What users are paying - and saving - on video conferencing

From Skype to Telepresence, adoption in NZ varies widely

Especially interesting are new players like www.bluejeans.com or Vidyo, he says. Blue Jeans Network is included in Gartner’s ‘Cool Vendors in Enterprise Unified Communications and Network Services, 2012’ list. The research firm says that Blue Jeans is “revolutionising the delivery of video communication and conferencing by allowing mainstream consumer endpoints, such as Skype and GoogleTalk, to be joined into reservationless calls with traditional video conferencing and telepresence systems.” The system uses a cloud-based platform that runs on standard x86 hardware.

Vidyo’s technology covers room systems, desktop and mobile video conferencing solutions. Its VidyoRouter architecture promises low-latency, HD-quality multipoint video conferencing over ordinary data networks to any endpoint, according to the company’s website.

So, what are the majority of organisations opting for – Skype and lower-cost solutions or higher-end telepresence-type solutions?

“Most [organisations] are waking up to desktop video conferencing,” says Johnson. “[For example] in Lync users can click-to-call from an IM [instant message] ping for voice, video or web conference and share desktop too.”

He says Skype gets some business use because telepresence solutions remain expensive.

“Room-based video conferencing is under-utilised,” he says. “The new federated cloud video conferencing providers [such as Blue Jeans] link smartphones and tablets to telepresence and room systems for a fee” - making room-based video an opex, rather than a capex.

The main reasons for adopting video conferencing solutions are reduced travel costs and enhanced collaboration, says Johnson. While telepresence suites and room-based systems are meeting venues, desktop video conferencing translates into personal productivity.

But return on investment is still difficult to measure, he says.

“Travel cost reduction is about the only hard data used.”

Gartner says it is seeing “lots of interest” in video conferencing – “60 to 80 percent of human communication is non-verbal and best delivered in video,” Johnson says.

When asked how Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype is likely to change things in the video conferencing market, Johnson says: “It will take at least two more years. Expectations are that Skype will by-pass telco carriers as an over-the-top player and deliver its own cloud solutions, voice and video.”

Conferencing vulnerabilities

Something else that organisations should be concerned about is security around their video conferencing setups, says Johnson. The hacking of an FBI and Scotland Yard conference showed how security risks are compounded by using unified communications, he says.

Research by Johnson and Gartner security expert, Rob McMillan, lays out how the hacking organisation ‘Anonymous’ embarrassed the FBI and Scotland Yard’s Serious Organised Crime Agency by releasing a 17-minute recording of a conference call in January this year. The call was set up to discuss the FBI’s and Scotland Yard’s joint operations against groups such as Anonymous, LulzSec and AntiSec. The recording, along with an email invitation from an FBI agent, inviting other law enforcement officials from the UK, France, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden to the conference call, were posted on YouTube, says Johnson.

“The email message included the telephone conference bridge number to be called, along with the access code for the conference call.”

Vulnerabilities in video and web conferencing happen mainly in the process of setting up the session, exchanging information such as calendar bookings, Johnson says.

When rolling out a video conferencing system, don’t expect that emerging unified communications threat management technologies will automatically mitigate security risks, he says.

Gartner’s recommendations to IT managers include securing individual components before addressing the security of the unified communications system as a whole.

“Secure all communications while in the planning stages for UC; retrofitting security is too hard,” write Johnson and McMillan. “Examine the way that each additional mode of communications that could be integrated compound the risks in securing unified communications and collaboration (UCC) significantly.”

They also recommend strengthening technical security infrastructure with user awareness, user training and “diligent, proactive, ongoing management”.

Gartner also advises organisations to protect their on-premise conferencing servers in the same way they would protect any other servers that store sensitive information. When sending out invitations for a conference, use a restricted distribution list and verify the identification of all participants, writes Johnson. Also, change the password and user ID at regular intervals, and, if necessary, make sure that file transfers during meetings are encrypted.

If your organisation requires exceptional security around conferencing, on-net IP conferencing could be an option, according to Gartner.

“Most web conferencing is provided in a communications as a service (CaaS) style or as software as a service (SaaS) by external service providers selling enterprise use licenses, so their security practices need to be inspected,” say Johnson and McMillan.

Gen-i saves

For Gen-i, the implementation of a Cisco TelePresence solution has been a success, according to Jo Allison, Gen-i’s general manager for marketing and operations.

“We use video to replace travel and improve the quality of our meetings,” Allison says. “Reduced travel costs, increased productivity and environmental reasons were at the centre of the business case. In fact, TelePresence is one of the most practical, valuable technologies we’ve implemented during the last few years.”

None

The benefits were realised from day one when the organisation was able to cut its travel budget, she says.

“In the first three months, with just four rooms, we saved around $580,000 on travel costs and 175 days that would have been used by people travelling. In the first six weeks, 410 domestic flights and 65 international flights were avoided,” she says.

For the business case to be a success, the rooms needed an average utilisation of 46 percent, she says. “The rooms are currently running between 85-100 percent utilisation.”

Gen-i has rolled out TelePresence video conferencing across its 19 sites in New Zealand and Australia, with a total of 35 rooms across Australasia. As well as using it in-house, the organisation also offers services to its business clients and the public, Allison says.

While the investment was justified by travel savings, other benefits have materialised, she says.

“The technology allows our people to come together and collaborate from anywhere across the business. It enables people to share documents in real time, and talk to them face to face.”

The reduced need for travel also means a better “work/life balance” for staff, she says.

Gen-i chose the high-end TelePresence solution – rather than going for a lower cost system – mainly because of ease-of-use and the “life-like” user experience, which would give maximum user adoption, says Allison.

“People can easily book the rooms through their Outlook calendar and then initiate the meeting with the press of one button. There are no remotes, and sharing the desktop is as easy as plugging in a cable into your laptop,” she says.

Gen-i is also offering a service to clients, SmartMeeting Managed Service, that installs and manages TelePresence solutions, says Allison.

“The platform provides a range of connectivity options including a fibre connection into the global Telepresence Video Exchange, which means our clients can connect to overseas participants,” she says.

The service also allows for video on mobile tablet devices.

Fletcher Building is one of Gen-i’s SmartMeeting customers. The company has rolled out the service to its offices in Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne and Cincinnati.

Especially interesting are new players like www.bluejeans.com or Vidyo, he says. Blue Jeans Network is included in Gartner’s ‘Cool Vendors in Enterprise Unified Communications and Network Services, 2012’ list. The research firm says that Blue Jeans is “revolutionising the delivery of video communication and conferencing by allowing mainstream consumer endpoints, such as Skype and GoogleTalk, to be joined into reservationless calls with traditional video conferencing and telepresence systems.” The system uses a cloud-based platform that runs on standard x86 hardware.

Vidyo’s technology covers room systems, desktop and mobile video conferencing solutions. Its VidyoRouter architecture promises low-latency, HD-quality multipoint video conferencing over ordinary data networks to any endpoint, according to the company’s website.

So, what are the majority of organisations opting for – Skype and lower-cost solutions or higher-end telepresence-type solutions?

“Most [organisations] are waking up to desktop video conferencing,” says Johnson. “[For example] in Lync users can click-to-call from an IM [instant message] ping for voice, video or web conference and share desktop too.”

He says Skype gets some business use because telepresence solutions remain expensive.

“Room-based video conferencing is under-utilised,” he says. “The new federated cloud video conferencing providers [such as Blue Jeans] link smartphones and tablets to telepresence and room systems for a fee” - making room-based video an opex, rather than a capex.

The main reasons for adopting video conferencing solutions are reduced travel costs and enhanced collaboration, says Johnson. While telepresence suites and room-based systems are meeting venues, desktop video conferencing translates into personal productivity.

But return on investment is still difficult to measure, he says.

“Travel cost reduction is about the only hard data used.”

Gartner says it is seeing “lots of interest” in video conferencing – “60 to 80 percent of human communication is non-verbal and best delivered in video,” Johnson says.

When asked how Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype is likely to change things in the video conferencing market, Johnson says: “It will take at least two more years. Expectations are that Skype will by-pass telco carriers as an over-the-top player and deliver its own cloud solutions, voice and video.”

Conferencing vulnerabilities

Something else that organisations should be concerned about is security around their video conferencing setups, says Johnson. The hacking of an FBI and Scotland Yard conference showed how security risks are compounded by using unified communications, he says.

Research by Johnson and Gartner security expert, Rob McMillan, lays out how the hacking organisation ‘Anonymous’ embarrassed the FBI and Scotland Yard’s Serious Organised Crime Agency by releasing a 17-minute recording of a conference call in January this year. The call was set up to discuss the FBI’s and Scotland Yard’s joint operations against groups such as Anonymous, LulzSec and AntiSec. The recording, along with an email invitation from an FBI agent, inviting other law enforcement officials from the UK, France, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden to the conference call, were posted on YouTube, says Johnson.

“The email message included the telephone conference bridge number to be called, along with the access code for the conference call.”

Vulnerabilities in video and web conferencing happen mainly in the process of setting up the session, exchanging information such as calendar bookings, Johnson says.

When rolling out a video conferencing system, don’t expect that emerging unified communications threat management technologies will automatically mitigate security risks, he says.

Gartner’s recommendations to IT managers include securing individual components before addressing the security of the unified communications system as a whole.

“Secure all communications while in the planning stages for UC; retrofitting security is too hard,” write Johnson and McMillan. “Examine the way that each additional mode of communications that could be integrated compound the risks in securing unified communications and collaboration (UCC) significantly.”

They also recommend strengthening technical security infrastructure with user awareness, user training and “diligent, proactive, ongoing management”.

Gartner also advises organisations to protect their on-premise conferencing servers in the same way they would protect any other servers that store sensitive information. When sending out invitations for a conference, use a restricted distribution list and verify the identification of all participants, writes Johnson. Also, change the password and user ID at regular intervals, and, if necessary, make sure that file transfers during meetings are encrypted.

If your organisation requires exceptional security around conferencing, on-net IP conferencing could be an option, according to Gartner.

“Most web conferencing is provided in a communications as a service (CaaS) style or as software as a service (SaaS) by external service providers selling enterprise use licenses, so their security practices need to be inspected,” say Johnson and McMillan.

Gen-i saves

For Gen-i, the implementation of a Cisco TelePresence solution has been a success, according to Jo Allison, Gen-i’s general manager for marketing and operations.

“We use video to replace travel and improve the quality of our meetings,” Allison says. “Reduced travel costs, increased productivity and environmental reasons were at the centre of the business case. In fact, TelePresence is one of the most practical, valuable technologies we’ve implemented during the last few years.”

None

The benefits were realised from day one when the organisation was able to cut its travel budget, she says.

“In the first three months, with just four rooms, we saved around $580,000 on travel costs and 175 days that would have been used by people travelling. In the first six weeks, 410 domestic flights and 65 international flights were avoided,” she says.

For the business case to be a success, the rooms needed an average utilisation of 46 percent, she says. “The rooms are currently running between 85-100 percent utilisation.”

Gen-i has rolled out TelePresence video conferencing across its 19 sites in New Zealand and Australia, with a total of 35 rooms across Australasia. As well as using it in-house, the organisation also offers services to its business clients and the public, Allison says.

While the investment was justified by travel savings, other benefits have materialised, she says.

“The technology allows our people to come together and collaborate from anywhere across the business. It enables people to share documents in real time, and talk to them face to face.”

The reduced need for travel also means a better “work/life balance” for staff, she says.

Gen-i chose the high-end TelePresence solution – rather than going for a lower cost system – mainly because of ease-of-use and the “life-like” user experience, which would give maximum user adoption, says Allison.

“People can easily book the rooms through their Outlook calendar and then initiate the meeting with the press of one button. There are no remotes, and sharing the desktop is as easy as plugging in a cable into your laptop,” she says.

Gen-i is also offering a service to clients, SmartMeeting Managed Service, that installs and manages TelePresence solutions, says Allison.

“The platform provides a range of connectivity options including a fibre connection into the global Telepresence Video Exchange, which means our clients can connect to overseas participants,” she says.

The service also allows for video on mobile tablet devices.

Fletcher Building is one of Gen-i’s SmartMeeting customers. The company has rolled out the service to its offices in Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne and Cincinnati.

5 Comments

Jake Davis

1

I work for an accountancy firm based out Auckland and I have colleagues who are based in Wellington, Tauranga and Hamilton. We had been using skype to try and do our weekly catch up, however this was far from ideal. The video quality was often very poor and it was very hard work on a piece of work together. I had looked at other alternative such Cisco and Vidyo but this simply wasn't right for us not to mention the cost! I then heard about a company called Faceme. There guys have a product which is much better than skype and is affordable. We have been using Faceme for a while now and have been very please with the results.

Jeff Vader

2

With out getting too commercial here, we sell Face Me as a service and it works much better than Skype and some of the other products. The clients rave about it.

Anonymous

3

In the first three months, with just four rooms, we saved around $580,000 on travel costs and 175 days that would have been used by people travelling. In the first six weeks, 410 domestic flights and 65 international flights were avoided," she says.

??

50 people travel this much? Seems far fetched and a cisco plant

Anonymous

4

Its not like the industry isn't well aware that BoPDHB is a Cisco site, and would have commercial benefits for being a continuous case study and reference site just for articles like this.

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