Essay: How Should We Help Our Organizations to Use Internet-Based Conferencing Safely and Effectively?

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Secure Teleconferencing

Assessing the Security Levels and Value of Web-Based Teleconferencing

The pervasive adoption and reliance on the Internet as a viable platform for enterprise communication and collaboration has led to rapid growth of Web-based teleconferencing. This growth has not been without risks however. The security risks that enterprises cannot easily detect yet can comprise their most confidential communications are a technological weakness of many of these systems (Zaccaria, 2004). The reliance on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) has become commonplace however as the set of these security technologies enable more precise security to the Internet Protocol (IP) address level (Venkatraman, 2009). The previous-generation security technologies if IPsec, so well suited for client/server communications, do not scale well across the one-to-many and many-to-many security architectures of Web conferencing systems (Pearce, 2009). Cisco, HP, IBM, and many other smaller companies competing in the Web conferencing market are concentrating their majority of their Research & Development (R&D) investments in security technologies to differentiate themselves by addressing this weakness (Tierney, 2009). The collective focus and attention to security vulnerabilities of Web conferencing is having the fortunate effect of rapidly transforming these platforms from relatively simplistic conference call systems to complete e-learning systems (Lund, 2006). As of January 2011, the current state of Web conferencing is one of concentrating on transforming organizations at their structural level to make them more agile and capable of responding to turbulent, unpredictable market conditions. Web conferencing is acting as a knowledge accelerator in this regard, providing insights into how organizations can attain greater agility and focus during turbulent economic times. This transition of Web conferencing systems from relatively simplistic conference calling systems to complete e-learning platforms has led to their inclusion in enterprise-wide Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) platforms as well (Suduc, Bizoi, Filip, 2009). UCC platforms are the backbone that enterprises use to create knowledge management stems and base their learning strategies on. All of these factors are taken into account in answering how enterprise can use Internet-based conferencing more effectively and safely over time, in addition to assessing which Web-based conferencing systems are the most effective. The study of technology adoption in companies and the level of acceptance of new ways of doing things, typically called change management, is also discussed in this analysis (Hu, Hafsi, 2010).

Assessing the Current Capabilities of Web-based Conferencing

Computer or as it is most often referred to, Web conferencing (Pearce, 2009) is evolving at a very rapid pace as its uses for communication, collaboration and knowledge transfer globally continues to accelerate. The features that are now considered part of the baseline or minimal level of functionality of Web conferencing in systems as of 2011 include presentation delivery options for multimedia (video, music and audio) (Suduc, Bizoi, Filip, 2009); desktop and selective application sharing; text and video chat; and shared whiteboards (Pearce, 2009). Additional baseline functional requirements include role-based logins and data sharing, encrypted to the 256-bit level using Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and the use of proprietary authentication technologies (Musico, 2009). The integration of role-based Web conferencing usage supported by VPN technology is the area of innovation that Cisco, HP, IBM and Microsoft continue to invest heavily in to gain a competitive advantage in this rapidly expanding market (Pearce, 2009).

Cisco is the market leader in Web Conferencing with its WebEx platform and is estimated to have 64% market share (Burrows, 2010). Throughout their R&D efforts and successive product generations of the WebEx platform, the company has determined that there are five critical areas of Web security they must focus on to succeed in winning new customers and keeping existing ones. These are the areas of site security to the server and application level, meeting security, network and transmission security, physical security, and support for 3rd party audits of security readiness and conferencing availability (Pearce, 2009). Of all competitors in this market, Cisco continues to dominate the security dimension of solutions and as a result also dominates in terms of market share as well.

While security is the highest priority in the development of a new Web conferencing system and the continual differentiation of existing ones, there are other areas where companies creating and selling these systems are also investing. These include support for integrated public switched telephone network audio; integrated support for voice over internet protocol (VoIP) (Bayer, Xu, Rakocevic, Habermann, 2010), videoconferencing and multimedia (Suduc, Bizoi, Filip, 2009); file sharing; advanced application and collaborative document sharing; archiving; polling and survey feedback; and e-learning platform development. The Web conferencing market has also attracted enterprise computing platform vendors including Adobe, at&T, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Citrix, IBM and Microsoft. These companies have the ability to create entire knowledge management systems from Web conferencing platforms while also supporting multiple communication channels for their customers as well. Examples include Microsoft's support of the .NET platform which makes it possible to support mobile devices including smartphones, Apple iPads and many other devices that can quickly access the Internet over Wi-Fi and 3G connections (Musico, 2009).

Best Practices on Web Conferencing -- Lessons from Market Leaders

The companies gaining the most use of Web conferencing technologies have quickly progressed beyond using them just for conference calls and the relatively simple approaches to collaboration and communication inherent in the design of its portal-like structure (Tierney, 2009). Best practices involves using Web conferencing as the catalyst for enabling greater levels of communication between diverse, often geographically separated groups when they all must rely on each other to attain challenging, complex goals (Lund, 2006). Enterprises are pushing beyond the barriers of their own companies and regularly holding Web conferences with their customers as well, on everything fro future product direction to the development of services programs (Musico, 2009). The use of Web conferencing as a critical part of the customer management strategies of enterprises continues to grow as security levels in these applications continues to become more reliable and "hardened" against outside threats (Venkatraman, 2009). Throughout the last three years of the global recessions, companies have also invested heavily in Web conferencing to reduce their travel expenses while gaining greater productivity from employees who would otherwise be unproductive while traveling (Tierney, 2009).

Web conferencing applications and advanced platforms have many benefits to businesses and can drastically reduce their travel, operating and education costs (Pearce, 2009). These platforms are today being used for enterprise-wide collaboration and communication on large-scale projects (Venkatraman, 2009). For all their contributions to the profitable operations of businesses however, Web conferencing systems are often entirely dependent on the speed of an Internet connection and its reliability. In addition, Web conferencing systems have grown so rapidly that many of their user interfaces are not usable without training and a manual (Pearce, 2009). Third, lower-end systems often do not have the ability to audit their own security as the higher-end platforms from Cisco, HP, IBM and others do. Fourth, the lack of customization at the user interface level has led to many companies abandoning the free or very low cost editions for communicating with customers (Musico, 2009). All of these limitations of Web conferencing systems contribute to significant churn over time at the low-end and try-and-buy segments of the market (Burrows, 2010).

Change Management Strategies That Enable Web Conferencing

Change management is the study of how companies initiate and enable change to people's roles and responsibilities over time (Hu, Hafsi, 2010). Often change management includes augmenting a person's job with technology to support entirely new aspects of the roles and responsibilities as well. As people by nature resist change and seek to enable the status quo as much as possible, implementing new systems that change their working routines and roles are often met with much resistance. This is often the case when a company implements an entirely new series of it systems that seek to automate the core aspects… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"How Should We Help Our Organizations to Use Internet-Based Conferencing Safely and Effectively?."  Essaytown.com.  January 22, 2011.  Accessed November 12, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/help-organizations-use-internet-based/25469.