From an erupting volcano in Iceland to a tie-up on I-95, many things can go wrong en route to a meeting. Add missed planes and GPS-challenging diversions to high-priced tickets, ever-more restrictive airline rules and hours or days of lost productivity, and it's not surprising that interest in videoconferencing solutions continues to grow.
High prices and the need for dedicated equipment kept videoconferencing in only the largest corporate boardrooms. But new products and price points now allow midsize businesses to take advantage of these productivity-enhancing and cost-reducing tools, said Joe Vitalone, senior vice president of Americas at LifeSize, a division of Logitech.
"The business climate in the videoconferencing business has never been more right," he told attendees at the Midsize Enterprise Summit during a Monday presentation and live demonstration.
Affordable plasma screens and today's powerful networks enable realtime, high-definition videoconferencing across the city or across the world, Vitalone said.
"I could launch a satellite from my home office," he said, as the audience laughed in agreement.
In fact, when one LifeSize employee's trip to France was unexpectedly extended by volcano ash, he continued to remotely run his territory in the U.S., said Vitalone.
"It was seen as an executive tool that's difficult to use, expensive and not scalable," he said. "That's changing rapidly."
Just as companies don't want data scattered throughout the organization, businesses run the risk of creating isolated pockets of video, Vitalone cautioned. Business users want to use all available tools to communicate, and IT does not want a proprietary system.
"You don't want to live on an island, however beautiful it is," said Vitalone. "You always want to make sure you live on an island that has a bridge."
LifeSize, which manufactures its own camera, creates those bridges for clients such as Comcast, Porsche, Epson and Sun, he said.
"We're talking about changing the paradigm about how video works," he said.
Alison Diana is a freelance journalist based in Florida.