5 reasons not to be afraid of video conferencing

Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2017
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By Steve Burnley
Collaboration Technical Lead

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If you were an early adopter in video conferencing a decade ago, chances are you came out of that big investment feeling short changed. You probably have a solution shoved in the corner of a conference room gathering dust because all of the features you were promised never quite materialised when you tried to WOW your staff and clients with this new, cutting edge technology.

There is also a good chance that you are hesitant about going down that road again. However, the pace of technological change means that most of the issues that held back pioneering video conferencing solutions are taken out of the equation today.

Here are 5 reasons why today’s video conferencing is a different animal to those early solutions:

1) Bandwidth

Bandwidth is growing at such a rate that what seemed rapid a year ago is now considered inadequate. Wind the clock back a decade and you'll find that people were trying to run complex video conferencing equipment with a bandwidth that wasn't up to the job. When you attempted to have a chat with only 1MB of data transfer, you found that there were lags, freezes and a lot of frustration. The main issue with early video conferencing devices was never the hardware or the feature set, it was that the Internet infrastructure was years behind the technology it was supposed to support.

2) Usability

Early devices may have boasted a feature set similar to that of today, but they did fall down in the user experience department. Placing a call meant setting up the system, dialing numbers and pressing the right buttons in the correct order to make the thing work. Nowadays, the makers of all video conferencing systems have come to understand that the best connections are the ones that involve minimum user effort. In fact, this has gone so far that some room-to-room systems now recognise when a person enters the room and switch on and sets itself up ready for that call without anyone even having to touch the screen.

3) Unification

Another huge hurdle for businesses was that one system worked just fine for getting the people within the organisation talking to one another, but other companies would be using a different brand which was incompatible. This meant that early video conferencing was limited and ended up being for internal use only. The main development has been that companies are making systems that can talk to one another and, when that is not the case, intermediary applications like Cisco WebEx are decoding the inconsistencies and making sure your Cisco system can talk to Skype as if they are the same thing.

4) Familiarity

There was always something a little too 'sci-fi' about video conferencing for the average person. It seemed new-fangled and maybe even unnecessary. However, people are now so familiar with video apps like FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp in their personal lives that there is almost no resistance to taking that into the workplace.

5) Economics

And finally, let's discuss the elephant in the room. Or, rather, let's discuss the elephant-sized stack of servers in the server room! In the past, the grunt needed to run video conferencing was so large that organisations often needed to spend upwards of £40,000 on servers, cameras and other assorted paraphernalia—meaning that video conferencing was a luxury reserved only for big businesses with money to burn. Cloud computing has taken massive chunks out of the infrastructure cost and complexity. For as little as £200 per month, plus the one-off outlay of circa £5,000 for kit such as cameras and screens, your organisation can have a very high-spec solution up and running.

Ten years ago video conferencing was seen as a luxury, ten years from now it is likely to be the fabric of all communication. The cost has tumbled and the supporting infrastructure is now in place to get your people collaborating face-to-face.

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Softcat can help you investigate the great range of video conferencing solutions on the market. Talk to your Softcat account manager or contact us using the form below to find out where your organisation can be doing better with video conferencing and we will help you find a solution that meets your needs.

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