Archive for the ‘Web Conferencing’ category

From Third World to World Class – Through Virtual Conferencing

May 2nd, 2017

How new technologies in general,  and video conferencing in particular, can address many traditional problems of third world countries in less than no time.

There are some basilar services that are taken  for granted in the US  or western Europe,  but that are often missing in a town ofthe third world, like uninterrupted electricity or water supplies. In Nepal, for example, people are extremely pleased when they get continual electricity supplies for eight hours a day. In most African countries, the fulfillment of a simple task as going to the post office can be extremely challenging and time-demanding due to the poor state of roads. In the Philippines, the state of toilets in public schools is so poor that students meet great difficulties in doing their business in the bathroom.

However, the situation of public services has been slowly improving even in the poorest areas of the world thanks to technology in the last few years. The combination of mobiles, mobile apps and virtual conferencing has proved to be a great strategy to tackle many problems connected to distance, bad transportation and lack of a proper network to dispatch electricity. In this way, implementing good levels of governance become possible even in the worst possible conditions.

A smart example of the results that a wise use of technology allows government to obtain is given by mSurvey, a program launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo to improve democracy and participation. Being 65 % covered by rainforests, this African country has the typical problem of difficult transportation that makes travelling and consulting people extremely difficult. The solution has been to develop a mobile app though which citizens can obtain information about budget meetings. In this way, they can vote online and check what was decided simply by using their mobiles. They can also remind local authorities of their commitments and press them to take actions to fulfill people’s needs.

The success of MSurvey is not surprising. In many areas of the third world, it is easier to make a mobile work than continual electric light or water supply. On the other hand, a virtual conferencing product like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) allows a charity or a municipality to implement a local consultation system with the population safely and inexpensively. Being plug and play devices, the servers of the TurboMeeting suite do not need a devoted IT team; they are compatible with the existing main operating system for mobiles, and their graphic interface is optimized for small screens.

In Brazil, the State of Rio Grande do Sul has gone even further. Through the joint use of their mobiles and video conferencing, citizens can actively co-design solutions to address specific problems of their town or village. The “Governor asks” initiative has allowed more than 60.000 people to submit proposals and feedbacks and even face-to-face meetings with politicians and state officials.

In Kerala, a program called Akshaya makes it easy for citizens to obtain elementary services or documents like their driving license through their mobiles. In Bolivia, Nepal, Ghana and Zambia on Track enables students to report teachers that do not show up for class through a text message.  This mobile app has been developed with the aid of the World Bank with the purpose is to improve public services through a bigger citizen involvement.

What is the secret of this new success of virtual conferencing? In my opinion, the reasons are three: the easiness of implementation, the inexpensiveness, and the use of a common device like the mobile to vehiculate it. While it is difficult for many people to access to facilities like proper housing, mobiles are really at everybody’s reach. And implementing a system of consultation through video conferencing is certainly easier, quicker and cheaper than building roads, bridges and infrastructures.

These are only some few examples of how technology in general, and video conferencing in particular, can be used to improve people’s life. If you wish to learn more about this topic, you are going to find more resources on R-HUB`s blog at http://www.rhubcom.com

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6 Little known ways to quickly Enhance the Public action through Online Conferencing

April 24th, 2017

Emergency and crisis management, budget optimization, internal efficiency optimization, local governance empowerment: these are the main areas where online conferencing has proved to be more helpful for both citizens and public administrators.

In 2012, the superintendent of a school district of a county in Pennsylvania had to fire one fifth of his workforce and close three schools because of a multimillion deficit. He was not alone: 500 other superintendents were forced to take similar measures in the same period. More in general, the public action at all levels has been heavily hit by the necessity of cutting down on budgets in the last few years.

This does not come as a surprise:  the necessity of implementing severe budget reductions is a long-term trend that has been constantly troubling governments all over the world since the beginning of this century. According to an estimation of Calculated Risk (http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/) , over 600.000 jobs were lost in the US administration for this reason during Obama’s presidency only.

How can the government get by during hard times? The solution is technology. And among the available technologies, online conferencing is the most promising, as it allows the administration to improve performances at lower costs.  Have a look at the bills to understand this point: today, a good conferencing server like one of R-HUB`s TurboMeeting suite (http://www.rhubcom.com) is available on the market for less than 2000$. A public servant, for much more.

How can online conferencing enhance the public action once put on the field? I have counted six main areas at least:

Emergency preparation:  Webinars are a great and inexpensive way to prepare and train citizens to a catastrophic event. This reduces damages, panic and havoc when the event comes along.

Distance work: Clerks are able to communicate with supervisors and chefs in just one click, with substantial reduction of time and money wastes.

Crisis management: Information can be shared in real time and at zero cost. Unities on the field are able to keep constant contact with the central command at any stages of the operations.

Training and distance learning. Especially education could really profit from online conferencing. In rural areas, pupils will stay comfortably home, as their classrooms become virtual and the need of physical buildings to host those decreases. Parents will save a lot of time and money, and superintendents as well.

Planning and collaboration: In traditional bureaucracy, most of the time is lost in internal communication and coordination. Virtual conferences speed up bureaucratic processes and greatly help teams to fulfil tasks, like taking budget decisions or working together on projects.

Local governance: For officials, the personal interaction with citizens becomes a real possibility through virtual conferences, while access to officials is much easier for citizens. In this way, administrators can hear the citizens’ voice, set their actions consequently and build trust.

In conclusion, municipalities, local and state government can profit from virtual conferencing in several ways.  The benefits are also for citizens: they will enjoy a greater ease of access to public officers and services, while costs to bear will be fewer and, consequently, the amount of taxes to pay less.

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Distance Learning: 3 Major Challenges that Web Conferencing vendors have to face immediately

March 26th, 2017

Privacy concerns, mobile compatibility and full integration with the existing  equipment are three major challenges that producers have to take to craft specialized solutions for  educational institutions and continue growing in this segment of the web conferencing market.

Education is still an under-represented segment of the market of web conferencing, according to 2016 Contact North’s report (https://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/exploring-future-education/web-conferencing), but its potentiality of growth is high. According to Frost & Sullivan’s 2016 report, it is just from education, health care, manufacturing and retail that the foreseen 8.4% web conferencing market expansion of 2020 should come from. Yet, distance learning shows some critical issues that producers must take into due consideration, as they heavily impact on the decisions of educational institutions on this matter.

Privacy has always been an important issue for universities and colleges.  It is not a matter of obscure quibbles imposed by a weird legislation; behind, there are real concerns of safeguarding the academic freedom, and the desire to provide students with a seamless learning environment. For this reason, the more secure a web conferencing product is, the better it is.

This explains the reasons why on-premise server based solutions are preferred by educational institutions. R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) and Cisco’s WebEx are two example of this kind of products. They both offer a high level of security, integration and compatibility with tablets and mobiles. The difference is price. R-HUB is able to sell  their TurboMeeting servers  at a lower price than Cisco.

Mobile compatibility is crucial, as millennials learn using tablets even earlier than walking.  So, it is not surprising to discover that many students have relegated the old pc case tower to the museum and do everything by typing on the small screen of an iPhone 6. So, that much is true, designers of web conferencing products for education must pay particularly attention to create flexible, adaptable UI that works well even on these small devices.

Last but not least, integration with existing learning technologies is important, as educational institutions have already massively invested on educational equipment in the last few years. So, they prefer agile solutions that can be easily combined with the equipment they have to unified (but not-flexible) communication suites (UC). On the other hand, there aren’t yet available UC on the market that specifically target the needs of educational institutions.

In conclusion, educational institutions pose some specific challenges to vendors that shall be addressed in the near future.  On-premise server based solutions are still the most suitable for the segment, as they are able to combine privacy safeguard with flexibility, integration and mobile compatibility.

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Web Conferencing services for law firms: Better Private Clouding or On-Premise Servers?

March 21st, 2017

For law firms, private clouding for web conferencing is a trendy and tempting solution, as it merges scalability and multi-tenancy with high levels of security and the possibility of keeping direct control over one’s own data. But is private clouding really cost-effective compared with on-premise server based solutions? The answer is: “It depends on the provider”.

After the affair of Panama papers, the need of transmitting and storing data in a way that assures law firms the highest level of security has become more urgent than ever.  This involves directly web conferencing, as the quantity of sensitive data that are transmitted through virtual conferences and calls is huge, and the trend is on the increase (Frost & Sullivan’s 2016 report on web conferencing market).

Presently, the two technical solutions that offer the best in terms of security are on-premise server based services, like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) , and private cloud   conferencing services, like OmniJoin (http://brothercloud.com) . Some big IT industries like Cisco are able to offer both technologies (http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/conferencing/web-conferencing/index.html).

What makes the difference between these two technologies? The level of security is high in either case. What changes is their prices and, with specific reference with OmniJoin, their performances: this service is available in the US only and, therefore, it cannot support big law firms that work at a global scale.

Coming to outline the features of TurboMeeting servers, we must say that they are real plug-and-play machines that offer a highly integrated, all-in-one solution for web conferencing that embodies software, hardware, IT maintenance and upgrading. In other words, TurboMeeting replies the kind of service that it is possible to get from private clouding. It is highly scalable,thanks to its flat license policy; but the most cloud-like feature it has is that TurboMeeting has a fixed and predictable cost, a virtue that has been always much appreciated by managers.

There is need of neither devoted rooms and server cabinets, as R-HUB`s web conferencing servers are small and very silent devices that can be put on the shelf of a bookstore, nor  IT teams,  as upgrading is performed directly by R-HUB`s technicians  from remote. An interesting feature of TurboMeeting suite is the huge variety of services that its servers support. They go from HD audio and video conferencing to teleconference and remote pcs access and support. Prices start from $995.

The alternative to TurboMeeting is Cisco’s WebEx meetings servers, a private cloud based, cost-effective and behind-the-firewall solution that complies with the highest standards of security. Like TurboMeeting, it combines audio, video and web conferencing in a single solution and it is necessary to bring some hardware inside the firm (typically an edge server).  An important difference is that WebEx servers do not include remote pc support/access.

While the performances of Cisco’s WebEx meetings servers and R-HUB`s TurboMeeting servers are more or less similar, the difference lays in the price. Although Cisco does not publish the prices of its servers, it is not difficult to guess that they must be higher than TurboMeeting, as Cisco’s on-line conferencing services are sold at $69 per month now. However, Cisco’s advantage on R-HUB could be its longer experience and the global coverage that reaches even China.

In conclusion, private cloud based and on-premise server based web conferencing solutions offer, more or less, the same. Price is often the only distinguishing feature. So, it can be a good rationale to make a choice.

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Web Conferencing: Some few good reasons to keep away from Cloud-based Solutions

March 19th, 2017

Clouds – with their sequel of weird acronyms like SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, to finish with the DaaS –have become the new mantra of web conferencing industry. But are cloud-based solutions always helpful? Do not take the answer for granted. Let’s see some few issues connected with the cloud technology that could lead you to opt for an on-premise server based solution eventually.

Last year, I met a web designer in a co-working place that utilized some cloud-based web conferencing services to communicate with its customers.  I discovered that he often had to cope with server hangouts, overloaded bandwidth, poor quality of connections, and other technological hitches. It depended in part from the local infrastructure of the co-working place, in part from the remote networks from which the web conferencing services that he were using were distributed. I realized abruptly that even cutting-edge technologies have their flaws, and that it is important to be able to distinguish between illusions and delusions, when the time comes to make one’s own choice.

For example, cloud based services have some hidden costs that fatally come out when you least expect it. A big problem is connected with the power of your connection: especially HD video conferences stream a lot of data and consume big quantities of bandwidth. So, there is no point in getting connected to the most powerful cloud-based web conferencing service, when you live in a rural area or in a place where the pipe that connects your office to the cloud is narrow.  And if you need to equip a remoted ranch or farm with a fast internet connection in order to enjoy the advantage of cloud-based services, you could discover that a traditional on-premise server -based conference call service costs less and works as well.

One of the main problems of providers of cloud-based web conferencing services is the high cost of the outbound bandwidth from cloud servers. They often sneakily translate this cost upon their customers, by setting specific limitations to the use of their services in combination  with  the obligation to subscribe a business plan( that is far from being inexpensive)  on those who wish to enjoy the full  range of tools and features  of the product.

So, if you compare the offers of different providers of web conferencing services, you will find out that only basic plans are cheap, and that when the time comes to get something more powerful and reliable, it is necessary to pull out the money from the wallet and buy a business or premium plan. And if you compare the business plans that cloud-based web conferencing service providers offer with on-premise based web conferencing solutions , like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) , you will immediately find out that the latter not only cost less, but it also offers much more in terms of security, reliability and easiness of implementation.

In conclusion, do not take for granted that a cloud-based web conferencing solution is automatically fit for your needs and makes you save money. Mantras work in Tibet, not on the global market, where it is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of every single decision.

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