Telepresence, VNOC Services Key to Keeping Connected

Sometimes it takes unfortunate events to truly value technology

Sometimes it takes unfortunate events to truly value technology. The volcano in Iceland froze air travel in Europe in the past week, affecting people all over the world who wanted to get into or out of Europe.

Several technologies helped. People used mobile phones to call colleagues and families; laptops with wireless Internet access to book hotel rooms, conduct desktop video conferences, or simply to work; and indeed, business suites to conduct immersive telepresence sessions.

Nearly half (49%) of all companies are using or evaluating telepresence. Typically, these evaluations center around improving collaboration, reducing travel costs, or boost sales. Though some companies do use video conferencing as a disaster-recovery tool, I doubt anyone said: “If there’s a volcano whose ash prevents air travel across an entire continent, we can replace face-to-face meetings with telepresence.” (And if you know anyone who did, ask them to predict the next lottery drawing in your area!)

But it goes to show that the use of advanced technology provides benefits in ways we can’t imagine.

One of the keys, though, to successful adoption of technology is to make sure it performs well. Employees have low tolerance to begin with when it comes to video conferencing, because it often didn’t work as advertised in the 1990s and early 2000s—choppy performance, user-unfriendly, etc.

Many large organizations we benchmarked in our latest round of research rely upon Video Network Operations Center (VNOC) services. Large, global companies spend about $100,000 a year on these services (though costs can vary depending on the size of the telepresence rollout).

The services basically provide 24 x 7 monitoring and management of the service, and they help anyone in a telepresence suite having problems establishing their conference. Several IT professionals told me they view these services as “insurance policies” to make sure the executives using the suites have a predictable, high-performance experience, and if there is any problem along the way, a tech support person is literally just one push of a button away.

Several providers offer these VNOC services, including AT&T, BT, Glowpoint, Masergy, Teleris, and others. Most recently, Verizon rolled out its Immersive Video Conferencing Service for Cisco Telepresence.

If you’re rolling out telepresence, it makes sense to use a VNOC service for at least the first year while the company is getting accustomed to the service. Some companies drop or reduce the service levels after about a year because—yes, it’s true—the services are quite easy to manage and operate.

If you haven’t considered telepresence yet, don’t wait for the next volcano (or hurricane, typhoon, or tornado). If you can make the business case work (which isn’t too difficult with prices dropping and benefits increasing) and rely upon managed services to keep customer satisfaction high, you never know when this technology will help you next.

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