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Don't you see — you need UC

Unified communications (UC) – in a nutshell, the ability for all types of communications devices to communicate seamlessly – is what the business world is working toward. The end result of reduced communication time to report on issues and receive decisions toward them is where businesses see the most benefit.

But, many businesses aren’t convinced that UC will be effective, according to a Forrester Research study. And, they want a triple-digit ROI if they implement UC. That’s a tall order when you are talking about integrating communications services, such as instant messaging, presence information, IP telephony and video conferencing with non real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax).

To get the right kind of return from UC, there are a few things that you must include when creating an easy-to-implement and effective framework. Going in, an agency should set the benchmark for success. Focusing on the communications needs of the agency and setting the correct expectation for what benefit will be derived from a potential UC solution is the first step.

Also, user training is critical not only for successful implementation, but also for widespread adoption of any UC solution. Investing in something that staff doesn’t know how to use is a sure way to kill any solution. A way to increase that success rate is to focus on reusing the skill set and software toolset that your employees are already familiar with. For example, you can use Outlook or Lotus Notes to schedule video resources, or Microsoft Office Communicator client to join a video conference to increase that success rate.

Technology interoperability issues that may present themselves can be mitigated by focusing on a standards based architecture and gateways for maximum interoperability. And, sizing the bandwidth of your communications needs upfront will ensure that you don’t oversubscribe your network. Lastly, building redundancy should help mitigate some of an organizations network challenges.

Setting a framework for your solution is the first step in getting to the vision of UC. Only with a solid foundation will an agency have a chance to realize the productivity return that can come from a solid UC solution.

Is your agency looking at UC? What steps are you taking to get there?

Is IT the Key for SMBs to Get Ahead of the Competition?

Video conferencing is now affordable and effective for SMBs

Video conferencing is now affordable and effective for SMBs

According to a recent article in AsiaOne small companies worldwide are transforming themselves into global players by effectively using information technology to, among other things, manage costs. One example discussed is the use of video conferencing to replace travel.

In fact, travel replacement is often cited as the greatest benefit of video conferencing for SMBs who need to get the most productivity out of their often limited staff and time. The New England Credit Union uses video conferencing to reduce travel and increase communication among 150 employees at multiple branches. “It’s 3 days by car, 3 hours by plane, and 3 seconds on video,” said one executive.

Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, a firm with a staff of 350, cut costs and increased productivity with team video conferencing. “Video conferencing means we can truly work across boundaries to collaborate on projects. It’s a huge boon for productivity and I wish we’d done it sooner,” said David Hughes, CEO, Swanke Hayden Connell Architects.

Learn more about the benefits of video conferencing for SMBs.

Interoperability key to giving warfighters the edge in battle

The TANDBERG Public Sector team has been at the 22nd Annual Air Force Information Technology Conference (AFITC) this week in Montgomery, AL, where the focus has been “The warfighter’s edge in battle.”

The consistent theme we’ve heard at the conference and show is that interoperability and speed of communication are two of the largest determining factors in whether a warfighter wins or loses.  

TANDBERG products are built with interoperability in mind, and speed of communication is one of the reasons why our products are in high demand in many government agencies and organizations…certainly the US military. 

Needless to say, we were pleased when Lt. Gen. William T. Lord, Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer (SAF/XC) announced that TANDBERG will be the first Air Force vendor to go through the new agency-wide reciprocity initiative. This initiative provides a systematic process for ensuring timely reciprocity of a DoD IS/IT from one of the Services, COCOMS or DoD agencies to another. This speeds up approval times, which can take 12 to 18 months, and allows, for example, the Army to adopt technologies that have received approval from the Air Force and vice versa.

This initiative will save time and money, and get resources to the warfighter much faster. We are happy to be the first case study for this initiative, and excited that our solutions will be empowering and protecting the best armed forces in the world. Just goes to show that a standards-based solution can transcend any communication barrier.

Bridge the digital divide: bring on the broadband

Access to the Internet at high speeds – for telecommuting, accessing data or using video conferencing technology – is something that most of us take for granted, but millions of Americans still don’t have. 

According to a study conducted by Communications Workers of America (CWA), the United States still lags far behind other countries in terms of broadband speeds. Their Speed Matters study shows that speeds in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are faster (as high as 9.9 megabits per second [mgps] in Delaware), but speeds in the South and in rural areas were markedly slower (as low as 2.6 mgps in Ohio).

The Obama Administration is working to address that disparity, which leaves Americans in unserved and underserved communities at a distinct disadvantage. The first step is the $7.2 billion offered by the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), along with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) efforts to expand broadband access across the United States through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and Broadband Initiatives Program. They hope the efforts will increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits.

Another important step will be the National Broadband Plan, which is being created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It is set to be unveiled in February, and the FCC is looking for input from Americans now. They want to hear how we define broadband and what we expect to see in a plan. They have already asked for comment from Americans and will be holding an open meeting this week to ask for more input.

This is the time for all of us who use and appreciate high broadband speeds to take the time to share our ideas of how to bridge the digital divide in America. What services and access do you have in your personal and professional life that others could benefit from? How fast is fast enough when it comes to broadband access speeds?

Video Conferencing is Helping Schools Get Smarter

Engaging the current generation of students who have been raised on technology can be a challenge to say the least. But some innovative schools are harnessing students’ advanced knowledge and love of tech tools to implement creative teaching methods with tools like SMART Boards to teach math and reading, Nintendo Wiis to promote fitness, and video conferencing to connect students to anyone and anyplace in the world for unlimited learning opportunities.

In a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, Anthony Rubet, a student at Andrew Street High School in Munhall, PA, said, “Last year, we talked to NASA as they were getting ready to go to Mars.”

Another opportunity cited is the possibility that students can take classes that may not be offered at their own schools – Mandarin for example – through distance education over video conferencing with another school that teaches it.

“You can do anything you want,” said Luther Parrish, a student at Andrew Street. “Say someone wants to talk to an engineer; you can find one.”

Watch this video to see how students in Stamford, TX are learning and teaching others with video conferencing: