videoconferencing for small business

By Sreekanth Ravi

Videoconferencing has been acknowledged for years as one of the most effective ways of increasing productivity and driving down costs. So why haven’t more businesses adopted it wholesale—especially given today’s increasingly distributed workforce and the rocketing expense of travel?

The business videoconferencing market has been effectively becalmed. Infonetics Research described 2012 as a ‘rotten’ year for traditional videoconferencing systems. The boardroom videoconferencing market is all but saturated, and usage is polarized between high-end, expensive and IT support-dependent boardroom systems, or person-to-person versions that may be fine for connecting with a single colleague, but don’t make the grade when groups of employees try to collaborate or share documents at a distance.

This has left a huge, underserved market segment at a loss for a viable solution that can connect small groups without difficulty, but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.  Worldwide, there are an estimated 20 million or more secondary conference rooms, remote offices and huddle rooms that would benefit from videoconferencing, but don’t use it.

Offerings just beginning to challenge or complement the traditional videoconferencing systems include software-centric, virtualized, cloud-based, real-time browser-based solutions and combination appliance/HDTV systems.  With all this innovation, what’s holding businesses back?
It’s time to debunk the most common videoconferencing myths.

Myth 1: We can’t afford a big business system. Let’s just Skype each other. Myth-buster: Just because you don’t have the budget for high quality, business-class equipment, you don’t have to compromise.  New, all-in-one systems on the market offer standards-based, multi-point videoconferencing, content sharing and security at less than $1,000 per room.

Myth 2: Even if we can afford the equipment, the infrastructure will cost tens of thousands of dollars. Myth-buster: There’s no need to invest in infrastructure. New videoconferencing appliances have cloud-based options providing many of the features normally only available with a heavy investment in video networking equipment. Look for offerings that include features like multipoint video conferencing, firewall/NAT traversal, and content sharing and collaboration.

Myth 3:  Videoconferencing is too complicated for use without IT support. Myth-buster:  Not true.  Some of the newer solutions are really easy to use because they’re based on equipment that everyone understands. For example, what could be easier than an HDTV-based system worked by a simple remote control?  You don’t even need a computer.

Myth 4:  If you’re using standards-based videoconferencing, there is no affordable way of extending it beyond the boardroom. Myth-buster:  Interoperability is one of the biggest issues preventing wider use of videoconferencing. Look for SIP-standard based videoconferencing solutions that can interact with all major systems from Cisco, Polycom, LifeSize and more.  Affordable, high-quality options offering all this are now available.

Myth 5:  I must make a hard choice between cloud-based and on-premise solutions. Myth-buster:  see Myth 2. You don’t need to choose. New solutions offer both options within the same package.  Sometimes even organizations with their own videoconferencing infrastructure want to use the cloud-based option as well.

Sreekanth Ravi is founder and CEO of Tely Labs, maker of the award-winning telyHD™ videoconferencing system.  Prior to Tely Labs, Sreekanth was co-founder, CEO, and Chairman of data loss prevention company Code Green Networks. Sreekanth is also the co-founder and retired CEO of SonicWALL (NASDAQ: SNWL).