Brought to you by IPC Tech — Platinum Certified Mitel Support Partner specializing in connecting your business applications to optimize your communication experience.

Dante’s Inferno depicts hell as nine circles of suffering. Many a modern-day business user would add a 10th circle for conference calls.

Conference calls are meant to encourage collaboration between far-flung coworkers and team members, but they frequently become boring and unproductive. No wonder they fail to hold our attention. One study found that most business users admit to working on other tasks, eating, checking social media, playing video games or shopping online during conference calls.

Video conferencing platforms change all that by creating multiple ways to engage users and share ideas. Participants can see, hear and speak to each other, share documents, exchange files, and remotely access each other’s desktops. Such collaborative abilities are becoming critical for supporting an increasingly mobile workforce.

Business and IT leaders overwhelmingly agree about video’s collaborative value. According to a variety of surveys, 98 percent of business users say video conferencing encourages relationship-building inside and outside the company, 94 percent say it increases productivity and 89 percent say that it reduces time to complete tasks.

However, enthusiasm has been dampened by persistent cost, complexity and technical barriers. A common complaint is that video conferencing isn’t easy enough. On average, nearly a third of a 30-minute meeting is eaten up just getting the technology to work. Technical glitches and bandwidth constraints can lead to dropped connections, garbled audio and frozen video.

Easy Does It

Cloud-based video conferencing platforms offer a convenient way around those hindrances. In addition to the economic advantages of shifting to an OpEx delivery model, cloud solutions also make it very easy to deploy, use and support business-class video conferencing.

Cost is an obvious consideration. For large enterprise organizations with audio-visual expertise on staff, it may well be worth spending $500,000 on a system that supports more than 100 simultaneous users. For most organizations, however, that will be overkill. Business-class cloud solutions that support up to 50 simultaneous users for an affordable monthly subscription don’t require large, upfront capital expenditures.

Best of all, cloud solutions make it easy for non-technical business users to start or join conferences across any device. It typically only takes a few seconds to start or join a meeting, and the applications are so intuitive that users rarely have trouble engaging with other participants.

Overcoming Obstacles

Platform interoperability has always been an issue with on-premises video conferencing. Participants are often on disparate systems that use of variety of video coding and decoding (codec) formats. Typically, these various media streams must be translated and converted to a common language by a gateway — a resource-intensive process that can affect video and voice quality. Additionally, communications outside the network typically require complex firewall configuration changes.

Cloud solutions eliminate these issues. APIs enable communication through a web browser that contains all the underlying codecs as well as encryption and bandwidth management features. Firewall traversal tools allow systems on different networks to communicate securely without user involvement.

Cloud offerings are also easy to administer and manage. Online dashboards make it simple to perform diagnostics, generate usage reports, manage address books and update calendars. Providers handle many other tasks such as updating the software, ensuring you’re always running the latest version.

The business case for video conferencing has been convincingly established. With workforces becoming more mobile and dispersed, the technology bridges geographic boundaries to reduce travel costs, improve collaboration and promote stronger business relationships. Cloud video conferencing amplifies those benefits through improved usability, reduced costs and simplified management.