Most experts agree that when life gets back to normal, whatever that may be, some things will have changed forever.
Weekly, more and more companies are announcing that employees will be allowed to work from home permanently. Just this week, the Single-Sign On and Identity Management company Okta announced this very plan. The airline industry, one of the worst hit by the pandemic, is bracing for a long-term reduction in travel, especially business travel as they believe many historical business road warriors may not be working remotely for years to come, if not longer.
While I know this is stating the obvious, video conferencing is here to stay and while in past columns I have talked about outfitting your home office for this trend, it impacts the offices of many companies as well. From telehealth, to virtual legal consultations, board meetings and individual department meetings, more and more are incorporating some form of video conferencing. The hybrid meeting is here to stay.
In the case of telehealth, many of the electronic medical records software companies are incorporating video into their platforms to make it easier for the providers to host telehealth sessions within the business application they are using. For larger group meetings, often a conference room at an office is involved and outfitting these properly can sometimes be a challenge.
With Zoom and Microsoft Teams becoming the dominant players in the space, the terms “Zoom Room” and “Teams Room” are becoming accepted vernacular. I remember back not so many years when outfitting a conference room for video conferencing meant spending tens of thousands of dollars for the camera and computing equipment required. It was not very long ago that a rolling cart, dedicated to a proprietary video conferencing system was only seen in the largest companies, because they were the only ones who could afford them.
Today, this is not longer the case. You can outfit a conference room for well under one thousand dollars with high-quality equipment to support professional video conferencing.
Even better, you don’t have to commit to hardware that will only support one platform. You can easily accommodate most of today’s most used video conferencing solutions. Zoom, Teams, Cisco’s WebEx, GoToMeeting and more can all be used with common hardware.
To illustrate this, here’s an example of what you would need to outfit a very capable conference room. First, you need a high-quality large monitor. Personally, I recommend a Samsung Smart TV. Samsung is a real leader in high-quality flat panel TVs that include a host of features that make them ideal for a conference room. In addition to being able to support video conferencing, these TVs will also support casting, directly from your PC or Mac to the monitor, which makes giving a presentation during a meeting a snap.
With built-in WiFi, they connect to the company network without worrying about anything more than an electrical outlet to plug in. Add to this an Intel Compute Stick and you’ve got a capable platform for full video conferencing. Think of a compute stick like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast or Roku device. It plugs in to an available HDMI port on the TV and provides a powerful little PC running Windows 10. This will allow you to install video conferencing software like Zoom or Teams or any of the others.
A compute stick capable of doing this can cost as little as $150. Now all you need is a high-quality webcam and a wireless keyboard and mouse and you’ve got yourself a complete setup. The webcam connects to the compute stick via USB and sits atop the TV. The wireless keyboard and mouse connect either via USB or Bluetooth and sit on your conference table. A high-quality webcam like the Logitech C922 will cost you about $100 and a wireless keyboard and mouse set, anywhere from about $70 to $100. Depending on the size and quality of the TV, both video and audio, expect to spend somewhere between $5 and $800.
So, as you can see, for $1,000 or less, you can outfit yourself with a very capable video conference enabled conference room to support your operations well into the future. I expect we will see these setups in more and more offices as people head back to work in the office, whether full- or part-time. The point is, it’s never been easier or more affordable to position your business for success in our new predominantly hybrid and remote world.