How to mesh video conferencing, video calling devices for home

Giving remote employees the chance to use their Amazon Echo Shows or Facebook Portals when logging in to meetings has advantages, but security and performance concerns remain.

Are consumer video devices suitable for business use? An increasing number of these video calling devices for home -- among them Amazon Echo Show, Facebook Portal and Google Nest Hub -- are compatible with enterprise video conferencing services, including Cisco Webex, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Device costs start at around $100, and home-based employees may find value in using these products alongside their laptops and PCs when logging in to meetings.

Metrigy's recent global study of almost 400 end-user organizations found that 43% had allowed -- or were planning to allow by 2023 -- their employees to use these devices. In many cases, IT leaders see value in letting employees use them to improve video conferencing performance. The products can, in fact, be preferable to using built-in cameras, and they also help IT reduce the need to procure and provision dedicated devices. However, these products raise performance management and security concerns.

Management support less than stellar

First, unified communications performance management tools don't typically support consumer devices. This means IT lacks visibility into voice and video quality and may not be able to offer sufficient technical support for remote employees. Metrigy's research, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, has continuously shown that companies with the highest ROI for their collaboration spending take a proactive approach to supporting work-from-home employees, treating the home office as an extension of the company office.

Without end-to-end insight into meeting application performance, IT won't be able to troubleshoot problems that occur or predict potential issues in advance.

Without end-to-end insight into meeting application performance, IT won't be able to troubleshoot problems that occur or predict potential issues in advance. As a result, employees attempting to log in to meeting applications may have to be content with whatever performance they get. While this level of access may be acceptable for internal meetings, those companies using meeting apps to engage with customers are likely to invest in higher-quality endpoints -- ones IT can support. Alternatively, organizations may want to investigate more enterprise-focused products, such as Facebook's forthcoming Portal for Business.

Consider the practicality

Consumer devices pose IT security risks as well. They don't support enterprise policies governing device access, lockout and other restrictions, and they may not work with appropriate security access controllers. In addition, end-to-end encryption or other security controls might be unavailable --depending on what steps a meeting attendee uses to access a meeting. Here again, as device manufacturers add more business-focused management tools, including centralized policy management and enforcement, some of these security concerns could be addressed.

Finally, IT and business leaders need to gauge the utility of these devices. Because they require users to turn to something that's separate from their laptop or PC, the meeting experience overall could be compromised as participants switch from looking at their devices -- to engage with others -- to looking at their monitors if they want to see content. The size of the displays -- those not connected to televisions or external monitors -- may also not be suitable for content sharing and ideation.

Bottom line: Video calling devices for home are certainly an option. But companies must understand the management limitations, security concerns and shortcomings that could short-circuit effective meetings. If you do decide to support consumer devices, plan to rely on available services to enable centralized IT management.

Dig Deeper on Video conferencing and visual collaboration