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Is your video conferencing fit to facilitate a winter of remote working?

video conferencing
(Image credit: Image Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock)

In the UK, large numbers of employees are once again working from home, and are inevitably relying on video calls to stay connected. As almost all employee communication and collaboration will be held on this channel for the foreseeable future - now is the time to look at the effectiveness of your current provider.

It is worth assessing any security issues, or problems with usability they may have had, as well as how that platform has coped with increased demand. As illustrated when Microsoft Teams went down in September, this can threaten business continuity.

The following guide will help you take the right steps to pick the optimal solution for your business, and to ensure that your employees are as efficient and collaborative as possible over the winter months. 

Evaluate the extent to which your current solution meets your business requirements

When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, many businesses opted for a quick solution to the immediate problem of short-notice remote working, scrambling to employ any video conferencing solution. Often the decision of which platform to choose was rushed, and focused on what solution was available, and not whether it met business requirements.

Now is the perfect time to evaluate whether the solution you chose is the right solution. Consider how well it has held up throughout lockdown when demand was at its highest. Think about where the functionality may have fallen short or anything you would want to improve. This will help to determine whether or not you need something that better fits your needs.

Check the reputation of your video conferencing provider

Looking at the reputation of your provider, will help to give you a good idea of what you can expect in the future. Has it had serious downtime or issues in the recent past? How has it responded to any issues its platform has encountered previously? If outages and issues happen frequently, it’s likely that this will continue and you may want to consider alternative providers, particularly those with a business SLA and a low downtime guarantee.

Prioritize security

Security is essential and should be as important when choosing your meetings or collaboration provider as it is to the rest of your business. Firstly, are you sure your provider is keeping your people and your data secure? How does your provider manage data - does it pass through other countries or entities? Is your data encrypted, and does the service keep up with the latest data security standards? If you’re unsure or not happy with the answer to any of these questions, then you should seriously consider moving to a more secure alternative.

Look for companies that have recommendations from the likes of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) or industry leading security certifications such as ISO/IEC 27001, which ensures that your data remains encrypted and safe across the service, end-to-end. That way your business is less likely to be affected by breaches.

Consider the upgrade path for any free/freemium tools

Using free or freemium products can help to keep costs down, but there’s a reason that these solutions are free. Often it’s the most basic package available, with standard features rather than tailored. You might not have access to all the collaboration features your users need, or the platform features - like security - that your business demands.

Consider instead an enterprise offering, which not only provides a better range of products and features, but also comes with comprehensive service and support benefits, should they be needed. An enterprise solution does not need to be expensive. Many SaaS solutions have low monthly fees and offer a range of pricing plans, making it simpler to find the model that works for you and is tailored to your organization’s size and needs. And if you’re still committed to free or freemium, then take a good look at the upgrade options available to you, so you can move seamlessly to the right enterprise package when you are ready.

Boost employee efficiency with integration and interoperability

Since you’ve been remote working, how often have video meetings started late because participants have had difficulty joining? Some video conferencing solutions make it difficult to join a meeting straight from your calendar and the process can often be complicated, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the platform.

The key to preventing this issue is integration. Select a provider that enables quick and easy scheduling and works seamlessly with Outlook and Google calendars as well as your room conferencing system. Make sure meetings can start easily and promptly, whether invitees are joining from their own device or from a meeting room. Also, ensure that your teams really can collaborate with anyone. Choose a solution that enables people to join meetings on any platform at the touch of a button, without them having to type in complex login details or codes for each meeting.

Consider a provider that owns and operates its own systems

Some popular video conferencing and collaboration tools rely on third parties to help run or support their platforms, which can present reliability issues, as well as security concerns for your users and your IT teams. Companies that own and run their own platforms can ensure reliability and availability because they control the solution end-to-end. They can stop issues arising, as part of platform design and management, and if there are problems, they can be fixed much faster. You’ll also see additional security benefits, as information is not passed to other organizations, for example.

Invest in the right in-office technology if you have a mix of in-office and at home workers

Having a mix of at-home and in-office workers presents its own challenges. With this hybrid way of working set to be ‘the new normal’, businesses need to make sure employees can access video collaboration with ease, regardless of whether they are at home or in the office. The right outcome needs to be high quality calls, messaging and meetings, in a single solution that people find easy to use, and easy to connect with others. It needs to provide a seamless user experience, whether people are on laptops, tablets or mobile devices, or in an office meeting room or space with dedicated systems.

Remote working is here to stay so communication and collaboration tools need to be as simple and hassle-free as possible. Considering these issues should give your IT and security team fewer sleepless nights and minimize the risk of downtime that costs money.

Sam Jansen, Chief Technology Officer, StarLeaf

Sam Jansen is StarLeaf's Chief Technology Officer and one of the company's longest standing employees, joining as a founder member of the engineering team more than 10 years ago.