Getting Started With Telepresence

Updated: April 30, 2009

When it comes to telepresence , forking over the cold hard cash for such a sizable purchase is the least of an enterprise's concerns. With its high technical demands and sophisticated network requirements, it's crucial that users properly deploy and maintain their telepresence systems.

It's a task, however, that's easier said than done given telepresence's web of room systems, collaboration tools, software and business-to-business connectivity issues. Just the physical installation of a telepresence solution calls for ceiling height assessments and acoustic adjustments, and the entire deployment process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete.

Standalone vs. Hosted

Nor are any two system deployment processes the same. For example, notes Jayenth Angl, a research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, "One fundamental difference is that Cisco's telepresence is a standalone system whereas HP's Halo Collaboration Studio is a managed service that is actually managed over HP's Halo Video Exchange Network."

That's because, unlike Cisco Systems, HP offers a hosted telepresence solution. For a monthly fee, users enjoy access to the Halo Video Exchange Network, a dedicated fiber-optic network that connects Halo studios worldwide. What's more, all diagnostics and calibration are handled remotely and during off hours without troubling by in-house staff. A Halo concierge is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to field questions.

"There is incentive to go with a managed service for peace of mind," says Angl. "Yes, there is a cost involved, but HP can set aside the resources to actively manage 24/7 service so that you don't have lag issues or potential quality issues."

Not all businesses, however, are eager to place the bonus of telepresence features on a vendor. That's why Cisco offers a standalone application that can run over a business's own network provided it meets the necessary bandwidth requirements. In fact, only 24 VARs are authorized to set up Cisco's telepresence product because it must be installed according to Cisco's specifications to create a specific experience.

Management Considerations

As for managing the solution, customers can either leverage in-house expertise, or sign up for Cisco Select Operator Service, an offering that provides remote monitoring and management, including an option of real-time administrative support with the Cisco TelePresence Remote Assistance Service.

Teliris' VirtuaLive telepresence tool is delivered through the Teliris managed service with end-to-end ownership of a high service level backed up by a contract. This managed service ensures that all of the technical parts of the meeting are preset and tested before anyone walks into the room. When a meeting participant walks into a VirtuaLive meeting, the displays are already on, preset to the right cities based on the automated scheduling system and zoomed to the right level to include the right number of people on each display.

Polycom provides complete hosted management of a customer's telepresence solution via a staff of experts. The concierge-level service includes call scheduling and suite reservation services, call management, remote monitoring and monthly reporting. TANDBERG offers both remote installation for customers that prefer a hands-on approach, as well as on-site installation.

In the end though, selecting the option that best suits your business is all about determining which approach is likeliest to yield a problem-free implementation and management of your telepresence solution.

After all, says Claire Schooley, a Forrester Research senior analyst, "You want a good experience if you're going to pay all this money for telepresence."

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