In 2008, the Consumer Electronics Association reported that while more than 50 million Americans could work from home, only 2.5 million actually did. That divide has continued to shrink in recent years as businesses have found ways to cut costs on paying for office space while offering employees a great perk: not having to battle traffic every morning to get to an office.
But changing minds call for changing technology. Business owners need a way to stay in touch with workers throughout the day and the need goes beyond the traditional method of communicating via telephone. Telecommuters need a way to be able to have a face-to-face chat with employers using a method that’s both inexpensive and reliable.
“The real advantage is about being able to make decisions faster, to scale knowledge within an organization more easily and to unify an organization,” Cisco TelePresence Systems Business Unit general manager Snorre Kjesbu told UK magazine V3. Yes, you can save on travel, and carbon emissions, but there are much more to video tools than that,” he said.”
Different businesses have different needs when it comes to videoconferencing. Some business have an interest in group video chats with people in different locations. Some business simply want to be able to have regular one-on-one time with a client or employee. And some businesses are interested in a high definition visual experience, which is ideal for sharing presentations or videos. Below is a great solution to meet each need.
Skype has long been the popular choice for consumers and it’s an easy, inexpensive solution for small businesses. Skype Business offers a small business plan for those who need multiple participants, but no promises of HD quality video are offered. Plans start at $4.99 per month.
Cisco WebEx offers a variety of plans, ranging from a free plan that includes up to three attendees per meeting and standard quality video to a $49 monthly plan that allows 25 people per meeting and has high definition video. For small businesses interested in something in between, a premium plan is available that allows up to 8 people per meeting and high quality video but only costs $24 per month.
Inexpensive, High Quality
Holding its own against the competition is Zoom.us, a Cloud-based solution that offers HD video and up to 15 participants without charging a dime. The service recently launched to good reviews, including a stellar write-up from The Wall Street Journal‘s Walter S. Moss. “I’ve been testing Zoom.us, and despite a few limitations, I like it a lot and can recommend it,” Moss wrote. “In all but one of my tests, video was sharp and smooth, and all the features worked as promised.”
Ramon had the chance to test Zoom.us video solution up close and personal with Nick Chong, Product Manager. Using a tablet, smartphone and computer Ramon was able to conduct a 3 live streamed video conference and what was ironic about it, Ramon said the WiFi in the hotel they were in was not that great. Ramon was also impressed with how one of the remote persons on the video conference was able to share their screen and Ramon saw streaming video from their screen on Ramon’s own screen – that was pretty impressive. Finally, Zoom.us, in this version Nick explained is democratized. Every use can quickly and easily share their screen with someone else.
We’ve likely only seen the beginning of how videoconferencing will transform small businesses. This technology can help businesses save money on travel, connect business owners with long distance clients, and open up possibilities for telecommuting. Small business owners should investigate the features of each service and try out several personally before investing in a monthly subscription fee.