What Makes REAL Video Conferencing & Why Skype and Google Hangouts Don’t Count ·
By definition, Skype, Google Hangouts, and other free solutions can be considered video conferencing.
Sure they’re popular solutions, but how would you be using them? Are they appropriate in a business setting?
Simply put, these types of freemium products aren’t business-grade solutions.
A small business might be able to get away with a Skype or Hangouts type of service but it really depends on who you’re talking to. With the cost of quality video conferencing having dropped so much, there’s no need to risk the inherent challenges that come with freemium and consumer grade products.
Do you really want to suffer through freeze frames and pixelation on an important client call? What good is a meeting over one of these services if you have trouble seeing or hearing other participants?
While these technologies are great for chatting with friends or family, they often lack the security, performance, and reliability of enterprise-grade video solutions.
Security: With more than 74 million users worldwide just on Skype alone, hackers and spammers target consumer grade conferencing products because of their widespread popularity and low barrier of entry to use. While services like Skype are encrypted, they tend to use proprietary security technology that doesn’t interoperate with standards-based security solutions. As a result, business IT leaders are reluctant to allow Skype to be used within the company, as it gives uncontrolled access to individuals outside the organization and creates uncertainty within IT management.
Poor user experience: Consumer grade video conferencing services tend to operate via the open Internet, making the calls vulnerable to network fluctuations and delays. Public bandwidth is becoming increasingly taxed as well, leading to slower performance. This can create a finicky, frustrating user experience as the conversation can stall or be interrupted multiple times.
It’s not hard to find people experiencing issues with consumer grade products, either. For example, a 2015 PCWorld article entitled “The Top 5 Reasons Why Google Hangouts Never Works”, begins with an editor’s note that opens with:
“To be fair to Google Hangouts, Skype has its problems, too. But it’s Google Hangouts that PCWorld’s editors have, for several years, tried and largely failed to use for staff meetings with remote users. Just when we think we’ve figured out all the kinks, something else goes awry. So we feel our readers’ pain on this one … ”
Inconsistent Video Quality: A lot of things can affect the quality of your video conference. But low-cost video conferencing services tend to still have slight lags in the streaming video that accompanies the audio. As a result, there’s a slight disconnect between the image and the words you hear, which creates a disorienting experience for everyone involved.
Dropped calls: Professional business meetings conducted over video conference depend on consistent, reliable connectivity. Low-cost solutions can often drop your calls and lead to frustration and interrupting the flow of your discussion.
A simple Google search for “Skype doesn’t work” yields over 25,500,000 results and a quick browse of their community forums shows that even in 2016, people are still have frustrations with dropped calls.
As the CIO of an Australian law firm put it:
“If I’m using Skype to talk to my dad, I don’t care if it goes click sometimes or the connection goes down. When you’re in a corporate environment and you’re doing deals or you’re looking out for the best interests of your client, the clarity of the image and the distribution of that content adds to the message you’re driving towards.”
When you pay for reliable video conferencing, you get Quality of Service (QOS) guarantees and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) — basically a throat to choke in the event a service issue arises. These are things that should matter to you when you’re looking to buy a video conferencing product, but many people we talk to aren’t concerned with these things in the slightest.
Unfortunately, some people are more concerned about whether THEY know how to use the product, whether it has the features they need and if it’s as cheap as possible – there’s no consideration put into the participant, which is a huge issue.
When it comes to proper virtual meeting etiquette, making sure that the meeting is easy to join, that everything works, and that it’s simple to use is the responsibility of the person booking and scheduling the meeting — not the participant’s! It’s no different than an in-person meeting.
If a colleague books a meeting with you in your office, whose responsibility is it to book the boardroom, yours or theirs? Theirs! The same applies with online meetings. If you book a virtual meeting, you’re responsible for the environment where the meeting will be hosted.
When you use a consumer-grade video conferencing solution like Skype or Hangouts, there’s a certain level of commitment that you’re assuming when you ask someone to meet.
For example, take the scenario of a job interview.
After you’ve whittled down your stack of applications and resumes, you contact each of the finalists to set up an interview over Skype. What happens if one of them doesn’t already have Skype and only has FaceTime, though? Well, you won’t be able to interview them – unless you manage to get them to sign up for a Skype account just to interview with you.
That’s a fairly invasive request, wouldn’t you say? You have to be pretty important to get someone to take additional time out of their day to set up an account and give their full personal information to another company just so they can interview with you.
The interview might only last 15 or 30 minutes, but now that service provider has your prospective employee’s information for life. People are getting more apprehensive about giving their information to companies if they don’t have to, and we’ve met people that have actually turned down interview requests for this reason.
Most desktop video conferencing services rely on a simple model where individual users have to download the software and sign up for the service. The drawback is that these services’ users can only talk to each other, because they’re limited to their service’s proprietary software.
If businesses use a free/low-cost proprietary product, they’re limiting the scope of businesses to engage with on a video conference.
The advantage of business grade video conferencing solutions is that they’re based on industry standards and are interoperable, which means they can talk to any other standards-based device, even if the device manufacturers aren’t the same.
What’s been your experience with Skype and Hangouts? Let us know in the comments!
Please sign in to leave a comment.