Being the baddest IT crew in the Bay is not just about providing excellent service with a smile. We also take it upon ourselves to know about the latest and greatest in the realm of products that can help make your life easier.
It seems that every month we are guinea pigging the office with some new WiFi access point or software product. Just this morning I was standing on the kitchen countertop installing a trial Meraki router that we were testing out to see if it was worthy for our clients. Fast WiFi is pretty important when you're constantly snapchatting epic team breakfasts and impromptu Drake dance parties.
One of our favorite products we have discovered in the past few months is Chromebox for Meetings, or CFM. We have been using CFM at Jones IT headquarters for a few months and have since rolled it out to many of our clients. We love it so much, in fact, that we are dedicating this month’s entire blog post because a sonnet just wasn’t enough.
SO, WHAT IS CHROMEBOX FOR MEETINGS?
Chromebox for Meetings is simply the best video conferencing system at the price point. The video quality, sound, ease of use, and reliability is unmatched. Other conferencing systems that perform similarly will cost several thousand dollars. For our smaller clients like startups and small businesses, that’s simply too much of a cost to take on. We believe that it shouldn’t be such a financial burden to reliably and easily talk to your colleagues and clients across the globe. Conference room setups used to be a huge pain point for our clients; we knew we had to find a solution. Through trial, error, and much review we landed on Chromebox for Meetings. Our rationale for this choice lies in the price, the quality of the product, and the ease with which our clients can incorporate CFM into their existing systems.
#1: CHROMEBOX FOR MEETINGS IS CHEAP.
With Chromebox for Meetings there are only 2 different price points, both of which are quite reasonable. The first tier gets you all the gear you need to deck out a small conference room of about 8 people. Google also recently rolled out a larger kit to support rooms of around 20. At Jones IT we use the small CFM kits for each of our two conference rooms.
One small CFM kit contains a 1080p HD camera, microphone, CFM console, and remote to control it all from anywhere in the room. The kit for large rooms contains an even fancier Logitech PTZ Pro Camera, also in full 1080p HD, and a second microphone in addition to everything else included in the smaller kit. The entire setup will plug into anything with an HDMI port that you can use as a display. We make our giant plasma TVs serve double duty as conferencing displays so they aren’t just collecting dust between big games. In short, you’re getting the conference room of your dreams for less than the price of a Macbook. Yet, as much as we love a bargain, that isn’t the only reason we love CFM. It’s also just about the easiest to use conferencing product we have ever come across.
#2: CHROMEBOX FOR MEETINGS IS RELIABLE AND EASY TO USE.
We reviewed several different systems in our search for a video conferencing solution that we were comfortable having our clients use. It was most important that we find something reliable that would also fit the budget of many of our clients. The last thing we want is to convince someone to invest their hard earned money on something they won’t be happy with. As much as we would appreciate the job security, we don’t recommend products so complex that they require a call to Jones IT to even use. Luckily, CFM is simple enough for even the least tech savvy employee in the office to use.
Prior to working at Jones IT, I was generally considered the most technical person on the team and even acted as the unofficial IT support at some smaller companies I worked for. Yet for some reason, however, I have always had a bit of trouble with conferencing systems. My past experiences setting up conference rooms were always a bit of a stressful hassle. There were so many steps and software programs involved that I was always crossing my fingers in the hopes that I hadn’t missed some crucial step along the way. Even if I did do everything correctly, sometimes the Polycom malfunctioned through no fault of my own and I still would get blamed for it! I’ve found most conferencing systems to be unintuitive and more pricey than they should be. I was quick to write CFM off when the team was waxing poetic about how easy it was to use, but I decided I would figure out how to use the thing on my own to avoid looking like a fool in front of the techs.
It wasn’t long after we installed CFM that I had an upcoming meeting with our Berlin based project manager, Ers. The time to be an adult and use CFM had come, and I was determined to set it up without asking for help. I went into Google Calendar to create the meeting for later in the day, invite Ers, and pick my desired conference room (I’m partial to the one with a couch). A few hours later as I walked upstairs to chat with Ers and use CFM for the first time, I silently hoped that I hadn’t made a mistake. It would be a deflating crush to my ego after everyone in the office had said it was the easiest conferencing system that they had used. My fears were assuaged, however, when I flicked the CFM on with its remote and plopped myself down on the couch; it was immediately obvious what to do upon first sight of the CFM home screen. It was so obvious, in fact, that the designer in me geeked out a little bit at how idiot proof Google has made the interface. At first glance you can clearly see your upcoming meetings on the right with settings and a few other options on the bottom of the screen. As a bonus they also have a plethora of beautiful landscape backgrounds - a good step up from the grassy fields of Microsoft of yore.
I had a minute to kill so I played around with the remote, opening up every single menu on the screen, then finally navigating to the giant button highlighting my meeting at 3. I clicked to start the meeting and it went off without a hitch: I could hear Ers loud and clear and we didn’t waste any time making sure my camera and mic worked. It all just simply worked. I can’t imagine how much better the experience would have been if Ers had his own CFM instead of his circa 2012 laptop webcam. As I hit the big red phone button to end the call, I thought to myself how much easier my job would have been in the past if CFM had existed. It makes me wonder why many organizations don’t use it, because it fits well with most existing programs businesses are already using.
#3: CHROMEBOX FOR MEETINGS INTEGRATES WITH EXISTING SYSTEMS.
Installing Chromebox for Meetings is just about as easy as getting your mits on the kit. If you’re signed up with Jones IT it’s as easy as just calling us and telling us where you want us to install it. We will sell AND install for you so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
Once you have it installed, it is relatively easy to integrate to the apps you’re already using. CFM plays nice with a variety of meeting platforms like Blue Jeans, Vidyo, Intercall, and UberConference. It works seamlessly with G Suite, which we also highly recommend and use at Jones IT HQ. If you’re using Outlook or another email service, however, all you have to do is verify your domain with Google one time and you are set. This process is yet another thing that Jones IT can do for you.
CFM also has a number of useful features in addition to being a wonderful tool to interact with your coworkers from afar. You can also use it to present remotely and screen share with just a few clicks. It’s also designed for meeting with people on the go as long as they have a laptop, tablet, or smartphone with a camera. Setting up meetings is as easy as going to your calendar and making a meeting. That's it! You also have the option of naming the video meeting something like, “platypus,” so attendees can search in the CFM interface for the meeting, but it's not really necessary since the event will show up automatically. My only major gripes about CFM are that attendees must be using Gmail or G Suite so that they can join the call and that you can’t create meetings from the CFM interface. Despite these drawbacks, I greatly prefer CFM to many other conferencing and video conferencing systems I have used and reviewed.
CFM really just works, and it works well. It’s rare that calls drop or cut out. The video quality is excellent and everyone in the room can be heard by whomever we’re meeting with. Best of all, CFM eliminates the unnecessary waste of 10+ minutes of your work day fiddling with technology every time you want to have a meeting. Meeting with your colleagues should be about what you are going to discuss and get done. There shouldn’t be a bunch of bureaucratic steps clogging up the process, and you shouldn’t dread attending so much that you avoid scheduling meetings altogether.
We recommend Chromebox for Meetings because it’s a quality product at a great price point that is so easy to use nearly anyone in your organization can figure it out. But just in case you were planning on sending one to your grandparents, you should probably still show them the ropes. If you’re interested in getting a Chromebox for Meetings in your conference room, give us a call and we’ll take care of the rest.