On the face of it, it looks like two steps forward, one step back.
Founded in 1998, San Diego-based Nefsis has been delivering cloud-based audio- and videoconferencing to what it claims are thousands of business subscribers. Now the company has put the car in reverse, adding traditional (TDM) teleconferencing to its menu of products.
Why revert to the older technology? “There are a lot of users who don’t own or control the desktop PC on the other end of the conference,” said Tom Toperczer, VP marketing at Nefsis. A traditional telephony solution lets these users connect to customers and other remote locations with minimum fuss.
The privately held company does not disclose revenues and its pricing is customized based on customer need. (The name, by the way, is an Ancient Greek word signifying general consensus among a group of people, just what teleconferencing aims to achieve.)
To understand Nefrsis’ regression to ‘plain old telephone service’ (POTS), it helps to break down teleconferencing into two kinds of users, Toperczer said.
First there are the recurring users, those who take part in weekly internal meetings, training sessions and ongoing project discussions. They can configure their headsets once and forget about them. IP audio also will appeal to customers with a big overseas presence. “We’ve got a lot of customers who cross international boundaries who really like VoIP and use VoIP all the time,” Toperczer said.
Then there are the one-offs, the external meetings with clients, suppliers and others. “They don’t want to take up their customer’s time configuring their microphone or headset, and many of [those customers] might not even have a microphone or headset,” Toperczer said.
This technical hurdle—the configuration issues that may come with VoIP—is certainly top of mind for Nefsis. At the same time, there are the complexities of security to muddy the picture further, with firewalls and proxies sometimes getting in the way of IP-based conferencing.
Nefsis uses a conferencing URL as a way around the interference of firewalls. Even with this in place, some users may balk at what they see as an unnecessarily onerous solution. “Good old-fashioned teleconferencing is definitely relevant when you are conferencing with those kinds of external users,” he said.
By creating the option of a traditional voice connection, Toperczer said, it is possible to overcome one of the biggest hurdles to IP-based conferencing. That is, fear. “There is user perception where they don’t even want to try it,” Toperczer said.
Thus Nefsis is giving its users the option of going with either VoIP or traditional TDM audio. In keeping with the theme of simplicity, both voice mechanisms work on the same user interface and make their way through the same virtual conference server in the cloud. “As the online service provider, we don’t want to force our customers to do it one way or the other,” Toperczer said.
The Nefsis solution is peripheral-agnostic: It supports a range of conference room tools as well as pan-tilt-zoom cameras.
The unveiling of traditional audio comes in the wake of a steady stream of Nefsis announcements in recent months.
In February alone the company made several moves. It added support for Vaddio Conference Room Cameras, in a move to further expand its interoperability. It also added advanced whiteboarding features. The company is aiming to improve speed and performance, Toperczer said, while also reaching out to an expanding overseas market.
Overall, the new addition of POTS audio demonstrates further advantages of delivering teleconferencing through the cloud.
Certainly there are the by-now-familiar components: No upfront costs combines with scalability and instant availability. By throwing POTS into the mix, Nefsis may have demonstrated another advantage. That is, flexibility.
A move into the cloud need not be an all-or-nothing proposition. Rather, organizations are increasingly finding ways to hybridize the advantages of the cloud with the best of what traditional systems may have to offer. That may be a compelling proposition for those looking to preserve elements of their legacy systems, aiming to make a gradual transition to the cloud, or simply wanting to stick with processes they know work.