Wednesday, 25 August 2010
5 Reasons SMBs Should Adopt Videoconferencing
In the past, videoconferencing technology has largely been out of reach of most small and midsize business. It was too expensive, too complex, and too inconsistent for them to deploy. Recently, vendors have overcome many of those hurdles, so SMBs are now embracing the technology.
Following are five reasons why a SMB should take a closer look at videoconferencing options.
1. Falling Equipment Prices
Historically, companies would have to make at least a five figure (and often a six figure) investment to deploy a videoconferencing system. Those price dynamics have been shattered, however, as videoconferencing has migrated to the desktop.
"If they want, companies can install a webcam for about $75 and use one of the many free videoconferencing services," said Andrew W. Davis, a senior partner at Wainhouse Research.
The desktop systems are good for one-to-one communication. In addition, pricing for room-based videoconferencing systems has fallen to the $4,000 to $5,000 range for those corporations that are interested in multi-person interactions.
2. No More Bandwidth Issues
"Historically, small and midsize businesses did not have enough network capacity to let employees deploy videoconferencing applications," noted Jayanth Angl, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group.
Recently, bandwidth has become cheaper, and vendors have found clever ways to compress video transmissions so they do not require wide pipes. Consequently, a videoconferencing session now fits in a few hundred Kbps (something most businesses have at their disposal) rather than the multiples Mbps of bandwidth that were required in the past.
3. Cloud Computing
While companies may have previously been interested in videoconferencing technology, many did not want the hassles that come with deploying and managing the videoconferencing infrastructure. Enter cloud-based services, offering SMBs a wide range of videoconferencing options.
On the low end are companies like ooVoo, Skype, Vidyo, and Vivu, whose services can be free. Vendors such as AT&T, BT, Cisco, and Verizon are pushing more sophisticated conferences, which cost about $10 to $50 per user, per month.
4. Improved Video Quality
What good is a conference if one can't clearly see the participants or their materials? "Previously, issues such as latency interfered with video transmissions," noted Jonathan Edwards, a research analyst at International Data Corp. With the emergence of low cost, high-definition systems and the availability of more network bandwidth, companies now find that video quality — even with the low-end systems — is quite acceptable, in most cases.
5. Simplified Conferencing Systems
Traditionally, the underlying infrastructure was proprietary, cumbersome to deploy, and difficult to use. Not anymore. Users can now start a video session by clicking on a link in a meeting invitation, accessing a permanent link on a corporate intranet, or entering an address in a videoconferencing system's directory.
Few Hurdles Remain
While there has been a great deal of progress in this space, the market still faces some roadblocks.
"Videoconferencing systems still operate largely as isolated islands," noted Wainhouse Research's Davis. Unlike other IT technologies, videoconferencing has evolved largely with proprietary products and protocols. Consequently, it can be difficult to connect a video service relying on Cisco products with one based on Polycom devices.
In addition, vendors have relied on resellers to install these devices as well as develop videoconferencing services. Their level of expertise, as well as their reach, can vary dramatically, so sometimes their service falls short of meeting a business's requirements.
Despite those issues, observers expect SMBs to deploy more videoconferencing systems in the coming months. "For more than 10 years, vendors have been proclaiming that the videoconferencing market is about to experience a dramatic uptick in use," concluded Info-Tech's Angl. "Such statements are no longer marketing hype."
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