COVID-19: Embracing a remote, video-driven business environment

James Ndegwa, Business Manager at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa, on the significant disruption companies across Africa have experienced due to the pandemic and ways to tackle this.

The disruption companies across Africa have experienced due to the pandemic has been significant. On the one hand, employee safety had to be prioritised by enabling them to work from home. And on the other, business operations had to continue as effectively as possible despite the challenging circumstances. It is in this environment where video conferencing has proven its worth as a key organisational tool.

This meant IT teams had to rapidly adapt network infrastructure to securely cater for an influx of remote connections as employees started accessing the corporate back-end using any number of personal devices. Even so, remote working is hardly a new concept. Globally, companies have been experimenting with this for the past 20 years as the technology (and connectivity) to enable it started maturing. However, COVID-19 has highlighted its importance if an organisation is to empower its employees to work from anywhere, using any device, at any time of day.

Research shows that 74% of organisations plan to permanently shift to more remote work once COVID-19 has subsided. Not only is this safer from a hygienic perspective, but it also presents significant cost-savings at a time when budgetary pressure will be immense with companies struggling to recover from the effects of the coronavirus. Video conferencing has emerged as one of the best options to effectively facilitate remote working.”

James Ndegwa, Business Manager at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa

Video done right

One of the most significant challenges when it comes to video conferencing has been the lack of reliable, high-speed connectivity. This has become even more evident with information workers trying to manage conference calls with clients using the limited bandwidth of their home networks.

“A solution like Cisco’s Webex has proven to be invaluable in this regard. Featuring innovative technology that has a tolerance for packet loss (such as those experienced in home environments), its highly resilient codec implementation delivers fluid video and crystal-clear audio even in extreme conditions. Another powerful feature is its video super-scaling. This is ideal when remote workers do not have a way of reliably sending high definition video. Instead, Webex automatically upscales the video on the client side.”

James Ndegwa, Business Manager at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa

Region of interest encoding takes this even further. By focusing on the most important areas within a video frame, for example the person’s face, Webex can still deliver an HD-quality experience by reducing the quality of the background image. Additionally, its adaptive frame rate functionality sees Webex skipping frames that would have otherwise been imperceptible to the human eye. This better deals with packet loss or jitter.

“Cisco is a key vendor in our recently announced Inspire Africa programme that sees us leveraging the best-in-class experience of our partners to deliver the channel across the continent with more digital-friendly solutions. These are designed to enable a more secure and effective work from home environment for their customers. The challenges of the past several months can now be used as a springboard for innovative solutions that provide all stakeholders with the peace of mind that their operations can continue with as little disruption as possible.”

James Ndegwa, Business Manager at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa

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