“No man is an island entire unto itself,” wrote John Donne. Even people who spend most of their workday alone in a cubicle must interact with others from time to time. People form groups to take care of needs that they can’t meet by themselves. As organizations grow larger, they require the formation of the groups of people who work in different locations. Those locations can be different floors of the same building, different cities or even different countries. Even small companies can operate from multiple locations.
Live meetings of people who live far apart require renting meeting rooms, transporting equipment, travel, and absence of people from their own workplaces. Person-to-person meetings therefore entail great expense. More and more companies prefer to conduct virtual meetings. Videoconferencing is more convenient, cost effective, and efficient than traveling, or even walking from one part of a building or campus to another.
Limitations of video conferencing
Unfortunately video conferencing often fails. It requires expensive equipment, and meeting organizers often run into difficulty. First they need to adapt their presentations to the inherent limitations on interaction. Second, most likely they are not skilled and using the technology.
Participants are likely to have technical difficulties of their own. They have to use the chat box to communicate their needs. The moderator can hardly be expected to run the meeting and make sure the technology is working at the same time. Therefore the success of a video conference depends on additional staff to provide technical support while a meeting is going on. What’s more, the first platforms to offer videoconferencing started out as webinar hosts and added new features later. They do not provide an attractive appearance.
Additional confusion arises from incompatibility of different protocols or equipment made by different manufacturers. Video conferencing infrastructure is usually secured behind firewalls. Organizers and participants are each likely to be behind different firewalls. Participants must dial into the organizers internal network, and therefore make sure the firewall trusts their IP.
Even when the technology works perfectly at the organizer’s end, everyone else who participates must have a complimentary system. Participants watch the meeting on the screen but can usually participate only through the chat box. The speaker can’t see the audience or people’s reactions. To make all of this work, organizers and technicians must spend considerable time and energy setting up the equipment and testing it before the meeting begins.
Video conferencing in the cloud
Over the last few years, an improved method a video conferencing has been developed by companies like Blue Jeans that offer cloud based live streaming online video. Conducting online meetings from the cloud is much less expensive. Companies only need to purchase high definition video cameras, microphones, speakers, and perhaps a flat-screen TV or other monitor. The service provider owns all the other equipment and handles all of the tasks of setting it up and operating it. The company pays a subscription.
The high cost of traditional video conferencing has limited its use to large companies. Using the cloud even small businesses can afford it. The cost has been reduced to the cost of an ordinary audio connection.
Using the cloud provides interoperability between different systems. All the participants can communicate no matter what system or how many different systems they use. It also makes bandwidth needs scalable. It is no longer necessary to pay for all the bandwidth and ports needed for the company’s largest conferences and not use it all for the smaller ones.
Providers of cloud-based video conferencing service can accommodate conversation between two individuals and anything from small groups of people in two different rooms to thousands of participants in as many as 100 different places. They enable truly global meetings.
Web-based meetings allow participants to take part in a comfortable setting, from their own office or even their home. Everyone dials out. The interaction takes place on neutral ground not protected by either side’s firewall. Participants can use not only a computer, but they can download an app to their cell phone or tablet and use their mobile devices join the conference.
Cloud-based video conferencing allows interactive communication. It removes the barrier between the presenters and the audience. Viewers can notify the moderator, essentially raising their hand virtually, that they want to speak. The moderator can enable them to go live.
The system can simultaneously broadcast a standard video signal and high resolution VGA using a standard known as dual stream. The audience can see the speaker and the presentation’s visual aids at the same time on two different monitors.
Because people can interact with a live video feed in real-time, they can be more involved in the meeting. Perhaps more important, they can develop stronger relationships with colleagues, clients, customers, or vendors who work in distant locations.