February 1, 2014 Audio & Web Conferencing, Budgeting & Reducing Costs, Hosted Systems, Phone Systems, The Cloud It goes without saying that our region is in the midst of one of the worst winters we have ever seen. Dangerously low temperatures, frequent power outages, and travel nightmares have led business owners to rethink the way they operate during such winters to stay productive and meaningful in the business world. Many have turned to telecommuting options to allow their employees to work from home, but have found that they lack the technology and structure to make this a viable ongoing option. Employees find it difficult to communicate and collaborate with others when they are out of the office, hindering their ability to work at full capacity. In addition, business owners are challenged with ensuring that each and every one of their employees is working to the highest degree, without taking away their telecommuting privileges. Although there are a full range of tools and technologies that enable effective, productive, and monitored telecommuting, one of the most critical is Audio, Video and Web Conferencing. We find that many business owners we talk to haven’t really considered implementing these services due to lack of awareness or the fear of high costs. Others have already implemented a conferencing service of some sort, but are often not making use of all it has to offer. At ETA, we believe that the best way to handle all of these concerns is by conducting a comprehensive needs analysis survey. This includes a thorough examination of your conferencing needs, a complete audit of your current conferencing services, and a full analysis of your budgetary requirements. When we truly understand all of your needs and requirements, we can recommend a solution that is aligned with your business strategy and provides a solid ROI. Some of the key elements we examine include: Conferencing Needs- To determine your business’ conferencing needs, it is important to consider a number of different things: Frequency of conference calls Number of users on a call Number of internal vs. external calls Use of video during calls The need for document or presentation sharing during calls Current Conferencing Services- When performing an audit of your current conferencing services, we work to identify what current technologies you use, and whether they are properly serving your business and technology needs. With a wide array of hardware, software, and Web-based options available, it can be difficult for the lay person to determine what technology is most productive and cost efficient for their business. In some cases, businesses find the conferencing software within their phone system to be enough. While most phone systems typically include basic audio conferencing capabilities, there are restrictions on the number of users that can participate at any given time. For businesses that predominately use conferencing for internal collaboration an in-house, privately owned server to run their conferencing services is often a good fit. These businesses value the “control” and options they receive from an in-house server. This is especially important for those businesses that participate in a lot of internal conferencing, such as team meetings and training sessions. An increasingly common way businesses manage conferencing is through a Cloud-based service, utilizing a conferencing provider such as such as VoxNet Conferencing, PGi, WebEx, and Microsoft Office Live Meeting. Cloud-based Audio, Video, and Web Conferencing doesn’t rely on internal bandwidth, making this approach ideal for businesses that regularly use conferencing for large outside audiences, including mass-marketed Webinars. Cloud-based services are also a perfect choice for businesses that need access to a variety of conferencing options, but may not need to use every service all the time. For example, a company may have daily audio conference calls with their local staff, but only utilize video conferencing for their monthly international team conferences. Many businesses find this subscription, or “pay as you go” option, to be the most fitting for their needs. Budgetary Requirements- Our customers typically find that the benefits of integrating Audio, Video, and Web Conferencing services into their existing business communications infrastructure far exceed the costs. For one, a thoroughly integrated conferencing strategy can drastically reduce, or even eliminate, the time and money you currently spend on travel. In addition, conferencing services remove geographical barriers, allowing your business to openly consult with a new hire or a client from a distant location. For a small expense, businesses can more efficiently and effectively maintain quality relationships and personal connections both internally and externally; a long-term reward that no business would turn down. By providing access to a broad range of technologies and leveraging our relationships with 50+ service providers, ETA is able to match your specific business conferencing needs with the most appropriate solution, all while reducing expenses and enhancing efficiency.