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Choosing the Right Videoconferencing Technology

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With the development of more affordable and robust videoconferencing solutions, many organizations are evaluating this technology as a way to increase project collaboration and reduce travel costs. But how do you decide which videoconference technology is right for you?

Network Instruments spoke with video expert, Dr. Phil Hippensteel, Assistant Professor of Information Systems at Penn State Harrisburg, to understand the types of videoconferencing technologies, the benefits of each, and network considerations.

Where to Begin
Start with this question: What type of endpoint will the conference attendees be using? (Or where will the conference attendees be sitting?) The answer will either be a dedicated conference room or the users’ desktops.

PC videoconference: These solutions allow users to videoconference directly from their desktops via webcam, microphone, and software client.

Dedicated videoconference room: These solutions provide all required components packaged into a single appliance, usually a console with a high quality remote controlled video camera.

Telepresence systems: These higher-end videoconferencing systems are typically employed by large corporate offices. Telepresence solutions incorporate state-of-the-art room designs and acoustics, video cameras, displays, and audio systems combined with high capacity bandwidth transmissions.

The following matrix will help you evaluate technologies based upon your organization’s conferencing needs, project budget, and network environment.

Comparative Qualities PC Videoconference Videoconference Room Telepresence System
Initial Costs Webcam and software client: $25-$121 per desktopClient/Server: $2000-$50,000 per server $10,000-$50,000 per room $150,000-$500,000 per room
Equipment Webcam, software client, and potentially a server Dedicated room, remote controlled video camera, software or hardware console State-of-the-art room acoustics, high-definition video and audio systems, multiple video cameras and displays, and integrated lighting
Network Considerations Individual sessions consume low bandwidthMany concurrent sessions eat bandwidthMore tolerant of latency and dropped packetsTypically relies on Internet as backboneImpact of desktop video on WAN tends to be underestimated VLAN typically required to separate trafficAcceptable packet loss range: 0.1%-2%Ideally requires QoS prioritizationLatency should be less than 300 ms round trip between endpoints VLAN required to separate trafficRequires significant, dedicated bandwidthRequires QoS prioritizationCan require audit of room and network by vendor
Primary Benefits Desktop convenienceGreat for remote locations and employeesLess effort to deploy per PC Higher quality meeting experienceMultiple locations communicate simultaneously True “in person virtual meeting room”
Video Codecs Primarily H.323 and
H.264 SVC
H.323, H.264 SVC, and proprietary codes Many proprietary codecs
Primary Vendors RADVISION, Vidyo, Polycom Cisco, Polycom, Vidyo Cisco, Polycom

Use this matrix as a starting point for understanding the decisions you’ll need to make when evaluating any solution. For more in-depth information on technologies, critical network preparations, and costs of videoconferencing, check out the following resources:

Videoconferencing ROI and network preparations
Videoconference codec primer
Videoconferencing tutorial
Desktop conferencing and WAN performance
Understanding telepresence basics

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