Quickchannel expands into South Africa in partnership with SkyGroup

Video and audio specialist, Quickchannel, is pleased to announce that it is expanding its international footprint with the appointment of SkyGroup Communications as its distribution partner in South Africa. The move will enable Quickchannel to more readily provide its advanced content delivery solutions to the African market while expanding its presence on the continent.

SkyGroup Communications is a South African based video, communications and collaboration company, focused on assisting reseller partners with the successful implementation and integration of communication technologies in their client’s environments.

As per the agreement, SkyGroup will make use of the Quickchannel technologies in its own cloud solution videoHUB as well as offer it as an on premise solution to customers looking to leverage its capabilities.

”Quickchannel provides a world-class solution for audio and video streaming and recording, something our clients have for a while been looking for,” Marius van Wyk, Operations & Technical Director at SkyGroup Communications. ”After considering several partners in this market and stringent testing of the system we quickly settled on the Scandinavian company as our partner of choice.”

According to the management of Quickchannel, the company has been exploring the possibility of an African partnership for some time. The African market forms part of a logical expansion for the company and SkyGroup has provided it with the geographical footprint, industry related skills and knowledge of communications the company is looking for in a partner.

”Africa has been on our expansion wish list for some time and we have been trying to find a partner that gave a suitable fit. It was only after meeting the SkyGroup Communications team that we felt we had found a strategic partner that ticked all the relevant boxes, and which we believed was an appropriate fit for our technologies, our team and the business,” says Viktor Hedström, CEO of Quickchannel.

”Quickchannel is looking forward to kicking off our partnership with SkyGroup and believe we will be able to make great inroads into the African market with them as we provide both our partner and their resellers with a technology we consider to provide a competitive advantage to its users,” adds Hedström.

SkyGroup is, with immediate effect, offering customers access to the full Quickchannel product range with a focus on Quickchannel Bridge and Pexip technology integration. The solutions can be delivered as a cloud based solution or on premise.


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Cloud-based video conferencing changing the face of business

With its Lifesize Cloud solution, SkyGroup Communications is offering reseller partners and clients the option to enjoy an easy to use and affordable cloud-based video conferencing solution, based entirely on your business requirements, budget and specific user needs.

As a cost-effective cloud video service, Lifesize Cloud can be used on its own or combined with Lifesize Icon video conferencing systems for a more immersive video experience. The solution is ideal for resellers looking to provide customers with a video calling service that requires little hardware investment, has a lower cost of ownership and that is 100% hosted and managed in the cloud.

”Meeting face-to-face still outplays email chains and lengthy conference calls, in which employees are often found multi-tasking or simply getting on with other work while they are on a call,” states Marius van Wyk, Operations and Technical Director at SkyGroup Communications. ”While business is aware that video conferencing and video calling is the answer, many still find the cost of larger boardroom-based solutions inhibitive. Which is why a cloud-based solution like Lifesize Cloud makes good business sense.”

According to Van Wyk, additional business benefits of the solution include managers and recruiters being able to use video streaming and recording in their talent acquisition strategies, enabling them to recruit and train the best of the best. Video is also an excellent means to ensure knowledge sharing and you can use it to extend a corporate message to everyone in a business, particularly if calls are recorded and shared for later consumption.

The everyday benefit of being able to overcome time zone constraints is still an important factor when considering video, as well as the security associated to being able to keep a record of a call. Lifesize Cloud offers flexible packages to address the customer needs and requirements, whether it is an SME or large enterprise, as it offers the ability to scale to virtually any number of users. With its cross-platform interoperability, a user can join a video meeting through browser-based calling, the Lifesize Cloud app or device available to them, including standards-based video conferencing endpoints or Skype for Business.

Customers can also integrate their Skype for Business environment with their video conferencing boardroom investments, irrelevant of what brand is deployed. This assists in dramatically cutting costs, while at the same time enabling a customer to enhance their visual communications / UC environment with Skype for Business and standards-based video conferencing endpoints.

”Video conferencing has faced challenges in the past because of its inability to scale outside of the boardroom, as well as the network requirements it needs and the scheduling required to execute them. Now with cloud solutions and the ability to install them on a mobile device and use them anywhere, or to record and stream them, none of this is a challenge,” he adds.

Vastly considered by users as a quick and intuitive way to get their business connected over video, Lifesize Cloud has an easy-to-use interface that supports screen sharing, calendar integration, IM chat and audio-calling, as well as a search-based directory for instant calling.

Calls can be made via desktop app or a browser via browser-based calling, and can include up to 50 participants. Meetings and calls can also be scheduled directly in Google Calendar or Microsoft® Outlook and with its reporting functionality, administrators can garner a view of call lengths, device usage and more.

Lifesize Cloud is locally available from SkyGroup Communications – and free trials are on offer for customers looking to test the solution first-hand.

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Click and present – the new era of presenting

Mybroadband, 3 August 2017

There is nothing worse than waiting for a presentation to start because of technical difficulties that require the IT department to intervene.

But this will no longer be a problem, as presentation technology has come full circle with the new range of Barco ClickShare devices, available locally from SkyGroup Communications.

As a professional visualisation and networking solutions company, Barco has designed an innovative wireless presentation system that is redefining the corporate meeting room experience for South African businesses.

All you need to do is plug in to your laptop or mobile device, click and share, there are no cables, no set-up and no waiting to join a meeting.

“Meetings can be great time wasters, especially if there are technical problems that start with each one. With the Barco ClickShare solutions it is easy to connect and display content, from any laptop or mobile device,” states Marius van Wyk, Operations & Technical Director at SkyGroup Communications.

“The technology is not only easy to use, but it also improves the productivity of meetings, as there is no need to waste time on technical glitches.”

The Barco ClickShare technology is a truly BYOD-led solution which enables anyone, including meeting guests to connect a presentation with one click and share it right away.

The simplicity and ease of use negates the need for any training, and draws from the need by millennials and digitally disruptive organisations to ensure the technology experience is as hassle-free as possible.

How does it work? Users simply plug in the ClickShare Button which is a USB-powered device into their PC or Mac and click the button.

The content from their device will automatically be streamed to the meeting room screen or display.

Users who install the ClickShare App can also share content from their mobile phones or tablets, and those who have a device supporting Airplay or Googlecast can do the same.

“This seamless and convenient means of content sharing during meetings allows companies to take advantage of better business productivity, no matter the size of the business. What’s more, the devices come bundled with standard ClickShare security features that include encryption, login management, https and the option to hide the SSID of the Base Unit’s wireless network,” adds van Wyk.

“According to research conducted by Barco, 91% of IT Managers say that resolving technical presentation problems is a priority for their business, which is why the ClickShare solution really is at the forefront of revolutionising presentations for good.”

SkyGroup appointed ClearOne distributor for SA

Pro-Systems Africa News, Tue, 01 Aug 2017

SkyGroup Communications is pleased to announce that it has been appointed as the sole distributor for ClearOne’s full lineup of conferencing and collaboration solutions throughout South Africa.

As per the agreement, SkyGroup Communications’ reseller partners will, with immediate effect, have access to the full portfolio of ClearOne professional audio and microphones, video collaboration, network media streaming, and unified communication solutions, enabling them to build better voice and visual communications solutions for their end user customers.

We are delighted to be appointed as a distributor for ClearOne in the region as it provides our partners with a quality range of tools they can leverage to improve the quality of their customer’s communications environment,” states Marius van Wyk, operations and technical director at SkyGroup Communications. “ClearOne already has a well-established brand in the local market, and we are looking forward to assisting existing partners as well as onboarding new partners in the region.”

ClearOne’s professional audio offerings provide high-quality audio conferencing systems which are today critical for enabling productivity in businesses. The company’s professional conferencing products are sophisticated, feature-rich systems and offer excellent audio processing performance.

“SkyGroup is an ideal distribution partner in their established AV market for our portfolio of products, as they maintain close relationships with resellers and consultants to offer the most advanced, and highly competitive, AV solutions,” says Andrew Loadman, regional sales director at ClearOne. “Clients of SkyGroup and ClearOne can now benefit from a one-stop shop for all of their conferencing and collaboration needs.”

Notably, SkyGroup will be offering ClearOne’s flagship CONVERGE Pro 2 solution to local resellers. CONVERGE Pro 2 is an advanced professional audio DSP platforms for conferencing and sound-reinforcement applications. It can operate in any size room, audio environment and for a host of applications. It is also optimised to work with ClearOne’s Beamforming Mic Array 2 and DIALOG 20 2-Channel Wireless Microphone System through its native connection. The ClearOne COLLABORATE series, offers low- cost room appliances and built-in Spontania cloud collaboration, with or without audio endpoints and UNITE PTZ cameras.

The company’s VIEW Pro Network Media Streaming solutions enable quality multimedia streaming of audio, video, and control over existing TCP/IP networks, offering drastic improvements in flexibility, scalability, and price/performance compared to traditional audio/video distribution methods.

Lastly, the ClearOne UC Voice solutions are highly popular with large and small enterprises alike. Its CHAT speakerphone and headsets provide unmatched full-duplex audio clarity and connect to a wide variety of devices for conferencing. The INTERACT solutions provide complete room audio conferencing solutions, compatible with PCs or laptops running a variety of unified communications software.


SkyGroup Communications: New conference system now available in South Africa

IT Brief Africa

Vusi Melane July 18, 2017

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SkyGroup Communications, a distributor of video conferencing, audio-visual (AV) integration and cloud-based communication services, is based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The organisation has announced the local availability of the new Yealink VC800 Room System for video conferencing.

Marius van Wyk, operations and technical director for SkyGroup Communications, says the initial launch of Yealink VC800 Room System was in Xiamen, China in June this year.

The system is now available throughout South Africa.

Van Wyk says, “the technology is now being released and now available locally in South Africa throughout all the country’s nine provinces.”

“The provinces include Gauteng, Cape Town, Kwa-Zulu Natal, North-West, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga.”

“And later the distribution will be enrolled throughout Africa,” he says.

According to van Wyk, the Yealink VC800 Room System is designed to assist customers in reducing long distance communication costs as well as meet multipoint conference needs.

“It’s all in one design and first class video and audio technology is for meeting collaboration. The Yealink VC800 can help businesses save up to 50% of their bandwidth costs,” he adds.

The product features an intuitive user interface aiming to make meeting control simpler, as well as a H.265/HEVC. It has Opus and HD voice backed by Harman Kardon speaker.

“Its built in MCU, supports 24 site HD video conferencing and can be split into two Virtual Meeting Rooms. Users can deploy the CP960 conference phone alongside the system or simply use its two DECT based wireless expansion microphones.

With the Yealink VC800 Room System, users can now connect a television through a standard RJ45 network cable.

Van Wyk concludes, “Integrated with the Yealink Meeting Server (YMS), the VC800 also supports third party video conferencing room systems and integrates with all leading cloud platforms.” 



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Better manage multiple video conferences

SkyGroup Communications is pleased to announce the local availability of the Yealink Meeting Server, an all-in-one meeting management system solution that satisfies the multiple video conferencing demands of medium-sized and large enterprises.

A distributed cloud-based video conferencing infrastructure that supports HD video conferencing collaboration, the Yealink Meeting Server will help customers better manage multiple video conferences, while at the same time ensure the quality of delivery. From a single management platform customers can take advantage of rich meeting functions, wide flexibility, security and reliability, for all of their meeting requirements.

“Video conferencing is really growing in South Africa, particularly as companies are electing to move towards remote working as well as a result of the increase in business disruption we have experienced on a socio-economic front,” says Marius van Wyk, operations and technical director at SkyGroup Communications. “But video conferencing can be expensive unless you use the right solutions specified for your business and manage your usage effectively – which is why meeting management systems are so important.”

The Yealink Meeting Server combines an MCU, registrar server, traversal server, directory server, meeting and device management server, all in a single all-in-one device. As it is packaged in a single unit customers can cut costs by negating the need for multiple and disparate solutions while at the same time improve efficiency. With Yealink Meeting Server you can manage and control multiple devices such as room systems, video phones, mobile apps and PC software.

The solution can be deployed locally (on premise) or via the public cloud and it boasts meeting functionality such as video conferencing collaboration and different conference modes, be it a P2P conference or a scheduled meeting. Furthermore, the Yealink Meeting Server allows anyone to enjoy video conferencing collaboration from anywhere with any device. It also supports remote device management, which in turn greatly improves administrators’ working efficiency and reduces enterprise maintenance costs.

According to van Wyk, a key differentiator of the Yealink Meeting Server solution is that is supports security standards such as TLS, SRTP, HTTPS and dynamic passwords.
“The Yealink Meeting Server is the perfect cloud-based video collaboration infrastructure for the modern business that understands that remote working, geographic collaboration and cross-border business networking can all be achieved through video conferencing,” van Wyk says.


Better manage multiple video conferences



Why remote working is a must for SA

Construction in Sandton and Fourways, gridlock in Cape Town are all factors building a strong case for companies to embrace remote working. But is your business geared to make the move and if not what can you do to make it so.

South African commuters are starting to feel the pressure of getting to work on time mounting, which is in itself causing undue stress on both employees and employers. Spending between an hour to two hours in traffic just to get to the office on time is becoming the norm, and in a country where public transport is not as pervasive as it is in Europe and the United States, the problem isn’t going anywhere fast.

“Employees are feeling trapped which is breeding an unhealthy and unproductive environment, which is why corporate South Africa needs to start embracing flexi hours and remote working,” says Marius van Wyk, operations and technical director at SkyGroup Communications. “There simply is no excuse. The technologies and tools, such as remote data access, video conferencing facilities and cloud solutions like Skype for Business exist, all of which support remote working and promote productivity.”

According to van Wyk remote working has to date been reserved for workers willing to take a knock in salary in order to be able to benefit from more flexibility in work hours. This is particularly true for those employees with children. But he says the view needs to shift to one which supports productivity and employee well-being, particularly as news reports and daily traffic reports paint a bleak picture of the state of South African roads.

“Internally we have implemented a pilot project called P.O.P – Place Of Productivity, which encourages employees to work from home.  Project P.O.P. is an initiative to gauge employee productivity and general business engagement irrelevant of location.  It is centred on our belief that your place of work should not be tied down to a single location.

“What we have seen is that as long as an employee has a stable Internet connection at home, have access to collaboration tools such as our videoHUB conferencing solution and relevant business applications i.e. Microsoft Office, Skype for Business, hosted or cloud based telephony services etc., they are even more productive at home than they are in the office,” he adds.

Surely not more productive? This is the standard answer from much of corporate South Africa who still battle to relinquish face-to-face “clocking in” of employees. Reports from Fortune Magazine, the Harvard Business review as well as a slew of independent studies all build the case for remote working.

All of which speak to the fact that office workers who spend between 45 minutes to 2 hours commuting, arrive in the office feeling like they have already spent a day at the office, and can take as long to get into their work. The growing cost of real estate that is forcing the need for open plan offices is another factor. Open plan offices are a sure fire way to kill productivity, unless the corporate culture supports these.

In one case study run by Chinese travel website Ctrip, sales people working remotely were able to complete 13.5% more calls than their office bound counterparts. The company said it estimated that it saved $1,900 per employee for the nine months just in office finishings and space. It also managed to completely eradicate the “water cooler” effect which is a sure fire way to eat into productivity hours.

“It is not all a bed of roses though. Instilling a remote working culture and making it successful relies about 50% on technology to support the environment and the other 50% on company culture, incentives and the willingness of the employee. You can’t just deploy a cloud-based video conferencing solution, buy mobile data and install fibre at the home of an employee to make it work.

“You need to develop policies, gauge if the individual is disciplined enough to embrace it and set out incentives to encourage its success. Furthermore, regular meeting and ‘management check in’ points need to be established, reports need to be submitted and management need to review these. But the benefits far outweigh the pain points,” adds van Wyk.

Looking ahead, the construction in Sandton is not going to improve in a hurry, nor is the traffic trap that is Fourways or the gridlock that is gripping Cape Town. Which begs the question: if you aren’t considering remote working then why not?






Why should companies embrace a virtual workforce?

In today’s challenging economic environment with organisations tightening the proverbial purse, there is a need to find mechanisms and processes to increase productivity with less resources, both human and financial. The cost of real estate, infrastructure and communication mediums to allow the workforce to carry out their duties in a physical office or location, often inhibits productivity due to many organisations not being able to afford to offer these critical tools to its workforce.

Remote working provides organisations the ability to decrease operational expenditure by downsizing office size and on-premise infrastructure requirements. However, in order for remote working to effectively work, an organisation must invest in technologies to ensure better communication and collaboration with remote workers. To achieve this, cloud based services offer the best functionality and scalability. The communications or ICT industry in general is migrating to a cloud centric services model with services like Office 365, hosted voice etc.

Naturally visual communications and collaboration is also migrating to cloud services. Cloud based services eliminate expensive on-premise solutions i.e. hardware, bandwidth etc by utilizing infrastructure in the cloud. With everything connected to the internet (IoT), communications between participants has become seamless and easy. However, cloud based services do introduce another level of complexity around security of data and communication, but by identifying the correct service provider and understanding the solutions as well as the security features it offers, these can easily be managed. Cloud based services also offer simplicity in deploying these services.

As human beings, we have a natural instinct to visually communicate with each other. The non-verbal communication derived from facial expressions, body language etc. assists people to better convey or express their thoughts and opinions. Therefore, visual communication and collaboration technologies is a key factor for an effective virtual or remote workforce.

It is of paramount importance that the correct visual communication and collaboration platform is implemented to ensure people are able to visually communicate on demand. Below are some key points to consider when implementing a platform:

  • The solution should ideally be cloud based
  • It should offer high availability and scalability
  • It should support cross platform interoperability to allow users to communicate using the application or device available to them i.e. browser based dialing (WebRTC), desktop support for Windows and Mac clients, mobile devices including iOS and Android, standards-based SIP/H.323 endpoints as well as major UC platforms i.e. Skype for Business
  • It should offer video, voice and data conferencing capabilities. This ensures that users are able to collaborate using at least two of the three key elements of visual communication. For example, if a participant does not have high bandwidth connectivity in their home office to accommodate video conferencing, they must at least be able to connect to a virtual meeting on voice and data providing the ability for a participant to effectively contribute to the virtual meeting.

To find out more, email info@skygroupcom.co.za | Follow us on Twitter @Skygroupcomms or on Facebook @skygroupcom or LinkedIn for updates, product info, articles, insights and more.

Five reasons to invest in huddle space

Huddle up! Huddle rooms are here to stay

By Marius van Wyk at SkyGroup Communications

We all know collaboration is a key component to innovation in today’s world of digital transformation. The clincher for businesses however is that they need to create an environment in their offices for employees to collaborate in – enter the huddle space.

In short a huddle space or huddle room is an area where people can come together to plan, meet or even brainstorm. They are typically home to a video conferencing solution, TV, LCD or LED monitor, a table, interactive whiteboard and chairs. The goal of the huddle room is to create a space outside of the noise of the corporate office in which employees can get together quickly and easily. In short, they are a safe space outside of the open plan offices.

Why huddle rooms?

The argument for these spaces is clear. Open plan offices are more recently being called dampeners to productivity as they do not offer a distraction free environment. In fact, Fortune magazine recently went on to mention that open plan offices are a main contributor in people taking more sick days.

The huddle room offers an environment that is safe, devoid of distractions, fosters collaboration between teams, and enables remote workers to quickly report back to groups, managers and project leaders.

Five compelling reasons to invest in a huddle room

Huddle rooms are safe and intimate spaces – Open plan offices are noisy and full of distractions. Simply being at your desk gives co-workers the impression that you are available to chat. This not only affects productivity but can also have a negative impact on morale for workers who feel they simply get nothing done. The huddle room solves this by offering a quiet place for a small group to work in. It is not just a great place to have quiet conversations, but using the technology in them is a good way for employees to have interruption free meetings. But we suggest you use all-in-one video conferencing solutions in them as the spaces are quite small.

Bringing remote workers closer to the company – A huddle room offers the perfect area to do morning scrum meetings with all team members, including those working remotely or off site. With an all-in-one video conferencing environment, remote workers can connect and be part of the conversation, as opposed to just being a number on a conference call. If deployed properly you will be able to ensure that you can create face-to-face experiences with these workers, bringing them closer to the team.

Better leverage office space – Have any unused or dead spaces in your offices? Turn them into a huddle room. The huddle room is a great way to ensure you make the most of all of your office real estate. They also enable you to do away with some costly conference rooms by being able to invest in smaller technology solutions to power them.

Not allowed to be reserved – Typically you can’t reserve a huddle room. Why? This encourages spontaneous collaboration. But what about availability? Because of their size businesses should seek to deploy several of these in their organisation – that way bookings become a moot point and its always on a first come, first serve basis. The primary reason for this is that it encourages an environment for the quick brainstorm, a project update, or a crisis crew to deal with an issue. Standard meetings should still be booked in a boardroom – rule number one of a huddle space is that it is a safe impromptu place.

Flexibility and productivity – A huddle room must not feel like a corporate boardroom. They must encourage and promote an air of productivity, innovation and creativity. Remember we are employing millennials today, and they want to embrace the comfort of the “beanbag office” environment. Your huddle rooms must be a collaboration oasis – they must be filled with tech and they must be less formal. Remember it takes less money to put in smaller technology solutions, such as video conferencing, in a smaller space than it does to outfit a 20-seater boardroom. This means they are a budget friendly option too.

Where do I get one?

The beauty about the huddle room is that they are quick to deploy, can be set up really quickly and don’t require a fortune to kit out with the latest technology. All you need to do is earmark a space, get the experts in to set it up for you and you are away. If your business truly wants to embrace digital transformation, encourage a remote and mobile workforce – then the huddle space is probably the best route for you.

SkyGroup offers scalable AV for SMBs

SkyGroup Communications is offering SMB customers the opportunity to leverage a completely customised cloud-based, video and voice system delivered in HD, based entirely on a subscription model with its videoHub offering. 

The videoHub service allows customers to participate, organise and make conference calls on any device, anywhere, as long as the client has an internet connection. Furthermore, it also boasts full integration into Skype for Business, is delivered in true HD quality video and supports both on premise and mobile conferencing environments. 

The service can be acquired on an annual subscription basis, via two packages, namely a four or six port (participant) package. Each package is fully customised to a client’s requirements and hosted in the cloud. 

“Small businesses do not have the capital to acquire large scale enterprise video conferencing equipment or systems, which is the premise against which videoHub was developed,” states Marius van Wyk, operations and technical director at SkyGroup Communications. 

“By making the offering flexible and scalable, we are enabling SMB customers to take advantage of remote working without the exorbitant costs usually associated to it.” 

The videoHub solution provides customers access to video, voice, data and collaboration services. All of which can be integrated into a full boardroom conferencing environment, accessed via a browser with browser based dialling, or from their Skype for Business environment. 

According to van Wyk the true benefits of videoHub are not just in the features the system offers, but also the reduced cost at which it can be acquired, its ability to enable and support remote working, as well as its desktop and mobile integration. 

All videoHUB conferencing services are standards-based providing unrivalled flexibility. The service is interoperable with all standards-based H.323 and SIP video conferencing devices and software clients. 


About SkyGroup Communications

SkyGroup Communications is a leading South African distributor of video conferencing, audio-visual (AV) integration and cloud-based communication services. Working exclusively through a certified network of resellers, we provide value-added distribution services around our best of breed visual communication and presentation products. In addition, we offer our partners access to technical support and services around our full solution stack.