CXO

Report: Inefficient, outdated conference call platforms waste businesses $34 billion a year

Companies that use conference call platforms often resist change, and that means old, outdated, and insecure systems.

A report out from conference call provider LoopUp should give anyone who spends time on conference calls something to think about.

The report found that conference calls lead to enormous financial waste to the tune of $34 billion a year, largely due to time spent waiting for calls to start and distractions that take place during the meeting.

Waste of that volume is sure to frighten the budget conscious, but the biggest fear factor from the report is the lack of attention paid to conference call security. LoopUp paints a bleak picture of remote meeting security—and almost everyone in the modern decentralized work world conducts remote meetings.

Is fear of change the biggest problem?

Dialing into a conference line is a technology that seems positively ancient at this point, but it's still going strong despite newer, more secure options. In fact, 61% of those surveyed say they still dial in to conference calls and use a code to join a meeting. In the enterprise world (defined here as a company of more than 1,000 people), that number jumps to 68%.

To make matters seem even more behind the technological curve, 71% of respondents said their conference calls don't include a web component.

SEE: IT leader's guide to reducing insider security threats (Tech Pro Research)

A large part of that may be due to the perception that those systems are too complex. 86% said that they would adopt new meeting technology if it were easier to use or more reliable.

Old tech = new problems

All of the figures mentioned above, LoopUp concludes, point to a fear of adopting new technology. "Business people who regularly host conference calls are often risk averse and unwilling to use unfamiliar software in the heat of the moment when hosting remote meetings."

That attitude, and the hanging on to old tech that comes with it, is inviting serious security issues for those companies.

SEE: Special report: How to choose and manage great tech partners (free PDF) (ZDNet/TechRepublic special report)

Audio-only conference call systems that just require a passcode are an easy target for corporate spies and hackers, LoopUp said. Add to that the fact that 66% of respondents say they use the same passcode for a year or more and you have a serious risk on hand.

That's not all—70% say it's routine to discuss confidential information on calls, and 50% say they typically don't know who's connected and listening. That leaves a lot of room for a grudge-bearing former employee, a hacker who stole a passcode, or a business rival to steal secrets.

What companies need to do to improve and protect conference calls

The problems LoopUp found have a pretty straightforward cause and effect to them: Companies don't want to try new technology, which leads to old tech being used with little regard to the risks, which in turn makes conference calls unsecure time sinks that waste money and jeopardize company security.

There are several things companies, and their employees responsible for technology, need to do to improve the situation.

  • It's IT's job to help tech users get past the hurdles of uncertainty new products bring. A new conference call system should be thoroughly tested before being rolled out, and IT should conduct test calls and training with users before setting it loose.
  • Video conference platforms can often be overly complex, at least from an interface perspective. When looking for the right platform IT should consider the level of tech-savviness of its users and decide on a platform that meets their needs in terms of simplicity versus functionality.
  • If business leaders aren't willing to adopt a totally digital platform like Zoom or Hangouts Meet, LoopUp said IT should at least steer them away from a call-in product. A more secure, yet less complicated, option would be a call-out system, where the conference leaders call attendees when they're ready, ensuring they know exactly who is on the line.
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Image: iStock/Jummie

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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