Video conference systems


The choice of a video conferencing system depends on business objectives

According to research agencies: IDC and Gartner Research

With the development of a company's business, opening new offices including those in other cities or countries exacerbates the problem of communicating with employees working in remote offices. Any new project or initiative requires on-line meeting of participants for live discussions. Because of the high cost of travel, differing time zones and other reasons, companies are more often using technical means to conduct electronic conferences. The most widely used system is the electronic audio conferences.

Recently technologies that support not only audio but also video conferencing are gaining popularity.

Practical inclusion of video in standard electronic conferences is due to this physiological fact: up to 80% of the information we receive from the outside world we get through visual perception. In an electronic meeting that uses only audio, the verbal nuances of communication (for example, facial expressions, eye movement, body language) is lost, and as a result the likelihood of misunderstanding between participants increases, which hinders coherent decision.

In order to survive in a competitive market, companies must quickly make decisions, which ultimately, in view of the development of electronic communications and technologies, reduce the rental cost of communication channels. Increasingly this serves as the primary motive for the use of electronic systems for video conferencing.

Classification of video conferencing systems

Currently, there are several kinds of products that provide adequate support for video conferencing, depending on the type of business and the targeted user group. From the point of view of the equipment, video conferencing solutions are divided into two types: desktop systems which are installed on a desktop computer and room systems organized in a specially equipped room.

Class room systems are generally more expensive (starting from $5,000 USD) and require more bandwidth-intensive communication channels, but at the same time provide the best technical and image quality for conferencing.

Desktop systems are less expensive (starting prices average from $500) and use the local data network infrastructure of the company. However, due to the fact that video traffic on the company’s local network is different in scope and the requirements for providing the necessary bandwidth and quality of service to effectively support desktop systems, the company requires LAN equipments for integrated services to support the transfer of multimedia traffic.

In terms of the use of video conferencing systems to meet specific business objectives, the system can be classified by the following types:

-for a project team in the company;

-for corporate electronic conferences;

-for conferences with company partners;

-to conduct training;

-for broadcasting.

Below is a more detailed discussion of each type, which will address when, by whom and who is the intended audience, as well as the minimum expectations of the functionality.

The project team

The project team is a virtual or organizational unit, consisting of employees of the company who work on specific business tasks (projects). The peculiarities of electronic meetings of such a group lie in the fact that they are working in close cooperation on a project and know each other well. They require a high degree of support to be able to collaboration on documents, conduct unscheduled meetings and interactive polls, and log records of meetings. On the other hand, the requirements for mandatory management of voice transfer (who speaks and who is listening) for similar meetings are not necessary, since their communication format will emulate live communication as if they were in the same room.

If the project team is comprised of geographically remote employees, in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of its work the employer may need to use a video conferencing system. Support for system availability for each group member to participate in the meeting and the possibility to connect to the conference through the nearest available electronic channel (telephone, mobile communication, Instant Messaging, web chat, web-cam, full-fledged LAN client, etc.) are important for this kind of meeting.

The basis of the group’s meetings is the requirement to support a high degree of interaction, so that each participant of the conference should be able to:

-to put on the conference table (whiteboards) any document, file, image or scheme;

-to share the use of a desktop application;

-to send instant individual and group text messages (chat, instant messaging);

-to publish a link (URL) or show a page from a corporate or Internet web-resource;

-to use a video channel (specialized or web-camera) to improve the reliability of the effect of “personal presence” in the meeting room.

Given the fact that the requirement for online collaboration is high enough, meetings are held on a regular basis or on demand, and the conference traffic is transmitted on the internal corporate network or VPN via dedicated channels, the client part of the participant's video conferencing software can be implemented as a thick client and electronic conferencing software is owned by and integrated into the information system of the company. Such an approach greatly ensures a high level of information security preventing leakage of business information on public channels of communication.

In recent years due to the massive spread of corporate IP-telephony systems, and for project teams that do not require the ability to interact and work together on documents, companies increasingly began to use the lower budget option of video conferencing with corporate IP video telephones registered on the corporate IP-telephony network. This option requires no additional cost since video calls in the corporate IP-telephony system is just one more option that is included automatically or is automatically generated by a video conference.

Meetings within the company

This is a simplified version of the meetings for project teams. The main difference is the more lenient requirement for conference participants to work together on documents. Such meetings are often allocated one (or several) formal presenter, who leads the conference, shows documents and passes voting rights to other parties.

Video from all participants of the meeting is not required, but the video stream from key speakers needs to be accessible to all.

The requirement to support instant messaging systems for all participants (chat, instant messaging) remains, as well as that to be able to participate in voting and surveys (nominative form or impersonal). It is also required that meetings can be logged so that missing participants can listen to and view the conference later, or to resolve disputes about agreements reached during the meeting.

As for group video conferencing systems, this kind of electronic meeting can use a “thick” client, especially given the fact that all participants of the meeting are inside the corporate network and meetings are held on a regular basis.

From the point of view of information security, the electronic conferencing system is a part of the overall information infrastructure of company.

Meeting with partners

The requirements for an electronic means of holding meetings with partners of the company are quite diverse. Participants of the conference on the one hand share information which is confidential, and on the other ensure that they do not convey superfluous information to partners. Thus, requirements for network security, authentication and authorization, and the ability to log meetings are paramount. The minutes of the meeting must be accessible by each of the parties for analysis of compliance of privacy and other legal issues. In accordance with the requirements of network security, external conference participants must not be allowed entry into the company's network, and at the same time, all should be provided with secure exchange of public data.

A distinctive feature of meetings with partners is the preferred use of “thin” clients, since such meetings are quite rare and are oriented towards work on the external network with potentially lower bandwidth communication channels. Moreover the list of participants varies from meeting to meeting. The purpose is mostly to convey information, by way of presentation and demonstration, with minimal collaborative work on documents. The lead is one of the parties’ representatives whose main function is to ensure compliance with the formal rules of the meeting: order, the transfer of voting rights, and control of the request queue for the transfer of voting rights, as well as questions.

If the company rarely conducts this kind of meeting, a cost effective option is to rent a video conferencing system from an external service provider (for example a communication operator). Requirements are the same as for corporate video conferencing, but given that it uses external communication channels, a more dense video compression codec must be used.


Video conferencing for educational purposes is mainly used for external audiences (10-100 participants). For example, company partners are taught sales strategies and tactics, or technical training is being provided. If a video conference is held simply to show a presentation, functions that enable interaction with the audience are usually not used. However, training without these functions cannot be done (separate chat rooms, questions and answers, demonstration of a running application (whiteboards), etc.). The ability to repeatedly view materials and reports is required (recording).

The main task of the video conference is to inform the audience; therefore the system of electronic conferencing should provide good quality pictures of the slides in your presentation and accompanying video clips.

To access the conference the audience uses a “very thin” client, downloadable by participants immediately before the commencement of the conference; integration with the company's internal network is not suggested. As the composition and number of participants, the start time and the duration of the video conference are exactly known, companies usually resort to renting a video conferencing system from a service provider (operator). Authorization and authentication of participants is performed on the basis of prepared lists.


These video conferences are conducted for interviews, broadcasts, declarations, appeals, etc. to a large audience and only in one direction, from the broadcaster to listeners. A broadcast can be presented to both internal and external audiences (possible combination). Audience size can be measured in thousands of participants.

Usually, such broadcasts are carried out for the following major objectives:

-fulfilling external marketing goals of the company;

-communicating the views of shareholders and top managers of the company to all employees;

-greeting staff with achievements;

-joining of employees of the company around any ideas;

-transferring experience.

Broadcasting to a large audience is technically provided as a service by communication operators that provide their own custom software tools to create an electronic presentation in a format supported by broadcast systems. To access the conference, participants use an “ultra-thin” client instantly downloadable immediately before watching the broadcast, including a version available to download onto a PDA or mobile phone with communicator features.

Given the large number of participants, audience interaction with the presenter is limited to e-mail, chat or instant messaging. Usually this kind of broadcast is on an IP network, and consequently, audio and video can only be accessed on an IP channel. A link to a recorded copy of the video conference is laid out on the company's portal or on an external site.

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