.

We learned a lot from our legal clients.  When they meet the last thing they want to worry about is the technology.  Simple control and standards based videoconferencing certainly eliminates these worries and allows attorneys to conduct important meetings anywhere anytime.