How Google Hangouts can transform business communications

Viral video. Millions want to watch them, thousands attempt to create them, a few hundred succeed in achieving them. The technology to deliver these things continues changing into something far more interactive, and we want to talk about one of those today, Google Hangouts.

What’s a Google Hangout? It’s a multi-person video conferencing service equipped with document collaboration features and the capacity to broadcast sessions at the time or later. For business users the service means it doesn’t matter where you are, you don’t need to miss that critical meeting.

Sessions can support up to nine people with all involved being able to see each other on their computer, iOS or Android display. You can broadcast Hangouts across the Internet (“Hangouts on Air”) for others to watch.

Of course, video collaboration’s not a whole heap of use if the people you need to speak with aren’t there. Google’s thought this through and will email or even call Hangout users to let them know the session is taking place.

It’s not a problem if you don’t have access to a webcam because you can also join the session via chat, email or voice. Hangout voice calls are free in the US and Canada and “very low” elsewhere, the company claims.

Used in conjunction with Google Docs, Hangouts aren’t just places for video chat, but useful low-budget tools for business collaboration: for example you can share documents, images and YouTube clips with others.

These combined features mean Hangouts is a powerful business tool. Business users can collaborate on documents, share spreadsheet information and engage in active video chats whenever and wherever they are online.

That sounds great for B2B communication or internal business processes, but the Hangouts On Air feature is also useful for enterprise users attempting to speak directly to customers — you can even record them to YouTube for later viewing.

That’s great for those attempting to offer corporate training, product briefings, company mission statements, financial results…

Another use for software like this might be in the recruitment process, where HR departments could vet candidates during a video session before sharing recordings of the chats with other members of the team.

In future it’s possible customers calling tech support lines will be able to use solutions such as Google Hangouts in order to get help, taking the opportunity to show your support staff exactly what their problem might be.

Google’s solution is easy-to-use and accessible, which makes it useful for those who want to focus on their business, rather than on the software they use to transact it.

Hangouts isn’t the only online video-based collaboration service around. There’s a selection of services, some private solutions for hosting on a company’s own servers.

That’s fine too: Many enterprise users may not feel comfortable with hosting valuable company documents on Google’s servers. They may want to ensure their own data integrity by keeping their data in-house or in the hands of service providers offering security and service availability agreements, such as those from Salesforce or Cisco.

This still means that for those who lack the budget for those, Google’s offering is a viable solution for short or long-term projects, or for firm’s testing the waters in order to implement a strong Unified Communications policy for use in the BYOD age.

A recent iPass survey confirms the importance of security in these implementations, particularly (but by no means exclusively) for larger enterprises. A second survey, by Orange and Cisco, reveals that Web audio and video conferencing and IP telephony are emerging as the four most interesting functionalities in business unified communications strategy, with each chosen by over 60 percent of respondents.

The importance of social networking and collaborative features within the enterprise is doubly reinforced by the recent inclusion of support for such functionalities within Microsoft Office 13.

This means, of course, that if you and your business aren’t already exploring the potential of collaborative tools to transform your business efficiency, then are you sure these things aren’t being used by your competitors? Get ahead of the game and ask us about our Google Hangout services.

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