I spend a lot of time writing about the uses of advanced technology in archaeological survey. Admittedly, there are few companies ready to take this leap into the 21st century. However, absolutely every company has to deal with communicating with employees over long distances. Frequently, Crew Chiefs and Project Managers call in, sometimes on a daily basis, to report on the day’s activities. Some companies ship employees across several states to work on projects with other offices which also means that communication is a necessity.
We live in a time where just about every hotel has internet, and if they don’t, you should be working for a company that provides you with either tethering from your smart phone or portable wifi devices. If you don’t, that’s a conversation for another time. Since you should have internet access why settle for a simple voice connection when you could do so much more? What follows are some well known teleconferencing options and a few options you can only support if you win the archaeology lottery and find a hoard of gold coins that no one can lay claim to.
Traditional Teleconferencing Options
Everyone knows what Skype is. Skype’s basic functions are accessible to everyone free of charge as long as you are making a computer to computer call. These days you can think of that as a Skype to Skype call because Skype works on smart phones and tablets too.
A basic, free, Skype account gets you free video and voice calls between Skype accounts, low rates on calls to phones, audio conference calls, and instant messaging (Microsoft bought Skype and MSN Messenger was rolled into the Skype App). With a premium account at $4.99 per month you get all the free options plus video conference calls, group screen sharing, no advertising within the Skype application, live customer support for when it all goes to hell, and unlimited calls to a country of your choice.
Skype is the industry standard in video communication. It’s been around for a long time and just about everyone has at least heard of it. You can use Skype on a smart phone, tablet, or on the web. And, all three device types can talk to any of the other device types. The biggest limitation to the free account is that they recently took away screen sharing. That wasn’t a good idea because the next option still has it. And it’s still free, too.
Skype Business. If you want to go all out you can contact the good people at Skype and get a business account. There are no prices since I’m sure they tailor your billing to your situation. There are some interesting benefits from Skype business that you don’t get with the standard accounts. For example, you can allocate credit and features to different people on your account. You can also make Skype calls on your office phone system. You could pick up the phone on your desk and make a Skype call straight to your people in the field.
Google Hangouts are free. You need a Google account to use it and you need to be on Google+. Also, you can add telephone members to Hangouts once they are started. Up to 10 people can be in a hangout at once. Screen sharing is still free on Google Hangouts and can really come in handy.
Google Hangouts are not very secure. Anyone currently in a hangout can invite anyone else into a hangout. If you’re not paying attention you could have others in on the conversation that you didn’t intend. You can block or ignore others in the hangout but that doesn’t stop them from joining in in the first place.
Go To Meeting is for people that are really serious about having frequent online meetings and online training seminars. There are actually three products from the GoTo Meeting people. The other two are GoToWebinar and GoToTraining.
For most companies GoTo Meeting will be sufficient. The other two are for larger companies and massive training sessions. They are also way more expensive. The basic GoTo Meeting, which allows up to 25 meeting attendees, is $49 a month or $468 a year. Sharing of screens, applications, mouse, and keyboard controls are all options included with the lowest account level.
There are companies that have employees meet them in the field on the first day of the session. They then have a, sometimes lengthy, meeting about the project and what is expected of everyone there. Why not have this meeting prior to fieldwork with all the employees so people that want to can prepare for the fieldwork. I always tried to get as much information from future employers as I could about the next project I was going to be on so I could learn about what I’d be finding and what I should be looking for. Why not make it policy to give that information ahead of time through interactive screen sharing and video conferencing? Join the 21st century and check out some of these awesome programs.
If you really want to go crazy and have other offices to keep in touch with, check out the video below. If it doesn't load check it out here.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!