Video Conferencing: Out of the Board Room and Into the Cloud

  • January 22, 2015
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The latest technology to ascend into the cloud is video conferencing. The tech analysis and advisory firm IDC predicts that video as a service (VaaS) will have a compound growth rate of more than 25 percent from 2012-2018. Among the reasons for this steady growth is the cloud’s ability to eliminate the need for high-priced video infrastructure and reduce the cost of continuing maintenance. Moreover, VaaS solutions are quick and easy to deploy.

Speed and ease were not usually associated with video conferencing in the past. But large expenses were. Time was a typical video conferencing system would be installed in a meeting room (often the biggest, fanciest one) for as much as $7500, and then tens of thousands of additional dollars would be invested in communications infrastructure to support the new solution. On top of those one-time bills would be regular charges as high as $2000/month for a high-quality connection into the building. Monthly maintenance costs would vary based on the complexity of the hardware and software.

With all those expenses piling up, no wonder video conferencing was viewed by many small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) as a technology for large enterprise that was beyond their modest means.

But now, when a cloud-based video conferencing solution that supports 25 users for a year may cost less than $10,000, many SMBs are reconsidering their options. VaaS is helping move video conferencing out of the board room through the cloud and into the hands of small business operators – sometimes literally, as advances in apps and bandwidth enable high quality video through handheld devices.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in small huddle room sessions with remote employees joining from desktops and mobile devices on video calls,” said IDC analyst Rich Costello in an article published by a major VaaS vendor.

At the same time, ensuring a good return on investment in VaaS solutions isn’t as easy for SMBs as a few clicks in the app store. Like any business technology, making leverage of operational efficiencies and gaining competitive advantages from cloud-based video conferencing depends on good management.

Costello recommends SMBs evaluate VaaS options by asking these questions before buying or implementing:

  • What level of video/audio quality can be expected? For example, the interfaces of free services such as Skype or Facetime are not optimized for large HD monitors. Is this acceptable for sales calls or discussions with customers?
  • How often is the cloud platform updated with new features? The snowballing “consumerization of IT” means user expectations rise quickly, especially when working with communications technology. What will your employees, customers and prospects expect your VaaS to do?
  • What level of admin/management capability is provided? If your VaaS solution of choice is not easy to use, your business users will not adopt it. Plus, if making and keeping your solution easy to use consumes many hours and multiple resources within your organization, then the typical benefits of working with a cloud service may be cancelled out.
  • How does the cloud provider use encryption and other security mechanisms to protect your information? Security is an issue to address with any cloud service.

Learn more about the potential of video conferencing for SMBs in the ITinflections post “Visual Collaboration – The Need for Any to Any.

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