Tindall is a family-owned manufacturing company in Spartanburg, South Carolina, that designs, manufactures, and erects precast and prestressed concrete systems. Its products are used primarily in various types of construction projects in the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states.
Additional products include furnished pre-cast concrete prison cells for use in facilities throughout the continental U.S. And other Tindall products are used in the construction of parking decks at universities and colleges.
Tindall has a total of four locations, including offices in Virginia, Georgia, and Mississippi. Like most sales- and service-oriented businesses, Tindall has a significant and growing travel budget. The company spent nearly $500,000 on business travel in the past year. Steve Flacy, Tindall’s director of information technology, felt sure that there had to be a collaborative technology that would help reduce travel expenses.
Collaborative technologies can create group meetings in virtual workplaces using conferencing technology or some other collaboration technology.
Flacy first started researching virtual team software at the request of Tindall’s CEO, Bill Lowndes. “Our CEO wanted collaborative workgroup software that would enable Tindall’s teams to work together without sharing the same physical location. He thought it would take about two years for us to find, test, and deploy a collaborative solution that would allow us to hold virtual meetings,” said Flacy. “He was very impressed to learn that I had found an affordable solution so quickly.”
The entire research and testing process took Flacy approximately two months to complete. He downloaded product demos, and once they were installed, tested each product with two other members of the Tindall staff. After testing several Web-conferencing products, including Collaborative Virtual Workspace, a Linux-based open source product, Flacy found that WiredRed’s e/pop Web Conferencing was affordable and easy to use. It also had the advantage of being relatively simple to deploy and worked securely behind Tindall’s firewall. Flacy was able to install and run e/pop Web Conferencing in minutes, holding the first e/Pop Web Conference within an hour.
After determining that e/pop Web Conferencing was the right software for the company, Flacy’s senior network administrator, Scott Mitchell, helped to reconfigure the company’s network with new external remote DSL connections, which optimized the network for the Web-conferencing application. Mitchell determined that the use of Websense servers and Cisco firewalls would further ensure the safety of Tindall’s network infrastructure and data when using e/pop Web Conferencing.
WiredRed’s e/pop Web Conferencing was designed specifically for small companies such as Tindall that have small IT departments with limited time and resources. It offers a comprehensive set of features, including:
- Multi-party audio conferencing
- Synchronous video conferencing
- Remote control
- Complete desktop sharing, application sharing, and document sharing
- Dynamic PowerPoint presentation sharing.
In addition, the latest version of e/pop Web Conferencing offers Secure Socket Layer (SSL3) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) as standard features. The new security features may help thwart common security breaches such as spoofing and eavesdropping, which could expose confidential financial, personnel, and customer information.
More important, e/pop now includes new integration points for on-premise Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) for content encryption. This significantly decreases the chance of sensitive confidential information being leaked or accessed by the wrong individuals.
“I was highly impressed and actually in disbelief that once it was installed, there wasn’t more to it. I had trouble with nearly every other Web-conferencing program I tried,” said Flacy. “It took days or even weeks to install some, and even then many just didn’t work. Nor was I convinced of the security promises from the online conferencing vendors.” Flacy also wanted to manage and store communications and conference sessions internally. “Once I saw that government agencies such as the FBI and the U.S. Army had chosen WiredRed for internal real-time communications, I was pretty convinced,” he said.
Flacy first deployed e/pop Web Conferencing to the sales and human resources departments. The general management team is also using it for scheduled meetings. Flacy said that e/pop Web Conferencing used in conjunction with the Outlook calendar task and event functions is just as effective as virtual team or collaborative workgroup software, with the added benefit of audio, video, and application sharing.
“Video adds to the richness of e/pop Web Conferencing and the interactive meeting environment,” said Flacy. “We always have video running to see the other meeting attendees; it just sets a more interactive tone to the meetings. We feel like we’re closer together, and everyone who contributes to the meeting can go away assured that they were heard.”
Shared Applications Feature Eliminates Travel at Tindall
Using e/pop Web Conferencing’s application-sharing feature, Tindall employees are able to share Outlook calendar functions and PowerPoint presentations dynamically, and the engineering department can share AutoCad drawings even if a conference attendee doesn’t have AutoCad installed on his or her desktop.
“The ability for our engineering team to share drawings in real-time is astounding,” said Flacy. “The team will be using e/pop to evaluate a new 3D CAD application very soon. The members of the engineering team, which is divided among our four locations, can all evaluate the new programs in parallel. We were able to completely eliminate travel for this evaluation process — a cost savings of about $24,000.”
The Tindall network infrastructure easily accommodates e/pop Web Conferencing. It consists of 21 servers on a wide-area network that are connected by fractional T1 connections. The servers are a mix of Windows NT4, Server 2003, and Linux. Each location has either DSL, cable, or T1 Internet connectivity, a Cisco PIX firewall, and a WebSense server that controls Internet access.
Flacy is convinced that not only has e/pop Web Conferencing paid for itself; it will soon do so many times over. “I’ve estimated that e/pop may wind up saving us $200,000 on travel costs,” he said.
Lori Scribner is a freelance technology writer specializing in stories about the Internet, enterprise software and real-time communications.