Facetime me. Hit me up on Teams. Send me a Webex. I’m on the Hangout. I’ll invite you a to a GoToMeeting. These are all common phrases that have entered the modern vernacular in the past decade and in 2020 have become a core component of the workplace. Almost every organization in the world has chosen some kind of combination of video conferencing tools, from Zoom and Bluejeans to Slack and Skype. Many will even have multiple – in fact at NetMotion we use both Webex Teams and Microsoft Teams, depending on the person and the context.
With a fast internet connection and capable device, things are great. Meetings are finished promptly and physical proximity no longer matters. Even the UK government has been conducting its cabinet meetings via video since the country went into lockdown. The problem is that things rarely go smoothly in practice.
Problems with video conferencing
Sadly, regardless of how good the video technology may be, it is ultimately reliant on the quality of the underlying network. With many workers dialing in from homes, from public WiFi or even from cellular connections, often this means running into all kinds of issues.
- Delayed or lagging audio
- Broken or patchy voice
- Pixelated video
- Poorly synchronized A/V
- Frozen camera
- … the list goes on
These issues can range from being slightly annoying to being mission critical failures. IT leaders are often held accountable for problems that cannot realistically be put at their feet – it doesn’t matter how good the calling technology is if the internet quality simply isn’t good enough. Without any access or visibility into the network the worker is using, troubleshooting can be a nightmare, with issue resolution next to impossible. Helpdesk teams are essentially blind when it comes to supporting remote workers when it comes to video conferencing challenges. This video takes a light hearted look at some of the more common problems experienced with the modern digital meeting.
Overcoming video conferencing issues
So with no insight into the network, and no real ability to troubleshoot or diagnose these kinds of problems, the real question is: what can be done about this situation? Well, there’s the usual hotfixes that may go some way to remedying your problem.
- Update your webcam firmwire
- Check to see if your camera lens is smudged
- Go to preferences and double check the speakers/mic/video settings are correct
- Reconnect your headphones/speakers
- Dial in using a phone
- Update your OS
- Restart the video software
- Restart your computer
- Restart your network connection
Ultimately, the vast majority of video conferencing problems aren’t remedied using the above list. Instead, they center on one thing that most users can’t fix: the network. Slow, unreliable or weak internet connections are by far the most common underlying issue for poor video conferencing experiences.
One technology that a lot of businesses rely on is a VPN. These remote access products will typically slow down network performance, causing issues with video calls. The NetMotion VPN is built in an entirely different way, instead using the same kinds of technologies used to stream YouTube and Netflix to actively enhance and stabilize web connections – it even includes a wide range of features that make audio and video perform much more reliably.
As well as these automatic video and audio-enhancing technologies (which include clever things like re-stitching packets that are lost in patchy networks, or using Link Layer Optimization), there are some policy-based improvements too. The NetMotion VPN knows whether you’re on a video call or not, plus it knows what kind of network you’re using and how fast, strong, reliable and secure it is. IT admins can configure it so that, based on these conditions, your video call gets priority over other demands for bandwidth, such as emails or WhatsApp messages.
A Skype call … in Space
A Skype call … in Space
To put these technologies to the test, we even tried to conduct a Skype call from orbit (or as close to orbit as we could). You can read about our attempt here, but the short version is that we successfully kept a Skype call online as it soared several thousand feet into the sky, switching between WiFi, cellular and even satellite network connections without dropping a beat. If it can work in space, you can bet that it will work for your company.
If you’re currently experiencing video call issues, hopefully it is something that you or your IT team can overcome. Chances are if you’re using a corporate VPN that it is slowing down your network, causing all kinds of connectivity issues. Maybe it’s time to reconsider your remote access strategy and find a solution that fits with the modern, rapidly changing way of working remotely.