Google

How Google+ Hangouts are getting serious about business users with new features

Google recently announced changes to Google+ Hangouts to make it better for business. Will it be enough to drive adoption?

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Chromebox for meetings users will now be able to run dual screens in Hangouts.
Image: Google

Meetings are the backbone of many organizations. Google knows this, and it began trying to capture the uptick in video calls when it introduced its Chromebox for meetings back in February. Google+ Hangouts provide a viable alternative to other video call systems, but they lack some features needed for enterprise adoption.

On Wednesday, July 30, Google announced new features, updates, and partnerships aimed at making Google+ Hangouts better for business customers. According to the blog post by Clay Bavor, vice president of product management for Google Apps, the updates are focused on improving reliability and support, and making calls through Hangouts easier.

"Hangouts is now covered under the same Terms of Service that support our other Google Apps for Business products, like Gmail and Drive," the announcement said. "That means we've got your back with 24x7 phone support and a 99.9% guaranteed uptime, as well as ISO27001, SSAE 16/ISAE 4302 and SOC 2 certification. Additional enterprise integration with Google Apps Vault is coming by the end of the year."

Google Apps Vault offers enterprise users the ability to archive, manage, and export company email and chats. The integration with Vault could mean the potential for archival and recovery tools for Hangouts if they need to be revisited and shared afterward. This would be a huge asset for industries where compliance is an issue, or for those looking recover information relevant to high-level projects.

The announcement also stated that Google+ Hangouts will now be available to any Google Apps account, even if they don't have a supporting Google+ profile. This adds a level of professionalism that was previously difficult to achieve through Hangouts, as a personal Google+ profile was previously needed to start or join a chat.

Any Apps customer can start or join a Hangout with up to 15 people attending, and two new partner providers were also announced to provide new features for Hangouts.

"Blue Jeans will allow people on traditional H.323 or SIP-based videoconferencing systems to join video meetings," the announcement said. "InterCall will let people join video meetings on their phones through an InterCall audio-conference bridge. And with new phone dialing support, you'll be able to dial out from your Chromebox for meetings device to telephones."

The integration with Blue Jeans means that companies with legacy video conferencing systems will be able to join calls through Hangouts. This could be a sign that Google is targeting larger enterprises for Apps, removing the barrier of new hardware or systems.

The InterCall partnership could mean that employees who merely want to dial in to an audio bridge of a Hangout will be able to dial in to listen to the call from a phone.

In addition to these updates, Google announced three new features for Google+ Hangouts and Chromebox for meetings.

  1. Users will be able to run dual screens when in a Hangout to project a presentation while maintaining their presence on the video call, if they are using a Chromebox for meetings.
  2. Users can now integrate their personal calendar to set up Hangouts outside of work.
  3. IT administrators can better manage Hangouts from the Admin Console with the ability to remotely start a meeting, cancel a meeting, or mute a meeting.

While Google is making it easier for organizations to transition to Hangouts for video conferencing, and Apps as a whole, a few barriers remain. The open nature of Hangouts is still an issue for industries, such as banking, that require a stronger level of security. By adding additional security protocols, Google could sway industries verticals that regularly work with information.

Another issue Google needs to address is the overt branding of Google+ and Hangouts. It is impossible to record a hangout without the G+ watermark present. While it is somewhat important to company branding, most companies don't want to feel like they are an advertisement for Google when they hold a video conference.

It was also announced that while the Chromebox for meetings is currently only available in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Google will soon be bringing it to the UK and Japan. Additionally, Chromebox for meetings made by Dell will be available for purchase in September.

What do you think?

We want to know. What other features does Google need to add to Hangouts to make it ready for business users?

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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