The present day environment triggered by the Covid-19 lockdown has pushed organisations to adopt work-from-home strategies to ensure business continuity. This has given rise to a demand in essential office tools synchronised for effective communication and productive business outcome. One such tool is video-conferencing application.
Quarantines, cancellations, and WFH policies have greatly driven up the demand for video-calling software in the past few months.
In response to this sudden demand, while we have witnessed the boom of new software applications, other workplace software companies such as Zoom, Microsoft and Google have offered their software for free.
A few were also reported to have breached user data.
BestMediaInfo.com, in conversation with a few players, finds out how the demand is being met and whether or not this growth will sustain after the pandemic as well.
Today, remote communication and collaborative platforms are doing extremely well in terms of supporting businesses continuity and managing people/teams across different geographies. It has emerged as an effective business model and to combat the economic stress most countries are facing today.
Until recently, WhatsApp was supporting up to four participants in group voice and video calls. During the lockdown period, the platform has rolled out support for group calling of up to eight participants on both the Android and iOS versions of the app.
Microsoft said video calls on Teams were up 1,000% in the month of March and Slack said its users increased to 12.5 million in March.
Raman Singh, Co-founder and CRO of CloudConnect Communications, said the company has seen more than 250% increase in downloads of its app since the onset of the pandemic.
Its cloud-based resilient services provide a holistic solution for businesses to seamlessly set up a remote working environment and some of its major services include cloud video conferencing, hosted phone system, customised interactive voice response (IVR) system, and contact centre solution.
Like most other online collaboration apps, Lark, an office suite that integrates messaging, schedule management, collaborative documents and video conferencing, had seen a sharp surge in its downloads across regions during the lockdown. It operates across businesses and supports small and large teams for seamless online collaboration.
“As Lark is offering enterprise-level tools for free in India, the rise in demand has been seen in the number of sectors we operate in with a growing list from retail, educational institutions, pharma to NGOs and other small businesses and large corporations,” said Vinay Bhartia, India Head, Lark.
Lark's free version comes with unlimited video calls (complete with advanced screen sharing and recording functions), 200GB of cloud storage, online collaborative docs and sheets, a smart calendar, a powerful messenger, unlimited third-party app integrations, and customisable attendance/approval workflows.
Asked if there are any major issues or challenges these companies are facing while continually preparing for increased demand, Singh said, “As we are a cloud-based service provider, our solutions are 100% scalable as and when required.”
As companies gain experience and realise the importance of remote working, processes and technologies get familiar with people, which makes work more manageable and efficiently executable.
But the challenge of customer success and support teams is evitable when the demand rises ten-fold.
Singh, talking on behalf of CloudConnect Communication, said, “Our teams working on our proprietary remote-working solutions comprise a major force in enabling the company to effectively and efficiently meet the surging demand. Everybody is available as per timeline. To date, the only challenge we have faced in the past involved zero or low broadband speed at the beginning, but none since then.”
According to a report by App Annie (app analyst), Zoom Cloud Meetings topped downloads charts globally throughout February and March, and continue to see elevated downloads through the US, UK and Europe. The growth in Hangouts Meet also reached heights during this period.
In today's time, remote collaboration has become the new norm. Organisations have adopted to remote collaboration platforms as a preferred way of running businesses.
As the pandemic creates an enlarged ecosystem of video applications, will the growth stay even after the crisis?
Bhartia said it is here to stay even after the pandemic subsides.
The current scenario has forced organisations to change the way they operate and has brought about a cultural shift across industries and verticals, enabling organisations to reap maximum output through remote collaboration tools.
Singh said, “Absolutely. The current calendar will be remembered as the year when remote working was declared worldwide. Being the year when remote working has been quickly integrated into the global business paradigm, 2020 is veritably the year of remote working and this trend is here to stay.”
Recently, Zoom was in the news for a data breach. Cybersecurity intelligence firm Cyble discovered that over 500,000 Zoom accounts were being sold on the dark web and on hacker forums, according to a Monday report from Bleeping Computer. The accounts are being sold for less than a penny each, with some being given away for free.
So what measures are these applications ensuring to not breach customer data security?
While Zoom says it has already fixed most of its security issues, users are exploring other options for video conferences and online meetings.
Singh explained, “Our WebRTC-based online conference room utilises both Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS) and Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP) to encrypt data. It allows moderators to secure the virtual conference room by using tools like ‘moderator-only access, one-time password and PIN, conference room lock and user blocking feature. The platform provides the highest levels of virtual meeting security with 128b encryption. All voice and video calls are fully encrypted while media is encrypted from all participants to the company’s server. Moreover, chat messages are sent via HTTPS and received via WebSockets over SSL/TLS, which are both highly trusted security protocols. To maintain high standards of data privacy, WeConference does not share user data with any third-parties. As such, it does not have any ‘Login with Facebook or Google’ features. Finally, the platform’s desktop app installation has been verified secure by VeraCode as part of the PenTest run in late 2019.”
By strictly following all required security norms, WeConference applies the principles and rules of GDPR – the gold standard in privacy protection – to all customers. It also offers a host of other innovative features such as AI-led transcription, audio, and video recording, integrated dial-ins, live video streaming and meetings with 100 participants.
At Lark, the security of user services and data is of paramount importance, said Bhartia.
Lark has passed some of the most authoritative and dependable information security standards in the world, including ISO 27701, ISO 27018, ISO 27001, SOC 2 and SOC 3 certifications. “We are now certified with ISO 27701, the international standard for Privacy Information Management.”
Bhartia added, “Lark ensures business security, allowing only authorised teams to invite, add or delete users for the company. This ensures relevant teams are getting relevant information in a secure manner. Moreover, when an employee leaves, he/she is automatically removed from all work groups instantly, with no access to any past or present communication.”
As the pandemic has shown, businesses need to combine innovation with enough flexibility of the business model to not just survive in the face of unprecedented challenges but rise to the occasion and help the ecosystem overcome them.
Singh said, “If your services are good to adapt in line with the emerging challenges and opportunities, then you can very easily sustain yourself.”
Customer affinity is of great importance to ensure the continuous use of products or services. Moreover, data security is of utmost importance where distributed teams are employed.
“Solid security coupled with reliable performance and a superior user experience is imperative for remote collaboration as we become increasingly dependent on trustworthy technology for all kinds of organisational needs,” said Bhartia.