One of the big disruptors to business over the last 5 years has been the decentralisation of the office. This basically means that instead of the business employees being contained in a typical office space, you have employees working remotely, from home and even overseas. This has been aided by advancements in technologies like video conferencing, online chat and online presence (presence being the ability to see if someone is available or not). Google has been a major contributor in this space with their solution, with Google Hangouts gaining increasing popularity over the last few years.
Google Hangouts is very easy to use and can be accessed by pretty much any user. As a business tool, it makes it very easy to stay in touch with team members remotely using video conferencing or chat. There is also a Google Hangouts for Outlook extension so even Microsoft Office users can initiate hangouts.
You get Google Hangouts free as part of your Gmail account and it is also included as part of your Google Apps for Work subscription. The administrators of Google Apps for Work can additionally control whether:
users have access to Google Voice or Google Chat (both parts of Google Hangouts)
whether Chat history is turned on, and
if users in the enterprise can initiate video or phone calls with people outside the enterprise.
Setting up Google Hangouts
The setup is incredibly simple and doesn’t require any traditional install on your PC/MAC. Instead it works straight within your Chrome browser.
Google Hangouts can be accessed from the normal Google navigation buttons (9 dots) at the top right. For best use, you should also install the Chrome App for Google Hangouts which can be found in the Chrome extensions store.
Changing this Hangouts app to Transparent UI mode allows it to always stay present on top of your work with a small floating icon. It is the way we prefer to use it! See the video for how to install and enable the Google Hangouts Chrome App and enable this transparent mode (at 2m 00s mark).
Features of Google Hangouts for Video Conferencing
Straight off the bat is the ability for any chat conversations to be searchable within your Gmail history. Very handy if you need to find a previous conversation and aren’t sure if it occurred in email or Google Hangouts. A simple search in Gmail yields results for both.
A Google Hangout is made automatically for you when you make a Google Calendar meeting invite, or you can just just create a hangouts on the fly for a single staff member or an entire team.
During calls you can do screen sharing very simply, which is great for doing demonstrations, team presentations, training or helping someone solve a problem. This ability is incredibly powerful for enabling efficient work to occur. You can also share documents directly from your Google Drive or PC to the audience.
Besides video conferencing you can also make voice (phone) calls. Although be sure to check your country to see if Google Voice is available there. While Google voice phone calls are not available yet in Australia you can still use it to make calls but pay in $US to get access to cheap overseas rates. Full Google voice capability allows you to also setup a phone number for you business.
One of the wonderful, but not so obvious, abilities of Google Hangouts is being able to switch seamlessly from PC to Phone (and back) and keep the video conference going. We demonstrate this in the video (see 5m 00s).
There is also a great mobile app you can get on both your Android or iPhone. This ensures everything you are getting on your PC/MAC is also coming through to your phone giving you ultimate flexibility. This is one aspect of Google Hangouts that we love, its agnostic to the type of device you have. Meaning, whether your team has PC’s or Mac’s, iPhone or Androids doesn’t matter, everyone can video conference all the same.
Go and Try Google Hangouts
If you have a Google account, go and try Google Hangouts and initiate a few team meetings and see how you go. You’ll start to the love this great tool very quickly, and then you can start to decentralise your office and scale it in new ways. Break outside your typical business boundaries and give it a go, and be sure to contact C2 Solutions if you want to chat more about scaling and growing your business.