Monday, December 27, 2010

Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Saving Time and Man-Hours With VIA3

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has been using VIA3 to process after-hours intakes since the fall of 2009. VIA3 allows DJJ to complete intakes across the Commonwealth of Virginia with the ability to sign documents back and forth. The After-hours Video Intake program is based in the 9th District Court Service Unit and it currently processes delinquent intakes for 23 out of 35 Court Service Units, which covers 10493 localities weeknights, weekends and holidays.

After-hours Video Intake was created as a way to save probation officers from having to go out in the middle of the night to complete an intake after working their normal business hours. During the year 2009, After-hours Video Intake saved probation officers 27,124 roundtrip miles and 1,534.6 hours of processing and travel time to complete an intake. VIA3 provides Court Service Units, which covers multiple jurisdictions, the ability to provide intake coverage to their branch offices when needed. Parole officers are utilizing VIA3 to save travel time when visiting their clients at Juvenile Correctional Centers (JCC) and Halfway Houses. VIA3 also allows family members, who may have transportation difficulties, to continue to have contact with their child, who is committed to a JCC.

On September 7, 2010 The Honorable Bill Bolling, Lieutenant Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia, and Jim Duffey, Secretary of Technology, presented the award winning projects and business solutions of the 30 honorees of the 2010 Governor’s Technology Awards at a special ceremony which convened COVITS (www.covits.org). DJJ received Honorable Mention in the category, “IT as Efficiency Driver” for its Web-based After-hours Video Intake program using VIA3.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Obama Signs Telework Bill (Finally!)

A law signed by President Obama Thursday afternoon means many employees in the D.C. area will have more opportunities to work from home.

The Telework Enhancement Act was spearheaded by area congressmen Gerry Connolly (D-VA), John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Frank Wolf (R-VA). It requires federal agencies to develop more robust telework plans.

For example, every federal agency now must designate a telework managing officer to oversee its telework program.

Telework also now has to be part of an agency's contingency plan for emergency or weather situations. The practice reportedly saved the government millions of dollars during last winter's snowstorms.

Lawmakers also say this could be a way to get a lot of cars off D.C. area roadways, improving the commute for everyone.

Teleworkers wanting to try a FIPS 140-2 Certified Secure Web Conferencing Telework software, can download the free trial at http://www.via3.com/.

Monday, December 6, 2010

FIPS 140-2 Level 1 CERTIFIED Web-Based Video Conferencing Is Here!

A FIPS 140-2, Level 1 CERTIFIED web-based video conferencing tool is available for use with a laptop or a desktop, with a simple webcam, and can be used anywhere in the world? Absolutely!

There are so many web-based conferencing vendors entering the field today, that it is becoming more and more difficult to determine what differentiates one from the rest of the pack.

Security should be at the very core of the selection of any video conferencing system. As with any installation that requires some level of security, you can easily begin your search by choosing from products that have met the strict standards set forth by NIST for FIPS 140-2, Level 1 Certification. If a vendor has not done so, they will talk a great deal about their Compliance to the FIPS standards and attempt to assure you that this is "good enough" for your organization.

Some of the assurances will revolve around security passwords and privileges based on the role(s) of a presenter and/or attendee(s). Others will revolve around the use of 128 Bit SSL encryption. In truth, this alone, does not provide true end-to-end encryption. SSL takes the user’s web browser and creates a secure line of communication to the web conference vendor’s web server, thus using SSL to verify the log-on credentials, only. Once the user has been verified, communication should then be accepted by the vendor’s own software to begin its own transmission of data at 1024 Bit AES Encryption.

The real question then becomes whether or not compliance, versus actual certification, meets the standards of your organization. Additionally, if compliance is acceptable today, are you prepared to switch out your web conferencing vendor, if your organization/client eventually requires a FIPS 140-2, Level 1 CERTIFIED web conferencing tool? Will you have the manpower and the budget to support that effort?

If a web-based conferencing tool is available that has met the FIPS stringent requirements for CERTIFICATION, is highly affordable with unlimited usage per month, feature rich, and is easily installed with a single download.....why not give that product your most serious consideration?

BTW, Some vendors provide end-to-end security only on certain products in their family of products, such as their “on premises” solution. Regardless of how long your current web based conferencing system has been in place, it pays to continue to probe your vendor about the security of the product you actually have installed in your organization!

(Reprinted from http://www.govloop.com/)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Virtual CEO: New Productivity Paradigms In A Technology Driven World

Normally an imposing 6’4”, CEO Brian Hodges is only a mere three inches tall in the business world. This is because of his extensive use of “Web Conferencing”, an online collaboration and communication tool which is gaining popularity world-wide.

Web conferencing is used to conduct live meetings, presentations, or collaboration sessions via the Internet. In a web conference, each participant sits at their own computer and is connected to other attendees online. Typically we are used to conducting meetings face-to-face at a conference room table, where you can meet, present, and even brainstorm on the whiteboard. Actions like voting are as simple as casting a physical vote or raising your hand. File sharing was easy. You printed out copies and passed them around. The face of business has changed in the last decade, with businesses becoming more distributed, global, and mobile. The methods of conducting business had to change at the same time, which gave rise to the wide adoption of Web Conferencing. The same actions that you do around a conference room table can now be done online. This results in equal or improved productivity and efficiency, without the travel time and cost.

For CEO’s like Hodges, this means maximum productivity with maximum freedom. Being “virtually unleashed” changes the game, the locations, and general business strategies and practices.

Web Conferencing in the past was limited to phone calls and email. From there it graduated to VPN access to files. Now it is taking on a whole new life. Brian Hodges uses web conferencing to stay connected in real-time, as well as connected long term on collaboration projects, files, and communications. The specific application he uses is www.via3.com, which is taking hold among mobile CEO’s with frenzied work and travel schedules.

Hodges, for example, hops off of the corporate LAN, and onto local Wi-Fi clouds for “continuity of work”, a phrase popular among government agencies. He is able to appear virtually at any time for meetings, IM, Email, online presentations, desktop sharing, file sharing, and more. When he can’t find a reliable and fast Wi-Fi connection, he pops in his EVDO wireless USB stick and connects from anywhere. This means 100% productivity from anywhere at anytime. Trains, planes, and automobiles are all fair game for productivity, rather than just wasted hours. In the last 48 hours of work, Hodges has conducted multiple interviews from 3 different coffee shops. He presented at the company meeting from a patio table with his lush garden as a backdrop. He participated in a sales strategy session from an airplane seat. He worked through his lunch hour with finance on a budget spreadsheet - while barefoot at a local park. He brainstormed with development on a virtual whiteboard from a cafĂ© – over dinner in a different state. The week before he gave two high-profile product demos from a hotel room with Wi-Fi. He is the ultimate definition of a Virtual CEO, yet hasn’t lost a step in productivity. If anything, his average work day is much more efficient than before.

Even just a couple of years ago, CEO’s were tethered to their office internet connection, and occasionally their home or office internet connection. What is causing this upturn in Virtual CEO’s and Virtual Workers? This has all changed, and changed fast for a number of reasons. There are many drivers right now causing a huge up-tick in the Web Conferencing industry. Pandemics are one example. The Swine flu was a perfect example of why teleworking is a great option versus face to face meetings where physical contact actually promotes physical risk. The economics and travel savings are another driver: Companies are recognizing that it is much more frugal to meet virtually than face-to-face, and the savings are enormous. Improved bandwidth is another driver. Fast pipes are needed for a great user experience when dealing with rich audio and video meetings, and over the last few years we have gone from dial-up as a standard, to having DSL and higher as a standard. Improved web conferencing technologies have definitely driven the industry as well. As the industry developed, so has compression, audio, and video technology. Nowadays we have a much deeper set of Web Conferencing features making the teleworking much more productive, connected, and realistic. Business adoption of Tele-Work is also exploding. Businesses are recognizing the vast need of utilizing teleworkers to provide flexibility in their workforce. Public adoption of Web Conferencing is on the rise. As web conferencing continues to take off, more and more of the general public is being exposed to web conferencing. As that rate of exposure increases, so does their willingness to try or adopt. Price drops for web conferencing services have come into play as well. This is causing a competitive price war in many ways, which is only good for the consumer. There has also been a price drop on needed hardware for web conferencing: More and more laptops come with built-in cameras and microphones. Users with computers that do not provide built in hardware are finding higher quality web cameras at steady or dropping prices.

Hodges, for example, has an older Dell Latitude E6500 with built-in camera and microphone. It was literally just plug-and-play for him to launch into Web Conferencing, and initially he was up and running in under 5 minutes. After getting connected he never looked back to the traditional brick and mortar “stationary” form of business. Brian has even been known to startle people in meetings who notice that the scenery behind him is speeding by. This is thanks to his new habit of popping open his laptop and logging in while driving. He has found that hands-free meetings are a great way to maximize his drive times. “People have gone from worrying that I wouldn’t be connected enough, to now wondering if I am over connected. But this is the new world, and the new way of doing business.”

Brian Hodges can be reached at BHodges@Viack.com.

Tags: Web Conferencing, Web Conference, Video Conferencing, Video Conference, Telework, Telepresence, Remote Worker, Business Communications.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Government Telework Taking Off

The federal government is on the brink of shifting toward a culture of telework, according to agency heads, as documented by http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1010/100710l1.htm.

During a Thursday Telework Exchange Town Hall, federal officials said last winter’s Washington-area snowstorms, along with recent legislation, the potential for increased productivity and a more environmentally friendly workplace, have pushed agencies closer to adopting widespread telework options.

“It’s a tipping point for the business case,” General Services Administration chief Martha Johnson told reporters. “The business case is not just finances and it’s not just employee happiness — it’s also sustainability, and it’s security. Those four together really make a robust argument that it’s hard to back away from.”

Agencies soon could be required to implement formal telework programs. The Senate on Sept. 30 approved compromise legislation to expand telework opportunities across federal agencies. The bill, which requires agencies to develop formal policies, employee agreements and manager training programs, must pass the House before being sent to President Obama.

According to Johnson, the government’s commitment to reducing the number of buildings it occupies, along with the amount of money saved in commuting costs, creates a strong argument for telework and exemplifies good management. A recent Telework Exchange study found federal employees spend an average $138 per month on fuel, but working outside the office can save them $55.52 for that same period.

“That means money in the pocket for people and it means time available for sanity, for additional work,” Johnson said.

It also can mean more money in agencies’ pockets. Speaking Thursday on the campus of The George Washington University for the 2010 GreenGov Symposium, Danette Campbell, senior adviser for telework at the Patent and Trademark Office, said her agency’s telework program is estimated to have saved the cost of securing $11 million in real estate. PTO’s initiative began in 1997 with just 18 employees working from home. Today, more than 5,600 of the agency’s employees are teleworking from one to four days a week. Telework is a “big part of the culture” at PTO, Campbell said. “It is a business strategy.”

During his keynote address at the town hall event, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said he will encourage agencies to take several steps in rolling out telework initiatives. They should begin with the presumption that all employees are eligible to telework and negotiate agreements to carefully define results workers must achieve, he said. Agency leaders also have to determine how to address underperformers and get past a “butts in seats” management culture. Finally, OPM must refine data collection processes to properly measure achievement, Berry said.

“Productivity gains are going to be essential,” Berry said. “To get the most from our employees, we need to invest in them with training and equipment so they can work wherever they need to and wherever they want to.”

Johnson and Berry agreed the objective is to significantly increase the number of employees working outside the office, which will boost productivity and wellness.

“Our long-term goal is to have the vast majority of our workforce telework on a regular basis,” Berry said.

One of the issues of teleworking is the security of data, voice, and video going over the internet. Almost all vendors now claim to have some form of security, but only one vendor (VIA3 is FIPS 140-2 certified). Literally every shred of data is protected in any meeting over the internet, from end to end.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Federal Telework Web Conferencing on NASA SEWP

Technology Solutions Provider Inc. (TSPi) has chosen VIA3 Secure Web Conferencing to be added to the Sword & Shield Enterprise Security, Inc. NASA Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP IV) contract. With this addition, TSPi can immediately begin providing award winning web conferencing and collaboration solutions to Federal agencies throughout the United States.

VIA3 allows users to conduct online presentations, meetings, training, demos, desktop sharing, white-boarding, and file collaboration over the web. Due to VIA3’s industry leading security, all data, voice, and video is secured with 128-bit AES encryption, with FIPS140-2 Level 1 certification. VIA3 is available in Software as a Service (SaaS) model or as an on-premise deployment. Anything Federal employees can do in a physical conference room can now be done virtually.

VIA3 was chosen for it’s depth of flexible features and comprehensive approach to security, but the beauty of this product is in its simplicity. Unlike some complex Video Teleconferencing systems requiring significant hardware investments, users can be up and running securely in a matter of minutes on any reliable web connection. With just a webcam and a microphone, any connected knowledge worker can realize productivity from any location, a feature that is critical for governmental “Continuity of Operations” mandates. In addition, the included VOIP (Audio streamed over the internet) gives agencies a massive reduction in communication costs. One monthly price gives the user unlimited audio, video, meetings, presentations, and file sharing.

About TSPi

TSPi, an SBA certified 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business, has its core strengths in designing and implementing secure, enterprise-wide systems and networks – from hardware and software acquisition to application development and full integration. TSPi has taken these proven capabilities and successfully applied them to three core markets: Government, Healthcare, and Commercial industry. NASA SEWP IV is one of several vehicles this company can offer products and services directly to the federal government. TSPi is an authorized Sales Agent for Sword & Shield Enterprise Security, Inc.

About VIA3

VIA3 enables rich, secure, multipoint e-meetings over the Internet for numerous Federal, State, and Local government agencies. VIA3 combines quality audio, video and real-time information sharing at the desktop with the highest levels of security. This enables government and business professionals to interact with colleagues, clients, partners and vendors as if they were physically in the same room. More information on VIA3 can be found at http://www.via3.com/

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mile High Productivity Club: Virtual Meetings at 30,000 Feet With Web Conferencing

For most professionals, a regular airline flight means disruption, disconnection and limited offline email catch-up. When Sales Director Teresa Lockard steps on a plane, her productivity barely misses a beat. Teresa is one of the progressive information workers who takes advantage of airline Wi-Fi and Web Conferencing to deliver presentations and conduct sales meetings. "My days are usually 100 MPH, and I don't have the luxury of down-time" said Lockard, addressing a Georgia area sales professional group. "With the amount we travel, you would be remiss to lose your travel time to disconnection from your customers, staff, and co-workers."

Teresa takes advantage of VIA3's web conferencing and collaboration technology for rich, secure, video and audio meetings, as well as presentations, 'whiteboarding', voting and desktop sharing. She can also collaborate with others on VIA3 document workspaces, and instant message her co-workers using VIA3 secure corporate IM. "The only disadvantage to collaborating a mile high is the background, which startles some people. They suddenly realize they are seeing the roof of an airline cabin behind me, and it distracts them for a few minutes. Other than that, if you can do it around a physical conference room table, you can do it with VIA3."

Brian Hodges, VIA3 CEO, discussed the nuances of mile-high web conferencing. "One inherent danger to using most web conferencing software with open airplane Wi-Fi is the huge lack of security. For proprietary information, documentation, and discussions, fliers wanting to conference should use only VIA3, which is 128-bit AES level secure from the ground up, and easily the most secure web conferencing tool on the market today."

To find the airline best suited for your meeting and collaboration needs, Gizmodo rates the speeds of various Wi-Fi enabled carriers in this article: http://gizmodo.com/5462997/mile+high-wi+fi-showdown-which-airlines-the-fastest. (Normal Wi-Fi prices on airlines is in the $10 per hour range).

To download VIA3 for usage anywhere on earth AND the friendly skies, visit www.VIA3.com. (The cost of VIA3 conferencing is under 30$ a month for unlimited usage).


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Streamlining Everyday Business Meetings

Everyday Business Meetings:

A software development team comes together to discuss how to solve interoperability issues. The staff of a public relations agency meets to discuss the status of various client campaigns. A new product roll-out plan is presented to the sales force of a paper products company. A manager quickly forms a committee to address the issue of salaries. What do all of these scenarios have in common? They’re all meetings.

Most professionals, regardless of their occupation or industry, participate in one meeting each day. In fact, according to the “Meetings in America” series from MCI, thirty-seven percent of employee time is spent in meetings, and approximately eleven million meetings occur in the U.S. each day. Research also indicates more than fifty percent of this meeting time is wasted. The meetings may be conducted with a client or colleague in your office, in the office of your boss or co-worker or across town, the country or even the globe. While meetings have traditionally been conducted by telephone or in person—either around a table or around an individual’s desk—the increase in remote offices and the emergence of real-time, Internet-related technologies such as secure online-collaboration services have changed the very nature of meetings by bringing many online.

There are several things that remain constant, however:

· Meetings in the workplace typically boil down into one of five meeting types: staff meetings, project meetings, presentations, spur of the moment or impromptu meetings, and collaborative meetings.

· With the exception of presentations, which are mainly one sided, the most effective meetings are those with active participation and a lot of give and take (as long the agenda is followed).

Many of these meetings can be conducted online, which decreases travel time and costs while increasing meeting productivity through a streamlined work process.

Meeting Types:

Let’s define the five meetings conducted in the workplace and highlight how they can be conducted online more efficiently by being able to see, hear and share information inside one desktop application.

Staff Meetings:

Staff meetings are designed to transmit or clarify ideas, problems or decisions within an organization. These meetings get participation in problem solving, and they motivate staff to behave as a cohesive group. Take the following example: A government agency holds a weekly staff meeting to discuss the status of various ongoing projects. Traditionally, the organizer of the meeting would solicit items for the meeting agenda a few days before, asking everyone to e-mail what they wanted to discuss. This organizer would then bring copies of the agenda to the meeting or e-mail them to remote attendees. During the meeting, someone would be required to take notes and action items and then distribute this information to attendees afterwards. In lieu of this approach, in an online meeting environment such as that made possible with VIA3, the agenda can be completed online and stored in a secure workspace, with team members able to add their own items to the list. During the meeting, notes can be taken in a visible text-chat window, and these notes can be saved are to the same workspace, along with meeting data such as meeting participants, associated files, start and end times. And not one person has to leave his/her own desk or office in order to attend this meeting.

Project Meetings:

Project meetings are designed to bring together team members responsible for different components of a particular task so that they can discuss progress and decide upon next actions. In other words, every meeting attendee is working on the same goal, but each has different responsibilities to achieve that goal. A marketing department could come together to plan a new product release. In a face-to-face meeting, the team members would bring status reports to pass out at the meeting. Any notes, suggestions or edits would be taken by hand or on a whiteboard, and these notes would have to be typed up and sent out to the entire team. With VIA3, the individual members of the marketing department can save their status reports and any other pertinent project information, regardless of file type, into a workspace that can be viewed, discussed and edited in real time during the online meeting. And not one person has to leave his/her own desk or office in order to attend this meeting.

Presentation Meetings:

A presentation is generally conducted for an audience, such as a new product roll-out plan presented to a sales force, a sales person providing information on a product to a potential customer or a CEO briefing an editor or investor on a new acquisition, partnership or product. While presentations are generally one-sided and offer limited audience interaction, attendees are sometimes given the opportunity to ask questions. In addition, there is typically something to show, such as a PowerPoint presentation. In an in-person presentation, such as a sales demo, attendees or the presenter are usually invited—and required—to travel from dispersed locations to see the presentation on a screen; or they might call into an audio conference to discuss a presentation they’ve received beforehand. Using VIA3, presentations can be given to attendees at their desktop in real time with no travel required. And attendees can either ask questions directly of the presenter with the live audio feature or use the chat features to type questions.

Impromptu meetings:

Often referred to as “water cooler” meetings, impromptu meetings are typically improvised gatherings formed for a specific purpose or situation of immediate interest. A Vice President interviews a candidate and wants his regional manager to meet the person. Or a support services team member has been asked a question he/she is unable to answer, and a colleague is brought into the discussion to provide needed information. VIA3’s instant messaging capabilities make impromptu meetings over the Internet extremely easy. Directly from an instant messaging session, participants can begin a meeting and then use all of the additional VIA3 capabilities such as audio, video, application viewing and sharing.

Collaborative Meetings:

This type of meeting is defined as one in which the outcome is usually a goal. Working together on a contract, marketing plan, presentation or financial report would comprise a collaborative meeting. The individuals in attendance contribute specifically to the result. Another example of a collaborative meeting would be to draft a response to a RFP. Typically, this involves multiple people, often geographically dispersed, each contributing to various sections of the document. An online meeting would be an appropriate starting point to determine who had responsibilities for each area of the response. During the time leading up to the final submission, documents would be created and saved to a secure workspace with access granted to only those team members on the proposal team. Documents would be edited in real-time during these collaborative VIA3 meetings. Throughout the time leading to the final document, instant messaging could be used for answers to quick questions. And the result would be a dramatically reduced time from the initial proposal arriving from a client to final submission.

In Closing:

By taking meetings online, you can reduce travel, accelerate work processes and bring teams together to make your meetings more productive than ever before. Shouldn’t you try VIA3 free for fifteen days? Your competition certainly will. www.VIA3.com