Why to waste time and energy with busy airports, crammed planes, and all "the joys of business travel," when you could accomplish the same goals using a video conferencing system? Gaining growing acceptance in the business world, modern video conferencing systems offer excellent quality of both video and sound, making it an affordable and professional option for many businesses of all types. This technology is no longer reserved for big businesses with big budgets.
Many firms use simple desktop video, while others prefer to use a conference room video setup. A few may have both. The decision to use one method or another depends on many factors. Below are some items to consider:
Needs -You need to be clear on your own needs and make a list with the most important one on the top. Maybe you need to conduct simple training and a desktop may suffice; however, if your needs are more involved, a conference-room-type of video conferencing may work better.
Usually conference-room quality of service is higher and if you need to talk to a prospective new customer or an existing one, this type of service delivers a more professional image. Desktop video conferences are usually good enough for small, more informal type of communication, while a conference room is more formal, impressive and can actually be rented on an hourly basis, if you prefer. You can find high-quality conference systems that are life-sized with you and your employees sitting "in one side" of a table, while the attendees of the video conference sit "in the other side of the table," giving the impression that everyone is in the same room.
Budget -Know how much you can afford, not only in upfront fees, but also in equipment maintenance and services. The cheapest venue is the desktop system, where you can use your own computer with existing camera or purchase an inexpensive one along with a microphone. Most modern computers offer both as built-ins. You need to have at least a DSL service to accommodate video and audio of a desktop situation. If you're using dial-up service for Internet, an upgrade is a must. Video conferencing systems starts at $49/month with Gotomeeting.com set up with no long-term commitment and at $39/month with a contract. Webex, a leading video conferencing system, starts at $69/month on a “pay-as-you-go” basis.
Your budget for a conferencing room setup are substantially higher, especially if you want to purchase the equipment, including HD monitors. You may consider renting a video conferencing room to try to the system, which can be quite affordable. For instance, Video Communications Inc. offers one hour rental of a conference room in San Francisco at $250 per hour, including a secure system and technical help (June 2011).
Deciding between desktop and conference room setups also depends on how comfortable you are with new technology. You could go with desktop first and then move on to a more complex and expensive setup as you become familiar with the system and happy with the quality and reliability of service. Test any system you select to be sure it works with your Internet and network structure.