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Before and After Cloud-Based Video Conferencing

The cloud has revolutionised the way businesses communicate, with vital applications being hosted in secure and reliable environments, accessible from anywhere in the world. With respect to video conferencing, the cloud has enabled high quality collaboration via a range of devices and across platforms.

Before the cloud had become a prevalent part of enterprise operations, office culture and the concept of workplace collaboration were very different. We only need to look at the stereotypes of the past to see how unfamiliar that culture has become to employees of today. The 1999 movie Office Space was the culmination of a decade of displaced and disillusioned workers, whose daily grind consisted of pokey cubicles, clinical lighting and an unwavering 9-5 working patterns. After its release, it became a cult classic; the film perfectly captured the monotony of an old-fashioned work environment in a satirical, yet honest way. If Office Space were to be shown to a group of millennials, there may well be language, technology and concepts that are so alien to them that they may be unrecognisable.

Office Space

Image: Office Space - 20th Century Fox

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The shift in office culture is due to a wide range of variables, from a huge sociological lifestyle change to the surge in reliable technology, allowing people to remain connected to their jobs without the need to be present in a business’s bricks-and-mortar office. Whilst these existential changes were developing regardless, the cloud has encouraged the widespread use of video collaboration due to its reliability, speed and security.

Let’s take a look at some business functions as they would have been in 1999 and how they have changed with the introduction of cloud-based video conferencing.

Flexible Working – Before

It goes without saying that video conferencing has helped the surge of flexible workers to remain connected in a visual way to their colleagues and their company as a whole. In the US alone, there are four million more employees currently working from home than there were in 1999, and the number of employees working from home at least once a week has risen from 7% to 9.5%. 

The complications surrounding remote working in the late 90s were network and bandwidth based. The technology was simply not available to support high quality video conferencing, and, although vastly cheaper and more usable than the video conferencing systems of the 1980s (which could cost up to £190,000 with hourly line rental of £1000), it still lacked the power of the cloud.

As the 90s continued, video conferencing became simpler and more reliable. Advances in IP (Internet Protocol) and the introduction of more efficient video compression technologies meant that video conferencing via a desktop PC became available. Although the first systems of this type, like IBM’s PicTel, still cost in the range of £20,000 but were beginning to see better efficiency for employees.

Fast forward fifteen years and the concept of black and white video seems archaic. In the cloud, video applications are accessed from any device, at any time and from any location. This opened up the perceived boundaries of the office and gave employees more power in deciding how they work best.

Customer to Client Relationships

For a wide range of industries, the ability to form close relationships with clients or customers is an integral part of bringing in revenue. In previous decades, client meetings would take place in a dedicated meeting room, designed to be customer-facing. Alternatively, a representative would travel a potentially lengthy distance for what could be a short meeting that may or may not result in a new client. If a video meeting were to take place in 1999, there may be worries of latency and jitter, as well as the potential technical issues regarding joining a meeting from certain devices.

However, a VaaS (video as a service) platform hosted within a cloud environment enables employees to meet with clients simply, via any device or platform they wish to use. Companies can even rely entirely on a standard video-enabled endpoint, like a PC or tablet, to provide the same quality video one would expect in a boardroom. Moreover, hardware solutions come as a complete package, with a codec, screen, camera and microphone completing the list of components needed to support high quality video conferencing.

Internal Collaboration

Possibly one of the most important factors of integrating video conferencing into a business’s operations is the opportunity to increase employee collaboration. With the office’s metaphorical walls swiftly slipping away, keeping employees engaged not just with the company but with one another is something to be mindful of. With the cloud, video meetings are becoming as prevalently used as email and the telephone were in previous decades. The difference here is that face-to-face communication is the only way to truly understand the intended meaning of a message. Whereas emails can be misinterpreted and the telephone lack the eye contact needed for true collaboration, a simple and reliable video conferencing solution brings back a team atmosphere.

Polycom RealPresence Centro

Polycom, who have been at the forefront of the video conferencing industry for a number of years, have been constantly anticipating the changes in the workplace, introducing products that are conducive to a truly collaborative workplace. The Polycom RealPresence Centro enables teams to work together in a circle, aiding in brainstorming and turning a meeting from static to fluid for idea sharing. This, as well as smaller products such as the RealPresence Group Convene, are great for creating teaming spaces and huddle room where there were none before. Furthermore, both Videocall and Polycom have a special relationship with Microsoft that delivers interoperability with Skype for Business, allowing video real estate to be presented through a recognisable and reliable infrastructure.

Regardless of the hardware on offer, the cloud has helped to turn video conferencing from something often expensive and sometimes unreliable, into a solution for collaboration, customer service and futureproofing. Videocall’s ICE platform works on the back off powerful Polycom technology, allowing enterprise businesses to embrace and succeed with the video conferencing power of 2016, not 1999.

To find out more about how you can reduce the coast of collaboration in your business read our whitepaper

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