For solution providers, videoconferencing represents a powerful business opportunity. With the potential for a quick return on investment and improved business processes, your customers will easily see the benefits that videoconferencing can provide.
However, it’s important to remember that not all videoconferencing systems and devices are created equal. When building a system for your customer, you’ll need to be familiar with the following critical components:
1. Video camera or webcam
Videoconferencing wouldn’t be possible without modern video camera technology. It’s vital that anyone communicating by video can be clearly seen. Camera quality has dramatically improved in the last several years, and prices have steadily dropped. This means many of your customers will be able to comfortably invest in a video camera or webcam that provides clear, reliable video at a relatively high resolution.
2. Audio technology
Similarly, a videoconferencing system cannot be successful without clear, understandable audio. Although you can’t always control the quality of the audio technology on the other end of your customers’ videoconferencing calls, you can ensure their speech is captured as effectively as possible with high-quality (and well-placed) microphones.
3. Codec device
This is also a vital piece of the puzzle. The codec is the hardware or software that digitally compresses both the audio and video for each conferencing session. Then, the “packets” are transmitted through a digital network (increasingly, IP networks) to the endpoint or endpoints. Look for a codec such as H.264 that can achieve high compression rates so audio and video are relayed seamlessly, in real time. Also, be sure to select a device that is standards-based and easily interoperable with other sites.
4. Endpoint devices
This refers to the multiple devices that handle the video and audio output in a conferencing system, including a video display, loudspeakers, a telephone, TV screen, projector and more. These endpoint devices can be tailored to your customer’s needs, ranging from stand-alone desktop units to larger room-based systems. Seek out an endpoint system that is well-established and has been proven with other customers.
5. The right computer system
In any videoconferencing system, computers take care of the data compressing and decompressing and provide access to the network. Depending on your customer’s needs and the size of their videoconferencing system, they may require more powerful computers with higher processing speeds than others.
While the above videoconferencing technology plays a significant role in the success of an installation, the most crucial consideration today is bandwidth. You can have the best cameras, microphones, codecs and other endpoint devices, but inadequate bandwidth or mismanaged bandwidth can create packet loss, jitter and overall poor connections.
Let the project decide
In any videoconferencing deployment, it’s essential to let the individual project dictate the technology chosen. What’s “best in class” for one customer may not be for another. For example, one may need a more extensive dedicated system, which includes all these various components in one piece of equipment. Other customers may require the relative ease of a desktop system with individual devices added on.
In either case, requirements such as bandwidth, firewall challenges, audio and video quality demands and connection reliability will help you determine what will be best for each customer. Be sure to keep their level of tech-savvy in mind as well. Some customers will require a much more user-friendly system than others.
You tell us
What has been your experience with the various types of videoconferencing systems? What would you say is the most important best-in-class requirement? For more information on video camera technology, please get in touch with Tom Jones, Ingram Micro’s pro AV expert.