“Convergence” is one of those buzz words in technology folks throw around to make their product or service look important. Many times it does, but what exactly are converging technologies, and should we care? Converging technologies can often save churches and ministries money but knowing what convergence is and how to apply it is the challenge.
There are many ways to define converging technologies but for our purposes let’s keep it simple. Think back to the days when you traveled with your technology and how heavy your backpack used to be. I travel frequently and used to travel with a laptop, an iPhone, an iPad, a digital camera, a GPS device, all the batteries, carrying cases, mounts and cables to go with all of that, plus removable media, flash drives, and project files I needed to work on. Oh, and printed out copies of my travel docs, boarding passes, itineraries, etc. It’s amazing with all that stuff in my backpack I’m not permanently hunched over.
Today I travel with far less. I have a Microsoft Surface and an iPhone. That’s it. My Surface is my laptop and tablet and my iPhone is my camera and GPS. Any files I need are stored in the cloud and my iPhone is my boarding pass, Sky Club pass, and contains all my other travel documents. With Apple Pay in many cases my iPhone is also my wallet. My back is most grateful for all this convergence.
In this case convergence is good but converging technologies can also be bad. A lawn mower is a great tool but I’m not sure trying to converge a lawn mower, trimmer, edger, blower, and leaf vac all into a single device would be a great idea, nor should we try. In this case separate tools for each need is best.
Converging technologies on the other hand can save ministries thousands of dollars. Many times, I see separate networks for separate functions but thanks to convergence that is no longer necessary. Ready for a little controversy? Take the example of an audio/video network for an auditorium and the data network for the entire organization. The A/V network has to work reliably for 8 hours a week while the data network has to work for 168 hours a week. With the right network engineering you can use a single network and route all traffic over the same switches as opposed to buying 2 sets of switches, one set for A/V and one for data.
The irony here is many times the A/V network works better than the data network. The A/V network always works but the data network struggles. Both are important and convergence can help make both rock solid for 168 hours each week. I know the A/V purists are going to say it is dangerous to combine traffic and mix networks, and I get it. It isn’t good when the mic doesn’t work on Sunday morning or the projection screen goes blank because of network issues. It also isn’t good when the accounting department can’t process pay roll because the data network is down.
Granted, you could spend twice as much money and have separate networks. My encouragement is with the proper network engineering, infrastructure costs can be cut in half and thanks to convergence the A/V and IT folks can all reap the benefits while saving the organization money. Network convergence is not like the lawn mower, this is making your backpack lighter.
Jonathan Smith is an author, conference speaker, and the Director of Technology at Faith Ministries in Lafayette, IN. You can reach Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JonathanESmith.