The videoconferencing system has become perhaps the most important asset of the modern workplace in the age of hybrid work.
With virtual meetings and online collaboration sessions increasing since March 2020, networks using on-premises or cloud-based tools have to be flexible and robust. IT teams that manage them continue to encounter an evolving assortment of challenges that require new thinking to solve.
There is a one-two punch dynamic happening for legacy videoconferencing systems designed and installed prior to the pandemic, when virtual meetings were less common and users were often clustered internally rather than spread across remote locations. The move toward cloud-based meeting platforms also changed the way bandwidth is used, which creates a tradeoff of flexibility and feature sets against the ability of on-premises systems to handle a different type of data flow.
Bandwidth issues can lead to dropped calls, poor audio and video quality due to excess packet loss, and poor performance for sharing and uploading collaboration documents. This impacts companies' ability to perform and needs to be addressed quickly and completely to support day-to-day business.
Solving this challenge begins with creating an updated videoconferencing system plan. The first step: Identify the maximum capacity needed to meet the increase in virtual meetings. That means IT managers will need to put together well-reasoned capital expense proposals to bulk up their networks and use proven tactics to lessen the impact of remote users on the on-premises resources.
Going the split-tunnel route for remote users provides the security that comes from a VPN but relies on the users' Internet connection to access cloud-based apps, reducing the pull on internal resources. Local area networks also need to be updated to eliminate Wi-Fi dead spots, while wide area networks should be evaluated against emerging 5G and other technologies to find the best structure for high-quality videoconferencing.
Another issue with legacy network configurations of videoconferencing systems is improperly configured access points. These allow devices to connect easily to a network and are essential to meeting the demands of the hybrid work world.
Upgrading Wi-Fi technology to top speeds (1.2 Gbps is a reasonable target) can help support more devices per access point. IT managers can also recluster these according to the new flow of people and meetings in the reconfigured workplace. Additionally, special attention should be given to meeting rooms that may have heavier use of endpoints and other data-rich devices made specifically to handle streaming video.
In the rush to move millions of workers into their home offices in early 2020, the quickest solution for most was to use whatever peripherals they had on hand to conduct virtual meetings. This may seem like a small issue in the context of improving videoconferencing systems, but incompatible equipment is an important factor in the success of remote meetings. Often, users incorrectly blame company technology for any poor meeting experiences when equipment may be a factor.
Now that we're approaching two years of increased levels of remote work, companies need to select the optimal equipment for remote use and provide employees with the stipends to cover those expenses when necessary. The cost is offset by the value of standardized peripheral equipment, which can eliminate certain quality issues and ensure everyone's remote offices are equipped at the same level.
One of the first viral happenings that took place in the great rush to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and other remote video platforms in early 2020 was the phenomenon of "Zoom bombing" — online intruders can gain access to meetings if meeting logins and access codes are shared too freely. As a result, many users have learned to be discrete and protective of meeting info.
But issues like live transcription or closed caption capabilities make it easier for meeting details to be reproduced and improperly shared, along with documents and trade secrets passed back and forth among attendees digitally.
- Ensure secure connections by changing default passwords on routers and networks and making sure home-based routers are configured to the WPA2 or WPA3 encryption standard.
- Require managed access codes or passwords for all meetings, with waiting room admittance to control who is allowed into a session.
- Restrict screen sharing, file sharing and other meeting capabilities to as few people as possible.
- Update meeting tools and other applications to the most recent versions to ensure the latest encryption technology is in use. Also consider automatic or opt-out setups for software updates.
Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and other online meeting and collaboration providers acted swiftly to take advantage of the move to remote work, offering free trials to attract new users and gain a foothold with enterprise clients. IT teams had to quickly adapt and troubleshoot an assortment of tools in real time.
The wide selection of tools available put excess costs pressure on unified communications and IT teams, with costly redundancy as a result of having an array of tools on hand. Organizations need to select the best tools to serve everyone and can begin by looking at which are most notably deemed the right choices for their workforce.
With videoconferencing here to stay, IT managers should regularly audit equipment and tools, identifying solutions that set businesses up for the greatest success long-term.