Education may be one of the most promising markets for videoconferencing in 2011. Manufacturers and integrators are focusing their attention on K-12 schools and higher education institutions to get HD videoconferencing solutions into classrooms.
With video teleconferencing, students are able to connect with instructors from outside the classroom. Online classes take on a whole new meaning when students are no longer expected to essentially teach themselves by reading through lecture notes and taking online exams. With video technology, students taking online courses are able to see and hear their instructors, engaging them on a much higher level.
Schools in Idaho have certainly caught the drift. According to a recent story on iAnalyst.com, Richard McKenna Charter High School in Mountain Home, Idaho is piloting a new system from Vidyo for the school’s online seminar program along with the Idaho Digital Learning Academy.
The Vidyo software uses the latest videocoding standard to enable video stream to be layered and to offer rangers of resolutions, quality levels and bit rates. The VidyoRouter eliminates the multipoint control unit and replaces it with a router, streaming layers of video without dismantling and reconstructing it like other videoconferencing products - all while cutting costs and saving energy.
Larry Slade, director of McKenna Charter School said he spent $6,000 for the VidyoRouter, which can handle up to 100 connections and $50,000 for 50 port licenses that don’t expire. The video solution is scalable and ports can be added for just $1,000 each. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands that could be spent on other videoconferencing systems.
Idaho Digital Learning Academy has an existing multipoint conferencing unit, but has added a VidyoRouter and 50 port licenses, along with a VidyoGateway, which will allow the Vidyo and standards based videoconferencing systems to be used together. VidyoGateway can interoperate with Polycom, Tandberg, LifeSize, and other MCU-based systems. The biggest benefit for students of the Vidyo solution is that students without high-speed Internet will still be able to get quality video. “Even at low bandwidth, the quality is there,” Slade said.
In September, Vidyo won a Wall Street Journal Innovative Technology Award for developing a product that extends video technology beyond what was already out there.
Vidyo has a new video solution, but other companies offer similar high-quality video at a low price point. Also in Idaho, the Fish and Game department has been using a LifeSize HD videoconferencing system for the past three years to conduct meetings with employees across the state. While the system cost about $84,000 up front, and about $7,600 in annual maintenance, Craig Potcher, Chief Information Officer of the department estimates a savings of about $7,000 for larger meetings and training sessions simply because video teleconferencing eliminates the need for travel.
Whatever the need or the budget, there is no doubt a video solution to suit. 2011 will certainly be an exciting year for students and educators as more video technology is available at a price schools can afford.
This article was originally published on BestinUC.com on Dec. 29, 2010.
As seen on BestinUC.com, by Rosilyn Rayborn
As we’ve been discussing telehealth for the past few weeks here on Best in UC, we want to tell you about a huge win the telemedicine industry just experienced.
Georgia Partnership for Telehealth Waycross was recently awarded $2.5 million from Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to further their goal of providing rural Georgia residents with quick high-quality access to healthcare through their TeleConnect Georgia for Better Health (TCGBH) program.
Not only is this a great indication of the increasing adoption of UC for unified communications enthusiasts, it’s also a very important milestone for the state of Georgia because this award will enable the state to make significant advancements in their healthcare system.
According to a 2008 UGA study, Georgia’s overall health was found to trail many other states in the U.S.
Lloyd Sirmons, TCGBH’s BTOP project director said, “Via telemedicine, rural Georgians have access to modern medicine right at their fingertips. A patient needing to see a cardiologist in a small rural town, who may not have had the access unless they drove hours away, can go to a local doctor’s office that has one of our telemedicine units and be examined by a specialist located in a nearby city, like Atlanta.”
By providing health education to raise general health awareness and increasing broadband access points across the state for wider availability to quality healthcare, TCGBH is rightly positioned to make significant strides in Georgia’s healthcare system.
Likewise, we can look forward to seeing more big deployments like this in 2011. Telehealth has passed the “wait and see” phase and is becoming a proven solution for various industries looking for simple, reliable, affordable solutions to connect more people.
As seen on BestinUC.com, by Dave Casey, CEO of Westron Communications
Telecommuting is nothing new; millions have been doing it for years. Whether it is a nook in the master bedroom, or an opulent office/library overlooking the pool, we have become a society that treasures the ability to “go” to work without leaving the confines of our home.
Until now, most telecommuters have been equipped with a desktop or notebook PC, and a telephone or cell phone. Their home Internet connection allows them to connect to the office network and check email, download files, share information, etc. Yes, the connection speeds are a bit faster these days, but life has not changed much since 2005.
A couple of years ago folks started to use Skype for audio and point-to-point video connections to supplement their connections and reach more destinations. If you have seen Skype video, it is pretty blurry and jerky; you are at the mercy of the Internet after all, and bandwidth is at a premium. Not to mention, you are traversing their system for “free.” It even has generated a new adjective: “Skypey” to describe the appearance.
Enter LifeSize, the High Definition innovator in HD videoconferencing and unified communications. The bright folks at LifeSize have worked with Korean electronics giant LG to produce the LifeSize LG Executive, a 24-inch integrated monitor/videoconferencing system designed for a home office environment. As the accompanying video demonstrates, the telecommuter is no longer burdened with dim, blurry video with dropouts and pixilation.
Not only do you get a crystal clear second monitor for your desktop, you get a portal to the world of high-definition video conferencing and telepresence. The interface is the same incredibly simple remote that has won LifeSize industry accolades and the hearts of many a senior executive. The participant can choose their point of view from near end, far end, and side-by-side presentation. Since the video codec is part of the rest of the LifeSize product line, it features full compatibility and the incredible definition the company is known for. There are no confusing cables and adapters; the high-definition wide-angle camera is built into the top of the monitor, and the user can switch back and forth from desktop computing to video conferencing with the touch of a button.
Telecommuting will never be the same. Prepare to grab your Jane and George Jetson masks for those early morning sales reviews, and join the world of high-definition video presence.
If your business is interested in learning more about LifeSize HD videoconferencing systems contact Xtelesis. We also have very attractive lease options for those that don't want to make a large capital investment.
As seen on BestinUC.com
by Paul Zimmermann, VP of Sales, Eastern DataComm
ShoreTel has released ShoreTel 11, which includes several product enhancements allowing users to be more productive and communicate whenever and however they choose. ShoreTel’s new release also simplifies integration with existing UT infrastructure and legacy PBX systems.
With this update, ShoreTel Call Manager is now called ShoreTel Communicator. This name will be used in all new versions of the ShoreTel IP phone system. ShoreTel communicator is now available in both Web and iPhone versions. To use ShoreTel Communicator on the iPhone, users must download the ShoreTel app from the iTunes app store, and have a licensed version of ShoreTel Communicator for mobile.
Also in this update is a Microsoft Outlook 2007 plug-in, allowing call handling to automatically change based on the users calendar, even when Outlook is not running. ShoreTel 11 also allows additional instances of the configuration database to be installed on remote site. This feature further eliminates single points of failure and alleviates performance bottlenecks.
Read about all the new features of ShoreTel 11 in this PDF from ShoreTel or contact us and we'd be happy to explain how all the new features can benefit your business.
by Adam Smith, Account Executive, Xtelesis
For a non-profit organization, finding ways to trim the fat in budget is an ongoing process. While a recession in the economy hits the majority of businesses hard, non-profits are often hit even harder. For organizations that generally survive on the donations of the community, a recession typically means drastic decrease in donations, which can result in budget and sometimes even staff cuts.
At the same time, these organizations are continually pressured to do more, help more, and reach more people with fewer resources. A non-profit’s goal is always to remain as effective as possible, but with budget and staff cuts, managing productivity can be difficult, to say the least.
Staying connected and maintaining strong and effective communication doesn’t have to go by the wayside with budget cuts. ShoreTel unified communications solutions allow non-profits to maintain or even increase productivity, with less overhead expense. An added benefit of the ShoreTel IP phone system is that it can be easily managed by one person, so reduction in staff should not affect the ability of the organization to maintain it’s communications system.
In this economic climate, is increasingly important to ensure that all aspects of the organization are tailored to meet the goals of the organization and provide the most value to the clients that they serve. In order to provide the best value to the organization it is important that these technology choices are not only feature rich and price competitive up front, but also present a competitive long-term total cost of ownership.
Recently, several non-profit organizations have chosen to implement ShoreTel with Xtelesis for just these reasons. ShoreTel presents an easy to use and manage solution that can be maintained without additional burden on what already tends to be a stretched thin IT department. Since the upfront cost of a new phone system is generally 25-35% of the total cost of the system, ShoreTel’s Guaranteed Lowest Total Cost of Ownership has presented a compelling reason for nonprofit organizations to analyze the long-term impact that their technology decision will have on the cash flow of the organization. Due to the brilliant simplicity and reliability of ShoreTel’s solution, costs for support, maintenance, software updates (which are free), and more are all minimized over the lifetime of the phone system and present a much better financial picture for the organization.
As an example, Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas operates the oldest and largest youth mentoring program in Texas. ShoreTel unified communications solutions have allowed this organization to reduce costs while improving responsiveness to their communicates, increasing the number of mentoring relationships it can support and decreasing the average wait time for a mentoring relationship match. Overall, the cost of service per child has decreased, in part, due to ShoreTel’s systems. (Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas is a customer of fellow Best in UC integrator, LiquidSpoke.)
“Our ShoreTel system has delivered a long-distance savings of several thousand dollars per year, allowing us to redirect those funds toward supporting more at-risk children in our community,” said Sean Ryan, Director of Information Services at Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas in this press release from ShoreTel. “We have also increased our reliance on at-home workers, reducing the need for office space.”
Certainly cost is not the only reasoning behind choosing to go with ShoreTel. Many organizations have found that the ShoreTel solution is both feature rich and offers these features in a manner that is easy for end user to quickly adopt and take advantage of. The management interface is so intuitive that it allows for administrators to manage the system after only a short 4-hour class and Xtelesis’ support team is available should customers have any questions.
As technology ages and needs to be replaced, organizations are finding that they are faced with a multitude of options of varying functionality, cost, and complexity. Xtelesis helps organizations sift through the complexity and offers true business solutions to help your organization. Please feel free to contact us today to see how we can help you! We'd also be happy to provide you a free total cost of ownership analysis.
As seen on BestinUC.com
by Paul Zimmerman, VP of Sales, Eastern DataComm
A business or organization in any industry can benefit from unified communications. There are, however, distinct benefits of unified communications and VoIP solutions in education.
In the K-12 education market, school districts are dealing with the effects of the recession and suffering budget and staff cuts. In the current financial environment, schools need a voice and data infrastructure that can be easily managed by fewer people.
ShoreTel provides an ideal solution for the education market. With little training, one person can maintain an entire system. Adds, moves and changes within the system are easy to manage, which is a benefit for districts that are looking for the benefits of a high-quality system without the added headache of maintaining that system.
Eastern Datacomm has outfitted a number of school districts with a ShoreTel system. From initial installation and deployment to day-to-day use, these schools are reaping the true benefits of what VoIP has been promised to provide. Northern Valley Regional High School, in New Jersey, planned to use the entire week of spring break to migrate to the ShoreTel VoIP system. In reality, that switch only took five minutes.
The primary benefits of ShoreTel in education include: improvements to district dial plans, 911 notification, management, redundancy, mobility, and cost savings.
Improvements to district dial plan
With ShoreTel, school districts no longer have a need for a district-wide “phone book” to keep track of each individual extension or 10-digit number. ShoreTel allows a simple extension plan that makes staying connected and knowing how to reach people easy.
Take Ridgewood Public Schools for example. After transitioning to ShoreTel, the Ridgewood district is now on a 5-digit dialing plan. The principal at every school has a ‘500’ extension. The high school is assigned ‘10’, middle school ‘20,’ and elementary school ‘30.’ In order to reach the principal at the high school from within the district, one would simply dial ‘10500.’ In order to reach the principal at the middle school, ‘20500,’ and ‘30500’ for the elementary school.
In the event of an emergency at any school within the district, the ShoreTel system will automatically notify school authorities that a 911 call has been placed. Specific extensions within the district (principals, nurses, etc.) can be selected to be notified of any 911 call, without the need to place an additional call to that individual. In an emergency situation when a 911 call is placed, the school principal, for example, will receive a notification from the ShoreTel IP phone system that appears in a red box on his or her computer screen. The notification includes from what extension the 911 call was made. This feature drastically improves district response time to any incident.
Management of the system
After a 1-2 hour training session, one person can manage the ShoreTel system for the entire district. With old systems, add, move, and change requests could pile up for the tech director. Sometimes these requests would even have to be fulfilled by the vendor. With ShoreTel, these requests can be fulfilled directly and almost automatically, allowing more time for other jobs and requests.
Redundancy and reliability
For a school district, failure of the phone system could be extremely detrimental to not only business, but also communication with staff and/or parents in the event of an emergency. Schools are already working with a very limited budget, and redundancy is often something a school district cannot afford. However, ShoreTel allows districts to add redundancy at a price point dramatically lower than other VoIP providers.
One piece of ShoreTel equipment placed in the district’s main office is able to support redundancy on the entire district’s system for only $3,000. With other systems it would cost a school strict more than $10,000 per school for redundancy. ShoreTel gives school districts reliable communication, without fear that the system might go down, cutting off all communication with district staff and parents.
Maintenance, janitorial and IT staff are constantly on the go while at work, and rarely at their desk. With the ShoreTel phone system, one push of a button can seamlessly transfer a call from a desk phone to cell phone and or from the cell phone to desk phone. No smartphone required! Essentially, an extension can be “married” to a cell phone so that any incoming call can be accepted by either the desk or the cell phone. This feature truly allows users to “office anywhere.”
One of the greatest benefits of ShoreTel for a school district is the cost savings. Prior to deploying ShoreTel, Ridgewood Public Schools were spending $8-$9,000 per month in phone lines. With ShoreTel, they are saving 70% each month! All phone lines are centralized at the district’s main office, and they were able to get rid of expensive copper lines. Monthly bills have now been simplified and district business managers no longer have to sort through a bill that looks like an encyclopedia.
While the benefits of the ShoreTel VoIP system can be realized in any industry, the K-12 education market has been able to realize these benefits in dramatic ways. For more information on the benefits Ridgewood Public Schools have seen since deploying ShoreTel, watch this video. For a total cost of ownership analysis, click here.
As seen on BestinUC.com
by Rosilyn Rayborn
We recently ran across a post fromGuardian.co.UK’s technology editor, Charles Arthur that exposed the limitations of the cloud as evidenced by the WikiLeaks scandal.
Here’s an excerpt from Arthur’s article:
Until last week, any computing futurologist would tell you that cloud computing is where it's at…Last week though the premise behind cloud computing began looking a bit creaky.
Amazon dropped the contents of WikiLeaks that had been hosted on its EC2 service…WikiLeaks was "not following" its terms of service…The reality is that anyone who manages to get under the skin of governments as effectively as Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks team have done will test the limits of government, and hence commercial tolerance.
Now, whether you’re singing the cloud’s praises or not, you can’t argue with Arthur’s points.
Indeed, the number one reason many cloud naysayers are skeptical about migrating from their traditional data center to the cloud is security. And with several WikiLeaks copycats just announced (BalkanLeaks, BrusselLeaks, and IndoLeaks), we can’t chalk this up as an anomaly.
It’s true that any time your data is in the public cloud you do run the risk of a similar fate. On the one hand, security breaches like this fuel the fears of companies holding out on the cloud because of its lack of security. And, from the perspective of an entity that has information the government finds objectionable, you can be ostracized—when you accept the terms of the cloud, your data is subject to the approval of the provider. And if the government adds pressure to this mix, the line between the provider’s discretion can get blurry.
While this is surely no cause for great alarm—you shouldn’t use WikiLeaks as a cut and dry case against cloud computing as we’re pretty sure this one is a unique case that most of us won’t ever experience—it does show us that while the cloud does have a silver lining, there are still some gray areas that may surface as we all contemplate the migration from traditional data center models.
Contact us to discuss the best and most secure options for your data.
by AVTEQ, Inc.
New research released in the UK today by Damovo UK reveals that more than one-third (39%) of office workers (1,000 office and remote workers in the UK were surveyed) are hesitant to use videoconferencing for work because they are too worried about their appearance. Ten percent of those surveyed said they are scared to use videoconferencing because it feels like public speaking.
The research also reveals that of those who are comfortable on camera, 19% say their working location is a concern, and they feel their surroundings may not be suitable for video.
Though some people may be hesitant to use videoconferencing, that doesn’t mean the industry isn’t set to experience a boom. Businesses are starting to recognize the increased productivity, cost savings and higher employee morale that can come with face-to-face connectivity through videoconferencing.
For those whose heart rate tends to rise when “videoconferencing” is mentioned, here are a few tips to prepare for your time with the camera:
- Test your equipment prior to the conference. Getting comfortable with the technology should help calm your nerves. Once on the conference, test your sound by having everyone introduce themselves. If you are unsure others can hear, simply ask how well they can hear you.
- Depending on your videoconferencing equipment, you may not have perfectly smooth video. Understand the limitations of your equipment as well as that of other conference participants, and be prepared for minor hiccups. Avoiding large gestures and fast movements will help the video output to be smooth.
What do you think? Are there other tips and tricks you have learned to help make videoconferencing as easy as possible? Leave a comment and share your tips!
- Dress appropriately. Consider light or pastel colors. Bright or dark colors can distort the color of your face on camera.
- Be sure your desk, office and the area around you is clutter free
As Seen on BestinUC.com
There are a number of communication challenges facing the healthcare industry. Improving quality of care, reducing the amount of time it takes for patients to receive that care and mobile accessibility to name a few. Streamlining patient care and business processes can improve overall quality ratings of any healthcare institution.
Unified communications presents an opportunity for the healthcare industry to integrate multiple systems and processes in an effort to reduce time spent on business process and increase time spent on patient care.
The transition to electronic health records (EHR) creates even more challenges to the industry, but unified communications allows integration with EHR that can further streamline the processes involved.
Unified communications can provide a single interface for voice, text, email and video, and several EHR providers are building unified communications solutions into their products.
A recent article on UCstrategies.com looks at the challenges the healthcare industry faces in communications, and the benefits of unified communications. Primary benefits of unified communications in healthcare outlined in the article include timely, effective and accurate patient care communications, secure and auditable communications solutions and reduction in time spent in communications.
In March, ShoreTel exhibited its unified communications system at the 2010 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference. The ShoreTel system has been selected by multiple healthcare institutions for its low-cost, simple deployment, ease-of-use and management, scalability, flexibility and the ability to integrate with existing communications systems.
The ShoreTel unified communications system provides healthcare institutions with the same 99.999 percent reliability with no single point of failure. Using the ShoreTel IP phone system will allow healthcare professionals to stay connected, whether onsite or on location.
Cascade Valley Hospital is just one example of a healthcare institution that has put ShoreTel to use. Check out this ShoreTel testimonial from Cascade Valley.
As seen on BestinUC.com
With all the preaching we’ve heard about unified communications embracing mobility to reach the mobile worker, it was interesting to hear this week that Google has included VoIP calling to an SIP address in its 2.3 release of the Android OS.
The latest Android update will first be available on Google’s Nexus S, by Samsung, expected later this month.
The functionality will give users another means of connectivity with the work place. While VoIP capability has existed on Android mobile devices previously, Google’s announcement eliminates the need for a 3rd party application to make Internet phone calls.
by Scott Strochak, President & CEO
When it comes to information technology in the healthcare industry, security is a top priority. HIPAA laws are continually in mind as IT directors make technological decisions and implement new solutions. Today’s technological advances, such as telehealth and the availability of mobile technology can improve healthcare, increase speed of care and patient/doctor communication and simplify processes, but the reliability and security of technology is key.
With the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act came an allocation of $20 billion towards electronic medical records. Financial incentives were put in place to encourage healthcare institutions to implement electronic records.
The push for electronic medical records, coupled with an increase in the number of healthcare professionals utilizing mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, the demand for Wi-Fi has increased 60 percent since last year.
Healthcare institutions face several challenges when implementing Wi-Fi. Wireless network providers, like Aerohive Networks are working to offer solutions to challenges faced by the healthcare industry. Here are a few examples:
- Challenge: High availability – Healthcare institutions need a wireless solution that will provide service to mobile caregivers, allowing access to patient data on mobile devices. WLANs funnel data traffic through a controller, which can cause a single point of failure. To provide high availability, a network solution must provide redundancy without a single point of failure by eliminating the controller.
- Solution: The Aerohive wireless architecture APs require no network controllers. Software in Aerohive’s APs allow them to automatically discover one another as they are added or removed from the network.
- Challenge: Ensuring HIPAA confidentiality. Providing highly available, reliable wireless networking while complying with HIPAA confidentiality is crucial.
- Solution: 802.11n standards require the support of 802.11n/WPA2 encryption and authentication algorithms based on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Aerohive WLANs go beyond the 802.11 standards to automate, secure, and manage Wi-Fi networks.
With Aerohive, network management can be handled from a single workstation, in either appliance or the “cloud.” Aerohive allows healthcare institutions to cut costs on Wi-Fi by up to 75%, improve network availability, reliability and flexibility. The Aerohive solution is easily scalable with a per-AP price.
One of our customers, a management company in Oregon that owns a chain of retirement living communities, was implementing new wireless patient care services applications and were looking for a wireless LAN solution to support them. This company wanted something easy to deploy and manage across the enterprise, including 144 senior living communities.
After a year of research, our customer finally decided on Aerohive for their first location in McLane, VA, because the "controller-less" architecture allowed them to manage the entire enterprise WLAN from a single administrative interface, with robust security and throughput. All this for a fraction of the cost the competitors were offering.
We're excited about our Aerohive relationship and their push into the health care space. They make very reliable, easy to manage products with a lower TCO than most other products on the market. Hopefully we can do our little part to make healthcare more affordable by helping healthcare organizations lower than costs to do business.
We can help you determine the right Wi-Fi solution to fit your organizations needs. For more information on Aerohive, or other networking products and services, contact us.
For more information on the challenges facing healthcare institutions when it comes to wireless technology, download this TMC whitepaper.
There are a number of reasons why we recommend ShoreTel’s unified communications solutions to our clients, simplicity being one of the top reasons.
Last month, ShoreTel published a blog suggesting 10 reasons to choose ShoreTel unified communications over Microsoft. We couldn’t have said it better than ShoreTel – here are the highlights.
- ShoreTel’s seamless upgrades and regular updates
- High ShoreTel rankings by analysts firms Gartner and Nemertes. Nemertes has ranked ShoreTel highest among leading IP telephony providers for seven year in a row!
- ShoreTel’s experience with voice (13 years) tops Microsoft’s relatively new entrance into voice (5 years).
- ShoreTel is designed to be a solution for small businesses, and is easily scaled from 10 to 10,000 users.
- ShoreTel’s architecture reduces reliance on WANs, which are often the least reliable component in UC. (For more on ShoreTel’s architecture, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our ShoreTel video series.)
- The only thing better than ShoreTel’s simplicity is the total cost of ownership of a ShoreTel system. ShoreTel guarantees a lowest TCO.
To read more about ShoreTel vs. Microsoft, check out ShoreTel’s blog. If your business is interested in a free Total Cost Of Ownership analysis give us a call or request info here.