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Videoconferencing is Catching on as Technical, Financial Barriers Fall

August 14, 2012 | Telepresence Options
MCPc employees demonstrate Cisco Telepresence System.jpg(Image Credit: Lynn Ischay, The Plain Dealer)

By Marcia Pledger, The Plain Dealer

When Darin Haines travels out of state for work, the trips don't seem so long when he spends part of his day with his 6-year-old daughter, Grace. She might not go to meetings with him, but she's never too far away -- thanks to video on his iPad.

As chief technology officer at MCPc Inc., it's easy for him to tout his technology company's motto "the anyplace workspace" that includes using video as a means of saving businesses time and money for travel expenses.

MCPc, a reseller that offers hardware, software and IT services, helps companies empower their employees to work from anywhere on any device. Haines gets more passionate about the topic every time he sees examples of mainstream society embracing video, including his first-grader on Skype with her grandparents in Florida.

The 10-year-old company has outfitted several of its 16 offices throughout the country with Cisco's "Telepresence" technology so that employees can talk via live video feeds with customers and branch offices. The "real-time" videoconferencing equipment makes people feel as if they're having a conversation with people in the same room instead of in different parts of the country.

MCPc, which has more than 200 of its 400 employees at its new downtown Cleveland headquarters in the Plain Dealer building, is among a growing number of companies nationwide that are increasingly using video for training, job interviews and meetings with colleagues and customers. But not even video conference boosters like Haines are suggesting that face-to-face meetings will become obsolete.

"For me video is part of the fabric of my everyday life," Haines said. "The whole concept behind Telepresence is it's taking video to the next level with the crispness of the video. If someone were to drop a pencil on the other end you would hear that pencil drop. So it's really extending that face-to-face experience over video."

MCPCfoursome.jpgLynn Ischay, The Plain DealerMCPc Inc. employees demonstrate Cisco's Telepresence videoconferencing system that the technology firm often uses for meetings with clients, employees in other offices throughout the country and even for interviewing job applicants. On video screens are Jeffrey Goldstein, left, director of analytics and consulting, and Patrick Custy, solutions architect for videoconferencing. In the room are Mikala Peterson, left, talent acquisition specialist, and Beth Stec, vice president of corporate communications and human resources.

Videoconferencing for Everyone

For the second time since the recession, a major shift is under way in the videoconferencing market. First, companies large and small started investing between hundreds of thousands and hundreds of millions of dollars on complex videoconferencing equipment and dedicated networks to use them, because it beat rising travel costs. Now with more economical, mobile and cloud-based offerings, technology has matured to the point where videoconferencing can be delivered to any employee on any device, from the boardroom or desktop or tablet or smartphone.

Last month Cisco released "Jabber," a new mobile app that allows people to do videoconferencing on tablets, a step up from just instant messaging or voice calls. It's also a step up from another one of the company's products called Webex, which allows people to host online meetings with an option to show videos.

Other industries are also getting into videoconferencing. For example, Haines said he likes to dine at Fleming's Steakhouses because the restaurant chain offers teleconferencing for its customers -- allowing him to show off the technology to prospective customers in other states. Hotel chains like Marriott offer the service to business travelers in some locations, and providers like Cisco and Polycom are continually developing new technology.

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