John - 6/17 - Advanced AV

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So far John has created 165 blog entries.

Video Collaboration Does in Fact Boost Productivity 

Increasing productivity is a top concern for almost all businesses. A Google search for “increase workplace productivity” returns nearly 40 million results. Many of these are suggestions for ways companies can enhance their productivity—some of them may work, but many have not proven successful.

Incorporating video collaboration has proven to be a successful tactic for increasing workplace productivity, according to a survey published by Lifesize, a global provider of audio, web and video conferencing technology. Video collaboration between employees offers a range of benefits that can lead to improvements across the organization.

Survey Findings

The Lifesize survey respondents provided some interesting and potentially useful results:

More than 99 percent of users reported that video conferencing helped them build better relationships inside and outside of their companies.
7 percent of users said it was easier to communicate their points effectively when they could see the person they were talking to on video.
7 percent of users reported increased work productivity and an improved work-life balance when they used video collaboration to work remotely.

These findings should put an end to concerns that allowing employees to use video collaboration in their work will damage productivity. The opposite is true: video collaboration leads to increased productivity in the workforce and greater employee satisfaction.

Benefits of Video Collaboration

There are many advantages to allowing employees to collaborate via video, but perhaps the most important is the exchange of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal cues are some of the most powerful tools in human communication, but they can’t be used when the people who are communicating can’t see each other. Video collaboration allows employees in separate locations to communicate more effectively by making it possible for them pick up on the nonverbal signals that accompany the conversations.

Video collaboration […]

By |July 22nd, 2016|Blog|1 Comment

The Web Real-Time Communication Revolution

Innovators are constantly looking to improve online communications. The next wave in internet communication is hitting mainstream business in the form of video conferencing embedded directly into your browser. Also known as Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), this open-source technology has gained steam over the past few years and will increase efficiency and streamline communication processes.

Increase Adoption Rates

WebRTC allows browsers to participate in voice calls, video conferences, and data sharing operations directly without applications or plug-ins. Because of its ease of use and cost efficiency, WebRTC is currently enjoying an explosion in popularity; according to some models, the WebRTC sector may be worth a staggering 4.45 billion dollars by 2020. Experts attribute the trend to a few key factors:

Cost. As far as communications go, WebRTC remains the most cost-effective option for businesses of all sizes. Desk phone services are disappearing as companies realize that hard-wired communication devices run them an average of $25 a month per employee. Soft phone connections (ones that use the internet) cost an average of $15 per employee. Open-source technology like WebRTC is free, so businesses only need to pay for a reliable internet connection.

Functionality. Today’s workforce is increasingly mobile, and employees are no longer chained to their desks. Companies need innovative solutions that employees can use from their own mobile devices. WebRTC provides companies with the flexibility they need to communicate with their widespread workforce.

Internet and cloud-based communication systems allow managers to track their data in real time. For example, a manager can analyze data to determine the optimum length of communication for closing a sale based on the data of their best salespeople.

Familiarity. As younger generations enter the workforce, internet-based communication is the norm, not the […]

By |June 28th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

How Big Data is Changing the UC Landscape

The field of Big Data and Analytics grows simultaneously more advanced and more accessible every day. Most industries are finding great potential in its offerings. Unfortunately, as avenues for data collection continue to multiply, it’s hard to keep track of all of them at one time. Unified Communications (UC) technology is just one of those avenues, and too many solutions providers are failing to apply proper analytics to the data it generates. Those that do, however, are setting the pace for Big Data UC standards and reaping the benefits that come with it.

Reporting That Leads to Operational Efficiency

Texas-based VOSS is an example of a company that has adopted an analytics-facing focus, which allows their UC users to check out analytics reports on their systems and subsequently focus on better operational efficiency. What VOSS has found is that when an enterprise at large can analyze internal user data, small trends show up in reports that might not have been obvious otherwise. For example, usage data may inform a company about software tools provided to employees that are being either over or under-utilized. This knowledge helps the organization make better business decisions about which software licenses to renew or drop for specific users.

It can be helpful to look at productivity levels when implementing new solutions. Introducing too many new tools at once can be overwhelming for employees and make them less productive, which defeats the purpose of UC solutions in the first place. On top of that, by looking at correlations between tool selection, usage, and productivity, managers can begin to see what works best and start offering only necessary tools and bolstering worker productivity.

Complete Communications that Improve Collaboration

The point of UC is essentially to break down […]

By |June 23rd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

The Rise of Ransomware: What Higher Ed IT Teams Need to Know

As the world grows more and more connected, the amount of valuable data—and the number of cyberattacks on that data—also grows. In early 2016, the University of Central Florida experienced firsthand how sought-after that data can be after hackers gained access to 63,000 Social Security numbers belonging to current and former students and staff. While the breach didn’t include credit card, financial, or medical information, it does serve to highlight how vulnerable the IT infrastructures of institutions of higher education can be, especially in relation to the rising problem of crypto ransomware.

What is Ransomware?

With the explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), the propensity for consumers to store valuable, sentimental, and encrypted information on personal devices has gone through the roof. While this data isn’t always universally valuable, most users would be devastated to lose it; ransomware uses this idea to its malicious advantage.

Unlike traditional types of malware, ransomware doesn’t aim to extract valuable information of any kind. Instead, a ransomware attack aims to lock down a computer, making every bit of essential information stored on the hard drive inaccessible until the hacker’s demands are met. The computer and everything on it is virtually held for ransom, as its name suggests. In an interview with Wall Street Journal, Chris Stangl, Section Chief of the FBI’s Cyber Division, recently described ransomware as a “prevalent, increasing threat” that is expected to worsen as the year goes on. 

Back it Up—or Pay the Cost

The reason that ransomware is so devastating is that there’s is nothing anybody can do to disinfect your computer—not an IT staff, not the Geek Squad, and not even the FBI. Short of wiping the hard drive clean or paying the ransom, the user is […]

By |June 21st, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Vital Questions to Ask a Prospective Managed Services Partner (MSP)

Enterprises hoping to maximize return on their AV tech investments are increasingly turning to managed service partners (MSP) who will offer continued support and specialty services after the purchase of their products. The devil is in the details, however, and those considering signing with a prospective MSP should make sure they ask these vital questions before they pull the trigger.

What Exactly Does the SLA Cover?

Knowing everything that your service level agreements (SLA) cover (and don’t cover) is the first step in figuring out whether or not your prospective MSP is the choice for your organization. An SLA will detail everything from security features and guaranteed response times to accountability assignation in the event of a situation. Nebulous SLAs can cause confusion, on the other hand, and systems may remain down for much longer than they need to as both entities try to figure out who is responsible for doing what. Other provisions, such as equipment loans in the face of repairs or replacement, can also be hammered out in the SLA. Perhaps the most important thing to remember and to consider is whether or not your MSP is willing to customize its agreements and services to suit your specific needs—the best ones will.

Will Remote Monitoring and Testing Be Provided?

A good MSP will provide both remote testing of each component of your AV system as well as monitoring of the system’s overall status. Closed-loop tests will periodically power up and exercise critical systems, actively reporting on and weeding out problems such as deterioration of image or microphone quality. If one of these systems or its components is acting wonky, you’ll want to be notified in real-time so that you can initiate repairs […]

By |June 16th, 2016|Blog|1 Comment

The IoT Has Arrived: What AV Pros Need to Know to Prepare for a Connected Society

The connected society is upon us. In the last year, the Internet of Things (IoT) has gone from an ambiguous buzzword and the technology behind connected home appliances to a growing network of sensors, wearables, and data-driven devices that are poised to change the world. Every corner of society is going to be connected in one way or another, and the AV industry is no different.

Teleconferencing rooms and telepresence robots on campuses and universities are just two examples of how the IoT is transforming the audiovisual industry. AV professionals looking to stay on top of their game are going to want to brush up on and pay attention to six different IoT-specific skills:

IPv6 Standard

As more devices become connected to the Internet, more addresses need to be assigned to these devices. The protocol has traditionally always been IPv4 (you may recognize the IP address “127.0.0.1” as home, for example), indicated by four sets of numbers ranging 0-999. Unfortunately, the old protocol essentially became obsolete in 2015 when North America ran out of IPv4. IPv6 is the replacement standard, and should provide an almost infinite amount of addresses for future devices. IPv6-enabled implementations are already required of vendors working with public sector clients, and will soon become the dominant standard everywhere else.

Wireless Networking

Everything nowadays is wireless. Customers and users from the ground-level up to the C-Suite are beginning to expect as much from their AV solutions. Telepresence robots are controlled wirelessly and represent a more complicated end of the spectrum, while a mere absence of wires in the meeting room represents the new, simple standard moving forward.

Power Over Ethernet (PoE)

For those devices that are not wireless and connect via copper cabling, the ability to power them with […]

By |June 9th, 2016|Blog|1 Comment

Telepresence: Changing the Face of the World as We Know It

Technologies such as audio, video, the internet, and advanced robotics are changing the face of the world as we know it. Advancements in those technologies have led to lower prices and better quality, allowing users to see and hear crystal clear images and audio, and providing an immersive experience—as if they were in the same room with one another. The essence of telepresence is this: an experience akin to augmented reality where connection and collaboration over long distances are (ideally) indistinguishable from a geographically proximal meeting. Universities and higher education institutions around the globe are beginning to catch on, providing telepresence rooms to connect different researchers all working on the same projects, albeit in different parts of the world, as well as support for telepresence robots that now afford distance learners a virtual campus experience.

Telepresence Rooms

Telepresence falls into two different categories: robots and rooms. Telepresence rooms are gaining in popularity in business and academia as unified communications solutions because the products have become so refined and affordable. In the past, two researchers wishing to share findings with one another would either have to wait for a conference, a face-to-face meeting or suffer the grainy resolution and consistently dropped audio of video solutions of the past, which often rendered the experience useless.

Today new telepresence systems employ life-size HD displays with built-in, remote-controlled high-definition cameras and audio equipment supported by high-bandwidth connectivity. Scientists have helped to make these systems prevalent on campuses because sharing findings via new telepresence technology is strikingly realistic. The California Community Colleges Confer project is one current supporter of telepresence systems, allowing those within their system to meet and share findings remotely, while students from both the University of Melbourne and the University […]

By |June 8th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Balancing Connection in an Uber-Connected World

We all know the cliché. The woman who wakes up, reaches for the phone, checks her email, RSS feeds, social media notifications, industry news reports—the works—all before she gets out of bed. Or maybe it’s the man who, after the morning shower, sits down at the kitchen table with his family, buries his nose in his iPhone, and responds to industry partners, pays the household bills, and checks market reports while breakfast gets cold. As technology further permeates every aspect of our lives, many of us see versions of ourselves in these examples. Pew Research’s latest study on teen Internet usage reports on how often teens and adults find themselves online reflect that reality, adding, for the first time, “almost constantly” connected as a survey option. This survey option marks uncharted territory, indicating that we’ve become more connected than we ever have been before—but is all this connection a good thing?

“Almost Constantly” Connected is Becoming the Norm

The “almost constantly” option first showed up in Pew’s report on teens in April of 2015 and was used again in their December report on adults later that year. Almost a quarter of teen respondents, 24 percent, stated that they were “almost constantly” online while 21 percent of adults indicated the same. In comparison, 42 percent of adults stated that they go online “several times a day,” 10 percent reported “about once a day,” 6 percent reported “several times a week”, and 7 percent chose “less often”. Only 13 percent of adults in this survey reported that they did not use the internet at all.

Pew’s survey and reports were related mostly to usage of smartphones and other mobile internet devices, supported by findings from an earlier Pew Report that […]

By |June 7th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

How Cloud-Based Interoperability Will Turbo-Charge Collaboration

Cloud-based interoperability is quickly becoming essential for teams wishing to achieve high levels of collaboration and communication, and the marketplace is finally catching on. Microsoft and Polycom recently announced that they will jointly deliver the industry’s first cloud-based video interoperability service by the end of 2016, allowing Microsoft customers to leverage their existing video investments while uniting with those of other vendors. This joint initiative marks the beginning of a wider trend, where those that embrace cloud-based interoperability will experience turbo-charged collaboration while those slow on the uptake will be left behind.

Cloud Collaboration and Interoperability

Collaboration software’s dependence on the cloud has never been more apparent than now. “People are using mobile devices to do everything they do,” says Josh Steimle, contributor to Forbes, “and if there is something they can’t do on their mobile phone, they’re frustrated and ready to leap to the first offering that comes along.”

Cloud-based integrations have traditionally allowed off-site employees to connect their devices with a company’s core collaboration software, supporting a rise in remote teams among the global workforce. Interoperability is the next step in collaboration and productivity, referring to the seamless integration of multiple third party tools with a cloud-based collaboration suite. These tools can range from CRM or help desk software to online accounting and VOIP services, but currently, the biggest player in cloud-based interoperability is streaming video and video conferencing.

The Rise of Web Real-Time Communication: The Death of Internal Email?

In 2014 and 2015, the heavy hitters of the Internet browser game began supporting Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), an open-source technology and API standard that bypasses traditional phone networks to offer data sharing as well as voice and video calling, all in-browser, no additional application required. Chrome, Firefox, […]

By |May 17th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

The Cyber Fears Hospitals Face Today: What You Need to Know

Today’s hospitals are as digitally connected as any other modern facility—but their data is often much more sensitive. Unfortunately, many health care facilities aren’t doing enough to protect their equipment, patients, and connected devices from cyberattacks.

In early 2016, one hospital in California was forced to pay $17,000 in ransom to cybercriminals to protect the hospital and its patients. The attackers locked down the hospital’s network for ten days, leaving patients at risk and health care providers in a precarious position. Hospitals don’t typically go public with information about cyberattacks, but a report from the Ponemon Institute found that 90 percent of health care facilities faced breaches in 2014 and 2015.

How Unified Communications Can Help Prevent Breaches

Hospitals who deploy unified communications (UC) and video conferencing may be in a better position to halt attacks in progress and stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security measures. UC technology can automatically notify IT security staff or equipment vendors when equipment has been breached.

Hospital IT specialists can meet with vendors or manufacturers and even receive virtual training through video conferencing to ensure hardware and firmware are up to date and secure. By working together, vendors and health care providers can strengthen defenses against cyberattacks in multiple ways.

Discover Cyber Attack Entry Points

Attackers have numerous pathways to access hospital networks and bring operations to a halt. Connected electronic medical equipment resides on the hospital’s internal network, as do confidential patient records. While internal systems are secure, attackers gain access to hospital computers connected to both the internal networks and the internet. Hospitals that offer Wi-Fi to patients and visitors may also create a vulnerable entry point for cybercriminals.

Today’s “smart”—that is, network-connected—medical implants may also represent an attack entry point. Devices such […]

By |May 10th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments
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