Reduce Business Travel Costs

Video conferencing becoming a viable alternative to business travel

With air travel becoming a cumbersome and less-desirable way to meet for business occasions, video conferencing is moving up to the forefront of American business.

Experts say businesses can save a lot of money by using video conferencing instead of sending staff members across the country or world to conduct business.

Steve Maulin, rental department manager at Kent Audio Visual, says video conferencing is costly, but the expenses quickly become worth it compared to the costs of travel, hotels and food -- not to mention the lack of productivity with having staff members away from the office.

"You don't have to fly to the other end of the world to meet a business associate," he says.

But, he cautions, businesses have to have the need for video conferencing. If the staff isn't going to use it every week, it may be better to rent a fully equipped video conferencing room rather than buy the equipment.

Maulin says sales have increased a little since Sept. 11, and conference room rentals have gone from one or two a week to two or three a week. Maulin says once you get through the initial cost of buying equipment, the price is reasonable.

Wide range of cost

John Hamby, rental manager at VisualWorks, says one of the key things a company needs to know when buying video conferencing equipment is to choose a provider that can sell, install and service the systems. Also, says Hamby, pick a reliable line carrier to assure good quality of service. There are choices buyers need to be aware of, he says, such as the ability to connect the system to a computer, connect multiple rooms with the system and multiple cameras. Hamby says the overall cost can range from $3,000 to $13,000. He says businesses can probably get something cheaper, but it depends what features they want to integrate into their system. Video conferencing is used most often for job interviews and by companies with multiple locations, such as law firms, he says.