If you're thinking about implementing video conferencing, it's important to understand the basics. That starts with the types of video conferencing best suited to your business. The major types of video conferencing equipment and systems include:
- Telepresence most closely simulates a live meeting. Large screens mounted on the wall or above conference tables show people at life size. Similar furniture, directional acoustics and cameras mounted at eye level make it seem as though participants are sitting around the same table and looking at one another. Some sophisticated systems incorporate 3D and holographic images with virtually invisible screens to create very convincing "immersive experiences." Because of the complexity involved, many vendors who offer this equipment also offer telepresence support and service, either directly or through partners or resellers.
- Room-based video conferencing systems include large screens that are fixed to the walls in a meeting room. Alternatively, some vendors offer screens mounted on carts that can be moved to wherever they are needed.
- Desktop video conferencing resides on desktop computers and laptops and other devices such as IP phones for individual use. Several vendors who specialize in this type of video conferencing are extending their products to mobile video conferencing as well. Scalable desktop video conferencing depends on reliable network bandwidth and links.
- Hybrid video conferencing systems combine elements of multiple types. Telepresence and room-based conferencing often overlap and can be used differently depending on the environment. Vendors can sometimes provide integrated systems in which different business applications or user groups in a company utilize different video conferencing equipment or software, based on their needs.
- Service-based video conferencing is a fully managed product often available from telecom carriers, who have a great deal of control over the underlying network infrastructure. You can also purchase subscriptions to Web-based video conferencing over the Internet. Many equipment vendors offer managed services for their products, but this requires an additional contract and is often provided through a partner.
Before you investigate specific products and vendors, you'll also want to discuss cost considerations for video conferencing. Because costs vary greatly, depending on the system you choose to implement and the scope of your installation, budget should be agreed upon early in the research process. Remember that cost can also be affected by the video quality requirements you define, as well as any changes you may need to make to fulfill network design requirements for video conferencing.
This was first published in October 2010