Free Video Conferencing Buying Help

By Sheila Shanker
Updated: July 11, 2011

According to Infonetics, “video conferencing and telepresence market will more than double by 2015.” This new technology is here to stay and benefit many businesses, even small ones, to communicate effectively and affordably across the globe. Modern video conferencing uses the Internet to carry video and audio, so you must have a very reliable and strong web connection to take advantage of this technology. If you use dial-up, you cannot use this system, sorry.

In-house or hosted?

When looking at video conferencing setups, you can purchase your own equipment and use internal know-how, or you could select a hosted setup, where the main equipment is located off-site. The hosted solution is usually cheaper than in-house because you won’t be buying nor maintaining all the equipment. The disadvantage of this system is that you lose control of the process, including a third party in your internal communication structure. An in-house selection will give you total control of the environment, but may be costly in terms of purchasing, IT and maintenance costs.

Desktop or conference room?

You have the choice between desktop video conferencing and conference room systems. The desktop is simple and works well for many small businesses. It’s also less expensive than the conference room solution, which is more involved, often including HD monitors and other equipment for sound and video. You could also lease the equipment or rent a conference room for video meetings. These options may let you try the systems with no major commitment.

Cheap or well-known brand?

Buy from a reputable firm and make sure your system is well-known, such as Cisco, Polycom or Avaya, well-respected brands. Video conferencing can be expensive, so be sure the system you select is high-quality and reliable. Verify the brand and quality of the equipment deployed by a hosted solution as well. Search online for well-known video conferencing, and also look at articles and reviews of unbiased websites, such as Cnet.com, InformationWeek.com, Cnnmoney.com and Inc.com.

New or well known vendor?

Ask other business owners for referrals—word of mouth is the best advertisement. Check the firm with the Better Business Bureau. You can run a report at its website—www.bbb.org . Ask your CPA, attorney, or IT professional for names of good vendors or hosted systems providers. You want to do business with firms that are going to be around for the long-run, not fly-by-night outfits.

Buying a video conferencing can be confusing with all the choices available out there. Don’t be in a hurry and talk to a couple of vendors before selecting one. Ask them for references and contact them for more information about the equipment and services provided. Don’t forget to get warranties on any equipment purchase, just to be on the safe side.


 

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