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Three Key Things to Consider When Choosing Video Conferencing Solutions

Video Conferencing Buyers Guide

Video Conferencing Buyers Guide

Three key things businesses should consider when choosing visual communications solutions are:

1.Quality of video:

To experience the optimal benefits of video communications, HD quality is absolute. With anything less than HD video, you quickly begin to lose the feeling of connectedness with the person on the other end because facial expressions, reactions, and visual cues become less apparent. This is a key differentiator between business caliber video and consumer video.

2. Total experience
When considering the entire video experience, ask: Is it easy to connect with everyone in the organization via multipoint calls? Can you collaborate by showing desktops and applications? Is the solution easy to deploy, manage, and scale as you grow? Does the quality the video projects reflect well on your business’ image?

3. Security
Lastly, because consumer PC video solutions are web-based and not designed for business use, they may be susceptible to security risks which can result in confidential information getting into the wrong hands.

See other things to consider when purchasing video.

Virginia's Telework Day — leading by example

August 6, 2009 at 9:59 am PST

Monday was Statewide Telework Day in Virginia, during which companies and individuals were encouraged to work from home or a remote location to save energy and increase efficiencies. The initiative grew from Governor Tim Kaine’s push to reduce energy consumption by state offices.

The Governor’s office sees telework as a business strategy that can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line, improve organizational efficiency, and reduce traffic on Virginia’s roads. Here at TANDBERG, we practice telework on a regular basis as a way to decrease our company’s carbon footprint. We have the added benefit of video conferencing systems in our homes and on our laptops, so we can conduct face-to-face meetings with colleagues, customers or partners from wherever we work.

In the past year, the TANDBERG telework program has allowed us to replace much of our unnecessary business travel with in-person video calls, effectively helped us save 21,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, over $45 million in travel costs, and about 38,250 productivity hours.

On Statewide Telework Day, approximately 75 of our Reston, VA, employees participated, eliminating almost two metric tons of carbon emissions and creating almost 100 hours of productivity by allowing employees to avoid traffic.

Did your organization participate in Telework Day?

Recession leading to innovations in education

August 3, 2009 at 10:00 pm PST

Media reports show that joblessness is growing and that spending is down, but, remarkably, the economy should see a rebound in the second half of 2009. Some say that recovery is dependent on jobs, because spending will only go up when jobs are realized.

An interesting side effect of this recession’s unemployment has been the boost in people who are enrolling in teacher training courses. According to a recent Washington Post article, interest in teacher preparation programs geared toward job-changers is rising sharply and applications to a national retraining program based in 20 cities rose 30 percent this year.

This is good news for education, since almost two million teachers are expected to retire from public schools in the next decade. It should also be interesting to see what the effect of pulling teachers from corporate America will have on the system as a whole. They have to learn how to engage distracted and possibly bored students, according to the report, but they could also bring exciting change.

Putting experienced professionals who are used to working in technologically advanced situations could lead to great innovation and put new teaching methods on a fast track. Technologies like interactive blackboards have changed the way children learn and Kindle could be used to save a few pounds in a backpack.

Some classrooms have already revolutionized learning through video conferencing. Classrooms across the United States use it to take children in rural areas on virtual field trips, to unite classrooms and children in different parts of the world to offer exciting cultural insights and to bring experts into classrooms that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn from them.

A great example is how Cooperating School Districts (CSD) of Greater St. Louis uses video conferencing to save money, share resources and create educational excellence for the 300,000+ students it serves. CSD is as a consortium of 65 school districts in the St. Louis metropolitan area, as well as four outlying counties and St. Louis City. It uses video conferencing technology for electronic field trips, collaborative projects across school districts and bringing authors or experts from cultural institutions into the classroom, as well as staff development and global connections.

With resources at a low not seen since the Great Depression, maximizing technology for education makes increasing sense. Upfront expenditure can create exponential reward, not only by saving a school money and time over years, but also by turning an ordinary classroom into an extraordinary learning environment.

Interoperability a must for continued adoption of video conferencing

July 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm PST

Video conferencing has come a long way since the early 1990s when it was based on proprietary algorithms with PictureTel’s SG3/SG4, VTEL BlueChip, CLI CTX+ as well as several other algorithms and protocols. That was a time of lack of interoperability and a perception that the technology just didn’t work.

Today, we have a comprehensive portfolio of standards for both H.323 and SIP and customers, who enjoy the benefits of vendor choice while still being able to communicate with others.  In a recent article in Telephony, the necessity of interoperability was addressed and some vendors are still saying it is not a “must”-- which is exactly the failure which contributed to video conferencing losing steam in the 1990s.

Vendors that have been in this business for years realize the importance of interoperability and only vendors new to the business think that their proprietary way of doing it is better than working with the hundreds of thousands of installed units in the field.  This is evident by the failure in connecting to the standards compliant world of H.323 and SIP devices.  Some vendors started in the market just a few years ago and told the public there was no need to connect to “legacy” systems since those systems were of poor quality.

The reality is those “legacy” systems are capable of high definition at 1080p and 20kHz CD quality audio as well as many other things that have evolved since the 1990′s. And guess what -- many companies don’t want, or can’t afford, to recreate their entire systems.  Industry veterans have built the highest quality products available and have also maintained backwards compatibility to the installed base of H.323 and SIP devices by designing that ability natively into the devices.  The new proprietary way of doing things is to do it your way and then sell a gateway that converts the new way to the standard way.  Sounds good, but gateways simply do not scale.

In summary, proprietary methods have never stood the test of time in this industry, just as they’ve failed in so many other industries.  Soon or later the vendors must converge for the technology to be successful and that convergence will be around worldwide standards.  For telepresence to really take off, some of the new players in the industry need to get behind standards based devices.  Lack of choice is rarely a good thing.

Delivering care for Iraqi veterans in need

July 27, 2009 at 8:51 pm PST

People who need medical and psychiatric help often have to overcome great obstacles to obtain it. If you live in a place where there is no access to medical services, or with some cultural stigma attached to pursuing psychiatric treatment, the hurdles to wellness are even greater.

For those who have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which includes emotions ranging from fear and sadness, to anxiety, changes in eating habits and nightmares, treatment is imperative if the symptoms last longer than a month, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Along with the more than 12,000 residents who live in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, 500 soldiers returned to the area after serving in Iraq. According to a military representative, returning veterans have a high risk of developing depression and self-destructive behavior. And, as former infantry soldiers, many have PTSD and may have experienced traumatic brain injuries.

There is only one social worker and one psychiatrist to help everyone who lives on that side of the island. There is help at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic on the other side of the island, but it is a long drive that many can’t or won’t make.  In addition, mental health issues are often considered weaknesses, and may carry a stigma in any culture.

That’s where “telehealth” through video conferencing is bridging the gap.  Now, veterans and their families can visit the Lyndon Baynes Johnson (LBJ) Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago and use video conferencing to communicate with the VA clinical psychology providers many miles away across the island.

Video conferencing allows for the type of face-to-face communication that is necessary for psychological healthcare. With a secure connection, the patient’s privacy is protected, and the patient gets the doctor’s full attention, communicating as if he or she were in the same room. The doctor benefits from being able to observe critical non-verbal cues which can help with diagnoses.

All Americans, particularly US Veterans of Foreign Wars returning from war, need and deserve support during a mental health crisis. Video conferencing is a great way to help provide that support, particularly for those who cannot easily access their medical benefits.