I remember when IP-based videoconferencing first became an option in the enterprise. It wasn't cheap or very good in the early days, though at the time it seemed awesome (remember CU-SeeMe in the early 1990s?). Today, we have more capable tools such as Skype and FaceTime that shrink the distance between people like never before. It's easy to see why these tools are widely used: I'm heading off to Microsoft next week for the MVP Summit and will be away from my family for four days. My son is at the age where a parent's absence can be unsettling. For him, FaceTime videoconferencing is a lifesaver. He walks around with my wife's iPad and talks to me via FaceTime as if I were right there, which calms his separation anxiety. To me, it's the best thing about an iPad.
Similarly amazing videoconferencing technology can be used in your business, yet few take advantage of it.
You can't use FaceTime as your enterprise videoconferencing tool. For one, it runs only on Macs and iOS devices, not the Windows PCs standard in most businesses. But even if there were a FaceTime app for Windows or if you gave all employees an iPad, FaceTime wouldn't fit the bill. There's the pesky security issue of the number of network ports for which you'd have to enable forwarding: ports 53, 80 (!), 443, 4080, 5223, and 16393 to 16472, notes security consultant Erik Eckel. That's a lot of doors to leave open.
In a world of disparate devices and operating systems, it may be difficult to settle on an enterprise videoconferencing system, all of which have a very proprietary history. But given the consumerization and BYOD phenomena, videoconferencing vendors are increasingly trying to provide multiplatform services that address both compliance and security concerns. For example, Mitel, Polycom, and Vidyo have clients that work on both Apple iOS and Android devices; Cisco Systems' WebEx service has an iPhone client; and Avaya now has an iPad client.