I work with larger organizations who want to understand how they can operate more effectively and what aspects of collaboration and communications can help be improved upon. Video conferencing is an essential component of the virtual workplace. Video conferencing can improve our productivity, improve customer services, accelerate the decision making processes and help ensure that with remote workers who are isolated stay connected to their wider teams. What makes selling video conferencing easier is that it often pays for itself. ROI is observed through travel costs and improving upon wasted time traveling. With less time spent on the motorways and on the train heading to the next big city we can help lower the overall impact to our environment.
There are free and lower cost video conferencing solutions available, however, I can’t in good faith recommend those as they don’t supply the right level of support or quality of experience. Thankfully, the cost of Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams certified systems are dropping in price. For example, the Logitech ConferenceCam Connect has dropped from £450 to just £223 with Amazon Prime delivery.
Many video conferencing systems are designed in a way to be permanent or semi-permanent solutions. Because of the size and the weight of the audio and camera it is difficult to move around. Some, like the Logitech ConferenceCam Connect, are portable, allowing people like me to take the devices to my customers to show them how easy it is to configure a huddle space.
Turn it up
One item that is often overlooked is the quality of the audio. This includes both the incoming and outgoing audio. Laptop speakers are never a good idea, not for one on one meetings and definitely won’t work when you’re trying to have a meeting with others in the same room sat around a conference table.
Professionally created video conference equipment often allow for multiple satellite microphone pickups, multiple base stations, and multiple display outputs. Another consideration is the background noise, such as doors slamming, wooden heeled shoes, or meeting rooms that are noisier than yours. Polycom have a solution called NoiseBlock which allow for the identification of the speech that is closest to the device but blocks the noise that isn’t nearby.
Never enough bandwidth
Whenever I’m investigating a new Skype for Business video deployment I always recommend a network assessment be done. This includes the bandwidth between the video conferencing solutions but also the location of the Skype for Business users, either on-premises or cloud back end. The last thing you want is for the experience to bee unacceptable for the end users. If the experience is poor the equipment won’t be utilized and ultimately the investment on the video conferencing equipment will be lost.
For a modest recommendation aim for 1Mbits/sec, but it would be wise to aim for somewhere closer to 6Mbits/sec to ensure that the quality is maintained and consistent. Again, the network should be maintained for jitter, packet loss, and overall utilization. Microsoft state that unified communications traffic should not exceed 70% of the overall network. Do your company a favour, keep the video conferencing solution wired. Wireless has come a long way but Ethernet is still how it should be deployed.
Make sure that you complete a meeting room assessment. Just because you have a 55 inch TV in the corner doesn’t mean that’s how it should be used. If the room is simply a round table with a Microsoft Surface Hub it might not make for the best use for a free collaboration experience for both near and far conferencing users. Assess how the room can best be served and used for the end users in mind. Understand that exciting layouts and configuration of office furniture can be adjusted or exchanged for better collaboration.
Think about how the solutions will be booked. Surface Hubs, Skype room systems, and some native Skype systems can be booked through Exchange natively but other meeting rooms may benefit from something like a Condeco solution. This will help ensure that there are no interruptions or double bookings.
Hope this helps!