Video conferencing (VC) is without a doubt a valuable asset for today’s business, as it enables face-to-face interactions across geographic boundaries without the need for costly and environmentally unfriendly travel, among other benefits. However, given the sheer variety of different VC tools, solutions and platforms available, along with the complications of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon and proprietary protocols from certain vendors, interoperability between these solutions has proven to be a challenge. Often, particularly in proprietary environments, in order to conduct multi-party videoconferences, each participant has to be using the same device, or at the least a device from the same vendor or brand. This limits the use of VC solutions, preventing organisations from leveraging maximum value from these tools. A multi-connectivity solution is the ideal system to help organisations extend interoperability to any device and any platform, adding value and allowing the full benefits of VC to be leveraged.
“In a world where business is increasingly conducted across countries and across continents, VC offers enormous benefit. It delivers the benefits of personal attention and face-to-face communications, without the time, cost and environmental impact associated with travel. The softer benefit of this is that it allows teams to communicate with more people faster and more easily, without the traditional associated travel fatigue, which then improves their working experience. Aside from this, VC enables organisations to make decisions faster, and allows for easy collaboration, document sharing and document editing, no matter where the various parties are located. These benefits translate directly into benefits on the bottom line,” says Paul Fick, Divisional Managing Director of Jasco Enterprise.
However, these benefits can be limited by challenges such as lack of interoperability as well as the ever-present bandwidth issue. While many vendors have adopted open standards solutions, which ensure interoperability between different devices and platforms, there remain a number of solutions that still use proprietary video standards.
“When organisations have multiple offices each running their own solution, and wish to communicate using VC with customers and clients, there is no way of guaranteeing that all parties will be able to communicate effectively. When attempting to operate across platforms that use proprietary standards, the communication will often either fail to work completely or will work at reduced functionality levels, with some parties only able to connect video, while others may only achieve audio. This creates a frustrating environment that can limit adoption of VC solutions,” says Andre Deetlefs, Channel Account Manager at Avaya.
Bandwidth availability also remains a challenge, as high definition video can consume the availability bandwidth if non-optimised protocols are used, as in an environment where interoperability is a challenge. This can also be detrimental to the quality of communications, especially when QoS cannot be guaranteed.
In today’s business environment, where an organisation can consist of several smaller companies, each with their own disparate solutions, and organisations may wish to VC with clients and customers all over the world, this lack of interoperability is simply no longer allowed. Organisations have invested in VC solutions and expect the same quality of communications whether they are using the solution internally or to communicate with customers and channel partners. Added to this, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend enables employees to make use of their own devices in the workplace, or wherever they are, which means that they too need to be able to participate in videoconferences using the platform of their choosing.
“Bringing these solutions together while ensuring that bandwidth usage is optimised and quality of service (QoS) is guaranteed for a seamless experience may seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, thanks to advances in technology, multi-connectivity platforms have emerged to connect devices from different vendors and brands, as well as smartphones, tablets and notebooks, together for truly vendor-agnostic multi-party VC,” adds Fick.
These solutions provide a gateway to convert proprietary protocols to standards-based protocols, enabling products from different vendors, legacy solutions and even mobile devices to connect seamlessly, using optimised video codecs that minimise the bandwidth requirements and ensure QoS. This not only provides new levels of interconnectivity, it also allows organisations to leverage their existing investment, without needing to rip and replace solutions that were previously incompatible. A multi-connectivity solution can easily be deployed alongside the existing solution, ensuring interoperability without compromising on quality.
“These solutions not only protect existing VC investment, they also allow for easier migration towards standards-based SIP protocols by providing full functionality before and during a migration. They simplify the complexity of VC across multiple devices, and easily enable BYOD to be accommodated. Using multi-connectivity platforms, organisations can leverage greater value from their existing solutions, enabling the benefits of communication platforms to be realised more easily and in an integrated fashion,” Deetlefs concludes.