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Meetings are a daily reality for most professionals, whether it's a one-on-one meeting with a direct manager or a team huddle to discuss a client or project. These business meetings are more frequently hosted online through popular platforms like Cisco Webex, Zoom and GoToMeeting.
Online meetings are even more important as companies look to reduce travel expenses and still promote interactive meetings among attendees. But, until recently, to equip a conference room with a camera, speakers and microphones was costly -- especially if IT considered an integrated platform from Cisco, Crescent or Microsoft. The cost of these systems can start at $6,000.
With Microsoft's rising success with its Teams collaboration platform, the option to bring it into conference rooms is certainly justified. Microsoft, too, is addressing its competition with new features in the Microsoft Teams Rooms system that make it an attractive option for IT administrators. But IT must address hardware and security concerns when deploying the system.
Simplified deployment and hardware options
Microsoft Teams Rooms is attractive to existing Office 365 users, who can book a conference room by adding a room to their Teams meeting invitation. Once attendees are actually in the room, they can launch the meeting by using the Teams Rooms console on a touchscreen device. By making the controls of the room system touch-friendly, end users find the system intuitive and easy to use.
Since Microsoft Teams Rooms is preinstalled on the system hardware, IT can focus on deploying the hardware and providing end-user training. IT can choose from a range of hardware vendors that support the Microsoft Teams Rooms system, including Lenovo, Poly, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Yealink and Logitech. This flexibility also encourages competition and innovation among the hardware vendors.
IT can buy a Microsoft Teams Rooms system for $1,785 and installation is generally straightforward.
New features enhance meetings
Microsoft has introduced several new features to Teams Rooms and Teams meetings. These features include:
- Real-time transcription. Having a system transcribe all the spoken words is a helpful feature for teams taking notes to keep up with action items and discussion points during the meeting. This feature is available in all Teams meetings.
- Inline and real-time translation. With many companies doing business globally, a conferencing platform that offers built-in translation services is pretty useful. This feature, still in Preview mode, will support more than 60 languages.
- Proximity detection. Teams Rooms supports proximity detection, which uses beacon technology to recognize and autologin users entering the conference room based on hardware pairing. When a tablet or mobile device is paired with the room system, the system will automatically display all the meetings scheduled for that specific user.
Teams Rooms hardware and security cautions
Despite all these advantages, IT administrators are facing some setbacks as they roll out new Microsoft Teams Rooms systems.
One area of concern is the different versions of Teams included with meeting room hardware. Depending on the hardware's release date, the Teams software within the hardware may be several versions behind the latest edition. IT may have difficulty maintaining these systems as some hardware does not provide a clear and easy way to update the software.
Security is also a concern for these systems as they are currently configured with a default universal three-letter password that is available online. IT will likely need to change the password upon deployment to prevent others from changing the console settings.
The Microsoft Teams Rooms system is poised to improve meetings and collaboration. Considering Microsoft's market share for email, cloud storage and content collaboration, adding an integrated room system is attractive to IT administrators. But, before committing to any particular hardware option, IT should make a thorough comparison to select the hardware that meets their conference room needs.