Building the business webcam use case; solving common install issues

This Q&A interview with video conferencing expert Stephen Campbell explains the use cases for business webcams and how to solve common install issues.

Any organization considering a video conferencing deployment or looking to enhance a video system may want to consider a business webcam -- especially for a desktop video deployment. While many laptops and mobile devices come with built-in webcams, the use case remains to bring an external webcam into the enterprise.

Stephen CampbellStephen Campbell

That's what our video conferencing expert, Stephen K. Campbell, says in this Q&A with Tessa L. Parmenter. Campbell is an IT consultant specializing in telepresence, video conferencing and network infrastructure, with more than 21 years of IT experience at biomedical lab equipment manufacturer Beckman Coulter Inc. As director of network services within the company, Campbell managed its global wide area network, local area network, telephony, video, email, SharePoint and document management services for 10,000 employees. On top of his consulting services, today he regularly answers questions about corporate video for SearchUnifiedCommunications members.

In this interview, learn about the different business webcam use cases, as well as how to troubleshoot common webcam installation issues that arise with video applications accessing webcam drivers.

When does it make sense to use external business webcams in a desktop video deployment?

Stephen Campbell: Just about every smartphone, tablet and laptop has a built-in webcam today. For competitive pricing, many mobile device makers reduce camera quality in favor of other device features. The decision to buy external webcams for your business depends on the use case, cost and practicality. External webcams come in a variety of quality levels, ranging from cheap consumer-focused to sophisticated business webcams that support 1080p video streams with built-in stereo microphones.

For corporate video conferences, employees may find their poor-quality images displayed alongside high-definition images from professional-quality room-based video conference systems. Using a cheap, built-in webcam will significantly impact the image quality and should be avoided for this use case.

It makes sense to use the webcam embedded in smartphones and mobile devices, since the emphasis on these devices is on portability and ease of use.

It is worth considering an external webcam for laptops, however. Laptops have become the platform of choice in place of desktop or tower computers wherever the person chooses to work.

Stephen Campbell explains external webcams further in this expert response.

Businesses that decide they need high-quality business webcams to supplement built-in laptop webcams often have trouble switching between both webcams. How can enterprises ensure a seamless video conferencing experience?

Campbell: The first step to ensure a smooth desktop video conference experience is to make sure you've selected a quality webcam, preferably one that supports HD [high definition]. You'll then want to test the webcam thoroughly with the video applications your end users plan to use. Some webcam manufacturers will work with you to optimize settings for the most seamless experience when switching between cameras, so make sure you reach out to your vendor to help you. Lastly, you should educate your users. Consider creating a helpful document for users on how to switch between internal and external webcams with your system to cut down on help desk calls and trouble tickets.

View this Ask the Expert response for additional webcam troubleshooting tips.

For businesses that use external webcams on laptops or any other computing device, how can video engineers make sure applications are connecting properly to the webcam?

Have a question about video conferencing or webcams?

Ask our video conferencing expert, Steve Campbell.

Campbell: If an application isn't accessing the webcam properly, the problem is not with the end application, but with the webcam driver software. The webcam's driver software typically only allows the webcam to work with a single application. If you want your business webcam to work with multiple video applications, there are shareware applications that enable webcam sharing by acting as a buffer between the driver and application. Make sure you choose a shareware application from a trusted site so that you don't download an infected or malicious application. If you don't want to use the shareware approach, the other option is to purchase another business webcam with better driver software.

Other webcam ideas are mentioned in this Ask the Expert response from Stephen.

Editor's note: For more information about webcams:

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