Prepare Your Network for Video Streaming and Telepresence Meetings

March 15, 2012 - 1 Comment

The right router can make all the difference between a smooth user experience and frustrating, choppy video

Small companies have found many compelling reasons to use video solutions and telepresence systems in their day-to-day operations: as a marketing tool, as a point of contact for customer service, and as a way to train employees. Internally, telepresence and its use of video technology is gaining traction among small businesses that want to conduct face-to-face meetings without the expense of travel. As advantageous as video can be, before you can successfully stream video broadcasts, you need to make sure the underlying network can handle the extra traffic.

Decades of TV and movie watching have conditioned us to have certain expectations. We expect video to be smooth and fluid, and the audio should be in perfect sync with the action we’re watching. Unlike the Saturday morning cartoons of the ‘80s, we want mouths to move along with the words being uttered, and we prefer graceful motions. We get frustrated if the streaming video we watch fails to look right, and in many cases, we give up: We quit the program or we cut the meeting short.

The problem is that most small business networks weren’t built to support video and telepresence solutions. Video traffic is data intensive and can consume more than its share of bandwidth, overwhelming a small business network. Consider this: A single video stream consumes between 500 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps, and if that’s an HD stream, it uses as much as 4 Mbps to 7 Mbps.

Given the bandwidth requirements for a telepresence system, your first step is making sure your network has enough bandwidth to handle streaming video and collaboration apps, like instant messaging. Can your Internet connection handle streaming video, or does it create a bottleneck? The Cisco TelePresence Callway Line Quality Test Tool can give you some insight into the video streaming capacity of your Internet connection.

Tips for bolstering your network

Although throwing more bandwidth at the problem is one way to address video traffic, it’s not the only way to optimize your network for telepresence. Bolster your network with a router that has built-in support for video services, such as the Cisco Small Business RV Series Routers, the Cisco 500 Series Secure Routers, or the Cisco 1900 Series Integrated Services Router.

Watching recreational videos on sites like YouTube and Facebook can use up your network’s bandwidth, so consider putting limits on network traffic created by your employees. You can either indicate in your company’s acceptable use policy that people aren’t supposed to hit these sites on your network, or you can add their URLs to a URL filtering list in your router.

Second, use the Quality of Service (QoS) settings on your router to give video traffic priority over other types of traffic, such as email, that can absorb some network jitters. And third, check your router for IPSLA (IP service level agreements) settings. Some more advanced small business routers, such as the Cisco 2900 Series Integrated Services Routers, let you set service levels for certain business-critical IP applications like video.

Ultimately, if your telepresence system doesn’t deliver a great user experience, it won’t be used, and it won’t help people meet and collaborate. But with the right router, your small business can successfully stream video to even the most impatient viewer.

What changes did you make to your small business network to prepare it for a video system or telepresence solution?

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  1. Good day

    I am a CCNP student considering purchasing a router for my company that can converge my data/voice/video traffic with seamless communications. My company is small to medium with about 70 users and I would like to know how much bandwidth is needed to support that video traffic. Also what other considerations should I have.