The benefits of video conferencing (VC) are widely acknowledged – the technology enables face-to-face communication on demand, without the need to travel, improving productivity and enhancing collaborative abilities, says Divesh Nathoo, pre-sales manager at Kathea.
However, this technology has also had very limited application in most organisations, and services were difficult to use and faced with many challenges. This has reduced the uptake of video-based solutions, as organisations have been unable to derive maximum value from their VC.
Now, with the enhanced availability of cloud-based solutions and services, and the substantial strides made in VC technology over the years, all of this is changing, and organisations are able to leverage all of the benefits of VC with none of the drawbacks.
In the past, VC has been subject to multiple limitations, which have hindered the widespread uptake of video solutions. Bandwidth and quality have been longstanding problems, and reliability on an ISDN-based network has constantly proved difficult to achieve. VC solutions have also been viewed as complex, difficult to use, and in general not worth the hassle.
Aside from these problems, VC has also typically permitted communication only internally within an organisation and its branches, and only in VC rooms with specific end-points within that organisation’s offices.
Bringing in customers, partners or people from outside the organisation, as well as those using different devices, was not possible.
Advancements in cloud computing and developments in VC technology have arisen to address these challenges. The growth of mobility and the popularity of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend have further pushed the boundaries of VC technology, with increased demand to make these services available on mobile devices.
The cloud acts as an enabler for delivering additional capabilities to VC, extending it outside of the organisation to enhance usability. Cloud-based VC solutions also enable users on mobile devices such as laptops, tablets or smartphones to participate in a video conference in a secure manner, irrespective of where they are or the device they use.
This opens up the VC market for both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) communication, and extends VC to many more applications than ever before.
Thanks to the cloud, VC is no longer bound to bricks and mortar, and is no longer necessarily a room-based technology. Using cloud platforms for VC, users can connect with others on any device, using a variety of contact lists including social media, and collaborate in a Web-based video portal that delivers secure, enterprise-grade VC without any of the difficulties or technical hassles typically associated with the medium.
By removing the technical barriers, cloud-based VC enables video to be used easily and intuitively by anyone with an Internet connection and a video-enabled device.
For organisations wishing to adopt VC, the cloud also removes the barrier to entry resulting from the need to invest in expensive infrastructure – a hosted service in a neutral data centre on shared infrastructure allows for a flexible, fully scalable pay-per-use model that makes VC affordable not only for large enterprise, but for SMB as well.
VC sessions can be initiated whenever they are needed, on-demand or even on an ad hoc basis, and each device uses its own bandwidth to connect, so the host company no longer needs to worry about having sufficient bandwidth to carry every participant in the call.
From an end-user perspective, all participants need to do is click on a link sent to them in an e-mail or instant message invitation from the host, and the secure browser will launch and join the call.
The possibilities for VC are practically endless thanks to the cloud, as cloud-based VC enables anyone to join the call.
Doctors could conduct video consults with patients all over the country, lecturers could meet face-to-face with their students without the need to travel, insurance assessors can collaborate with clients while out in the field, and in financial services, users could interact via video rather than needing to drive into the branch.
Within businesses, collaboration on big projects could be made far easier, without constantly requiring physical meetings.
With the cloud, VC no longer need be a laborious, complex process that takes hours to set up – it becomes dynamic and intuitive, easy to fit into our everyday lives. And once we begin to embed VC into business processes, it can become a key part of doing business and interacting with customers, both internally and externally.
Video is the enabler to a host of other technologies, and thanks to the cloud, this potential can now be fully realised.