Evaluating Video Conference Vendors

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: August 16, 2011

The video conference marketplace is currently filled with dozens of different vendors. This can make choosing a solution for a small business difficult, since they all start to look the same after a while. There are several steps you can take to distinguish the vendors from each other, however.

The vendor should have the following qualities:

- A strong business model
- A national (or global) presence
- Cost-effective maintenance
- Reliable customer support
- A history of satisfying customers

These five attributes indicate that the vendor can be trusted with your business. If they don’t meet some of these criteria, you should probably put them aside for now and move on to a different one.

The next step is to consider the video quality of the vendor’s solution. You want a video conference system that shows every detail and doesn’t suffer lag when you switch to another person. The audio quality is important as well – your conference session may be ruined if you can’t understand what the other person is saying.

You should then make sure that the vendor supports multiparty conferencing. This will allow different sites to use different networks to connect to the video conference session. It will also resolve conflicts if some of they are using standard definition and some are using high-definition. You might not be able to talk to potential clients if the vendor is lacking this important feature.

It’s also a good idea to see of the vendor has obtained ISO 9001 certification for the product. This will indicate a solid quality level and that the video conference solution meets the requirements of strong management systems.

You should also make sure to ask the vendor for at least three references. You can then contact them at your convenience and ask whether their needs were sufficiently met by the video conferencing solution. If the vendor is unwilling to provide references or tries to point you to unsourced quotes, there’s a fair chance they have something that they’re trying to hide.

One final step you should take before choosing a vendor: ask for a 14-day trial of the video conference solution. Most vendors will provide this for free, and you can use it to try out different features and determine whether you need to upgrade your current infrastructure. It’ll take some time, and you may have to contact a few vendors, but you should be able to choose the best one in the end.

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