There’s an adage related to communications technology that’s nearly as annoying as jokes about pocket protectors: If you want to know what you’ll be doing in three years, ask what the geeks over in IT are doing right now. (We use that term in the most deferential way.) The lexicon is an incomprehensible alphabet soup to most of us — WAN, LAN and MAN, VoIP, IPTV and so on. So we asked three tech-savvy business people in Columbia what they see coming down the information highways.

CBT: Our workforce is increasingly dispersed and mobile, particularly now that gas prices are making telecommuting more popular. Organizations are searching for methods to maintain and improve employee collaboration and communication. The use of the Internet for phone calls and other communication is expanding like wildfire. What do you see as the most intriguing trends emerging in communications technology, both inside and outside your area of expertise.

RYAN TOWNER, TOWNER COMMUNICATIONS, rtowner@calltcs.com
Telecommuting is one of the best ways for a business to put money back into their bottom line. It is a technology that has been around for many years. However, the recent hike in gas prices, “green” thinking, as well as the economic slow-down has catapulted telecommuting to the forefront.
Telecommuting or tele-working (as we refer to it) enables a business to reduce the cost of overhead by allowing employees or road warriors to work as if they were in the office from wherever they might be.  Collaboration tools such as WIFI, cell phones, PDA’s, VoIP and online meetings improve the productivity of not only tele-workers but also in-office employees.

Ryan Towner, Towner Comunications

Ryan Towner, Towner Comunications

Some intriguing trends emerging within our industry is the wider use of Unified Messaging (UM).  With so much technology a part of everyone’s life today, it is easy to become consumed by it all.  Through the use of UM, it is easy to combine and centralize e-mail, voicemail and faxing into a single medium.
In addition to UM, many VoIP telephone systems have the ability to consolidate the multiple forums of media (cell, e-mail, office phone, home phone) and to ring them all simultaneously in order to maximize availability.  As technology continues to change, you’ll continue to see consolidation as well as availability, which allows businesses to do more with less.

J. SCOTT CHRISTIANSON, KALEIDOSCOPE VIDEOCONFERENCING, jsc@kalvideo.com
There is always some lag time between when a new technology is available and when businesses start to understand how to use it to make money. That has certainly been the case with “converged communications,” the ability to use whatever communications method you want–text, voice, video–to contact anyone from wherever you happen to be located at the given moment you decide to communicate.

J. Scot Christianson, Kaleidoscope Videoconferencing

J. Scot Christianson, Kaleidoscope Videoconferencing

Such solutions have been around for a while but haven’t been easy for small- and medium-sized businesses to integrate into their business processes, which usually involves a wide-variety of people in and outside their business. I think that social networking tools–such as LinkedIn, Tribe.com and Facebook–will provide the means to create associate-based networks and integrate them with real-time communications such as VoIP calling and videoconferencing.
Imagine if you could set up a Facebook group for all your customers and then launch a conference with all of them to discuss a new service. Some customers would connect to your HD videoconferencing system; some would connect with VoIP; others could view a live video and audio stream of the call; those on the road could connect via cell phone, while off-line customers could view the conference on YouTube afterward. I think that social networking will be the infrastructure behind the business communications in the future. Because after all, isn’t networking what business is really all about? “

JOHN DUPUY, SOCKET, jdupuy@socket.net
One of the more intriguing trends currently emerging in communications technology isn’t actually a new trend at all.  Rather, it is the revisiting of an older trend, but with renewed vitality.
Thanks to an increase in Internet and intranet bandwidth, as well as a rise in telecommuting, desktop virtualization (or VDI) allows users to move their office desktop wherever they might go. It can be used in two basic ways.

John Dupuy, Socket

John Dupuy, Socket

First, for the office environment, it connects every computer to a central server for all software and hardware applications. By connecting with what is known as a “thin client,” basically a stripped down computer, IT departments will be able to easily make upgrades network-wide.
Or, for the employee on the go, the thin client of the future will be nothing more than a Web browser. Remote users can open Firefox or Internet Explorer, for instance, on any computer and have instant access to their virtually hosted desktop and files.
This reduces the chance of leaving an important presentation on a computer at home, because with desktop virtualization, all computers are hosted on the same server.  Further, routine backups mean the potential for lost data and downtime associated with hardware and software repair and maintenance are virtually nil..
Desktop virtualization won’t just make IT departments happy, though.  An increase in hardware lifecycles ensures a better bottom line as well as less environmental impact, whether you use a Web browser or the more traditional hardware thin client.  All things considered, desktop virtualization has the potential to revolutionize not just the workplace, but also the overall computing and Internet experience!

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