Glowpoint provides cloud managed video services that make delivery of consistently high-quality video conferencing and telepresence service as simple as the Internet, between any endpoint, network and business.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Telepresence-as-a Service – The Alternative to “Extreme Commuting”

Steve Vobbe
Senior Vice President
Global Sales and Accounts

The recession and housing bust of the past 4-5 years is not only hurting personal financial statements but it’s also changing the way people work. As jobs are still scarce and housing has not fully recovered, people find themselves in a bit of a quagmire: “I need a job but I can’t move because I can’t get out of my house.” So, more and more workers are taking jobs that require an “extreme commute” – usually defined as 90 minutes or more. This topic was covered in the August 16th, 2012 USA Today by Charisse Jones ( ). The article cited a report by NYU indicating that “the number of Americans with marathon commutes is on the rise.” According to the NYU report, the number of people who commute more than 90 minutes rose 2.1% between 2009 and 2010. In my state, Texas, it’s far greater as the report found 13% of workers in Dallas and Houston had extreme commutes in 2010.

The USA Today article also included several interviews with people commuting to work on an airplane - leaving Monday and coming back on Friday. The interviewees stated a number of challenges, but most importantly they talked about the impact on their family. They needed the job but did not want to uproot their family support system so they opted for commutes that include a few hours on an airplane. The downside, obviously, is that you don’t get to see your family and miss many special moments. Additionally, the NYU research also found that these workers could face long term physical, sociological and psychological issues including fatigue and even depression.

I can relate to many of the interviewees in the article. For years, companies have asked me to move and I’ve been reluctant to do so. My wife is from Houston, she runs a successful design firm, and my kids have a great support structure (great school, sports teams and friends) that make it hard for us to move. The difference between my situation and those taking “extreme commutes” is that I’ve been able to use technology to make me just as effective without traveling to a brick and mortar office every day.  I use Glowpoint's OpenVideo® cloud and my custom built desktop video system to collaborate over video with my team from my home office. They are spread out across the U.S. using a variety of different types of systems from StarLeaf, Cisco, and Polycom, including software clients or Apps on iPads. Our headquarters is in Murray Hill, NJ and all day long I have formal and impromptu video meetings with team members in a Glowpoint office or at their home office.

Here is a picture of my video setup at home.  We are using a Glowpoint cloud video service - two of my teammates are using StarLeaf systems, one is on Cisco Jabber, and we are collaborating on business trends.

Prior to joining Glowpoint, I led a team that was made up of team members located in Norway (HQ), the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, India and many cities across the US. Fortunately for me we had telepresence in all offices and home offices, and an executive management team that was extremely supportive of video. It was part of the culture there, and it was fully expected that everyone use video instead of the telephone whenever possible. So other than shifting meetings to deal with the different time zones effectively, leading the team was pretty easy and daily face-to-face meetings with team members were made possible with telepresence. Here at Glowpoint it’s the same situation. 

For all of you that face “extreme commutes” the good news is that your company probably already has telepresence and you just need to be able to access it. And if your company does not currently have telepresence, it’s getting easier and easier to get it thanks to the continued growth of telepresence-as-a-service offerings (check out our All-Inclusive solution here). These offerings allow companies to either connect their existing telepresence endpoints (or other video enabled devices – ala BYOD) to the cloud, or purchase a package that includes the telepresence endpoint of their choice bundled with a cloud service. Either way, it allows them to quickly adopt video or expand usage without a large up front capital investment or local video infrastructure and support. This means that the barrier to entry for video is much lower than it used to be.

Customers can now outfit several employees and remote sales offices with HD telepresence with a cost ranging between virtually free and $500 per month depending on the office setup required. This low monthly price includes the telepresence endpoint and access to cloud services that provide a dial plan, multiparty video conferencing and B2B capabilities.

Video can’t eliminate all travel - but it certainly can cut down on those extreme commutes. And if you do have to travel, with your new telepresence capabilities, you will have the pleasure of seeing your family in high-def every night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Together, we are stronger…

          Tolga Sakman
          Acting CFO and SVP of Corporate Development

I am very excited to have announced our entry into a definitive agreement to acquire Affinity VideoNet. A good amount of people on both sides have worked on this transaction diligently over the past few months, and on behalf of Glowpoint, I would like to thank everyone who has spent countless hours in the process. We expect to close the acquisition within this quarter and I look forward to officially welcoming the employees of Affinity to the Glowpoint family when that time comes.

Affinity is comprised of a group of very talented and dedicated individuals who deliver an invaluable high-touch service to Affinity’s global customer base of professional services firms. I was very pleased to observe over the past few months that both Glowpoint and Affinity share a common culture of absolute dedication to our customers and betterment of their experiences.

Upon closing, executive search firms, law firms and others that benefit from Affinity’s video managed services will have access to an expanded array of services using our OpenVideo® cloud, such as automated call launching and reservationless, on-demand videoconferencing available from any device on any network, as well as our full suite of managed services including remote monitoring and management.

We are equally excited to add Pete Holst, the CEO of Affinity, to our management team at the time of closing. I had the pleasure of working closely with Pete over the past few months, and am thoroughly impressed with his knowledge of the industry and rapport with customers and employees. I look forward to working with him in the future.

The most exciting part of this transaction for me is the scale it brings to our operations and financials. Affinity brings along a list of impressive customers that have been loyal to Affinity due to high level of customer service.  The video conferencing suite rental business that Affinity is known for will add a new line of business to Glowpoint, and creates tremendous synergies with our partners in the public room rental business, utilizing our APIs for scheduling.

All in all, this is great news for both organizations and our respective customers globally. I am really excited, and look forward to the exciting future this transaction brings for us.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BYOD and The Cloud: A Perfect Marriage

Darren Podrabsky
Vice President of Marketing & Channels

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), or the practice of employees bringing their own devices to work and connecting them to their company network, is clearly trending in the Unified Communications industry today. A recent study* sponsored by Cisco including 600 U.S. IT and business leaders indicates that the average knowledge worker has around 3 devices connected to their company network, and the average is expected to grow to 3.3 by 2014. You can imagine what they are: iPhones, iPads, laptops, Android devices, videoconferencing systems, etc.  How many devices do you have connected at work?
It’s a good bet that every one of these devices are or will be video-enabled. If you’re following the trends in the telepresence and videoconferencing market today, you know that video at the desktop and mobile video continues to be hot, while immersive telepresence is not - at least not so far in 2012. It’s all about video on whatever you have wherever you are. I’ll come back to why this is important.
But first, why does BYOD continue to be news? And what does it mean to the average videoconferencing user?
Well first, BYOD is a direct shot at IT managers trying to setup and manage ‘company standard’ environments for their ever sprawling Unified Communications portfolio. If you are an IT manager, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Even a simple minded marketing guy like me understands that the trick to supporting a UC environment at scale is setting up a ‘company standard’ environment, training your staff or bringing in the necessary expertise, and carefully managing costs. You want to avoid investments in multiple infrastructure platforms and interoperability challenges, while scaling to meet demand. Simply put, BYOD flies right in the face of this strategy.
Well, interestingly enough, the Cisco study goes on to say:
  • 84% of the respondents (IT and business leaders) allow employee-owned devices, AND provide some level of support.
  • 36% provide full support for employee-owned devices. That’s right - full support!!
So, IT managers are beginning to embrace BYOD. How could this happen? Well, my take is that they are accepting that employees want to use what they want to use to be productive, and they are turning to the cloud to offer support. Here is why:
Call Registration & Support: As an esteemed colleague of mine pointed out the other day - in a cloud videoconference across the country by the way - someone has to give all of these video-enabled devices a ‘dial tone’, much like the first free VOIP services back in the day. And, think about the sheer number of choices that employees have today to video-enable their devices: Polycom® RealPresence® Mobile, Cisco Jabber, Microsoft® Lync™, Skype™, Google Talk, etc. Cloud services providers like Glowpoint invest in multiple infrastructure and video signaling platforms precisely so they can provide services for the widest range of videoconferencing systems. Multi-tenancy and supporting call volumes at scale is exactly the point of using the cloud. It can be scaled up or down. Which leads to my next point…
Call Capacity: This is already a topic of discussion in the videoconferencing industry: Do I buy yet another bridge that I have to stand up and support, or buy ports in the cloud? BYOD will force the discussion, as video usage grows in all the wrong places from an IT manager’s perspective. It will drive the average number of participants in video calls higher, creating the need for more flexible, pay-as-you-use cloud videoconferencing services like video bridging.
Interoperability: Again, when you think about the sheer number of choices, let alone the challenges that still remain between supporting H.323, SIP and TIP environments, the message is clear. BYOD will drive demand for easy, on-demand cloud videoconferencing services that support almost any device.
Now, IT managers: Please stop reading for a few moments. I need to tell your users something…
BYOD users can and probably will ‘sneak’ into the cloud and sign up for call support for their favorite video-enabled device - it’s very easy and cheap. This actually ends up being a benefit to IT managers, provided that concerns with security are addressed.
So, BYOD and the cloud seems like the perfect marriage to me. It lets employees use their device of choice to be more productive, without causing IT managers undue headaches. BYOD away!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Security, B2B, and Video Managed Services

Tolga Sakman
Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Strategy
February 21, 2012

These past few weeks we saw a flurry of publicity around an Internet security consulting firm’s findings on video conferencing and telepresence endpoints’ vulnerability to hackers, as covered by articles in The New York Times and Network World. The sensational aspect was that someone – anyone – could potentially dial into your endpoint, and unbeknownst to you, could be watching you and listening to your conversations, zooming in and reading confidential papers left in a conference room.

Needless to say, the telepresence end user community took notice, and the video-centric blogosphere lit up with viewpoints that put varying degrees of the blame on the equipment vendors (they shipped the systems with the auto-answer feature on), the A/V integrators (they didn’t setup a gatekeeper), the equipment installers (they simply don’t understand security), or even the end users (just because they’re always easy to blame).

I have been in the video industry for some time now, and the question of security comes up time and again. Let’s clarify one thing: the industry has developed and implemented high levels of encryption that satisfy the most security-conscious users, including the US Department of Defense. So once a video call is on, it cannot be “phished” / listened in / watched, whether it’s a point to point or multipoint call.

The type of potential security breach we are talking about here is mostly around systems set up with a public IP address, accessible via the Internet. In my experience, there are two reasons an endpoint might be deployed this way.

The first scenario usually occurs in a small firm with multiple offices of highly paid individuals, such as law firms and venture capital investors. These firms have typically deployed video after 2007 timeframe with the advent of HD, and have simply purchased 5-10 endpoints without any infrastructure, and have deployed them with public IP addresses with the intent of calling the other offices of the same firm. They mostly rely on embedded MCU capabilities of endpoints for multipoint calls.

In the second scenario, the main reason an endpoint has a public IP address is B2B (business to business) video calls. Typically, the vast majority of the video endpoints in the organization are behind a firewall and have private IP addresses, using a NAT (Network Address Translation) device, while a few select systems are given public IP addresses because the management wants to communicate with their partners / vendors / bankers / consultants / customers.

B2B Video: Is it a pipe dream?

For a number of reasons, the overwhelming majority of video calls today are intracompany, although it’s been technically possible to traverse firewalls and NAT devices for some time now. The problem is two parts interoperability challenges between different vendors’ equipment (yes, I know, we are still dealing with this issue in the year of 2012), one part lack of network peering (you’re on AT&T, I’m on Verizon, the rest is history), and a large scoop of lack of a universal dial plan.

Read that phrase again – lack of a universal dial plan. Think about it: you have video in your organization; so does your customer. You use 4 digit extensions to dial others in your organization, but your customer’s business card shows a video number with 5 digits. How do you “dial 9 to get out”? And then what?

When you look at our industry from this perspective, it really resembles the infancy of the telephony industry over a century ago: organizations deploy video internally and then an “operator” connects them to the outside world if and when they need to make intercompany calls. It’s cumbersome at best, and definitely not in sync with the ad hoc nature of our work environment today.

So enterprises go for the easy fix – put an absolute minimum number of endpoints up on the public Internet, so that they’re reachable via IP address dialing. Regardless of the auto-answer feature being on or off, this is not the most elegant solution. It creates unnecessary vulnerabilities and generates silos within the silos of already isolated video islands.

Following the telephony example of over a century ago, the ultimate solution to the B2B problem that will succeed is a cloud-based registry system that creates a universal dial plan and opt-in directories.

At Glowpoint, we are putting together exactly that: a B2B Exchange platform within OpenVideo cloud that provides a universal video number to all registered systems, with the end goal of enabling ad hoc, direct dialing outside of the enterprise. Much like your PBX-based desk phone having a 4 or 5 digit extension that can be dialed internally, while also having a 10 digit number (using US as an example) that can be dialed from the outside, your video endpoints will remain registered to your in-house gatekeeper / SIP registrar (if you have one), while also having a universal number that can be dialed from “the outside.”

Going back to the scenario #1 above, where endpoints are exposed to the Internet due to lack of in-house infrastructure, OpenVideo is also your cloud-based call control. You get connected, get a DID (direct inward dialing) number and live grand, making seamless B2B calls, using the directory.

Security or B2B? You need not compromise; you can have them both!

Despite the average prices coming down, video is not a cheap technology. You have invested a lot of money into your video deployment. There is no reason it should be limited only to calls between your offices. The more you can visually collaborate with your customers, partners and vendors, the more value you will get out of your investment. But you should not see the equation as one of compromise between B2B and security.

Using a cloud-based B2B Exchange service such as what we have in OpenVideo, you can B2B-enable your entire video estate with the peace of mind that it remains secure and behind your corporate firewalls.

Glowpoint runs the largest B2B Exchange in the world by number of systems, and has strategic partnerships with major providers and carriers in this space that makes it an integral part of this “cloud of video exchange clouds.”

You have already invested in video, because you believe in its power. I say unleash its potential by enabling seamless, secure B2B connectivity in the cloud.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No 'Cloudwashing' Here at Glowpoint

Darren Podrabsky
January 17, 2012

What better subject for our inaugural blog than… the cloud!

I noticed a recent article in CloudBeat right before the holidays about ‘Cloudwashing,’ essentially calling out the practice of painting over traditional IT technology with the word “cloud”:

While this article takes a lighthearted approach to the issue, I believe it is important and deserves serious commentary. The constant overuse and misuse of ‘cloud’ can confuse customers and make them suspicious of cloud managed service offerings for video.

I’m here to tell you that there is real value in the cloud. Glowpoint has architected the OpenVideo™ cloud to help IT managers overcome the challenges of deploying and managing video, so that businesses realize the return on investment (ROI) that they expect.

When you consider the choice between in-house management and cloud services for telepresence and videoconferencing, it is important to first consider video compared to other unified communications applications. There are some important distinctions:

Video Is Demanding: IT managers initially deploying or supporting existing video on premise understand that a significant up front and ongoing investment is often required for local infrastructure, such as multipoint control units (MCUs) or scheduling and management servers. This can be an expensive proposition, and often puts a squeeze on IT budgets. When IT managers have to make trade-offs to stay ‘in budget,’ the result is often lower quality of service or reduced capacity – which does not bode well for end users. Video also will compete voraciously for network resources. An acceptable standard definition video call requires at least 250 Kbps, while a high definition call at 720p requires 768 Kbps–1Mbps, and 1080p requires 2-3 Mbps per codec for immersive telepresence rooms. On top of this, the word is definitely out: telepresence and videoconferencing actually works! So adoption and usage continues to grow, driving demand to scale video deployments and provide support for desktop and mobile solutions – introducing the dynamic of supporting wireless connectivity. Finally, despite improvements in reliability and ease of use, video is going to drive more helpdesk calls – just by the sheer fact that now more than ever it is being used for mission-critical meetings.

Video Requires Expertise: Telepresence and videoconferencing were not born out of traditional IT technologies, but rather out of the audio/visual market. The skills and experience necessary to effectively support video are not necessarily easy to come by. In my experience, even the largest, most experienced enterprise IT teams have very few members that are pure video experts, hence they are often overloaded. And it’s not just supporting video, but knowing how to scale it effectively and efficiently, given my points above.

Video is Not Quite ‘Standard’ Yet: While it is true that the H.323 and SIP standards have existed for years, the telepresence and videoconferencing worlds remain fragmented from the standpoints of signaling protocols and codec technologies. This is particularly true between immersive telepresence systems, which are either proprietary or require complicated schemes to map multiple video and audio streams between systems, to deliver the natural ‘just like being there’ experience that users have come to expect. To complicate matters, the demand for business-to-business video calls continues to increase, introducing the requirement of connecting disparate MPLS or Ethernet networks that are designed NOT to connect. It is true that the industry has made great strides in this arena, when you consider Cisco’s TelePresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) or Polycom’s Open Visual Communications Consortium. But interoperability and enabling secure, reliable business-to-business video calls remains –at the very least – a prickly proposition for IT managers. Users want to connect with people, not systems, and they want to conduct business with customers and partners over video the same way they do today with their mobile phones.

Cloud services for video, like those provided via the OpenVideo™ cloud, address these issues head-on and help enterprises realize the return on investment (ROI) that they expected from video in the first place. Today, everything from monitoring and management of the video equipment, along with call control, scheduling, launching, framing, and quality control can be moved to the cloud.

Moving to the OpenVideo™ cloud, which is designed to provide services for any video endpoint, over any network, in an open yet secure environment, has some clear benefits:

Eliminates the Need for On-Premise Infrastructure and Reduces Network Load: Utilizing video infrastructure and network resources in the cloud allows IT managers to quickly deploy video or scale their existing deployment more efficiently and cost effectively. Cloud services also make costs more predictable, given that they are typically sold as a monthly subscription. Call capacity also becomes a non-issue, as resources in the cloud can be utilized as video usage grows.

Eliminates the Need for On-Premise Support: Cloud hosted remote monitoring and management services are designed to find issues with on premise video endpoints and infrastructure and resolve them before they affect a meeting. This, combined with helpdesk and concierge services, virtually eliminates the need for local support and allows IT managers to off-load their teams. It also means video is more reliable and higher quality, which will drive higher usage.

Solves Interoperability Issues Between Systems: The infrastructure and software necessary to support connectivity between systems from different video endpoint vendors is already deployed in the cloud. So users can connect to more colleagues, customers, or partners, while IT managers can pursue a ‘best of breed’ approach to video.

Extends Your Reach With Video: Business-to-business video calling becomes a reality with cloud services. All of the technologies and coordination necessary to navigate through disparate network firewalls and sync with various service providers is taken care of. The cloud also includes a common dialing plan with “video numbers”, so it can be as easy to dial customers or partners over video as it is with your phone.

So, I hope the message is clear. We are not ‘cloudwashing' here at Glowpoint! We provide true cloud hosted services for telepresence and videoconferencing that help IT managers overcome the challenges of deploying and managing video - so that businesses realize the return on investment (ROI) that they expect.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Welcome to the new Glowpoint Blog! We are excited to add our voice to the videoconferencing and managed service provider blogger community. Our new blog page is part of our new website launch. If you haven’t seen it already, please take a look at our new website and tell us what you think:

Click on the following link to visit this blog's homepage: