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What to Look for When Choosing a Video Conferencing Solution

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August 13, 2012

What to Look for When Choosing a Video Conferencing Solution

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Video conferencing is no longer a business meeting novelty; with improved technology, reduced costs and video call familiarity from VoIP services such as Skype (News - Alert) and Apple’s Facetime, there also are more video conferencing choices than ever. Sometimes, it helps to get priorities straight when setting up a corporate video conferencing solution for the first time.

The most important task when choosing a video conferencing system – as with most things in life – is to do your homework. This starts with understanding the modern video conferencing landscape and its real-world applications, then with accurately gauging your business’s needs.

Knowing the solutions out there and how they perform is an important step. This can be done by visiting showrooms and talking with dealers, but even more important is talking with others who currently use video conferencing.

“I think that everyone considering video conferencing should, first and foremost, visit other companies that are doing video conferencing,” advised video conferencing consultant Joey D’Angelo, the principal at Charles M. Salter Associates, in a recent AVNetwork article.

D’Angelo his most important advice for new buyers is this: “Ask their administrators what they like most about their chosen VC paths. Visiting a showroom for video conferencing or going through dealers will not show you the whole picture because of the evolving nature of the video conferencing industry.”

When examining systems, he noted, be wary of proprietary peripherals and connectors.

“These sometimes work in concert to force you into buying that particular product—and not just codecs,” he advised. “If you can buy a codec from Company X and use any camera or microphone you want with it, you will find that your systems will be much more flexible in the future.”

Also, make sure the manufacturer has bridges that allow the solution to work with other providers and legacy systems.

The other important step when choosing a video conferencing solution is knowing your needs and not over-buying.

Aside from needless cost, buying too much video conferencing solution ramps up complexity. This kills actual usage, for conferencing that requires the IT department is conferencing that won’t happen.

“I've seen many companies buy way too much video conferencing for their own good,” wrote D’Angelo. “When you buy too much video conferencing equipment, the complexity might be rejected by users. The last thing you want is your expensive system gathering dust or creating problems when you invested in it to solve problems in your organization.”

Always strive for the simplest system possible, D’Angelo adds. He noted that most major manufacturers offer enter-level systems that offer fewer bells and whistles but are thereby easier to use. With many of the systems, companies can start small and then upgrade software later to gain additional features if necessary.

It also is important to make sure that the rationale for video conferencing is sound, because this helps with knowing how much scalability you need. In D’Angelo’s experience, video conferencing brings teams together, but is not particularly good at reducing travel budgets.

“If your goal is to allow your employees to engage in more productive meetings, then video conferencing is for you,” he stressed. “Everyone always says ‘video conferencing will save you travel costs,’ but that is never the case.”

Firms looking into video conferencing solutions for the first time might want to take a look at Panasonic’s (News - Alert) range of reliable, high-quality offerings. In addition to being a household name in the video recorder and electronics market, they currently hold the largest IP telecommunications market share among video conferencing solutions, according to the company. It offers a range of multi-site, high-end audio-video codecs and intuitive interfaces that make them a strong option for those looking into video conferencing.

“The experience is so much different than the usual video conferencing via a computer screen. It’s simple and easy to use,” noted a review by Smallbiz Technology. It enthused: “A Panasonic team will come and install the system for you.”

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO click here.

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