Entering the world of Video conferencing can be a daunting task. If you are new to this Industry like so many others, and have been caught unaware with the features and terms used to describe these business tools, then the following terms and their definitions should give you a good primer. You should well be on your way to selecting the right Video Conferencing Solution.
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What are the primary considerations for purchasing video conferencing equipment?
a) Budget, Value, Vendors and their Partnerships, Equipment Manufacturers and Project Management.
b) Additional considerations include room configuration, the number of people involved in a video meeting at one time, and network selection (H.320 or H.323). Also important are room scheduling, system maintenance, product selection and audio levels.
How do I buy video conferencing equipment?
a) Shop for a quality vendor in the marketplace and ask them to guide you through the purchase and installation of your equipment. A quality vendor will be able to list several well-known customer names for which they have provided products and services for a number of years. Start with a search on the Internet, then yellow pages, and look for articles in trade magazines that list names of industry vendors. Once you make contact with a potential vendor, ask them for the names of a few of their competitors.
Product selection can be quite difficult with many details of system operation left out of discussions by the manufacturers. A good vendor knows all the best products in the industry and should be able to point out the best features of each. Keep in mind that vendors get different pricing from each manufacturer and ask the vendor to describe their relationships with manufacturers. An honest vendor is likely to be a good vendor so pay particular attention to which products they recommend versus which products they get most benefit from selling.
Industry products and manufacturers change. Good vendors stay in business through many product changes and throughout changes in product leadership. For this reason, it is sometimes better to select a good vendor than it is to select a good product. The quality vendor will always offer the best products but when products become old and outdated, a good vendor will still continue to provide support and technical assistance. Ask your vendor to describe how they support obsolete products and how they manage product line changes from the manufacturers.
b) Another method is to visit trade shows and ask manufacturers for demonstrations. At trade shows, each manufacturer's products can be easily compared without scheduling separate appointments. Ask about the most significant features available on each product. Then, be sure to ask how each system is better than the competitor's systems. Usually, each manufacturer will claim their features are superior so you should be sure to ask if you can operate the equipment yourself to draw your own conclusions.
Once you have selected the equipment that meets your needs, ask the manufacturer for the names of three to five companies that sell their products. More companies selling a manufacturer's products are better than less. You will want to know the marketplace has accepted their products. Market acceptance means you will be able to find answers to both technical and administrative questions, spare parts will be available and perhaps pricing will be more favorable.
Some manufacturers sell their products directly to customers. This sales approach usually means the customer has limited alternatives for service and less pricing alternatives. It also means their products may be too complex for 3rd parties to sell.
What types of telephone lines are required for a video conference?
a) For H.320 video conferencing, BRI ISDN lines either from your local Telco, or from your company's PBX are required. In some applications with special networks, leased T-1 lines, ATM networks, Primary Rate ISDN and/or Switched-56 circuits will also work well.
b) For H.323 communications, a LAN (IP) connection, available bandwidth and some minimum amount of assured bandwidth is required. For business-grade communications no less than 128K of available bandwidth is essential. A VPN tunnel through the Internet may also be required for communication over a Wide Area Network.
Can I use a regular telephone to participate in a video conference?
Yes, however, if your organization uses a video conference bridge (MCU), it may not support mixing participants in this manner (i.e., video participants and telephone participants). You may be required to use an outside vendor, to link your audio and video conferences.