As enterprises become more distributed, video conferencing is enabling real-time employee collaboration. But businesses don't make their money solely with internal communication.
Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) communications can be just as crucial to many enterprises as internal communication and collaboration. Unfortunately, not every company and individual uses compatible video conferencing platforms.
San Jose, Calif.-based Polycom recently announced the availability of Polycom CloudAXIS, a software extension of its RealPresence platform for business video conferencing and collaboration. The software enables B2B and B2C video conferencing sessions by allowing Polycom users to include participants on other video conferencing platforms into a Polycom video conferencing session.
Polycom CloudAXIS: Making business video conferencing more ubiquitous
With new technologies like WebRTC enabling quick and easy browser-based video conferencing, users expect simplified, on-the-fly video conferencing capabilities in the workplace. Vendors should enable connections across their proprietary platforms.
"Users need to be able to communicate with people outside, as well as inside, their company quickly and easily," said Henry Dewing, principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.
Polycom CloudAXIS allows Polycom users to invite anyone with a browser and camera to join a secure video meeting via a URL link in an email or calendar invitation. Meeting organizers can also integrate their Skype, Facebook and Google Talk contacts into their CloudAXIS personal directory for the "click-to-connect convenience of a Web application," said Randy Maestre, vice president of worldwide industry and field and channel marketing for Polycom.
"Video should be ubiquitous, and part of that is extending video conferencing beyond the conference room or desktop," Maestre said. "CloudAXIS extends video collaboration to anyone with a browser -- like external partners or suppliers, customers and employees on the road."
Meeting invitees can join the video conference from a desktop, smartphone, tablet or room-based video system, he said.
Enterprises not only need to communicate with customers and partners; they also need video systems that can connect their mobile users, said Rich Costello, senior research analyst for unified communications and enterprise communications infrastructure at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.
"Mobile users with smartphones or any device with a camera can be invited and included in these Polycom-based video sessions," he said.
Secure external communication capabilities move video conferencing forward
Enterprises previously connecting to third parties had to worry about firewall issues and other security challenges. Polycom CloudAXIS overcomes security barriers because it is built on Polycom RealPresence, so a meeting organizer is still using Polycom infrastructure on the back end. "Video chat applications -- like Skype – don't have the enterprise-grade security element, but [CloudAXIS] is just as if the user is running an extension of a Polycom video call," Maestre said.
Security is one roadblock to video conferencing adoption that has plagued enterprises, both from an internal and external communications perspective, IDC's Costello said.
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The public address that invitees receive from Polycom CloudAXIS is generated by Polycom's infrastructure, which works on the back end to transcode the endpoints, Forrester's Dewing said.
"If enterprises put RealPresence onto a secure Web browser session, then it is every bit as secure as any application they will run," he said.
Browser-based video conferencing capabilities are making video conferencing more pervasive, but the technology is still in its infancy, Costello said. "When comparing video conferencing to how easy it is to make a phone call – it's obvious we are definitely not there yet with that level of interoperability."
However, a technology that allows users to join a video conference by clicking on a URL is a step in the right direction. "Video can be pushed from something that is used occasionally and is interesting, to something that is necessary for business," Dewing said.