One of the most popular collaboration tools available to business is video conferencing. Done correctly, video conferencing can save money on travel and remote meeting, presentations and training. However, there are several hidden costs that come with video conferencing that you should be aware off, and some prerequisites that are not always clear to the first time buyer.
In this article we will consider, the costs and benefits of video conferencing as a collaboration tool for the SMB and compare dedicated an hosted video conferencing systems.
Regardless of the type of video conference system you decide to deploy the over-riding prerequisite to efficiency is good network infrastructure. Without a high bandwidth internet connection and preferably a dedicated internet link there will always be concerns regards video quality, due to latency, packet loss and jitter. High bandwidth, dedicated internet is an absolute necessity, so do not try to make saving cutting costs with bandwidth or sharing an internet link with web browsing, email and other corporate data.
However, network infrastructure is not the only requirements for good video conference system. There are also hardware requirements, such as good quality televisions, computer monitors, microphones, webcams, projectors, sound systems and computers. Another, prerequisite is a dedicated VC room, which ideally will be sound-proof to minimize external disturbance.
Lately, hosted cloud-based video conference systems, which come as VCaaS (video conferencing as a service) or part of an integrated UCaaS (unified communication as a service) package, have become extremely cost effective and available to all employees. However, that does not diminish the requirements listed previous. Just because employees can make video calls from their desks over the standard internet and in an open plan office using their laptop doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. Voice and video quality and external disturbances are likely to cause an annoying user experience for other participants on the VC.
The recurring costs of deploying a dedicated system are often not immediately obvious as these are shared, hidden costs such as:
- IT Support
- Maintenance of the system
- Real estate (dedicated room)
- Security & upgrades
- Dedicated Internet circuits
Security is actually a major issue with VC as sometimes highly confidential business information will be transferred and remember this is going over the internet. Therefore any VC system should support encryption and this must be enabled for all VC meetings. Another danger with regards confidential information is that the VC system should detect and prevent unauthorized call recording as highly sensitive topics may be discussed. Basic security measures can mitigate many of the risks such as passwords, identity and access management, and camera control features such as locks.
Training is another often forgotten cost as video conferencing is not always intuitive to use. For example, there is a natural reaction of participants to talk to the image on the screen rather than at the camera so there is no eye-to-eye contact between participants. Some people find that very awkward and therefore training users to talk to the camera and not the screen is a necessity. Furthermore, many people are find VC awkward to begin with but initial training can reduce stress and self-consciousness.
Dedicated Vs Rental Vs Cloud Hosted
The choice is often between hosting your own dedicated VC system, which will require considerable investment in hardware, maintenance and support or to use a cloud based hosted VC service, which is subscription based and requires a minimal PC hardware to function. A third option is to use a rental conferencing office but these are very expensive and requires that you book and travel to the location each time which is not convenient or even practical except if you only rarely participate in VC.
- Additional functionality
- All in one package
- Can be setup, installed and controlled from one dedicated location
- Cost to purchase and deploy
- Cost of maintenance and support
- Cost of dedicated real estate
- Additional functionality
- No maintenance or support
- No internet worries
- Reliable, guaranteed performance
- Very expensive
- Very inconvenient
Cloud Hosted Service
- Subscription based – available to all employees
- No hardware required
- Can be used with user devices, Smartphone, PC, tablet etc
- Less expensive
- Lower quality and security
Generally, dedicated systems are more reliable and provide better quality but are more expensive. Cloud hosted services are subscription based, so are more scalable, and affordable to all business regardless of size. Either way, VC reduces travel expenses, improves efficiency, and accelerates collaboration with remote colleagues and partners.