Lync to Skype for Business Update: FAQs

With the transition from Microsoft® Lync® to Skype® for Business complete, you might still have some lingering questions. To make sure you’re up on the latest from Skype for Business, PGi brings you a Skype for Business FAQ update. Read on to learn all about how to incorporate Skype for Business into your work life.

Q: What is Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Lync)?

A: Skype for Business is a unified business communications solution that merges the user-friendly Skype interface with enterprise Lync capabilities. The software upholds the enterprise-grade security that Lync users know and love while providing fresh features. Key features include instant messaging, one-click audio and video calling, easier file transferring and more.


Q: Is Skype for Business a rebrand or a new product?

A: It’s both! Lync officially became Skype for Business in March 2015. With this update Microsoft released a new client experience for mobile, tablets, and desktops, a new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365 under the Skype for Business name.


Q: What features have changed in Skype for Business?

A: Skype for Business offers a variety of new features for Skype and Lync users to enjoy, including a fresh look, the ability to make calls using your desk phone for audio, integration with the Skype directory, Call Monitor, Rate My Call, quick access to call controls, emoticons.


Q: What are the benefits of using Skype for Business?

A: Skype for Business makes it easier to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, customers and/or clients, cut business costs and better tracking your expenses. Users can:

  • Replace unnecessary business travel with a quick and easy video call to cut back on costs.
  • Set up accounts for staff, allocate credit and track everyone’s expenses, which makes it easier to budget calls and identify any areas where you can save.
  • Stay connected with colleagues through instant messaging or affordable audio calls, and keep in touch with customers with one-click audio and video calling.

Q: What is the proper migration procedure from Lync 2010 Standard to Skype for Business?

A: To correctly update from Lync 2010 to Skype for Business, users must first move to Lync 2013.


Q: What will Microsoft rebranding Lync as Skype for Business change besides the name?

A: The Lync to Skype for Business rebranding is more than just a name change. The updated software allows users to connect, share and collaborate easier than ever with an improved experience new features.

The new client experience takes on the popular Skype icons for calling, adding video and hanging up, as well as easy content sharing and telephony. Connecting with coworkers and colleagues is simple with instant messaging, and audio and video calling. Professionals can reach hundreds of millions of other Skype users outside of their organization to help build valuable business relationships.


Q: How is Skype for Business different from Skype?

A: People already using Skype will appreciate the enhanced control and ease of S4B. It’s simple to find and connect with colleagues, and you can use the devices you already have to reach businesses through an enterprise-grade, secure, IT-managed platform.


Q: How is Skype for Business different from Lync?

A: Those coming to Skype for Business from Lync will recognize all of the security and compliance you’ve come to expect. You’ll experience a fresh look and feel with simplified controls and some great new additions like Call Monitor, Rate My Call, emoticons, access to the Skype director and the ability to call from any phone.


Q: Why use Skype for Business instead of Slack?

A: There are many benefits of using Skype for Business instead of other communication platforms like Slack. Users can host free group chats, reference chat history that is automatically saved, instant message, and audio and video message. Make, receive and forward calls whether you’re in the office or on-the-go from any device – phone, laptop or mobile. Place calls on a mobile or office phone using S4B and your phone number will appear as if you were calling from your company’s main phone number. But, what’s the best part about using S4B? The user-friendly interface.


Q: How does PGi support Skype for Business?

A: PGi’s GlobalMeet Audio Hybrid for Skype for Business brings superior voice coverage, quality and service to every conference call. Users can join calls from any mobile or landline phone, host or join meetings with up to 300 participants, access over 100 local and international toll-free access point. Request a trial today to experience the superior audio quality during your next Skype for Business meeting.


Learn more about Skype for Business and how it can benefit your company!

FAQ: Skype for Business Audio Integration with GlobalMeet

Delivering enterprise-class audio for meetings anywhere around the world is one of our many goals at PGi. GlobalMeet® Audio helps ensure that every meeting has the best audio quality possible. That’s why PGi offers an audio integration solution to work with various unified communications solutions like Microsoft® Skype for Business®.  To learn more about GlobalMeet Audio for Skype for Business, check out our list of frequent asked questions:

Q: What is Skype for Business?

A: Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Lync) is a unified business communications solution that merges the user-friendly Skype interface with enterprise Lync capabilities. The software upholds the enterprise-grade security that Lync users know and love while providing fresh features. Key features include instant messaging, one-click audio and video calling, easier file transferring and more.


Q: How does PGi support Skype for Business?

A: PGi’s GlobalMeet Audio for Skype for Business brings superior voice coverage, quality and service to every conference call. Users can join calls from any mobile or landline phone, host or join meetings with up to 300 participants, access over 100 local and international toll-free access point.


Q: What are the benefits of using GlobalMeet Audio for Skype for Business?

A:  GlobalMeet is an audio conferencing solution that is seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Skype for Business Online and Skype for Business Server to bring superior voice quality to every Skype for Business meeting. There are many benefits to integrating an audio conferencing solution like GlobalMeet Audio to your Skype for Business meetings.

Here are just a few benefits:

  • Hybrid audio: Connect to the same meeting using computers (VoIP), smartphones and telephones (PSTN). Better audio quality will improve your meeting experience and productivity.
  • Dial-out: Hosts can quickly add telephone participants to any Skype for Business meeting. Dial-in, dial-out and VoIP will connect participants from both inside and outside of your company
  • Global network: Connect meeting participants from around the world. Expansive geographical coverage with more than 140 local access numbers and a reliable network that hosts more than 60 million meetings each year.
  • Shared minute & single user bundles: Shared minute plans and user bundle packages offer better value and more predictable monthly costs.
  • Better meeting management: Larger meeting capacity on calls with up to 300 participants and a range of audio controls for better meeting management.

Q: Do I need a Skype for Business audio integration?

A: You may be wondering why you would need an additional Skype for Business audio provider. Skype for Business provides VoIP audio, but there are limitations in scale, audio quality and consistency, global availability and accessibility.

If you’re experiencing any or all of the following challenges, it may be time to consider GlobalMeet by PGi:

  • Poor audio quality in Skype for Business meetings
  • Trouble connecting participants that are outside of the company’s firewall
  • Deficiency of global PSTN coverage
  • The need to let participants join meetings from any device
  • Lack of a solution that easily integrates with Skype for Business

Q: How does GlobalMeet Audio complement Skype for Business?

A: GlobalMeet Audio makes every Skype for Business meeting more productive and efficient with capacity for up to 300 VoIP and PSTN participants and the best audio quality available in web conferencing.

When integrated with GlobalMeet, Skype for Business is enhanced with the following features:

  • PSTN-based conferencing services
  • Expansive, global IP infrastructure that is optimized for audio collaboration
  • Ability to dial out to PSTN participants
  • Capability to mix Internet and PSTN callers in the same Skype for Business meeting
  • Ability to include dial in numbers in meeting invitations

Q: How does GlobalMeet compare to other audio integrations?

A: There are certain capabilities that GlobalMeet offers that the competition does not. Some of the key features that set PGi’s audio conferencing solution apart from the competition include the following:

  • Enterprise-grade global service with 24/7 regional support
  • Professional account management teams that put the customer’s needs first
  • Greater flexibility in pricing with shared minute bundles available for enterprise and users.
  • Expansive, global IP infrastructure allowing you to directly serve customers around the globe
  • US-based telecom carriers who support audio conferencing for Skype for Business

Q: What is the difference between Skype for Business Online and Skype for Business Server?

A: If you’re currently using or considering using Skype for Business for IM and web conferencing, you may be wondering what the difference between Skype for Business Online and Skype for Business Sever is. Here’s a brief comparison:

  • Skype for Business Online offers less than 1M minutes per month for audio. This is best for small companies with little to no global presence and less infrastructure or capital investment.
  • Skype for Business Server offers 3M+ minutes per month for audio. It’s best for company with a low number of users and high minutes per user.

Ready to see how GlobalMeet Audio for Skype for Business can help improve your next meeting? Click here to find out more.

What is Agile Work?

For many years that term “flexible work” has been synonymous with the idea of telecommuting or remote work. With the proliferation of cloud-based technology the idea of flexible work has become more widely accepted by modern workplaces.

But a newer term, agile work, is a concept that has been overpowering the idea of flex work recently. While the terms seem interchangeable there is a difference.

Agile work is a way of working in which an organization empowers its people to work from wherever they would like and however they would like by limiting constraints and maximizing flexibility in order to truly optimize productivity. According to FM World, agile work is a new paradigm,“a transitional tool”, that is the cornerstone of an organization’s strategy providing benefits on cost, productivity and sustainability. Benefits, it argues, that are for not only for the organization, but the employee and customer as well.

But, isn’t that the same as flex work? Well, the terms are very similar, but there is a difference. According to The Agile Organization, flexible working falls under the idea that an employee can work anytime and anywhere, a two dimensional concept. Agile work is more multidimensional—not just limited to doing the same work in the same way at a difference time and place. Instead of focusing on when and where people work, agile work focuses on the efficiency of the work.

Agile work is based on the idea that work is an activity we do rather than a place we go. And with new tools supported by ever-improving cloud technology, workers can truly eliminate the concept of the work has been done traditionally in order to work efficiently to meet customers’ needs, reduce costs and overheads, all while improving sustainability.

Though this new concept aims at the benefit of the organization, many barriers remain for some companies in the adoption process of this idea. Agile work truly revolves around culture and mindset, and simply buying the latest technology and investing in new workspaces is not enough to make agile work a success.

This change will involve organizational culture and individual mindset shifts to embrace the idea that work is not a place, it is an activity. Pace, unpredictability and scale are the biggest challenges for organizations today. Companies must truly become agile in order to make this concept a success.

What is a Video Room Connector (VRC)?

Companies can often invest a lot of money in video room systems. And while these room-based systems are powerful, they often require IT involvement and restrict the ability to connect users who aren’t psychically in the room when video conferencing. Because of this, these costly investments can be grossly underutilized.

But there is a solution to overcome these barriers and connect participants who may be working remote. A video room connector (VRC) enables H.323 or SIP video room systems to communicate with desktop, tablet and mobile devices.

With a video room connector tool, like iMeet® VRC, you’ll not only enhance your video conferencing system and improve your return on that investment, but you’ll have the ability to incorporate a whole set of collaboration tools that will improve your next meeting’s productivity as well. Check out the features of iMeet® VRC that will provide you with an easy-to-use solution:

Seamless integration: You don’t have to worry about which room-based video system provider you have, because iMeet® VRC works with the most popular video conferencing systems in the industry including Polycom, Cisco, Lifesize and more You’ll be able to seamlessly integrate more robust collaboration features into your next video meeting for everyone to use, regardless of where they’re meeting from, and get the most out of your existing video investment.

Easy to Connect: Ready to join your next video conference? With iMeet® VRC, there’s no need to reach out to IT for help establishing the connection. You’ll be able to connect to iMeet from your room-based video conferencing system in a few simple steps through SIP or H.323 protocols.

Enhanced Audio: Even the best video systems aren’t going to be successful if you don’t have the audio capabilities to hear everyone loud and clear. Because iMeet is built on PGi’s global hybrid network, you’ll receive crystal-clear HD audio with every call you make with your VRC.

Improved Collaboration: The whole point of a meeting is to collaborate, right? Well, if you’re not utilizing a VRC with your fix-based system, then potential key-players may be missing out on joining your meeting due to connectivity restrictions.

iMeet® VRC connects the people in the video conference room with remote teammates joining through laptops or mobile devices.

So no matter where you are, or what device you’re using, you’ll be able to collaborate in real time through iMeet’s video, audio and web conferencing features.

Through a robust video room connector like iMeet® VRC, your team will no longer have to choose between the latest collaboration solution and utilizing your video conference room systems.

They’ll be able to meet and collaborate without restrictions or the help of your IT team.

Ready to upgrade your room-based system for better video, audio and web conferencing experiences? Request a free demo now of iMeet® VRC, from our experts at PGi.

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What is Social Selling?

Social selling is more than just a buzzword – it’s a part of the new era of sales. Simply put, social selling is leveraging social media platforms and your professional brand to engage and build relationships with the right prospects.

So how can you or your team make sure they’re properly representing themselves on social media?  Here’s how to build a social selling strategy that will establish a social savvy sales team:

Create a professional brand
Eighty-one percent of buyers are more likely to engage with a strong, professional brand according to Demand Gen Report’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey. Your company may already have a recognizable and professional brand, but what about your individual sales reps?

Building a strong, professional brand online strengthens credibility and can often shape a prospective buyer’s first impression of your company. Through platforms like LinkedIn, ensure your team is presenting the right image with complete profiles and compelling, customer-centric messaging. Once these essentials are complete, your team can focus on utilizing the benefits of social media to generate results.

Find the right people
A great advantage of social selling is that it takes away the guesswork and time required to find the right prospect. Sales reps can now utilize social media platforms to filter prospect searches using various parameters such as title, role and industry to find the right decision makers and influential leaders in their own networks or in their extended networks.

Using tools like LinkedIn’s Advanced Search, the search for qualified potential prospects and connections becomes much easier. Examining a prospect’s profile can show mutual connections and commonalities that the sales rep and the buyer share. All of this information can help a rep qualify a potential connection as a prospect or as someone who can connect them with the right buyer.

Engage with insights
Establishing relevance and delivering value has become the core of sales. Reaching out to the right people at the right time with valuable insight and relevant content can open up various communication channels for sales reps.

By following a prospect through their posts, statuses, shares and news updates, a sales rep can gain insight on where they are in the business cycle. Through this information you and your team can use personalized messaging tools to connect in a timely, relevant and useful manner.

Build strong relationships
Social selling makes it easier for reps to provide ongoing value that builds better relationships. With the wealth of real-time information that social media networks provide, sales professionals have the opportunity to build credibility by providing valuable insight before, during and after the decision making process.

By using a prospect’s profile as a resource, reps can share their perspectives and views on relevant information, including common pain points in the industry. Sparking a genuine conversation before concentrating on the sales process can further the strength and value of relationship with the prospect.

Due to the competitive nature of sales, your sales professionals will always be on the hunt for new practices to help them gain an edge over the competition. In today’s business climate, that means relying on new technology and strategies to become more effective in bringing in new business.

Now you have an understanding of the importance of social selling and technology in today’s sales process, stay ahead of the curve and learn more about the ever-evolving sales process by downloading PGi’s free eBook, Join the Social Sales Revolution: Your Guide to The New Way to Sell.

What to Expect from the Lync to Skype for Business Transition

The business world is buzzing with news that Microsoft® Lync® Online, long a cornerstone for corporate communications, will no longer exist. Now, Microsoft is rolling out a brand new version of Lync called Skype for Business.

So what’s the impact to your bottom line? That’s what every business wants to know after investing so much into Lync and making it a critical component of every line of business.

Here’s what to expect from the Lync to Skype for Business transition.

What’s happening?
Lync Online is changing to Skype for Business Online. This impacts every existing client and feature of Lync Online:

  • All existing Lync 2013 and Lync Online clients will transition to Skype for Business clients (expectedly by the end of May).
  • The Lync Web app is changing to the Skype for Business web app.
  • The Lync admin center is changing to Skype for Business admin center.

What are the benefits?
The transition marries the user-friendly, familiar interface of popular consumer brand Skype with the business functionality and security of Lync. The move primes the product to be even more clean and simple to use to ensure a better user adoption, which in turn ensures a better return on investment for companies.

In addition, users can now connect via audio and video to the Skype network, which offers a global reach. Workers are no longer limited to connecting just within their own organization and can now search and connect with users both inside and outside their work network.

Although the Lync experience is changing, business users still have full access to existing Lync features—none of Lync’s features are lost. The entire, expanded feature set (instant messaging, one-click video, audio calls, file transfer, presence) is built in to Microsoft Office® applications.

How does this impact deployment or existing infrastructures?
Like many Lync Online users, your company likely relies on the unified communications (UC) platform for daily business activities. Now that everything’s changing, it’s more important than ever that you have a complete understanding of how to deliver the value of Skype for Business on a global scale.

Modality Systems

And you don’t have to be an instant expert to do that. Modality Systems, a PGi company, was recently named an elite launch partner for Microsoft Skype for Business and is ready to help you navigate the entire UC journey within this new platform.

Learn more today about the transition and be sure to check out PGi’s Lync audio conferencing capabilities.

Did you know that Microsoft Lync Online is now Skype for Business? The newest version of Lync blends the familiarity and love of Skype with the enterprise security, compliance, and control of Lync.

Interested in learning more about Skype for Business? Check out these articles:

Featured Image Source: Microsoft

What Is Skype for Business?

Skype for Business is a unified business communications solution that merges Skype’s familiar interface with Lync’s enterprise capabilities. The software delivers an expanded feature set and the enterprise-grade security that Lync users have come to expect. Built right into Microsoft Office®, features including instant messaging, video and audio calling, file transfer and more are easy to access from different Office applications.

Last November, Microsoft® Lync® announced it would become Skype for Business. Early in March the company also announced that a new client, server and online service would become generally available to business users in April.

With these new roll outs, you may still be asking; what exactly is Skype for Business? In this post, we will overview noteworthy features.

Key Features

  • Chat with instant messaging
  • See who’s available for communication
  • Access one-click video or audio calling
  • Switch between a full Skype for Business window & compact version of the call
  • Simply drag and drop your files into the chat window
  • Share your screen during meeting or pass control to others

Instant Messaging:

Just like the previous version of Lync, Skype for Business features a list of contacts integrated from a user’s Microsoft Outlook®. This list of contacts has an aesthetic blend of Skype’s signature blue icons and Microsoft’s simple clean lines, packaged together to make the software easy to navigate.

Users have the ability to see who’s available for communication through a presence feature on the contact list. Users’ statuses will change based on their availability in their Outlook calendar. They can also change their availability manually.

Through IM, users can add additional members to a chat, transition video and audio calling and transfer files to make sure the collaboration is as successful as possible.

Lync1

Lync2

Video and Audio Calling:

As mentioned previously, Microsoft integrated Skype’s familiar interface into their new program. Right from the contact list or contact’s information in other Office applications like Outlook, users can access one-click video or audio calling by hovering over a contact’s name where they will see Skype’s familiar calling buttons.

A feature sure to be popular with users is Call Monitor. With Call Monitor, users can move back and forth between a full Skype for Business window and compact version of the call that lets the user monitor call progress.

Lync3

File Transfer:

Lync has always had a file transfer ability, but now with Skype for Business, the process is much easier. Instead of going through a menu inside the IM chat window to attach a file, users can now simply drag and drop the file into the chat window. A preview of the file’s title, type and size is available before accepting the download.

Skype for Business is the next chapter in unified communications, enabling collaboration for enterprises all over the world. A technical preview is now available for IT teams to start planning for the upgrade deployment.

Learn more about Skype for Business and how it can benefit your company!

Photos courtesy of Microsoft.

What Is VoIP Call?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the technology that allows you to make calls directly through your Internet connection for fast, mobile and affordable web and audio conferencing.

Traditionally, when you make calls by dialing on a telephone or cell phone, you connect via PSTN (public switched telephone network). Alternatively, VoIP converts your voice information to a digital form that is transportable through the Internet, bypassing the additional costs of connecting via telephone.

You’ll often hear the term “softphone” used in relation to VoIP, but the two are not quite interchangeable. Unlike VoIP (the means that you connect), a softphone is the software (or the medium) that facilitates VoIP calls with an interface and features that behave much like a typical telephone.

What Is VoIP

VoIP Puts the Hybrid in Audio Conferencing
The integration of VoIP is exactly what makes PGi’s audio conferencing a hybrid solution. From one, easy-to-use interface, you choose how you want to connect (VoIP or PSTN) for the utmost convenience from your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device.

And that same industry-leading, hybrid audio network is integrated across PGi’s portfolio of collaboration solutions for a simplified, seamless experience. That means whether you’re hosting an online meeting or connecting to a conference call, you’ll have an integrated VoIP softphone option available for more flexibility.

While VoIP is an excellent option to have for cost and convenience, on the other hand, VoIP-only collaboration solutions also benefit greatly from hybrid audio enhancements. No matter how you’re connecting, with a web conferencing solution or unified communication (US) suite, you’ll encounter the same limitations to meeting when you’re missing either PSTN or VoIP access options.

Because organizations increasingly need to connect outside of the company, and because users are increasingly mobile, hybrid audio integrations are popular add-ons to VoIP-powered collaboration solutions.

Learn More
Want to keep learning about VoIP and its impact on your audio conferencing? Click on these links for more resources:

  • More callers are connecting to conference calls from mobile devices than ever, from all over the world, and VoIP technology makes it easier and more cost-effective to connect around the globe. Read more about why VoIP matters in How to Improve Conference Calls with New VoIP and Mobile Technology.
  • When it comes to VoIP audio bridges, PGi wrote all of the software. Learn why off-the-shelf bridge software can’t deliver the same redundancy as PGi’s server-based VoIP bridges in The Strength of PGi’s Audio Conferencing Backbone.
  • The ability to join a conference call via VoIP is useful for sure, but what if you could seamless switch from VoIP to PSTN during a meeting? Read about the invisible innovations in audio conferencing that you don’t think about and what’s in store for the future in Is the Conference Call Still Relevant in 2015?

Featured Image Source: freeimages.com

What is WebEx Audio Integration?

You’ve chosen Cisco® WebEx® to go virtual with your big events, but are you confident your audio works? Do you have the best quality, global coverage and audio control available, as well as numerous ways to connect your callers?

With WebEx audio integration you can improve your WebEx experience even more for the most productive, efficient and reliable trainings and meetings. Companies of all sizes will benefit from the superior service and support of an audio conferencing market leader alongside your web conferencing solution.

WebEx Audio Integration

What Is WebEx Audio Integration?
Audio integration takes the functionality of two different applications and merges them so users access both within a single interface. An adapter relays signals between applications and servers to transfer data and transform all of the complexity happening behind the scenes into a simultaneous, seamless experience for the user.

For example, take PGi’s GlobalMeet® adapter, which integrates GlobalMeet audio bridges with WebEx servers. While WebEx shares web conferencing data to users’ computers, PGi connects users to audio via a PSTN or Internet connection. The meeting host then uses native controls within the existing web conferencing interface to manage all audio aspects of the event.

The end result is, users never know they’re accessing a separate component, limiting confusion while enhancing the meeting experience. In fact, PGi’s seamless audio integration with WebEx tools requires no additional hardware, maintenance or end user training, making it an easy way to extend the value of your WebEx investment.

Why It Matters

WebEx audio integration transforms your events with:

  • Enhanced audio control. Integrated audio offers robust features to accommodate even more types of callers and events. Save time by muting everyone in a single click, or lock a call to control participation. Have the web conference call you, or dial out to add participants.
  • Crystal clear audio. When you need flawlessness for meetings, trainings, sales or customer support, enterprise-class audio integration provides reliable, high-quality audio, even when your events scale to hundreds of participants.
  • More ways to connect. Hybrid audio integrations provide a seamless, consistent experience for dial-in, dial-out, PSTN and VoIP callers, and of course the ability to connect via VoIP from any location in the world greatly reduces your conferencing costs.
  • Superior audio support. Not all audio conferencing providers are the same, and some are really software companies, not audio experts. When your audio conferencing solution is built by audio experts, you can expect better in-meeting assistance specifically for fine-tuning, or rescuing, your audio connections.
  • Better global coverage. When you need to connect people outside of your company from all over the world, you need more local access points and regional softphone servers. Plus, a provider with years of experience building relationships with worldwide carriers offers better audio conferencing rates.

Learn More

Try it free and learn more about WebEx audio integration with these additional resources:

  1. Learn why integrations should be a top feature you look for when choosing an audio conferencing provider.
  2. Read an audio integration case study on how PGi’s solutions helped Mercedes-Benz USA conduct seamless internal trainings.
  3. Download a brochure on PGi’s GlobalMeet Hybrid Audio for WebEx.

What is Unified Communications and Collaboration?

Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) is a combination of enterprise communication tools assembled into a single interface and integrated into a single management system. UC&C helps enterprises to overcome the inefficiencies and challenges that were previously siloed and fragmented—focusing on making your company more connected, efficient and productive.

A set of UC&C products includes a variety of communications and collaboration tools including:

  • Email and voicemail
  • Calendars and scheduling
  • Voice and telephony
  • Real-time communications
  • Web, audio and video conferencing
  • Instant messaging

UC&C offers any organization an array of benefits, providing employees with a consistent experience and interface across all devices, enhancing their ability to telecommute or work remotely. Other ways your company can benefit include:

  • Integrated experience: UC&C provides a single, cohesive and consistent experience by combining email, mobile, voice, web conferencing and real time communications.
  • Increased enterprise productivity and collaboration: Conventional communications tend to be bulky and inconsistent, leaving your employees spending more time on learning different tools, and less time getting work done. With UC&C tools your teams will be able to work together more efficiently and productively through a variety of channels.
  • Improved user experience: By reducing the need for separate training, user names and passwords, your employees will find UC&C tools easier to access and use.
  • Reduced IT and telephony costs: With all communications integrated into a single platform, you’ll have less potential failure points and risks of error, reducing the need for constant help from IT.

UC&C simply revolutionizes business communications by offering an all-encompassing, flexible suite of tools to make your business run more smoothly. Take the next steps in learning more about adopting UC&C in your company:

  1. Download PGi’s free whitepaper, Powering Collaboration in the Unified Communications Era, and learn more about how to make UC&C a success in your business.
  2. Learn more about PGI’s industry-leading audio with the leading UC&C platform by checking out GlobalMeet® Audio for Lync®.
  3. After you’ve learned more about GlobalMeet Audio for Lync, request a free trial to join Microsoft® Lync meetings by phone.

What Are Video Managed Services?

Are you aware you can completely outsource your video conferencing management? Video managed services provide your company with a team of video experts that handle your entire video conferencing environment.

The success of video events hinges on the execution of each part of the complex video conferencing process. Leveraging video managed services, you better ensure that nothing goes wrong, and you get the most value out of your video conferencing solutions.

Providers’ portfolios of video services range from routine maintenance and support to white-glove service and customized solutions. Depending on the provider, deployment, management and support, services may include:

  • Professional consulting services, such as system recommendations, operations planning and user training.
  • Concierge services that add professionalism to events and pre-testing to resolve issues before your call launches.
  • An expert help desk that offers technical video management, remote solution monitoring to catch costly errors before they happen, and end-to-end ticket resolution.
  • Customized video managed solutions like easy UC integration or even on-site staffing to support your company’s unique infrastructure and goals.

Emerging Challenges in Video Management

User-friendly, intuitive video conferencing options are available, but if your company or IT team identifies with the following scenarios, you many need to consider using video managed services:

  • Are your IT resources strained? Managing and resolving video conferencing issues may consume a large percentage of your IT team’s limited time and resources, especially if your company engages in large-scale or high-volume video events. Instead, you could refocus your IT resources by leveraging external video managed services.
  • Does your company have considerable mobile users? Incorporating mobility into your video conferencing strategy requires additional considerations. How will you optimize the mobile experience? How will you support remote users and boost adoption? How will you add security (especially if you support BYOD)? Even if you’re only in the beginning phases of allowing telecommuting or BYOD, you may still need a video services provider to help you embed flexibility in your strategy and future-proof your video solutions.
  • Do you manage multiple video solutions? Global companies with multiple video collaboration solutions encounter problems with standardization. Video managed services experts help you consolidate solutions with a single vendor so you can enjoy cost savings and a single point of contact, without interrupting business operations.
  • Do you need to bridge video solutions? Your company may need to incorporate web or mobile participants into video rooms, as well as customers and partners. Video managed services experts help you make the process seamless and simple and also offer access to the latest video technology to avoid additional investments.

PGi offers more in-depth video managed services, flexibility and expertise to serve your needs, and because PGi video professionals focus more on the end user, you can expect a superior user experience.

Contact a video managed services expert at PGi today to learn more about how video managed services will help you make video a critical communications tool to improve productivity, make faster decisions and grow your business.

What are APIs? (Application programming interface)

If you regularly use web or mobile apps, you may have encountered the acronym “API.” So what exactly is an API?

API stands for “application programming interface,” and is a set of tools and protocols for building software applications. While some companies restrict their APIs to a limited set of developers in order to protect intellectual property or tightly control who can develop for a specific platform, APIs can also be freely published, allowing anyone to make use of them to build an application or integration.

One of the most commonly encountered uses for APIs today is that they allow your apps and services to communicate with one another. For example, have you ever shared a photo from within one social media app to another? That was done through the use of an API which allowed the two services to communicate. Have you ever pulled a document from a file sharing service into another program? Again, an API made this possible.

Applications in Collaboration

Similar to the above examples, APIs power integrations for collaboration software, allowing you to access information from or send information to your other apps and services without having to navigate to them directly.

For example, within iMeet, you can directly access a meeting guest’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Flickr by simply clicking on their cube. This information populates directly within the iMeet interface, as opposed to forcing you to open a new tab and navigate to each social media site individually, all things to each services’ open APIs.

Another example, also from iMeet, allows meeting guests to send any notes taken during the meeting directly to Evernote. It also gives you direct access to your notes in Evernote from the iMeet interface, including the ability to share them with the meeting room.

Finally, smart calendar apps like Agenday make heavy use of APIs. They collect and aggregate information from your various calendars (including Google Calendar and Outlook) and provide valuable, contextually relevant information about your day such as current weather conditions and social media profiles of upcoming meeting guests. For sales, Agenday also offers direct connections to Salesforce for logging calls and adding contacts. However, arguably the most important usage of APIs in your smart calendar is connecting you directly into your web conferencing application of choice; a single tap on your meeting notification will launch you into your favorite web conferencing app.

APIs, particularly open APIs, continue to power the interconnected nature of today’s digital existence. For collaboration, they provide mission-critical integrations that streamline your workday and empower productivity.

Learn More

  • Explore the social media and Evernote integrations in iMeet with a free trial.
  • Download Agenday for free today and use its built-in integrations to launch your web and audio meetings.

What Is Video Conferencing?

To meet and collaborate across a distance right from a desktop, many businesses turn to video conferencing technology. Transferring audiovisual data through your computer’s microphone, webcam, speakers and monitor, it replicates the face-to-face meeting experience.

Essentially, it’s just like calling a friend on the phone, except with video conferencing you can see them, not just hear them.

Video conferencing, also spelled videoconferencing by IT experts, is most commonly performed via the Internet on a personal device like your computer, tablet or smartphone. Although it can also be conducted with a room-based video system, the lack of hardware costs and ability to leverage users’ existing devices makes cloud-based video conferencing more appealing and prevalent among companies of all sizes.

In fact, this virtual meeting room is increasingly replacing the physical conference room, making point-to-point contact between individuals or multipoint contact between groups easier than ever.

How Video Conferencing Differs From Web Conferencing
Video conferencing and web conferencing are often used interchangeably, but here’s where they’re different: video conferencing primarily focuses on people, not content.

As collaboration tools evolve to meet market demands and adapt to changing workflows, both video conferencing and web conferencing tools incorporate features from the other. Though from the beginning, video conferencing’s primary feature was video streams, while web conferencing’s was file sharing and annotation.

However, both share the same benefits: instant sharing and feedback, a global reach across time zones, convenience for busy schedules and mobile workers and no travel required. Plus, the benefit of better relationship building benefits live meetings, training, interviews and more.

Changes on the Horizon in Video Conferencing
In addition to the merge with web conferencing features, video conferencing will continue evolving in other ways as the presence of telecommuting, globalization and Millennial workers grows in the workplace.

Expect to see video conferencing technology that is even more intuitive and equipped with better video and sound quality, as well as more integrations of video conferencing within unified communications tools. As more industries discover the versatility of video conferencing for both internal and external communication, this tool may find its way to line-of-business applications, as well.

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The benefits of video conferencing yield a variety of applications. Read just some of the examples of how video conferencing advances collaboration in your industry:

  1. Technology has revolutionized sales practices, but building strong, personal connections with prospects remains a priority. PGi’s free whitepaper for sales teams looks out how video conferencing is the new deal closer for top sales organizations.
  2. Learn how a digital marketing agency used PGi’s video conferencing technology to attract and engage clients without leaving the office. Read the free Eighty6 case study.

What is a Smart Calendar App?

In order to meet the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce, mobile applications designed to empower productivity are among the most popular on any mobile app store. In recent years, smart calendar apps such as PGi’s  Agenday® have become a popular way to help more intelligently juggle busy schedules, bridging personal and professional gaps by combining all of your calendars and events into a single interface.

But exactly what is a smart calendar app?

While they come in a variety of sizes and feature sets, the basics of a smart calendar app is that of a calendar aggregator; in other words, it can combine multiple existing calendars seamlessly into a single interface without any additional work required on the user’s part. This is typically done by utilizing the calendars already on your tablet and smartphone and pulling the event data together.

Common Smart Calendar Features

In addition to typical calendar features such as scheduling, event editing and reminder notifications, smart calendar apps take your calendar a step further with contextually intelligent, innovative features to make it easier to manage your day.

Smart calendar app features can include:

  • Aggregation of multiple calendars into a single interface, e.g. displaying events from both your work and personal calendars together;
  • Providing actionable information on calendar events, such as links to a maps application from an event address or one-tap dial-in to a conference call;
  • Information about other guests on your events, including contact info, social media profiles and notes;
  • Actionable event notifications that let you dial out to a conference call or launch an online meeting app directly from the meeting reminder notification; and
  • Displaying relevant information based on the location and time-of-day of your events, such as weather conditions, traffic and drive times.

These are just a sample of the unique features offered by many smart calendar apps, and new functionality is constantly being added to these mobile apps as mobile device hardware and software develops and evolves.

Learn More

* Learn how to integrate a smart calendar into your online meetings, including connecting your calendar to your Salesforce account.

* Visit www.agenday.com to learn more about integrating a smart calendar app into your workday.

* Download Agenday today for iPhone, Android or Amazon Fire Phone.

What is Big Data?

There are three defining qualities of Big Data, according to IT research and advisory company Gartner: Big Data is “high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety.”

It’s one of the biggest technology trends that impacts every business because, as echoed throughout headlines, every business is now digital. And it has a direct effect on the future of business collaboration.

Why Big Data’s Exploding
Big Data isn’t completely brand new. We’ve always transmitted and analyzed large amounts of data from customer surveys, social media pages, online shopping behaviors and more.

However, now we’re capturing data at a faster rate. The IoT sparked a surge in connectivity, and that variety of connected points — wearables, cars, apps, sensors — reveal more about human behaviors than ever.

The other defining difference is a large amount of today’s data is raw and unstructured, which means to gain anything from it we need to assign it meaning. The technology to not only produce and collect data but also manage and analyze it (like the scalability and security of the cloud) is widespread and continuing to get easier to use.

Big Data’s Business Value
By moving from harvesting to dissecting Big Data, now businesses can gain real value. Data mining (identifying trends and patterns) yields insights into a business’s pain points that may have never been exposed before.

Analyzing worker behaviors, output and operations, businesses make better decisions to improve productivity and efficiency. Business intelligence from Big Data even helps propel companies toward innovation and helps predict consumer behaviors and industry trends.

Whoever mines the most value from Big Data will have the biggest competitive edge, but the challenge of turning data into knowledge requires a complete culture change.

A Collaborative Culture Shift
Everyone in the business is realizing the value of Big Data for customer insights and demonstrating their ROI. The accessibility of self-service data mining and the customer-centric transformation of all roles within a company is giving rise to data-driven organizations.

In order for a business to be successful with data, however, a collaborative culture change is required.

Managing Big Data can overwhelm a single department, which is why data mining requires greater teamwork and sharing. Plus, cross-functional collaboration better bridges gaps in information and helps everyone construct more meaningful connections out of data.

This culture shift depends upon the creation of new workflows and tools that expand across departments, closer collaboration with leadership and company-wide alignment on goals and priorities. No single line of business can fully extract the value of Big Data alone, and not a single company can afford to ignore these technology trends and changes as businesses soon compete with information.

Learn More
Big Data is complex and still evolving in terms of strategies and applications. Learn more about this topic with the following resources:

  1. Learn what the biggest barriers are to unlocking value from Big Data in PGi’s free eBook. Download “The Future of Business Collaboration 2015 Edition” now for Big Data commentary from Edelman’s Global Managing Director of Strategic Growth.
  2. See how PGi’s leading collaboration solutions help build collaborative cultures for data-driven organizations.
  3. Not all collaboration is productive. Read this blog post from PGi Founder Boland Jones on the difference between constant connectivity and productive collaboration.

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What is BYOD? (Bring Your Own Device)

BYOD is an acronym that stands for “Bring Your Own Device,” and represents an increasingly popular policy of allowing workers to bring their own technology and mobile devices into the workplace and use them to access company information. As devices like smartphones and tablets have become more prevalent and consumers have become more tech savvy, workers are beginning to expect the same kinds of user experiences and intuitive interfaces from their work technology that consumer devices offer.

The increasing prevalence of BYOD environments represents a shift in IT policy; rather than dictating specifically what can and cannot be used at work, IT departments are allowing workers the freedom and choice of utilizing their own technology.

Pros of BYOD
There are several benefits of enabling BYOD within an organization. For starters, it makes for a happier workforce and is often viewed as an organizational perk. It can lower support burdens placed on IT because workers are already familiar with the technology. BYOD also instantly creates a mobile-enabled workforce, giving your organization the freedom to work in the office or on-the-go, keeping pace with the lightning-fast speed of modern business and adapting to workforce shifts towards remote work, flex work and telecommuting.

And of course, while there may be increased security concerns, organizations can save considerable technology expenses by not having to purchase new devices for every single employee.

Cons of BYOD
The primary argument against BYOD is one of security. With so many devices and types of devices moving in and out of an organization, how does IT maintain compliance, ensure data security and safeguard against breaches?

In the face of these questions, additional security layers and platforms have been developed. For example, Mobile Device Management, or MDM, is an additional layer of software that IT departments can deploy to their organization that can centralize the management and control of worker-owned technology. With an MDM service installed, IT can partition devices with separate “work” and “personal” information, and locate, remotely lockdown or even wipe the company’s information from the device while leaving the employee’s personal data intact.

Some OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are also tackling the problems of BYOD on the hardware front,  creating devices with these secured workspaces already built in, allowing IT to manage them without the additional MDM software.

Regardless of the methodology, managing these devices is and will remain a priority for IT departments in an increasingly connected workplace.

Benefits for Collaboration
Collaboration solutions like web and audio conferencing increasingly offer mobile connection options, making BYOD a boon for collaboratively enabled enterprises. Knowing that every employee has a smartphone and that they’re already comfortable installing and using apps on the device means that there’s little to no training required to get mobile collaboration up and running.

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What is SaaS? (Software as a Service)

SaaS (pronounced “sass”) stands for Software as a Service. SaaS is an increasingly popular licensing and delivery model for business and consumer applications. Sometimes called “on-demand software,” the basic idea behind SaaS applications is that instead of installing or hosting software locally, vendors host and maintain the servers running the application which is then accessed simply through a web browser.

SaaS applications are generally priced with a subscription model, either a monthly or annual fee, as opposed to a larger, up-front cost with ongoing support payments. Businesses can pay for the number of licenses they need with the flexibility to add users as their needs change.

SaaS is an important part of cloud computing; when vendors refer to their solution being “in the cloud,” they’re typically referring to the Software as a Service model. Examples of common SaaS business applications include email, customer relationship management, accounting, social business solutions and collaboration.

Benefits of SaaS

Software as a Service solutions cause considerably less support burdens on IT by outsourcing hardware and software maintenance to the SaaS provider. It’s also easier and quicker to deploy SaaS solutions to an organization, since often it’s simply a matter of provisioning accounts rather than purchasing and installing hardware.

Other SaaS benefits include:

* Centralized administration
* Global accessibility
* Mobile accessibility
* Automatic updates
* No compatibility or versioning issues
* End user customization and configuration options

Learn More

* Dispel some common myths about cloud computing and SaaS in our free cloud eBook.
Contact a PGi expert today to learn more about PGi’s SaaS collaboration tools, including iMeet, iMeetLive and GlobalMeet.

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What is the Difference Between Video and Web Conferencing?

There are a lot of confusing, potentially redundant-sounding terms commonly used in the conferencing and collaboration space. For example, both web conferencing and video conferencing seem similar if not synonymous at first glance: both involve real-time communication between two or more parties from laptops, desktops or mobile devices.

While there are still important distinctions between these two technologies, it’s also important to remember that collaboration solutions are experiencing something of a convergence, where once-separate tools are increasingly blurring lines and becoming more similar in features and functionality.

So let’s answer the important question: what’s the difference between web conferencing and video conferencing?

Web Conferencing

Traditionally, the primary purpose of these tools has been document, file and project collaboration. Key web conferencing features were desktop sharing, application sharing and file sharing. In other words, a web conference is where you pulled parties together online to annotate a document, view a project in progress or get a walkthrough of a new website, software design, training procedure, etc.

While the best web conferencing services offered featured audio connections and also rudimentary video streaming capabilities, the focus was on the content being shared, and the features were designed accordingly. Web conferences were and continue to be primarily accessed through desktops and laptops. These online meetings required little additional investment, although as mobile devices and remote work have become more common, smartphones and tablets are increasingly popular methods for joining web conferencing meetings.

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing, on the other hand, centered on connecting people through video streams, often with very little other features involved. The goal of video conferencing was simply to bridge distance, recreating the experience of meeting in-person through webcams or even large, room-based video conferencing systems to facilitate group meetings.

While many organizations still utilize room-based video systems, and new software integrations are continually being developed to bring new collaboration technologies into those systems, the transition to cloud-based collaboration applications has made it just as common to have a video conference on a laptop, desktop or mobile device.

The Lines Are Blurring

A primary reason behind the confusion between these two conferencing terms is that the lines are increasingly blurring. As technology becomes more sophisticated, video-enabled endpoints more readily available and high-speed internet connections more common, both technologies have integrated features primarily reserved for the other in response to market demands.

While web conferencing was traditionally designed primarily as a content-sharing and collaboration platform, web conferences are increasingly centering around streaming and HD video streams between guests in addition to document collaboration.

And though video conferencing still places its emphasis on emulating in-person meetings with the focus on video, many tools have been added like screen sharing, file sharing and other features that used to be entirely the purview of web conferencing solutions.

Ultimately, these lines will continue to blur, creating the need for seamless, unified collaboration platforms that can manage audio, video, content and even asynchronous communication such as instant messaging and social business platforms for easy online meetings. Until then, however, both web and video conferencing will continue to play vital roles in keeping today’s businesses connected and collaborative.

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What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is a work option where knowledge workers perform their job outside of a traditional office space.

It’s also known as telework, remote work, mobile work and work from home, but telecommuting isn’t limited to working at home. Telecommuters also work while traveling, at coffee shops, rental office spaces and other company-approved places of their choice.

In fact, the definition of telecommuting is a somewhat undefined but evolving concept as more workers employ this work method full-time, part-time or on entirely virtual teams. It is part of the broader category of flex work—flexible work options that give employees control over their schedule.

Telecommuting cannot happen without the right technology, and advancements in the virtual work environment have supported the rise and acceptance of telecommuting.

Telecommuters have to use a variety of communication and collaboration tools to complete their work and stay connected to supervisors and teammates, including:

  • An Internet connection, typically Wi-Fi;
  • Email;
  • Audio, typically VoIP or cell phone;
  • Instant messaging;
  • Social business tools such as intranets or social media;
  • Online forums and communities;
  • Video and web conferencing;
  • Online meetings; and
  • Online team workspaces.

The Benefits and Challenges of Telecommuting

For workers, the benefits of telecommuting include:

• Work-life balance (or integration): The flexibility to work from home aids in better health and less absenteeism. Employees can focus on wellness while still working and avoid the stresses of commuting and in-office politics.

• Enhanced productivity: Employees are empowered to employ their own workstyle while telecommuting, collaborating only at their most opportune times and avoiding office distractions.

• Less travel: The ability to skip the commute helps employees not only go green but also save on the time and monetary costs of travel.

Companies also reap the benefits of:

• Increased productivity: Since employees have the flexibility to choose where, when and how they want to work, they have more potential to reach their highest levels of productivity, increasing output.

• Cost savings: Telecommuting also saves companies money on business travel and large office costs, and telecommuting aids in globalization as companies expand their reach.

• Employee retention: As an employee perk, telecommuting helps companies better compete for (and retain) talent among a wider pool of candidates, as well as retain the talent of happier workers.

• Availability: During severe weather, telecommuting allows companies to continue work when travel is too dangerous. Additionally, telecommuters typically use fewer sick days.

Despite the numerous benefits, telecommuting is not without challenges for both employees and companies.

Telecommuters must learn how to better establish working relationships, maintain transparency and make ongoing communication a top priority. They also face misconceptions that telecommuters are unproductive, sometimes penalized in terms of promotions.

Meanwhile, companies must learn new management styles for telecommuters, find out how to cultivate company culture and innovation within a telecommuting workforce and identify the most efficient means of tracking accountability.

Learn More

To learn more about telecommuting and its impact on workers and businesses, check out these additional resources:

  1. Learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting in PGi’s free eBook, “The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.”
  2. Discover the best productivity tips for your telecommuting personality type in PGi’s free eBook, “Which Type of Teleworker Are You?
  3. Keep up with PGi’s latest telecommuting blog posts at The Future of Business Collaboration.

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What Is the Difference Between a Webinar and Webcast?

Webinars and webcasts are increasingly common tools for even the web event novice, allowing a variety of roles and industries to reach leads, employees, customers and more from miles away. But, sharing so many similarities, not many know the difference between a webinar and webcast.

Both are broadcast over the Internet and accessed via a single URL on any device, either live, simulated live or on demand. Both offer post-event registration, gated entry and post-event data to analyze performance.

The difference is webcasting is a technology, whereas webinars are one use case for that technology. In other words, a webinar is a type of webcast. Admittedly, the terms are often used interchangeably and sometimes misused.

Traditionally, webcasts are considered a one-to-many broadcast and webinars a few-to-many event, but it’s important to note that webcasting technology offers the same level of controlled audience engagement for any application, including webinars.

This might be confusing if you were under the notion that both webinars and webcasts each used unique technologies, so let’s clear up three common webinar and webcasting misconceptions:

1. Misconception: A webcast only facilitates one-way communication, while in contrast, a webinar facilitates two-way interaction.

Fact: Because webinars can be hosted using webcasting software, both webinars and webcasts have the same level of interactive capabilities. And because engagement is an increasingly top priority for web events, most webcasting technology supports all of the features for controlled audience engagement—polls, surveys, Q&A—as web conferencing tools.

2. Misconception: Webinars support a smaller audience, whereas webcasts support a larger audience.

Fact: Because webinars are an application of a technology, event capacity depends on which software you use. If you host a webinar using web conferencing software, your audience capacity will differ than if you use webcasting software.

3. Misconception: Professional webcasts require sophisticated equipment and know-how on the part of the host. Webinars, on the other hand, offer more DIY solutions.

Fact: Today, webcasting is no longer limited to business users with specialized equipment, studios and production staff.

Self-service webcasting technology lets hosts leverage existing tools and requires only basic training. Likewise, webinars hosted on webcasting technology can be executed using managed web event services.

Webcasts are still often sought out with the sole purpose of delivering information to a large quantity of attendees. Streaming live events like investor relations presentations, e-learning trainings and corporate presentations, for example, are common use cases for webcasting.

However, when engagement, active listening and participation are the most important goals, webinars make the most sense. More interactive, collaborative events like seminars, corporate town halls, marketing events and thought leadership talks benefit from live chat, polls and questions.

And because major growth is underway in the web event and webcasting market, these similarities, differences and definitions may continue to change as new types of business users adopt these tools to a variety of applications.

Learn more about what a webinar is and what webcasting is at PGi now.