5 Steps to Choosing a Videoconferencing Solution
The right system can connect employees, improve collaboration with partners, and enhance customer service
Videoconferencing, with entire conference rooms dedicated to the latest and greatest in audio and video broadcasting, may seem out of bounds for small businesses. But videoconferencing is useful for more than large-scale lecture-based training sessions or global executive announcements. Small businesses can use this communications technology to enable collaboration with employees and partners around the world, demonstrate products to potential customers at any time, and amp up their online customer service efforts. The bottom line is that videoconferencing offers a cost-effective way to hold face-to-face meetings with anyone, no travel required.
Like any technology that integrates with your network, a videoconferencing solution must be chosen carefully based on your current network, employees’ needs and probable uses for the technology, and, of course, your budget. For smaller businesses, an online-based videoconferencing service such as Cisco WebEx or more immersive, collaborative, hosted telepresence service like Cisco TelePresence Callway can be the most cost-effective approach. Whatever your plans for videoconferencing, your business can use the Internet to make real-time, face-to-face meetings.
Here are five probing questions to help you choose the right videoconferencing solution for your company:
1. Can your current network support an in-house videoconferencing solution? If you already have the bandwidth to support video traffic on your network—or you’re ready to upgrade to a converged network that will support advanced communications technologies—an in-house solution might be right for your company. Before you make a decision, consider how the additional traffic, across both your local network and your Internet connection, will impact your existing infrastructure. You may need to add or update devices within your network to use technologies like Quality of Service (QoS) to support the videoconferencing system.
2. What new components do you need? If your laptops and desktops are already equipped with web cams, you might only need to subscribe to a videoconferencing service. However, if you don’t have even basic audio and video equipment, or what you have does not provide the quality of experience desired, an installed solution that includes monitors, video cameras, and microphones might be a better investment for your company.
3. How will employees use videoconferencing? Only your users can answer this question for you. Find out if people in your company conduct small meetings with just one or two participants or if they run large meetings that include dozens of participants. Are the meetings short or long, scheduled in advance, or started spontaneously? Do meetings need to be recorded and archived? Find out, too, if the videoconferencing solution will be used only among employees or with outside parties such as partners who might have videoconferencing systems from different vendors. This will help you choose the right features in a videoconferencing solution as well as lead you to one that integrates with various vendors.
4. Do users need advanced collaboration technologies? Some companies simply want their employees to be able to talk to other people face to face, and that’s a fine use for videoconferencing. Others want to use the technology to bolster collaboration efforts, allowing people to work together from various locations as though they’re in the same room. If that sounds like something your business needs, find a solution that combines videoconferencing with collaboration features like desktop sharing and whiteboarding.
5. What devices will employees use to conduct videoconferences? Regardless of the type of solution, most videoconferencing systems offer support for a variety of endpoints, including the hardware and software used to see and hear the conference. You can get client software for desktops and laptops as well as mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. If you plan to conduct many high-quality executive videoconferences, you might opt for a room-based solution with large HD monitors, stereo sound, and voice-locating cameras.
After you’ve answered these questions, you should have a good idea of what your business needs in a videoconferencing solution. No matter which type of solution you choose, videoconferencing can help keep colleagues better connected, engage customers and vendors more directly, cut down on expensive travel, and even reduce your company’s carbon footprint by helping keep employees out of their cars and off airplanes.
See how videoconferencing helped one small business improve communication and collaboration to launch products faster
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