The number of low-cost video and audio conferencing technologies in the marketplace has exploded thanks to IP network technology not only becoming more mainstream but far more reliable than the days of yore when jitter and calls dropping off were to be expected. Nigel Holland, Product Manager – Sennheiser Telecoms, discusses why now is the time to take advantage of this technology wave.
Two of the most popular services are Microsoft Lync and Cisco Jabber, which are both making significant inroads into all sorts of businesses even where you wouldn’t expect it. Of course, there are others, but the pedigree of these particular two tends to set them apart, along with those provided by companies with a telco background.
In fact, companies from places as far afield as Nigeria, Ukraine, Malta and Latvia see audio and video conferencing technologies as not only a cost-effective means to communicate internally but to also bring together offices scattered across different territories. In a few cases, some have used SIP trunks to also tie together offices that are thousands of miles apart.
The benefits are clear; call costs are slashed, communication is made much easier, collaboration becomes achievable and people can work from their desktops or mobile devices using a wide range of communication channels ranging from instant messaging, email and of course video and audio conferencing.
Now that the technology is reliable, one of the main drivers is the virtual nil cost for people using these solutions. In one example, a Czech-based marketing agency has moved from being a local player for a well-known IT vendor to something of a global player. It’s done this by simply making extensive use of Microsoft Lync and as a result extended its tentacles into Africa and the Far East.
Lync is used as its de-facto communication tool and it could be argued is a main driver for its expansion. Its main client has customers all over the world from Lagos to Riga and Kiev and the agency simply connects with these clients via Lync, from which then it gleans the information required to create localised marketing materials.
If it relied on conventional communication technologies, that is fixed-line telephone and mobile, its costs would soar, its profits would be eaten into and it would probably not be as nearly as easy to connect around the globe. Of course, this ability to reach out is dependent on the companies it contacts also using Lync but the technology seems to have become so pervasive that it seems the norm rather than the exception.
From a reseller and system integrator point of view this offers enormous profit-growing opportunities. Increasing numbers of companies are seeking to contain and where possible reduce costs while also driving collaboration, which is precisely what contemporary video and audio conferencing provides.
In terms of specialist skills, Microsoft and Cisco resellers for example, are already armed with much of the requisite knowledge based on their existing expertise with the vendor’s technologies. In fact, much of this technology has evolved rather than being something completely new, so for many resellers it doesn’t require extensive training.
Microsoft’s Office 365 for example, is a cloud-based product that offers traditional Office products but based in the cloud, rather than on-premise. The video and audio conferencing tools within Office 365, that is Lync, are central components of Office 365 and often a main driver for customers. Given that the whole world and its dog is effectively moving towards cloud-based technologies, albeit tentatively in some cases, the majority of resellers are already well versed in the infrastructure needs. In fact, video and audio conferencing is a relatively easy sell for resellers because the benefits are so clearly apparent for clients: reduced costs and reliability.
Given the centrality of video and audio conferencing to a cost-cutting, more effective business make over, on the surface it may seem trite to mention the importance of peripherals. But peripherals also have a central and important role to play; in some senses they are the glue that holds things together. As good and reliable as the new wave of video and audio conferencing technologies are their benefits can be diminished considerably if the peripheral quality is not of a similar high level.
Picture the scene; five people in different locations, two of them mobile, coming together for a pre-arranged video and audio conference. The video quality on two of the user’s computers is not so great so they choose to participate via audio. All participants choose to use headsets because the unfortunate fact is that computer embedded microphones often pick up so much background noise that the distant sound of traffic can sound like the swooshing of a toilet being flushed or someone cleaning their computer screen can sound like a desk being sawn in half.
However, if the headset quality is poor it can render the benefits of the conference redundant. That’s why it’s extremely important to ensure top quality peripherals. This is accentuated even further when a participant is mobile. How many of you have tried to take part in a conference call and one of the main speakers happens to be travelling in their car and is connecting via a speaker phone or a poor quality headset? It’s often painful. Peripherals such as Sennheiser’s PRESENCE™ series, a range of Bluetooth headsets, provide answers by delivering high-quality connectivity and integrated echo cancellation while also allowing users to easily switch between different devices, an important feature in the increasingly BYOD world.
In fact, in an industry characterised by resourcefulness and innovation new technologies are in always in development and especially so in the burgeoning unified communications market.
These are useful tools for resellers to be aware of, as they can bolster their unified communications offerings by providing top of the range products that complement and enhance unified communications. The surge in audio and video conferencing technology especially that based around IP telephony, presents an attractive business growing opportunity for resellers. To use a well worn phrase, for end users, these technologies are today a ‘no-brainer’ because they’re so cost-effective and high quality. As a result, it’s an area that resellers ought to be naturally dovetailing with. However, it must be kept in mind that if the peripherals aren’t of a similar high quality, the value of the entire platform can be undermined.