What is Video Conferencing?

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: September 09, 2011

Small businesses used to have to make conference calls over a telephone system. Each person would dial in from their extension, a discussion would take place, and someone would transcribe the meeting afterwards.

Video conferencing is a modern technology that adds a visual element to conference calls. It allows two people to view each other through point-to-point communication and multiple users to connect through either a ‘one-to-many’ configuration or ‘many-to-many’ configuration.

There are several types of video conferencing systems available:

  • PC-Based – This is a desktop or laptop computer that has video conferencing software installed on the system. It requires a webcam, microphone, and a set of speakers or headphones.
  • Rollabout – This is a large piece of hardware that can be wheeled into different rooms and kept in a storage closet when it is not needed.
  • Installed – This is a video conferencing system that has been set up in a fixed location. It tends to support the greatest number of users—up to thirty in most cases.
  • Portable – This is a mobile device (similar to a laptop, but a bit smaller) that is specifically designed for video conferencing on-the-go.

Video conferencing offers numerous advantages to a small business. The first is the amount of money it can save on travel expenses – employees can work from home or take a business trip and still attend important meetings. It also keeps a video record of each session which can be transcribed and reviewed at a later date. In addition, video conferencing can be used to conduct business with clients in other locations.

Video conferencing solutions also tend to come with wide variety of special features. Some of them have a ‘green room’ that speakers can meet in ahead of time and discuss the topic of the conference. Others have a screen sharing feature that allow people to see what is happening on another person’s computer screen. Some video conferencing solutions even have a speech-to-text capability that can convert the audio portion of the video conference session to a text file.

The main issue with video conferencing is that it require a lot of bandwidth in order to function. If you don’t have a good internet connection, you may experience occasional lag or screen tearing during the video conferencing session. This can be quite distracting and might give a bad impression to customers. Most businesses now have a DSL connection (or better), however, so this isn’t as big of an issue as it used to be.
 

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