Cloud-based video conferencing represents one of the greatest advances in small to medium-size business communication in years. It gives smaller companies a powerful means of communicating that was formerly available only to large enterprises. But the available services are far from consistently useful. They come with a large variety of approaches, capabilities and features. At the same time, SMBs come in a larger variety of forms and structures than larger companies. Thus, for smaller companies choosing the right cloud video conferencing service to meet one's specific needs can be tricky.
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There's no question that video conferencing is well on its way to becoming a routine business tool. It is already common in enterprises, thanks in large part to Cisco's success in pushing high-end telepresence systems into the largest organizations. But it's also growing rapidly among SMBs, largely due to the increasing availability of affordable cloud-based services. And for companies of any size, all signs point to more of the same. Case in point: A new advance by ScienceLogic Inc. has serious potential to accelerate both enterprise and SMB use.
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Video conferencing was a lot more interesting to watch in 2011 than was VoIP. It wasn't that nothing happened in VoIP during the year. It was just that a lot more happened in video conferencing. This was especially true in the SMB space. Early summer saw a slew of significant announcements from vendors and providers. These announcements figured prominently in the VoIP Evolution report "SMB Video Conferencing: Getting Beyond Clouds & Interoperability."
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Cisco's recently introduced cloud TelePresence offering considerably complicates life for small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) shopping for video conferencing solutions. On one hand, it adds an impressive new option to the list of available products. On the other, it increases the number of questions companies must answer before making their purchasing decisions. In short, while the introduction broadens the range of choices for SMBs looking to use video conferencing on a regular basis, it also makes their decision-making process more difficult.
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Judging from the pace of recent announcements, mobile video conferencing may be a hotter topic than SMB video conferencing. In the past week alone, at least three suppliers have come out with new offerings. One is CounterPath, which is adding video conferencing capabilities to the next edition of its Bria soft phone for iPhone. This is the first step in a strategy to extend integrated voice, messaging, presence and video calling to all leading PC and mobile platforms.
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Serious excitement surrounds the SMB (small to medium-size business) video conferencing space these days. In June and July alone, no fewer than eight companies – 8x8, Blue Jeans Network, BroadSoft, InFocus, LifeSize, Polycom, Telesphere and Vidtel – announced new hardware, services, tie-ups or some combination thereof. All of the announcements represented significant investments of time, effort and resources. And together, they indicated a widespread optimism that the market is about to take off.
Even in pre-takeoff mode, though, the market has already spawned a hefty body of conventional wisdom. Most of it takes the form of ardent convictions surrounding clouds and interoperability. One of these is the belief that cloud solutions are the ideal way to meet almost every SMB video conferencing need. A related one is faith that providing interoperability is the surest route to success for cloud providers. A new VoIP Evolution report, SMB Video Conferencing: Getting Beyond Clouds & Interoperability, both explains why it's necessary to get beyond such conventional wisdom, and provides a method for doing so.
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