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Government // Cloud computing
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Nitin Pradhan
Nitin Pradhan
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Better Videoconferencing In The Cloud

Former US Transportation Department CIO Nitin Pradhan discusses why advanced HD desktop videoconferencing systems are a smart choice for enterprises, and offers 12 tips for using them effectively.

A critical part of the CIO's job is to keep the enterprise's technology environment up to date and relevant. When it comes to communication, most CIOs have focused on upgrading email systems and bringing in VOIP telephones -- but many have missed the boat on desktop videoconferencing.

A more convenient and efficient alternative to traveling, videoconferencing is becoming a preferred way to conduct both one-on-one and group meetings. It allows employees to participate in a more relaxed and comfortable setting, whether they're working from home or in the office. Live video feeds allow participants to interact in real time. This leads to increased involvement and stronger personal connections. Within the enterprise, videoconferencing can also reduce time spent walking between campuses and buildings. Better yet, recent advances in videoconferencing technology make it more appealing and cost-effective than ever.

Why conference room videoconferencing often fails
When I served as CIO of the US Department of Transportation, many of our conference rooms were equipped with videoconferencing technology. I observed first-hand why these systems failed.

First, videoconferencing equipment is expensive and can be difficult to use. Without dedicated support staff at meeting time, meeting organizers often have trouble using the systems. Even when the system works properly, participants in other locations must have complementary systems.

[How can IT product innovators help government agencies? Read Creating A Marketplace For Public-Private Innovations.]

Then there are the scheduling conflicts and equipment limitations. Users who want to conduct a virtual meeting must compete for conference room resources with users holding in-person meetings. Since most videoconference meetings use only one camera that generally focuses on the speaker, the reactions of other participants are lost. Alternatively, panning the camera renders most of the meeting's participants unrecognizable.

Finally, there's the issue of time spent going back and forth to the conference room and in setting up and testing the videoconferencing equipment before meetings. This is simply not the best way to develop an effective videoconferencing strategy.

Desktop videoconferencing: here to stay
Enterprise desktop videoconferencing -- in which each user attends the videoconference using his or her business desktop or laptop and a webcam -- is a smarter alternative.

For many users, the image and reputation of desktop videoconferencing has been skewed by their audio/video experiences with free Skype and similar products. While Skype performance has improved under Microsoft -- especially with the new Xbox One system -- it is not, in my opinion, an enterprise-grade product with management controls.

As for current leading players, Citrix GoToMeeting and Cisco WebEx, they make meetings appear somewhat artificial, perhaps because these platforms were built as webinar products. They added videoconferencing features later.

Next-generation cloud videoconferencing
My current favorite videoconferencing product? Zoom Cloud Meetings, developed by Silicon Valley-based startup Zoom, which counts more than 5,000 businesses and 900 universities among its customers.

The Zoom cloud platform combines HD videoconferencing, mobile collaboration, and simple online meetings. It was built with desktop videoconferencing and mobile users in mind. Zoom is easy to use and requires no training, and is attractively priced for business customers. Based on our research at GOVonomy, Zoom's platform would be an ideal fit for federal, state, and local governments to use for inter- or intra-agency communications and for interacting with businesses and citizens virtually.

Zoom offers HD voice, video, and content sharing, along with anytime, anywhere, any-device videoconferencing. Enterprises can use it on desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, and H.323/SIP room conferencing systems. It allows up to 100 participants from anywhere and offers Web streaming (still in beta) for up to 1,000 people. Participants can choose either a full-screen or a gallery view (multiple participants on screen), with dual streams for dual monitors. The product allows screen sharing, annotation, private and group messaging, and iPad whiteboarding.

Users can use Zoom for on-demand meetings or use it to schedule meetings. It includes a meeting reminder tool as well as MP4 and MA4 recording capabilities with company branding. It also offers user management, reporting, and encryption. After using it for a year, it has become my go-to communications channel for important discussions, even before email and the phone.

Ready to scale up your enterprise with a great cloud-based videoconferencing system? Here are some suggestions to help you implement and utilize videoconferencing most effectively in your organization.

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User Rank: Apprentice
4/14/2015 | 1:30:10 PM
Re: Public Room video conferencing

There is very little need to rent rooms anymore, if you have a smartphone you have a video endpoint in your pocket. There is a reason Zoom is disrupting the industry unlike any others on the market. Price and performance cannot be beat.   Along with Zoom just works.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/17/2014 | 2:59:34 AM
Video Conferencing
Yeah, video conferencing is a great business communication tool and web conferencing servers from RHUB; allow businesses to set up meetings with potential and existing clients and partners quickly; at any time.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/7/2014 | 10:51:53 AM
Public Room video conferencing
There are some good points here, but desktop software is also often unsupported. There is still a marketplace for public video conference facilities - you hire them by the hour, and if you use a broker they can manage the call and make sure it all works.  For ad hoc conferences I've used these guys
User Rank: Strategist
1/24/2014 | 10:13:50 AM
Re: Telepresence
Thanks Wyatt! Since this is a new topic - there is an free online educational seminar using Zoom we have arranged to address questions on the topic on next Friday Jan 31st - if anyone is interested that can register at GOVonomy. Nitin
User Rank: Author
1/23/2014 | 8:56:09 PM
Nitin, I believe you're right,  When I was at AOL, we had state of the art video conference rooms.  They were impressive -- being able to have feeds from multiple countries on a screen in real time. But it almost always took an IT help desk person to get things to connect correctly, the investment was huge, and in the end, it was just easier to do a conference call than a videoconference. Sounds like conferncing direct from the desk is the way to go.  Thanks for contributing your perspective.

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