5 Design Tips for the Best Video Conferencing Backdrops

Do you work from home and use video conferencing for work? Have you stopped and thought about what’s behind you in your home office? There’s a huge difference between Skyping with friends or family, and hopping on a conference call with colleagues or potential customers. Your home office is a representation of you as a professional and should be as least distracting as possible. Especially if you want them to focus on what you’re saying vs. that pile of clothes in the background.

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Tips to Design Your Home Office for the Best Video Conferencing Environment

1. Choose an area where you get the best natural light.

If you can help it, make sure you’re placed in the best direct sunlight. If you don’t have access to open windows or much natural light, then make sure you’re utilizing a high-quality task lighting.

2. Look behind you.

Your desk may be decorated really well, but what is it that your audience on the other side of that screen is looking at? Make sure there isn’t any weird art hanging on the walls behind you. The simpler the decor the better. Big, simple artwork makes for a great backdrop in video.

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3. Tidy up.

Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people we’ve seen with a messy home office on a video conference call. The worst thing you could do is have a heap of dirty laundry peering out from the corner of your screen or stacks of papers laying around in the background. Act as if you were actually having those people in your office, and make sure your mess is put away.

4. Add greenery.

Having plants inside your office not only brightens up the space, but also adds the feeling of being outdoors. This is a great list of indoor plants that are low-maintenance and don’t require much attention.

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5. Get comfortable.

When you’re committed to spending 8 hours a day working from home, you want to make sure you’re comfortable when you take a video call. If you’re uncomfortable, it will show on screen and you want your audience to be paying attention to you – not you fidgeting around. A big, comfy chair is another great way to add style, while not be too distracting in the background.

Do you have any other design ideas for decorating your home office?

By Divya Ooi, Divya.Ooi@SummitBizTech.com

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What’s Your Preference? Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365?

GvMHave you compared the advantages of MS Office 365 vs. Google Apps?  If choosing Cloud productivity tools has been on your agenda for a while, you’re not alone. It’s often a toss up between pros and cons. Google and Microsoft online productivity experiences vary by user, device and situation.  Reviewers all over the world have compared Google Apps for Business to Microsoft Office 365 trying to find the winner.  Here’s my quick summary as an onlooker:

If your business thrives and collaborates online, has little need for advanced Excel and Word capabilities and integrations, and it leans heavily on the latest tablets and smartphones, Google Apps has an edge and a cost advantage.

If hybrid deployment scenarios, unified IT management, offline operation, integration with Word and Excel documents, and user familiarity with interfaces and workflows are important, Office 365 has an attractive combination of capabilities that will keep most existing customers in the Microsoft camp.

The true test for both services over the coming months may not be as much a cost factor, but ongoing execution and how you do business… Will uptime, ease of management, and support keep users and IT satisfied?

Could You Live Without Email?

emailCould you give up internal email for good? That’s exactly what Atos is hoping to do (read about it here). Atos has set itself the goal of eliminating all internal email by 2013. As the amount of information we generate grows, email has quickly become one of the largest IT challenges for organizations.  This growth issue isn’t just from the traditional issues of cost, storage, and management. Bloated email systems also increase the amount of time taken to find information and also remove it once it’s reached the end of its lifecycle.

Email archives are virtual warehouses that contain large volumes of unstructured information, which is essentially information that can’t be easily understood or efficiently categorized. To give you an example, email messages are typically categorized by Sender and Date of Receipt which really doesn’t give you any indication of its content. How would you comply with a request to provide all emails and documents on a particular project or a particular topic, or remove all copies of contracts from your email system because they had now expired? How quickly could you go into the ‘warehouse’ (inboxes, personal archives, backup tapes, etc.) and pull out all of the information that you need?

Most internal emails are brief requests, or responses to requests, that used to be conducted through sticky notes or telephone calls. We also use email to coordinate meetings and pass documents around, usually for review or to provide someone with a reference copy.

Personally, I think the elimination of internal email is not just a great idea but a very achievable goal that can bring extraordinary efficiency increases and cost savings to an organization. There are so many tools available that allow you to manage this information without email but within its correct context by promoting social sharing, centralized repositories for document access and collaboration, and simple chat-based communication for those one-line messages, brief requests, and file transfers.

A life without email may not be that far behind.

The hazards of document hoarding

I recently caught a couple of episodes of Hoarders on A&E TV. If you’ve never seen the show before each episode documents the story of someone who has trouble parting with their belongings to the point where it has a significant negative impact on their lives often resulting in personal health risks.

 

As I watched the show I started to recognize parallels with the problems we see with the way that organizations handle documents, and while these organizational problems may not pose a personal health risk, a tendency to hoard documents can represent a significant risk to the health of the organization.

Take a moment to stop and think about all of the places where documents exist in your organization. You’re probably thinking of filing cabinets, desk drawers, and shared network drives. You may have even thought about public email folders, but what about personal email inboxes and email archives, backup tapes, and other business systems such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), asset management, cloud solutions, and intranets? Many organizations choose to keep all of their documents indefinitely in lieu of knowing how long they need to be legally retained, which means that the number of documents in your organization continues to grow, along with the associated storage and retrieval costs that come with increasingly larger document libraries.  Another significant yet largely ignored risk is from discovery requests as a result of litigation. Discovery activities are time consuming and expensive processes that often require you to search all your document archives for documents that match a certain criteria or that are pertinent to a specific issue. The larger the document archives the larger the effort and cost!

In order to limit your organization’s exposure during such an activity and generally maintain healthy document archives look at implementing a document retention plan that establishes the retention period for each document that your organization handles and stores. Once you have a plan you can implement this plan using technologies such as SharePoint that allow you to implement structured document libraries built for managing your documents within the framework of your retention plan. This will not only allow your organization to respond more effectively in the event of a disclosure but will allow you to reduce storage costs and search times associated with finding documents by eliminating documents that have reached the end of their lifecycle.

Here at Light Industries we’re increasingly implementing document management and archiving solutions where retention and compliance are key solution drivers. We’ve found that SharePoint provides our customers with the tools they need to implement such systems by giving them the flexible control of how they manage their documents with the tools to successfully implement their retention plan. AIIM (Association for Image and Information Management) provides a good starting point here by listing 8 things that you should consider when developing an information retention policy for your own organization.