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Top 10 considerations for video conferencing products

Video conferencing is undergoing considerable change, as cloud-based options shake up the industry. This video conferencing checklist helps buyers evaluate the evolving products.

Enterprises need to consider several factors when shopping for video conferencing products. Some top considerations...

include finding the right mix of hardware and software components, interoperability with other video conferencing products, and the financial stability of certain vendors.

Additionally, when assessing video conferencing products, enterprises need to evaluate the technology's scalability, ease of use and, of course, cost. Companies should also determine how some video conferencing products fit into their larger unified communications plans and existing business workflows.

As video conferencing products have seen a recent upswing, with the advent of cloud technologies, improved availability and lower costs, enterprises may be evaluating different services to fit their needs. Here are the top 10 items enterprises need to consider when shopping for video conferencing products:

• Flexible hardware. Can meeting room products be used with a different provider? If so, enterprises should investigate how the experience will differ with each service. The cost and loss of momentum in retraining users should be considered.

• Software as a service (SaaS) workflow. Does changing SaaS providers change the use case of the service? And will users need to be retrained? Although similar conceptually, the user experience of different SaaS products can be very different. Some enable direct dialing of users, while others work as a virtual meeting room in which two or more users can interact. Each use case has its own merits, but enterprises need to consider which approach works best in their workflow.

• Financial viability. What is the financial viability of the manufacturer and reseller? For customers looking for an inexpensive, month-to-month SaaS product, they can take on a higher-risk vendor; however, most customers should consider the supplier's viability.

• Scaling up and down. How quickly can a supplier scale up and down? If the technology is installed and grows quickly within the business, can the supplier scale technically and with a financial model that's not prohibitive? Suppliers have a sweet spot at which their technology represents the best value. Some suppliers will start costs low, but as the service grows, the costs escalate dramatically. Other suppliers have a higher starting price, but the cost of additional users remains constant. Customers should ask potential suppliers to detail the cost per user as a range from 50% of expected use to 500%.

• Unified communications strategy. If an enterprise is considering a UC product, the video conferencing capabilities of that service should also be considered. Many UC vendors today have early stage visual communication services, and customers might install more powerful video conferencing in parallel to it. Many services will work together, and users need to consider how well differing products interact.

• Tool integration. Products such as Slack, Spark, Salesforce, Office 365 and many others are where users spend most of their time. In these environments, consider how well a visual communications service would fit into users' workflows. Moving between disparate systems might inhibit adoption.

• No one service. Because of the fragmented nature of the industry, users might employ various services. An organization might have its own standard service, but it should also plan for employees who need to use a different application when speaking with a supplier or customer. Installing new software is relatively easy for most users in nonlocked-down environments, but the meeting room technology should be flexible enough to cope with such a workflow.

• Streaming and recording. Video conferences can be streamed and recorded. Users can record to a PC, in the cloud or on a dedicated server.

• One to one or one to many? Some video services are better suited for the dissemination of data, rather than interactive communications. Enterprises need to consider how users will use the technology.

• Suppliers. Video conferencing is a specialized product, so customers should evaluate suppliers carefully. Many suppliers sell through resellers, and these resellers should be vetted carefully. Video conferencing is not UC, IT or AV, but it needs skills from all three disciplines. Lastly, special suppliers should be consulted as part of the buying process.

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