Digital transformation is shifting more endpoints to the enterprise network, and IT responsibilities are shifting with them.
For audio, this shift is largely driven by the user community, which has embraced cloud-based videoconferencing as indispensible for collaborating with remote colleagues. What was once an analog technology supported by AV specialists has become a digital technology supported by IT.
Understandably, IT professionals are wary of supporting something they don't fully understand, and many are hesitant to move enterprise audio to their network. When your company's share price, customer relationships, growth, and other vital business aspects are dependent on reliable meeting technology, IT leaders are wise to consider this shift carefully.
It's also wise to consider the risk of not shifting. With no clear standards or oversight, the management of meeting room technology can evolve into a shadow IT operation.
Thankfully, you don't have to be the first to invent a new way to support enterprise digital audio. As a global leader in audio technology, Shure is tackling the problems associated with networking audio across the enterprise and has discovered four best practices that will help IT leaders develop an enterprise audio infrastructure that's reliable, supportable, and secure:
The main advantage of putting audio on the enterprise network is simplicity. If you're concerned that audio is mysterious and complex, you're correct, but only in an analog environment. Audio transmitted over analog cables is subject to signal degradation like high-frequency fading, voltage drops over long cable runs, and environmental factors like electromagnetic interference. In contrast, digital signals inherently retain their integrity over long distances.
On the network, audio becomes much easier to manage by replacing the tangle of cables and analog routing with simplified, centrally managed routing over Ethernet, allowing IT to monitor the global audio network from a single network management interface. Most troubleshooting can be done remotely to identify problems quickly. And, because most audio endpoints can be powered over Ethernet, the need for power cables is dramatically reduced.
When considering security for networked audio, it's best to treat audio like any other IoT endpoint: don't automatically trust it. Instead, build security around audio to ensure every meeting room can talk to every other meeting room while keeping confidential discussions secure. To ensure security, Shure recommends putting audio on an isolated network.
IT professionals are experts at connectivity and security, but are less well versed in best practices for ensuring audio quality. Clear audio in meetings is no accident. Technology can't compensate for audio that's not crystal clear at the source. It takes real audio expertise to ensure consistent quality.
But IT leaders know that having two groups – AV and IT – supporting one infrastructure is fraught with peril. When problems arise, it's easy for one group to assign responsibility to the other, and progress grinds to a halt.
The best approach to ensuring consistent audio quality is to complement IT expertise with enough AV expertise to design and support a networked infrastructure. These AV experts should report to IT so that IT retains control of the results, and your organization avoids the blame game of having two departments run one audio infrastructure.
In developing a hybrid AV/IT team, IT leaders should draw clear boundaries about who is responsible for designing and supporting each link of the digital audio chain. Building a hybrid team involves building trust among team members and time to develop a new process for handling enterprise audio.
Because popular cloud-based video conferencing platforms are easy to use, users have come to expect effortless experiences with technology in the meeting room. And, meeting room users want and expect the same meeting technology experience globally, so that running a meeting in London, U.K., is the same experience as in London, Ontario. Meetings are more productive when organizers aren't forced to learn a new system for each meeting.
Standardized meeting rooms are crucial to meeting expectations for simplicity and a consistent experience among locations.
Traditionally, each meeting room was a custom installation supported by in-house AV experts and designed and installed using outside AV integrators. In a digital audio environment, organizations can design, install, commission, and support most meeting room installations on their own, drawing on expertise from their hybrid AV/IT team. Due to the simplification benefits of networked audio, outside integrators will only be necessary for large, complex installations.
Develop standards around the most common types of meetings, presentations, or training common to your organization. This will be different for every organization. But the following example can serve as a guide:
The shift from analog to digital audio is an opportunity for organizations to rethink meeting room technology and to simplify their entire AV infrastructure for more productive meetings and more supportable AV environments.
Hesitating to add audio endpoints to the enterprise network is like hesitating to implement any other aspect of digital transformation. Why wait? This is where the industry is going. The sooner you make the shift to networked digital audio, the sooner you can make every connection feel effortless.
Shure takes networked audio simplification to a higher level by using the Dante audio over IP protocol to handle the audio signal path throughout the network, and the Dante Controller, which automatically discovers networked audio devices. With Dante, you simply plug devices into an Ethernet switch. All audio devices appear quickly in the Dante Controller for immediate routing. The Dante Controller also handles network monitoring functions such as latency, clock health, packet errors, and bandwidth.
Shure further simplifies digital audio by taking the guesswork out of configuring new rooms and systems. Out of the box, Shure conferencing solutions are optimized for meetings, streamlining the process of installing, configuring, and commissioning new rooms. Installations are nearly painless, with minimal configuration needed by installation teams.