August 18, 2015 by Tris Hussey

Spotlight on Video Conferencing and Collaboration Solutions

Spotlight on Video Conferencing and Collaboration Solutions

More than just cameras and speakerphones—technology-powered collaboration

Next in our series on Microserve’s IT service offerings is AV and Video Conferencing. This will be a two-part post with this post focusing on video conferencing and collaboration and a second post focused on digital signage.

I had a chance to sit down with Deena Simon our business development manager for audio video and collaboration to talk video, collaborative work environments, and what Microserve is building in this service area. Deena has years of experience in video and collaboration and doesn’t just look at the hardware or just the software, but how these can be catalysts for real organization change.

What does AV and Collaboration mean to you?

(As a side note, this is always the best question in these interviews, talking about what an offering means brings out great follow on questions)

First let’s talk about what it’s not. There are a lot of misconceptions about AV and video conferencing. It used to be all focused on putting up projectors and calling it AV or building whole video conferencing suites, today we’re still putting systems into boardrooms, but even more we’re connecting through desktops, laptops, and mobile devices together with video conferencing solutions. Even “video conferencing solutions” is too narrow a focus. In the past 10 years we have become used to desktop video conferencing, VoIP, and other internet-based technologies helping people connect and communicate. So for me video conferencing, AV, and collaboration all merge together into a set of tools and technologies that let people connect, communicate, and collaborate faster and easier than ever before.

This might not be the most technical definition, but that is part of the appeal of video today. Video today isn’t technical. Think of how many families and friends stay connected with Skype and other tools. Video conferencing doesn’t have to be technical, it’s just how we communicate today.

Back in the day video conferencing meant an ISDN line, a separate room, and all kinds of specialized equipment. What’s driving video conferencing technology now?

Internet-based technologies are making things so much simpler and more connected today than ever before. Remember when video conferencing rooms needed dedicated connections to the other sites? You couldn’t just connect to anyone, anywhere, anytime—it just didn’t work like that. (I do actually). Today we set up a system, connect it into a company’s Active Directory system, connect the conferencing servers to the internet, and done. Sure I’ve over-simplified the process a bit, but if you think about the off-the-shelf meeting and webinar solutions, it isn’t really far off from that.

IP-based technologies have truly opened up whole new worlds of communication and collaboration solutions to companies large and small. Now it’s easy for a company to call another company or even an individual consultant with the company video system.

I’m a big fan of Skype and have been using it for more than a decade, but Skype isn’t really designed for business conferencing is it?

That’s not true actually. Skype has had business-grade offerings for years, but what’s different now is that Skype is part of Microsoft. Skype might have gotten its start as a consumer product, but it quickly started to grow up when the founders of Skype figured out that users would pay for services like voicemail, call forwarding, and service level agreements that people could rely on. During the same time Skype was taking off as the de facto secure communications tool, Twitter was struggling with growth. Skype might have had its hiccups in the past, but compared to other online services it has a great track record.

So, Skype might not have launched for business, but business users have been receiving a lot of attention to both their unique needs and requirements. Now that Lync has become Skype for Business , it’s a whole new ball game.

Tell me about Lync, aka Skype for Business, how has that changed the market?

Lync/Skype for Business has completed Microsoft’s collaboration suite. Video conferencing that can scale from mobile to desktop to boardroom is essential for a company that is serious about using video (or any really) collaboration suite. Yes, Microsoft has had some video products in the past, but these have been more consumer driven technologies. Skype for Business is a real business solution that companies can be comfortable using as part of their collaboration solution.

What’s the first step for a company who thinks they need a new collaboration solution?

I always ask two things: what do your meetings and work styles look like today and how will your teams work together in the future. For video, if you have, like Microserve does, several offices around the country, being able to have short meetings that bring one or more office together is a real cost and time saver. If there is a quick decision to be made that needs input from our three main offices, there is no more cost-effective way to get everyone in a room than video conferencing. Last minute flights, hotels, cars, meals—all of those costs add up quickly. For meetings, people need to think about who is attending a meeting, how often, and why. Do you have remote workers, contractors, or people who work from home? Even if people working from home are close by, video is a perfect way to keep a team connected and in sync.

The secret to understanding collaboration solutions is first understanding what problem you are trying to solve. Is it connecting remote people or just keeping a large office connected? Are you trying to send fewer emails or have better control over master documents like proposals and RFPs? Sometimes video isn’t the right solution, but a robust intranet is. On the other hand, just planning for an intranet alone without thinking about video conferencing or IM could mean more hassles down the road if you want to expand.

It takes planning, discussion, and technical insight to make a collaboration or video conferencing project truly successful.

What does Microserve bring to the table with AV, digital signage, and collaboration?

Honestly, and Mark will probably say then same thing when talking about digital signage, it’s that we’re not and AV company. We’re not in the business of just putting TVs and speakers in and walking away. Microserve is an IT company. We offer technology solutions. So, sure we can have a TV on the wall. For typical AV companies, they stop there. If you want software installed or configured, most AV companies say talk to your IT expert.

Those experts? That’s us.

Our own board rooms have integrated video solutions. If you’re looking for people who walk the walk and talk the talk—that’s us, we regularly have meetings bringing in teams across Microserve using collaboration tools. We create entire video systems that have network management, controls, and single-sign-on a wide range of organizations. We get the whole job done from planning, strategy, implementation, network integration and most importantly security. It’s that IT expertise that really sets us apart.

If you’d like to learn more about our video conferencing and collaboration solutions, get in touch for a free assessment.

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