Purchasing Video Conference for Small Business

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: June 28, 2011

Whether you are technologically savvy or a newcomer to the industry, purchasing a video conference system can be a daunting task. This guide will provide several tips to keep in mind to help you through the process.

The first step is to determine the type of video conference solution that you would like to purchase.

Hardware-Based – This is a physical video conferencing system that is located inside the office. They can typically handle between five to thirty people at the same time, and come in rollabout, installed, and portable configurations.

Service-Based – This is where the videoconferencing service is hosted by an outside company. They own and maintain all the hardware and use it to connect your employees to the video conference sessions.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of solutions. Hardware-based solutions tend to offer superior visual quality since everything is located on site. Service-based solutions are generally much cheaper and available through a monthly subscription. They also don’t require you to perform regular maintenance since that service is provided by the hosting company.

You should then decide on the features that you want for the video conferencing system. Some popular ones include:

Voice-Activated Switching
Poll Feature
On-Demand Recording
Video Help Desk
Lecture Mode
Green Room
Schedule Holders

You might be tempted to get every feature possible, but it’s generally better to choose the ones that will get the most use. A green room where people can discuss topics before the video conference sessions might be nice, but if most of your employees never use it then you’re just throwing money away.

The next step is to visit the websites of video conferencing vendors and see what they have available. They normally have a section that lists the system specifications, and you can use this to determine whether the solution meets your company’s needs. They also tend to include the technical manual as a download which can provide further information about the system.

You should also try to contact the video conference vendor and ask for a demonstration ahead of time. If it’s a hosted service, they will typically allow you to download software onto your computer to try out the system. If it’s a hardware-based system, they will generally travel to your office and show you how it works. A vendor that does not provide a demonstration is widely considered a red flag – you should probably move, even if they are offering the video conference solution at a great price.

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