Video teleconferencing: 'Meet me half a world away'

Video teleconferencing: 'Meet me half a world away'

Video conferencing today is as comfy as a corporate jet, and it is ready to take off

Watch out for turbulence

For all its perks, getting into videoconferencing isn't always easy. Many of the issues with earlier systems have been resolved but a few challenges remain:

Cost: SMBs often want conference room solutions that are robust and suited for several participants, but the prospect of spending upwards of $5,000 or more can be a deterrent for those with more pressing IT issues. Buyers should compare the best system within their price range with the next step or two up, and analyze whether added services are justifiable by real cost reductions elsewhere in the company.

Bandwidth and QoS: If they haven't already, SMBs need to start upgrading and implementing QoS -- a set of real-time tools that give priority to selected network traffic while ensuring that other network flow doesn't suffer. QoS systems help to allow bandwidth-intensive applications, such as videoconferencing, video streaming, as well as applications such as VoIP.

Perceived complexity and lack of interoperability: Users often turn tail and run from videoconferencing applications because they don't know how to operate the technology, so they should test out the user interface before making a purchase. Some systems are as easy to operate as simple dialing a number. And while interoperability used to be an issue, many of today's solutions can connect with most other sites regardless of who the vendor is.

Tips for the captain

Businesses should look at videoconferencing when visual information is an important element of their conversations, when teleworkers wish to have a more "physical" presence at internal or customer meetings, and when the company has multiple business locations. To implement video successfully, businesses should take the following steps:

Determine if videoconferencing is the right solution: Conduct a cost-benefits analysis to determine if solutions will meet the organization's business needs, and if so, which type of solution is most appropriate. Add up all of the costs and benefits, whether they are easily quantified or intangible. The total cost of ownership includes maintenance of the solution, system upgrades and any room reconfiguration (if necessary). Likewise, consider the total benefits of ownership, and be prepared to justify the expenditures to the IT decision-maker and purchaser.

Develop deployment and training plans: Once the solution is approved, a deployment plan must be in place to ensure an efficient rollout, including proper training of potential users. The investment will languish if users are afraid to go near it.

Track expenditures: It's important to assess the return on investment of a new video solution. Implement a tracking system to monitor usage, travel costs savings, and productivity costs savings, as well as VTC system maintenance expenses.

Promote usage of video conferencing: When a public video solution is in place, promote it to all potential users to increase awareness and usage of the service. Those who have personal units should track and report their usage so IT managers and decision makers are aware of the benefits and drawbacks.

In a recent survey of conferencing and collaboration customers conducted by Wainhouse Research, 23 per cent said they are currently using high-definition videoconferencing. Another 23 per cent indicated they plan to deploy it within a year, while still another 20 per cent plan to test it within a year. Clearly, videoconferencing has taken off. More SMBs will be able to acquire video solutions as the industry progresses, more options are developed and prices drop.

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