Conference calling is mission-critical in today’s connected world. A global economy, remote workers, multiple business offices, and ever-mobile workforces drive a need for unparalleled conferencing flexibility. It’s no secret that the landscape of available solutions is as technically dizzying as it is broad. Allied is here to help you make sense of how to go about choosing a conferencing system that is right for your organization.
Facets to consider:
1. Your Business Needs
A primary consideration for any organization seeking to implement or update a conference calling system is need. Are you frequently meeting with large groups of colleagues, clients, or vendors — or is your business more prone to smaller group discussions? A business that is more reliant on face-to-face interactions may need to consider prioritizing video conferencing systems over group voice systems. Large groups will need conferences bridges and could require additional microphone extenders.
2. Ease of Use
Another high priority concern should be user experience. Is the conferencing system simple, intuitive, and consistent for all call participants? Logging in should be easy every time, as should initiating and joining a group call. Once in the call, is it easy to add participants, mute, and record? Conducting a conference call should be a straightforward process, so identifying potential bottlenecks ahead of time is critical.
3. Call Quality
The hardware you choose for your conferencing system will likely play the largest role in your overall call quality. Speakerphones, cameras, and computers all play an integral role in call quality. The goal is to ensure maximum reliability for both present and remote call participants. Consider testing your system by adding as many call participants as possible, on mute, to determine if clarity or volume diminishes as the meeting scales. Record the number of dropped calls on both sides and the circumstances that led to the drops. Remember that call quality and reliability affect your brand perception, internally and externally.
4. Network Quality
Call quality will be largely contingent on network quality. Most often we see businesses with a la carte approaches to their business broadband and conference calling systems. What you may not realize is that standard business broadband isn’t optimized to prioritize voice traffic, and many VOIP providers can’t guarantee quality of service. When you are both an Allied data and voice customer, you are guaranteed end-to-end Quality of Service (Qos) for our voice service to ensure that voice traffic is top priority.
Part-and-parcel to ease of use is interoperability. Does your conferencing technology allow you to connect participants universally or are you reliant on a system that uses native downloads and/or plugins? You’ll want meeting participants to be able to connect in a variety of circumstances: straight from the conference room, on-the-go, with or without being reliant on a desktop computer. Proprietary conferencing software may wall off access to certain users or add to a growing litany of conferencing software to their applications folders. Consider a WebRTC-based solution, which prevent clients from having to download and install software and instead works in their web browsers. Additionally, make sure that any conferencing platform you choose has a dial-in fallback for voice-only participants.
An increasing concern in today’s digital business world is focus. It’s quite common for employees to feel compelled to answer emails or complete tasks during meetings where they should be fully engaged. Critical group discussions may require emotion and contextual clues that would otherwise be lost in voice-only scenarios. Consider a conferencing platform that affords you the ability to easily incorporate video into your discussions, instilling attentiveness in an otherwise distraction-prone business world.
7. Best-fit for Budget
Budget is a natural consideration for all companies, but how do you go about weighing what the best fit for your organization may be? Consider how often you make conference calls and how many users are typically involved. Evaluate how you’re being charged — is it by the minute, or is there a monthly flat-rate? If call volume isn’t a concern, by-the-minute or pay-as-you-go may be a better route.