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Remote work

A guide to video conferencing for remote work


  • Julie Griffin
  • Jul 06, 2020
TLDR

Here's a guide to the essentials of video conferencing, from choosing your solution to best practices and essential features.

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Working from home is becoming more and more of the norm, especially since COVID-19 forever altered the working world.

The work from home lifestyle has some advantages to businesses, like less office maintenance and lower electricity bills, but getting all employees up and running smoothly from home is a daunting task. Not all employees have high internet speeds, a home office, or the equipment needed to work from home. Plus, there’s the rather large question of what communication solutions will best support employees during this time.

While phone calls and internal messaging platforms are helpful for quick conversations, video conferencing is one of the most effective methods to bridge the gap between in-person and virtual communication. Regular face-time between employees, teams, and the C-suite, helps build a sense of community and belonging especially when in-person contact is so limited.

But how do you know what the right video conferencing software is for your business? There are so many choices! We’ll walk through how to choose the right video conferencing solution for your company, best practices for remote calls, and how to get started.

How to choose a video conferencing solution

When evaluating video conferencing solutions, there are a number of factors that will help you narrow down your choices. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How many participants will sit on your calls?

  • Do participants live in different time zones, countries, or continents? Are the majority employees, customers, or potential clients?

  • How frequently will you have calls? And how long will the calls generally last?

  • How important is security and encryption to your business?

  • Do you need to integrate with other applications? Google Calendar, Outlook, Google docs, etc.?

  • Would you like recordings of your calls?

Let’s go step by step through each of these questions to help you evaluate the best video conferencing solution for your company.

Number of participants and ability to scale

Video conferencing solutions are often billed by either the number of participants, minutes used, or licenses. Each of these billing methods can be advantageous depending on the size of your company and how often your participants will be video conferencing.

For example, November and December for sales teams can be months that are light on calls. Companies aren’t as interested in purchasing at the end of the year and employees take time off for the holidays. When billing on usage, your November and December bills wouldn’t be as high because you’re only paying for the minutes you used.

On the flip side, if your employees are constantly on video calls, it might be worth it to pay for licenses and have a fixed rate. The best fit will differ from business to business, so it’s worth it to crunch the numbers and see what makes the most sense for your company.

If you’re concerned about your company’s ability to scale with video conferencing, find out if the solution can support your projected increase in usage. It could be easier for your company to scale with a custom solution rather than an out-of-the-box offering, since custom can provide greater flexibility and reliability.

And last, consider how easy or challenging it will be for your IT team to initially set up the solution, as well as set up new employees. This can have a huge impact on scalability as your company grows.

Location of participants

If your participants are in different time zones or countries, you may find yourself in a video conference call that’s lagging quite a bit. This lag is often attributed to poor internet connection, but it can also be because video conferencing services do not have servers in other countries. This makes the connection much slower for participants in areas where there aren’t local servers.

If you have a global business, or even one that’s across 2 or 3 time zones, look for a solution that has multiple servers worldwide. Twilio Programmable Video, for example, has servers in 9 data centers around the world as well as a feature called Global Low Latency (GLL) that automatically finds the best server to connect participants.

To download or not

If your employees are on a number of client-facing video calls, it’s easiest to use a platform that does not require the client to download or install any software. For employees who use the software for mostly internal meetings, downloading the software isn’t as much of a hurdle.

Frequency & length of calls

Many companies charge by the frequency and length of call. If you opt for a few free video conferencing solutions, beware that many cap the number of calls you can have and/or the length of that call.

Quality of video

If you’re video conferencing with your fellow team members, high-quality video may not be as important of a factor. However, if you’re presenting to clients, you probably want a service with higher quality video and ability to adjust to different network conditions.

Security & encryption

With so many more people working remotely, the number of hackers attempting to intercept video calls has also risen. The need for security and encrypted connections has dramatically increased.

Particular industries, like finance and medical, will need even more stringent protections in place to ensure their customers’ and patients’ privacy is protected. If you fall into this category, look for video conferencing solutions that are GDPR compliant and/or HIPAA eligible.

Enterprise companies will want to consider the easiest (and most secure) methods for their employees to access the video conferencing solution. If employees have to enter their password each time they log into their account, they’ll be more susceptible to hackers. Twilio, for example, provides developers access tokens to control who can join the video conferences. Enterprise companies will want to look out for video conferencing solutions that can integrate with single sign on (SSO), two factor authentication with verification codes, and/or software management systems.

Recording

If it’s important for your company to review meetings after the fact, look for services that offer recordings of videos. Some of these services limit the number of recordings you can make, while others charge per minute the meetings you record. Also consider where and how you can store recordings. This is crucial for some industries to meet data compliance regulations.

And lastly, think about the security of those recordings. If the meetings being recorded are confidential, you’ll want to ensure that the recording is password protected. For added security, look for companies that can encrypt recordings. Twilio encrypts its recordings with a public and private key.

Mobile

Video conferencing solutions that can be accessed with a mobile device will be useful for teams frequently on-the-go. While it’s unlikely that many teams are traveling during this pandemic, it’s also helpful to have a backup option if there are technical difficulties on the participant’s computer.

Collaboration tools

Do you need your video conferencing solution to integrate with your email calendars like Google or Outlook, a shared drive, or be able to share your screen as you present? Evaluate what collaborative elements are most important to the success of your video conferencing.

Twilio, for example, allows you to connect APIs to its existing infrastructure to add other channels. Consider integrating with short message service (SMS) or Slack to receive appointment reminders. You could also provide backup channels like dialing in over the phone via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) for participants who have low bandwidth or no internet connection.

Additional ways to connect

If video conferencing is outside of the budget, consider voice conferencing using programmable voice. Additionally, when using video conferencing, you can use SIP trunking to join the conference by dialing a phone number. A SIP trunk is the virtual version of a phone line, removing the need for a physical connection to a phone company while providing a speedy connection for Voice over IP (VoIP).

With SIP trunking, you have the same level of connectivity over the phone with unlimited ability to scale. Find more information on Twilio’s SIP trunking solution here.

Best practices for virtual communications

 To help you have the most successful video conferencing calls, here are a few tips you can share with your team.

Video conferencing set up

Set up your video conferencing space in a well-lit, tidy area of your home. (A clean, blank area is a much better option than a cluttered one!) Avoid areas where there is a window behind you. The back-lighting can make it very challenging to distinguish facial features on a call. If you can’t avoid a back-lit area, then place a lamp in front of you to help balance out the light.

Not everyone has a great space for video conferencing. In these situations, virtual backgrounds are incredibly helpful as they mask whatever is behind you with a sandy beach or a spaceship in orbit. If this would be a useful feature to your team, make sure the video conferencing solution you choose is also highly reliable.

In addition to the way your work from home space looks, you’ll want to think about how the space sounds. Do you live on a noisy street? Does your dog like to bark at passerbyers? Is your child’s bedroom/playroom close by? Before your call, close any windows or doors to help block out any noises.

Video conferencing accessories

It’s amazing how much a pair of headphones or a headset can improve a video conferencing call. Headphones prevent sound from echoing off of your speakers, making it so much easier to hear everyone on the call. If you’re using a headset, check in your computer settings whether or not your sound is going through your headset’s mic or your computer’s. Even with a headset connected, the computer mic is often set as the default.

In addition to headphones, it can be really nice to have an attachable camera, especially if you don’t have a camera on your monitor. Switching between your laptop or mobile camera and attachable camera can be a bit tricky, so we’ve outlined how to program the switch in this tutorial.

Test before starting

Join your meeting a couple of minutes before it starts. This will allow you to test your internet connection, microphone, headphones, and sound to troubleshoot any issues prior to the start of the meeting.

Mute when you’re not speaking

Especially if you have pets, kids, or other people in your home, it’s best practice to mute yourself when you’re not talking. Otherwise, the background noise can be very distracting to the other participants on the call.

Turn on video

If everyone else has their video turned on, you should turn yours on too. The advantage of video conferencing is that it’s much easier to interact with people compared to voice-only calls. It’s easier to read facial expressions and provides a much more social environment. During a time when community is challenging to find, video conferencing offers much-needed facetime.

Record with permission

While the option to record presentations is incredibly useful, confirm with all attendees that they agree to being recorded before you press start. Some video conferencing platforms enable you to alert participants that a recording has begun, and give them the option to leave the meeting if needed.

Require passwords

In light of recent security issues with video conferencing platforms, it’s even more important to require passwords when scheduling a virtual meeting. This provides an extra layer of security making it harder for hackers to join the meeting. (Here’s how to set up one-time passcodes for Twilio Programmable Video.)

Verify attendees

On some platforms, you can set up waiting rooms in which the host must admit the attendees in order for them to proceed to the meeting. This prevents hackers and other unwanted visitors from viewing any sensitive content.

Don’t publicize meeting IDs

To ensure that your meeting stays private, be careful of where you include the meeting ID and password. Never publish the information on social media. Instead, send the meeting invite via email or use plugins like Chrome or Outlook to securely add the invite to attendees’ calendars.

For additional best practices to help your business stay secure while communicating virtually, check out these use cases and tips.

Getting started with video conferencing

Now that you have all of the information and best practices you need to successfully choose your video conferencing solution, it’s time to get set up with your ideal video conferencing solution.

Consider adding Twilio Programmable Video to your short list. It provides the ability to:

  • Scale with security and compliance. With servers across 9 locations worldwide, Twilio offers reliable video services while achieving security and compliance standards, such as HIPAA and GDPR.

  • Provide high-quality video experiences. Twilio automatically adjusts to a participant’s bandwidth, optimizing the video experience according to the participant’s network conditions. Programmable Video is also supported by all major browsers and mobile.

  • Integrate with other channels. Whether you want to include SMS to provide appointment reminders to participants or offer the ability to dial in over the phone to those with low or no internet connection, Twilio’s flexible platform makes it easy to add on other channels.

Learn more about Twilio Programmable Video’s features like recording, screen sharing, and HIPAA eligibility.

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