Selecting the best technology for your company is a big deal, but far more than the latest smartphone, power-user desktop or laptop, you need to consider how to conduct the meetings you, your management staff, and their teams need in order to move the company forward. Multiple industries such as aerospace, education, medicine, and technology use virtual meetings (also called video conferencing) to cut down on the hard and soft costs of business travel. Choosing the best technology for your meetings is a vitally important point, especially as you grow, and meeting demands become more diverse and frequent.
Previously, room-based video conferencing systems have been high-ticket items that many smaller companies have forgone, wither because of the expense in capital outlay for equipment and often a dedicated server, a pricy high-bandwidth internet connection, and the need for an entire subsection of an IT department to maintain and operate it. Factoring in the procedure needed to schedule a meeting, and the fact that some of these could only talk to same-maker, or other high-ticket systems, video conferencing ability remained fairly well stuck in the CRT era with pixilated talking heads and lagging audio. Rigid, inflexible, and one size fits all was something that a lot of companies felt they could take a pass on.
However, as the need to attend multiple meetings per week grew into multiple meetings per day, in an increasingly global workplace, travel days soared, and travel expenses hit a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet. When the bubble burst with the advent of the Recession in 2009, new solutions were needed to keep the information flowing, without the cash going with it. In a way, Apple’s first iPhone and Android phones can be said to have started it all. Smart phones make use of cloud-based technologies to run applications and store information, and operate far beyond what they processor speed and onboard RAM might suggest. Many early adopters of computers like to say that they current smartphone exceeds the capabilities of their first computer.
Cloud technology is best explained as software and services that are based on the internet instead of operating from the hard dive of your computer, according to CNN. It’s the reason that you can order a song on iTunes, watch a video on YouTube, work with Photoshop without buying a creative suite, or check the balance on your Capital One credit cards all from your phone while you’re moving about your day. All that information is hosted on a widely distributed network of servers, and accessed by individual users via their devices such as desktops, tablets, and mobile phones.
The technology behind cloud–based virtual meetings with apps such as – for instance – Blue Jeans means that instead of being hosted on your server’s or desktop’s hard drive, the application for hosting a virtual meeting with the Blue Jeans network is distributed across the internet on multiple servers. When you access the application, you do so via your device of choice, instead of running the program on that device itself. This means that you have access to all the varied services of the service without buying the whole thing. That means a scalable, flexible model that can tackle room-based meetings, yet bring in far-flung team members from wherever they are, on whatever device they are using at the time. Being able to connect with anyone, anywhere, for that all important face time is a big plus that emails and teleconferences simply don’t cover.
Companies have a lot of different reasons for going video, but one of the main reasons is the “soft costs” that while they don’t appear in the hard numbers nonetheless have an effect on them. Busy professionals cite the stress of meetings coming in two ways, according to a Verizon study. First there is concern about family obligations and care situations, and the second is the disruption of their daily workflow while they are out of the office. Then there are the deeper concerns about the effects of heavy travel on meeting goers, with 20 more days per month spent in the air or on the road having a negative impact on health and wellbeing, according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental medicine.
These costs result in lost work days over and above those spent in travel, with stress and health concerns at times driving even the most dedicated frequent flyer to burn out and disengagement. Reengaging and redirecting those energies and funds previously dedicated to enriching airlines and hotels into a leaner, more efficient method of meeting can result in a much happier, much healthier employee, and a far more productive workforce – all accomplished by getting everyone’s head in the cloud.