Video Conferencing 101
Our Latest Buyer's Guide to Video Communication
The world of communication has moved beyond the standard voice conversation.
Today’s employees and customers alike want a more immersive way to connect, and for many, that means turning to the potential of video conferencing.
Video conferencing is a growing trend in the communication world that allows for one-on-one or group conversations to provide a face-to-face experience for everyone involved. With video conferencing, you can feel like you’re in the same room as all your remote and global employees, without having to worry about substantial travel expenses.
What is Video Conferencing, How Does it Work?
Up until recently, video conferencing was an expensive technology reserved specifically for high-level enterprise organisations. Today, almost anyone can access video thanks to the rise of new technology like WebRTC and software-based video solutions. Currently, the video conferencing market is expected to reach a value of $40.84 billion by 2022.
Video conferencing has become increasingly accessible in recent years thanks to the development of VoIP as a standard solution for communication. With VoIP, packets of data can be delivered over the internet to make communication easier, and more affordable. Video conferencing software solutions use the same technology as VoIP to transfer multi-media data, as well as voice.
Video conferencing platforms include tools for everything from Webinars and broadcasting, to one-on-one video calls and recording.
What Are the Benefits of Video Conferencing?
Ultimately, video conferencing is all about making business communication more immersive, by ensuring that you can benefit from all the advantages of face-to-face conversations. For instance, with video communication, you’ll still be able to see the body language and facial expressions of the people you’re talking too, regardless of where they’re located. This is crucial in an era where almost half of the workforce is set to telecommute by 2020.
Benefits of video conferencing include:
- Reduce travel costs: Enjoy immersive, face-to-face conversations with employees, co-workers, and clients around the world, without the expensive plane travel. All you need to do is arrange a time for a meeting and set up your HD camera for users to feel like they’re in the same room.
- Improved inclusion of remote workers: If you already hire remote workers, then you may know how hard it is to keep them feeling like they’re part of the company conversation. Video conferencing helps to avoid feelings of isolation for your distributed employees.
- Structured communication: Video meetings can help to reduce the need for endless in-person conferences by structuring announcements and conversations into quick video interactions. The less time you spend on unproductive meetings, the more time you’ll have to spend growing your company.
- Improved employee retention: if your video conferencing solution allows you to offer employees remote working opportunities, you could find that it’s easier to attract and retain top-tier talent. Many of the best professionals in the workforce are now looking for flexible scheduling options.
Top Video Conferencing Vendors
The demand for video conferencing is on the rise. The increasing popularity of remote working combined with the rising availability of high-performance HD video has prompted more companies to embrace the power of video. There are plenty of video conferencing vendors to choose from, including those experimenting with video conferencing as a service. For instance, companies worth consideration include – see our video conferencing vendors list here
Trends in Video Conferencing
Video conferencing is affected by many of the trends facing the rest of the communication environment, including the rise of IoT and AI. For example, a video conferencing endpoint with artificial intelligence features could count the number of people in a room and track conference room usage to help your business run more effectively. AI could also appear in the form of intelligent assistants that can set up and manage your video meetings for you or transcribe your voice as you speak. Some companies are already experimenting with instant translation services to support global video communication. Other trends include:
- Software leading hardware: In the past, video conferencing was built on top of complicated room-sized installations that required on-premise data storage and complex IT management. Now, cloud-based solutions delivered by companies all the way from Polycom to Microsoft and RingCentral have made it possible for anyone to start bringing video into their communication environment.
- HD and 4K video: The quality of video is improving in today’s workplace too, thanks for stronger communication systems and wireless solutions like 5G. In the future, we may even see things like holographic business calls becoming a reality.
- Video Room systems: Although much of the technology required for video conferencing is now available over the cloud, there are also plenty of hardware solutions to help enhance your conference setting, including interactive whiteboards.
We are living through exciting times in UC. Rapid advances in telecommunications technology are having a major impact on business organisation and performance, enabling ever more flexible and interactive contact regardless of location, and allowing people to work together more efficiently and productively.
At the forefront of this new era of empowerment through communications sits video conferencing. As a category in its own right, video calling stands as the next best thing to a face-to-face conversation, adding the visual element to the immediacy of a telephone conversation. When extended to large groups of people, and combined with digital collaboration tools, teleconferencing has the potential to radically reform how people work together.
Belief in that potential is growing fast, translating into a market sector that is predicted to grow by just under 9 per cent year-on-year to 2025. The willingness of businesses to invest in video conferencing systems has been boosted by the fact that the technology has now overcome the traditional performance drawbacks associated with live stream video – poor audio and video quality, latency, buffering.
HD quality is now standard for enterprise class video conferencing, while the emergence of telepresence has created innovative new ways to imitate the experience of a physical meeting in a virtual space.
With the market maturing rapidly, buyers are being confronted with more and more choice. For a first time purchase, what should you look for in a video conferencing solution? What should drive your decision to upgrade, and what are the differences between Cloud and on-premises systems?
To help our readers make those all-important purchasing decisions, here we give a brief overview of the types of video conferencing solution available, and some of the key questions to ask before choosing.
Video conferencing equipment
Video conferencing hardware products can be broadly placed in one of four main categories:
Desktop teleconferencing systems are used at individual workspaces, much like a deskphone, laptop or PC. They may indeed make use of existing equipment, such as the webcam and microphone on a laptop, or come with their own specialised endpoints, such as touchscreens with integrated cameras and conference phones.
Desktop video conferencing is ideal for impromptu meetings and team collaboration. It is the best solution if you envisage staff making video calls as a regular part of their day to day work, as it saves time having to gather teams in dedicated meeting spaces.
Set top video conferencing systems comprise camera, conference phone and codec equipment which can be plugged into existing screens or monitors. They tend to be easy to move and connect, providing a convenient and flexible option for turning the screen in any meeting room into a video conferencing platform. They can, for example, be plugged into interactive whiteboards or Smart TVs to aid presentations, or with the right software connect to multiple screens such as on tablets and laptops.
Integrated video conferencing systems are all-in-one hardware solutions comprising screen, camera, conference phone, codecs, and potentially also the relevant in-built software. Integrated systems are designed to be installed in a single location, so are a good option if you want to turn a particular meeting space into a video conferencing hub.
Telepresence describes a range of technologies aimed at making the virtual meeting experience as lifelike as possible. They start at the use of HD audio and visual equipment and surround sound speakers to make video conferences more immersive for the participants, and move through to modern innovations such as AR and VR where the lines between virtual and physical begin to be blurred. Telepresence is best deployed where the quality of the interaction matters, for example if introducing video conferencing into the boardroom.
Software solutions – defining your video conferencing needs
Just like face-to-face meetings, teleconferences can be held for a huge range of reasons, from small team gatherings to large scale events, informal huddle rooms to exec-level summits, to deliver presentations or speeches or to host open forum discussions.
If the type of hardware you choose is largely determined by where you want video conferencing to take place in your business, most other considerations will influence the type of software you choose. Key considerations are as follows:
Most video conferencing platforms will be licensed per user. If you only need capabilities for a small number of participants, you can save money by choosing products with a smaller user capacity. If you need to be more open-ended, or expect to host large-scale video conferences, you can expect to pay more.
One of the big emerging trends driving the growth of the video conferencing market is the alignment with team collaboration applications. Rather than just allowing participants to see and talk to each other, collaboration tools mean they can interact and work together. Examples include screen, file and desktop sharing, so participants can view and work on the same documents, or whiteboarding applications which allow them to sketch out ideas between themselves.
A move towards open standards integration is a key part of this trend. Many team collaboration platforms include support for video conferencing, and with available APIs can be plugged into more advanced specialist conferencing systems. This gives you the best of both worlds, with a high quality audio and visual experience combined with the availability of collaboration tools.
Mobile and wireless
The whole purpose of video conferencing is to allow colleagues and partners in business to communicate, interact and work together over distance. As well as connecting remote offices, more and more businesses are looking for teleconferencing solutions which allow employees to connect to a meeting on the move.
If you want team members to be able to connect to impromptu team huddles while out of the office, or have field staff you want to keep involved in important meetings, choosing video conferencing software which supports mobile is crucial. An aside to this is, if you want to encourage a BYOD culture so staff can use tablets and laptops in meetings, make sure you opt for a platform which can support multiple wireless connections without complex configuration and set up.