Cloud Video Conferencing and why we choose Zoom Rooms

Cloud conferencing platform, used around the world for online meetings, content sharing, chat and webinars – Zoom RoomsShop Now

Cloud Video Conferencing and WHY we Choose Zoom!

Video conferencing on the whole is becoming more common, and in recent times cloud-based video services is exploding in interest, largely due to the fact it offering more efficient services, more features, and more importantly a lower total cost of ownership. Here we take a look at Cloud-Based video conferencing and why we chose to use Zoom.

Businesses want to use video for B2B, B2C and internal communications and traditionally this has been made difficult or impossible by the need to cross corporate firewalls and lack of interoperability between multiple legacy systems. Cloud-Based conferencing services also support a ‘click to call’ interface that makes it easy to connect calls, increasing user-adoption. Mobile and desktop connectivity is also in high demand with the increase in remote workers in the market place, this has been tricky for many IT managers with legacy systems but this is one of the main focuses from cloud-based conferencing services.

Cloud-based video conferencing offers customers a reduced financial risk as the initial capital is much lower. Customers no longer have to invest heavily in on-prem video and network infrastructure/hardware. Instead they only have to pay a small fee for lower-cost video hardware and make use of the cloud-based network infrastructure and bridging on a monthly or yearly subscription service. Not only does cloud-based video conferencing offer a more affordable solution to businesses, its also very scalable, so you can start with one or two rooms and easily scale up to 100’s of sites and users relatively easily.

Video Conferencing Background

Historically video conferencing has been quite unintuitive and difficult to use, which has resulted in low adoption rates and in turn a low return on investment. With the new cloud-based conferencing services it’s made easy ‘click to call’ and ‘click to meet’ type interfaces which people are familiar with using now most people have a smart phone. There are also many integrations offered with these services that sit within applications the users are already using in there daily work schedule, but we will look into this a bit more later.

We’ve tested a number of cloud-based video conferencing services in the last few years, such as GoTo Meeting, Microsoft Lync/Skype for business, Skype, Acano, BlueJeans and InviewUC by CommuniCloud, and for the most part all of these services have a pretty good offering. However when we started using Zoom, there was no turning back. It offered almost identical features to any of the others, along with many additional features, at a very affordable price. We have had a number of ‘hiccups’ using the various other brands, such as low quality mobile video, problems sharing content on devices, Mac compatibility issues etc, and the price point on some of these services is not within everyone’s budget.

Here is a small overview of some of the alternatives and feature comparisons for some of these solutions:

Cloud Video Conferencing and why we choose Zoom Rooms 2

 

What is Cloud-Based Video Conferencing Anyway?

Traditionally if you wanted to have video conferencing in your company, in a large organization at least, you would have to do something along these lines; Buy expensive hardware, buy servers, install and configure software and licensing, procure hosting and bandwidth, deploy servers in data centers, implement call control and registration services, set up QoS network to ensure quality, set up phone numbers for PSTN dial-in features, configure services to allow interoperability and establish processes to maintain the video services. Oh, and employ a team of staff manage, implement and maintain this infrastructure. Sounds a little complicated doesn’t it? It is!

Cloud based conferencing solutions allow businesses to avoid all of this, all you need is a good Internet connection, some inexpensive hardware and to sign up to a monthly or yearly cloud-video-service. It’s that simple! Not only this but if you already have VC infrastructure, you can generally keep it and use this in conjunction with the new cloud service, so your current investments stay functional.

90% of IT decision makers found that the IT department improved after adopting cloud computing. 80 % of companies saw improvements within the first 6 months of adoption, and 82% of companies reportedly saved money by moving to the cloud. There is also a forecasted rate of 45% over the next 5 years for video conferencing as-a-service.

 

Zoom Video Conferencing

Zoom is predominantly a cloud-based collaboration service, although it does offer on premises services, supporting high quality point-to-point and multipoint video conferencing (up to 1080p), content sharing, group and individual chat as well as a newly launched audio conferencing service. Zoom is sold on a per-named-user basis (which they call a meeting host) and has a VMR (Virtual meeting room) in which those users dial into (up to 200 participants).

These plans start with a Basic License, which is completely free giving you unlimited meetings, and up to 50 people per meeting, but limited to 40 minuets per meeting.

The next license option is the Pro License, which offers various administrative tools, unlimited meetings, cloud recording and a few other integration features we will go over later – these are priced at $20 AUD per month. Above and beyond this they also offer a Business License (minimum 10 hosts) – which are priced at $256 AUD per month & an Enterprise License plan which is customised in both pricing and features depending on the company’s specific requirements. These options offer phone support, meeting dashboard, personal vanity URL, managed domains, company branding and emails and Skype for Business (Lync) interoperability.

Here are some of the Zoom highlights and features:

Cloud Video Conferencing and why we choose Zoom Rooms 3

 

Key Strengths and Stand-Out Features

 

The Zoom App

Zoom App

Zoom is an application-based solution with dedicated client apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and Blackberry users. Zoom has made it extremely easy to install by packaging its application as a browser plug-in which allows first-time users to install the app almost transparently when they first join a Zoom meeting. This is fantastic if you are inviting people into a meeting outside of your company that are not using Zoom already.

Unlike its competitors, Zoom has opted not to run its application inside a web browser environment enabling them to maintain full control of the end-to-end experience.  For example, Zoom is able to offer users the ability to select their camera, mic, and speaker devices from within the Zoom app. Browser-based clients, in contrast, depend on the user having selected the appropriate speaker device within the Browser settings which can cause may meeting delays and failures. 

 

In addition, the use of a dedicated app gives Zoom full control of the call launching workflow and the in-call experience (audio / video quality, content sharing, meeting management, etc.) This results in meetings working every time. The same cannot be said for Browser-based calling.

Within the Zoom app you can very easily navigate around, launching instant meetings, scheduling future meetings, see your upcoming meetings and you also have direct access to a list of your recorded meetings. Zoom offer a desktop based and/or mobile app – perfect for on the go.

 

 

 

Collaboration & Content Sharing

Cloud Video Conferencing and why we choose Zoom Rooms 4

Zoom offers a range of collaboration and content sharing options, some unique to Zoom and others not commonly found in video calling services. For example, the Zoom apps support presence and instant messaging between Zoom users.

Zoom’s content sharing capabilities are also quite strong. Specifically, the system allows users to share their desktops, a single app, or content on any AirPlay-capable device (e.g. iPhone, iPad, or Mac PC). As far as we know, AirPlay server support within a video calling client is a Zoom-only capability at this time, and it works extremely well.

Users can also annotate on top of any shared content, and save annotations for future viewing. Any user sharing content can allow other users to remotely control his PC. Zoom also includes a whiteboard function, and supports both local and cloud-based recording. When an app is being shared, the shared window is outlined in green to remind the user that his content is being shared with others. Similarly, the content share function is dual-monitor aware.

 

Zoom Chat

Cloud Video Conferencing and why we choose Zoom Rooms 5

Similar to Microsoft’s Lync app, you can chat directly to anyone who has Zoom, all you need to do is add them to your contacts (via the email address they signed up with). You can also set up groups of contacts to have group conversations with, this is great if you want to send out a quick message to everyone in your sales department or to a group of managers. We have used both Lync and Zoom for this feature and the ease of use, and in our opinion, design, is much better. Unlike Lync, when you shut down the individual chat box you don’t loose your conversation history or have to dive into outlook to find it, it’s all within the app – like it should be.

 

Zoom Integrations

Zoom offers a number of integrations with a few third party solutions, a few are listed below:

    • Skype for Business (S4B) / Lync – Zoom offers a Windows plug-in that adds a “Start Zoom Meeting” option to the S4B / Lync user interface. When selected, the plug-in automatically launches the host’s Zoom app, starts a Zoom meeting, connects the user to the Zoom meeting, and sends an invite via a S4B / Lync instant message to the selected user
    • Salesforce.Com (SFDC) – Zoom’s SFDC integration allows users to start an instant Zoom meeting from a Salesforce contact or lead, convert existing Salesforce calendar events into Zoom meetings, and schedule Zoom meetings within the Salesforce user interface.
    • Slack – Zoom’s Slack integration is menu driven and allows Slack users to start a Zoom meeting or join a scheduled Zoom meeting from within the Slack user interface.
    • Zoom also integrates with other third-party systems including various learning management systems (via the LTI protocol) and many other systems via Zapier.

 

Zoom Rooms

Cloud Video Conferencing and why we choose Zoom Rooms 6

We will cover Zoom Rooms in a more comprehensive blog post soon, but in a nut shell Zoom Rooms is a software application available on Mac (OS X 10.9 and higher) or Windows (7 and higher) that turns a Mac Mini or windows computer (Such as an Intel NUC) into a dedicated meeting room collaboration space.

The Zoom Room is controlled via the Zoom Room iOS App on the iPad, and the overall functionality is similar to the Zoom desktop experience. Users can start meetings, join meetings, invite users, manage participants, change the screen layout, control the camera, mute audio and video, share content, plus more using the iPad.

This makes it extremely user friendly as almost everyone can easily navigate around an iPad or smartphone. The Zoom Room registration process varies based on the calendaring system you are using; supported options include Google, O365, and Exchange 2007/2010/2013.

Zoom Rooms offer similar functionality to group video conferencing systems from Polycom, Cisco, Lifesize, and others, however Zoom Rooms was designed to extend the Zoom ecosystem into a board room and huddle room environment. Zoom does allow for SIP/H.323 endpoints to join Zoom meetings (via the Zoom Room Connector) but cannot dial directly to a SIP or H.323 System.

 

What Hardware Should I Use With Zoom and Zoom Rooms?

There’s a wide range of hardware options available to use with Zoom, however Zoom and BTC have both tested a variety of products with Zoom and we have found the below options perform the best.

Camera Options

AVer CAM520 USB PTZ Camera 1080p 12x Optical Zoom

The AVer CaAM520 is a high-end USB camera, without the price tag, designed to meet the unified communications and collaboration needs of a variety of businesses. Widely compatible and ideal for numerous applications and integration with other equipment, it’s full HD 1080p 60fps capability ensure high-quality real-time communication whether in conference rooms or industrial environments. Moreover, CAM520 provides a USB connection, perfect for cloud-based video collaboration such as Zoom.

AVer CAM520

    • 12x optical zoom wide angle auto focus 1080p mechanical PTZ camera
    • AVer PTZapp for additional controls and firmware update
    • Mechanical tilt 90°(up)+25°(down)
    • Mechanical pan ±130°
    • Mechanical pan/tilt step Pan 0.45°; Tilt 0.40°
    • 10 Position presets by remote
    • No driver needed for Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10; Mac OSX

 

AVer VC520 USB PTZ Camera and Audio Pod

If your looking for a camera and audio pod combination, the AVer VC520 is an excellent package. With the same camera specifications as above it also comes with an audio pod and connects together with a small connection hub. The audio quality and the mic pic-up range is pretty good, and for larger rooms you can buy an additional audio pod and daisy-chain them together.

AVer VC520

    • 12x optical zoom wide angle auto focus 1080p mechanical PTZ camera
    • AVer PTZapp for additional controls and firmware update
    • Noise suppression & Echo cancellation
    • Touch controls for volume down, up, mute, phone input
    • 3.5mm Line-in (aux) cable connects to BYOD smartphones or PC as speakerphone
    • 10W speaker
    • Microphones, 3 directional microphones supporting 360° pick up in 9m diameter range
    • Full duplex microphone array up to 2 daisy-chain speakerphone

PanaCast 2 Panoramic USB Camera

Some rooms require a wilder field-of-view and for these rooms we think the PanaCast 2 Camera comes into its own. The PanaCast 2 gives you an ultra wide field-of-view (180°) so you can see more of what you need to. The camera produces a natural-looking panoramic video by combining video streams from the three cameras simultaneously, and processing these in the PanaCast video processor to dynamically stitch the images together. Its available in two options, with a desk stand or a wall mount.

PanaCast 2

    • Panoramic-4k: 3840 x 1088
    • ~180° (H) x 54° (V) • 188° DFOV
    • Adjustable FOV through UVC PTZ command set
    • Frame rate up to 30fps
    • Auto 50/60 Hz Detect Built-In
    • Colour Controls, Sharpness, Brightness, Gamma, Saturation Control, White Balance (Man.)

 

 

Speakerphone Options

RevoLabs FLX UC500

The RevoLabs FLX UC500 is a great USB speakerphone option for almost any small to medium sized room. The four built in microphones enable the mic pic-up range on this devise to stand out well ahead of its competitors, in our tests in the office it mics you up pretty clearly up to 10 meters away, but we would suggest rooms up to 6m x 7m would be ideal, any larger rooms we’d suggest you look at the UC1500 below with the additional microphones. The speaker volume will fill any room, way louder than you would expect from a USB speakerphone!

RevoLabs FLX UC500

    • Tweeter and midwoofer speaker elements for superior audio quality, clarity, and volume
    • Four corner microphones provide full 360° coverage of audio capture
    • Full-Duplex audio
    • Volume control with audible feedback
    • Mute On/Off control
    • Automatically optimised echo performance for each audio path, based on acoustic environment
    • Individual acoustic echo cancellation per microphone

RevoLabs FLX UC1000 & UC1500

The UC1000 & UC1500 both use the same speakerphone as the UC500 above, but both offer a dial pad and additional SIP connectivity for those wanting to do audio-only conferencing as well as video calls with the one device. The UC1500 also ships with expansion microphones for larger rooms.

RevoLabs FLX UC1500

    • Tweeter and midwoofer speaker elements for superior audio quality, clarity, and volume
    • Four corner microphones provide full 360° coverage of audio capture
    • Ultra-wideband support (up to 16kHz input, 20kHz output)
    • Directional extension microphones (2 included in the FLX™ UC 1500)
    • Call bridging between VoIP and USB conference calls
    • Fully integrated Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC) for crystal clear audio
    • Standard SIP Support for IP PBX’s and cloud or on-premise environments

Jabra Speak 810

Jabra is traditionally known for headsets, but the Speak 810 is a formidable speakerphone for medium sized rooms seating 12-15 people. as well as USB connectivity the Speak 510 also offers Bluetooth connectivity (NFC) and a 3.5mm jack cable for mobile or tablet connectivity – so it covers almost all bases aside from SIP connectivity. It looks pretty good too.

Jabra Speak 810

    • Intelligent directional microphones that focus on human voice and not noise
    • Digital Signal Processing (DSP ) technology
    • Wideband Audio/HD Voice
    • Plug-and-play connectivity to PC Softphone/UC systems
    • Wireless connection to PC, tablets and Bluetooth enabled mobile phones and headsets enabling enhanced mobility. Up to 100 meter range for Class 1 supported devices
    • 3.5mm Jack cable for easy connectivity to your smartphone or tablet for immediate conference calling




Zoom Rooms Download

Zoom Conference Room Solutions Data Sheet

 

For More Information Visit: https://www.zoom.us

 

Call us for more details on 0416 056 500 and one of our friendly team will be happy to help you choose whats best for you.