John Vitale, Vice President of Products for the commercial integration firm, AVI-SPL offers valuable suggestions on how to design the perfect business videoconferencing system, taking into account key factors that are often overlooked by decision makers in the planning stages of an integration project.
A videoconferencing system can be defined as a unit, which resides in a conference room or the entire solution of network infrastructure along with in-room devices. For this purpose I am referring to the entire solution. Here is a break down of three main categories:
1. Network and Security: there are many options for network and connectivity these days but determining where your users will be (in the office, at home, in an airport terminal), the proper amount of bandwidth, as well as making sure the quality of the bandwidth will accommodate a video call so the user will have a successful call. Not everyone needs to have the same amount of bandwidth. For instance, someone in a hotel room using the hotel’s Internet service will probably not have as much bandwidth as say, someone in a corporate location in a conference room. When it comes to bandwidth quality, this is usually more important than having a large amount of bandwidth. Quality measured in packet loss, latency and jitter are important parameters to make sure none of them are excessive. Security not only addresses someone having a secure call but also how they can call from one private network to another.
2. Call Routing and Handling: Just like your house phone or mobile phone, you need a phone number to receive a call. A Dial Plan is probably one of the most overlooked items when building a videoconferencing system. Having a cohesive and intuitive dial plan your users can relate to and understand is important. It is also important your dial plan accommodates off-net and public-switched telephone network (PSTN) compatibility. Then, there are infrastructure resources, which will enhance the capabilities of your system. Bridges, also known as multipoint control units (MCUs), are a key feature many video calls require. Just like doing an audio conference, all participants either call into a bridge or are called by the bridge and then everyone becomes part of the call. Other devices such as video recorders and gateways provide enhanced functionality and greater flexibility for your users.
3. Endpoint or end user system: This is the videoconferencing unit your end users will actually use for a video call. These systems span a range from PC-based software applications to multi-screen immersive telepresence rooms. Regardless of the size or cost, it’s an “end point” which consists of a camera, speakers, microphone and a codec. The “codec” stands for encoder/decoder, which is the brain of the video system. It takes the video and audio, compresses it to send it to the other party, where it is uncompressed and shown and heard. This happens in both directions in real-time, which then gives you the experience of talking face to face. The end point is a key part of the equation because that is what the user actually sees and interfaces with. If it’s hard to use, and doesn’t look good, that’s what will get blamed, regardless of if it’s a network or call routing problem.