A guide to choosing the best video conferencing tool for your business
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Polycom Inc. entered the video conferencing business in 1998 as an established voice hardware vendor. Since then, Polycom has acquired several video vendors to become one of the leading video conferencing providers in the market.
The Polycom video conferencing system is similar to Cisco's product offerings. Although it's not as large as Cisco, Polycom still sells and services a global customer base -- from SMBs to large enterprises -- through distribution and value-added resellers.
Polycom customers typically have Capex budgets and trained IT staffs to support the Polycom video conferencing system. For customers using Microsoft's unified communications portfolio, Polycom offers tight integration across most Microsoft products.
The Polycom video conferencing system has three endpoint categories: Personal, Room and Immersive Telepresence.
Mobility, meeting rooms and immersive collaboration
Polycom RealPresence Mobile, RealPresence Web Suite and RealPresence Desktop are designed for customers that want to enable video conferencing for iOS and Android devices or Windows and Mac desktop computers. If a hardware device is needed for the executive office, Polycom offers Group Convene, a flexible video collaboration system.
In the meeting room, Polycom offers products that work for enterprises and SMBs, plus various packages for specific applications, such as education and telemedicine. The core products are the Group 310, 500 and 700 series. Group 310 is designed for the huddle room. Group 500 is for a larger conference room of three to 10 people. Group 700 is a platform that caters to a boardroom of 10 or more people. Each Group device supports standards-based interoperability.
Polycom also offers Centro, a four-screen group system. For the huddle room, Polycom has introduced two products: Debut and Trio. Debut is a compact video endpoint that sits on top of a display. Trio is designed for conference-room tables. When combined with a third-party camera, Trio provides voice, video and data presentation for the BYOD market.
Polycom's Immersive Telepresence is designed for mission-critical meeting rooms, and it's applicable to the education and telemedicine industries. Polycom sells two versions of Immersive Telepresence: Immersive Studio and OTX Studio. Immersive Studio is designed for meeting rooms supporting the latest standards of quality, such as Ultra HD 4K display and 3D Voice. OTX Studio is designed for midsize rooms.
Immersive Telepresence deployments can cost more than $100,000 per room. However, OTX is a less expensive alternative.
Robust infrastructure eases video management
As part of the Polycom video conferencing system, the vendor offers essential infrastructure products designed to simplify provisioning, scalability and management. As of 2014, Polycom started offering virtual machine software versions of its infrastructure products, branded as Polycom RealPresence.
As part of the network-based virtualization, the Distributed Media Application routes calls to the proper video bridge. Resource Manager controls individual systems in central locations, letting customers update software on video bridges and endpoints, upload directories or troubleshoot issues.
The Collaboration Server provides multiparty support. Access Director and Video Border Proxy give customers secure access to the video collaboration systems with firewall traversal. Polycom's Clariti bundles all of Polycom's infrastructure elements into a single server.
Infrastructure costs span a wide range and depend on the scale of the deployment -- from $10,000 to $100,000 or more. Flexible licensing options allow customers to grow as needed.
Resellers reinforce product promotion
Polycom's mobile clients are free to download. For the desktop, Polycom offers flexible licensing options on a per-user basis. Discounts apply as companies enable more users.
Polycom sells products through value-added resellers. Products are available globally. Prices vary based on the reseller. Polycom has a channel-partner locator that helps potential customers find the closest reseller.
Polycom offers loan evaluation and try-before-you-buy programs through its partner community. The loan periods vary, depending on the products.
Polycom does not offer cloud-based video conferencing directly, but through partners that deliver RealPresence Cloud. Annual subscription-based fees are available for the RealPresence Platform through RealPresence One.
Expansive tech support and parts replacement
Polycom offers support for its entire video conferencing system, available in one- and three-year increments.
Various programs start at Premier and Premier Software, which is more advantageous for businesses that have on-site technical staff that can manage video conferencing challenges. This service offers support through a Polycom online portal and call center during business hours, Monday through Friday. It also includes parts replacement and software upgrades.
Premier Software offers the same support as Premier, but caters to software-only Polycom customers. The Advantage program is a modular support package that, in addition to Premier services, provides usage analytics, 24/7 phone support and an option to add on-site support.
For Immersive Telepresence customers, Polycom offers the ImmersiveCare support plan, which provides 24/7 phone support, on-site support, next-day parts replacement and preventative maintenance. Support costs range from 10% to 20% of the product costs.
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