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10 Ways a small company decreases overhead and creates revenue with videoconferencing

Outside sales without going outside   A small company can sign up with a hosted videoconferencing service and connect to clients and prospects without the need to purchase hardware or the need for the prospect or customer to subscribe to any hosted service.  This becomes a virtual company car traveling in several directions simultaneously at light speed. The ROI is almost immediate — More face time with clients with less sales people and a significant decrease in fuel expenses. (Sales Article)

Customer service and support   A small company’s customer service reps can meet with existing clients using a hosted videoconferencing to help resolve software problems in real-time, share information for trouble shooting, help customers update orders or resolve order discrepancies.  Using standards based videoconferencing all of the above applications are simple.  Additionally, on-site tech support can be accomplished on the factory floor using an iPad; iPhone or Smart phone.

 – Productivity   A small company with employees working from home in remote locations can increase productivity substantially eliminating trips and per diem costs going back and forth to the home office.  Small companies get the most out of field service reps and regional managers working in remote locations.

Management & Administration   Small companies really need to work more efficiently these days to survive, let alone thrive. Day to day operations run much more smoothly when all remote parties can meet face-to-face on video for management meetings.  For example Job interviews of potential candidates can easily be recorded through a hosted service or on a thumb drive with some videoconferencing systems.  Recordings can easily be shared through a link.  Also, participants miss fewer meetings.

Product training   Small distributors and manufacture’s reps can use videoconferencing to launch new products.  A critical part of this launch is new product training.  Using a hosted videoconferencing bridging service you can connect with many locations simultaneously and train everybody in one day with the entanglements and big expense of travel. The ROI in this application is immediate.

Supply Chain management   Supply chain management is critical part of any small manufacturer. Face to face video meetings with vendors and key partners can certainly increase efficiency.  Visits to key vendors can be significantly reduced while developing a closer a more efficient relationship with vendors.

Quality Control  A small manufacturer achieves better quality control when issues occur in the manufacturing process.  For example if a vendor ships a faulty part, the faulty part can be seen in real-time on video with the explanation on how it’s affecting the assembly line.  A small manufacturer can take the vendor right out to the factory floor via video to show problems in real time — Solutions present themselves quickly.

Marketing   One small manufacturer in Canada put a videoconferencing CODEC in their show room and published their public IP video number on their web site with an open invitation to connect and look around. Because they are using standards based videoconferencing, visitors can remotely take control of their PTZ, (Pan Tilt Zoom), camera and look around the show room on their own. They literally opened a video store front whereby any visitor can just pop in.  Staff is trained to welcome visitors and see if they need any help.  This is a genius marketing move on their part especially when most of their customers are in the videoconferencing business. (Link to VFI article).

Trade show participation   Some small companies are connecting videoconferencing from the trade show floor to the home office.  If key clients visit the exhibit and they need to meet with a design engineer or sales rep at the home office they can get business done right at the trade show exhibit.

Telecommuting on snow days   Just because the roads are closed doesn’t mean a small business needs to be closed.  Employees can still show up for work via videoconference through the Internet.   All the planned meetings can still take place complete with white board and collaboration through a videoconference hosted service.  The meeting can be recorded for later viewing for those who could not make the meeting.

As videoconferencing becomes more ubiquitous, more applications will present themselves. The bottom line is that videoconferencing affects the bottom line.  It all boils down to saving time and saving money.

3 ways to implement videoconferencing with no capital budget

Twenty plus years ago the only companies that implemented videoconferencing were very large firms with likewise budgets.  A videoconferencing endpoint in one conference room required at least a $65,000 budget.  Often this budget was augmenting the aviation budget, funding corporate aircraft.  Like the corporate aircraft requiring a pilot these legacy systems require a technician and only connected through proprietary algorithms.  Needless to say there was a very low return on investment.  Over time the technology become less costly and connectivity became much easier because algorithms and connecting protocols are now standardized.  Today an endpoint for a conference room can be as little as $1,000 with the ability to connect anywhere and share content from a computer or mobile device. If you know how to make a cell phone call you already know how to make a video call — No technician required.  Additionally, there are hosted services available that require no equipment or capital expense. Cutting costs

Many small companies are serving larger firms well entrenched with videoconferencing and have the latest technology.  With a dramatic cost reduction and improved reliability, this allows much better communication and access for a small firm to call on and service the larger firms.

So here are three ways a small company with no budget can implement videoconferencing:

  1. Use a hosted service that provides      videoconferencing with collaboration; multi-site; live chat; and      annotation.  Make sure you have all      the billing options, i.e. by the event; month or year.  (See videoconferencing without equipment)
  2. Rent a public videoconferencing room.  These are available worldwide through a      variety of room brokers.  (See Glowpoint)
  3. Ask a competitive local exchange carrier or      phone company to include new equipment as part of your monthly circuit      bill.  (See Worry Free videoconferencing offer)

There is no excuse not to use videoconferencing.  All of the above options connect on the ITU, (International Telecommunications Standards).  Make sure whatever option you try works on the ITU standards. This is critical because any videoconferencing application or equipment not on the ITU standard will technically fall behind and be pigeon holed in a communication silo.

You can meet us on video anytime – Just call 330-677-5566 and reference this article.  We will send you a link to download our standards based videoconferencing app and we can meet — and it won’t cost a dime.

How do I purchase videoconferencing equipment and who installs it?

Installtion_Article_84Videoconferencing is still a bit of a divergent product.   Most companies do not have videoconferencing in their conference rooms.  Many question whether they really need the technology — after all they got along without it for years.  So if your enterprise decides that they want to purchase videoconferencing equipment, where do you go?  A variety of companies supply the equipment and installation:  the phone company;  A/V Integrators; IT companies; Network providers and others.  With the refinement of international videoconferencing standards most enterprises will be compelled to implement videoconferencing sooner or later.  This will certainly become another essential way to communicate, like cell phones and email and texting.

If your enterprise is looking into videoconferencing first look carefully at your applications.  (Reference article – 10 Ways a Small Company Decreases Overhead and Creates Revenue with Videoconferencing)How  you will use videoconferencing is your first consideration. If you have multiple locations, domestic and internationally you may use videoconferencing for routine management meetings.  You may have key clients with videoconferencing, and you may want to meet with them more often without the encumbrance of travel.   Many applications eliminate driving across town.  For example courtrooms are using videoconferencing for cross town arraignments.  This saves a tremendous amount of time and expense for local townships not to mention the increased safety of not having to transport prisoners from the jail to the courtroom.  Local healthcare providers are also using videoconferencing to meet patients across town and in their homes.

Once you clearly define your applications let’s move on to how to purchase videoconferencing.  First look at the hardware options.  There are about 5 prominent manufacturers: Cisco; Polycom; Lifsize; Radvision; and AVER.  All make very good and reliable products.  You need to do some homework on the manufacturers.  Find out who owns them and if they plan to stay in the business.  For example Lifesize is owned by Logitech and Logitech was considering selling Lifesize.  This transaction could disrupt or change the support you’re getting from the manufacturer.  Narrow this down to a couple of favorites, but be open to any of the above manufacturer as they are always improving the technology and getting very cost competitive.

After you narrow down the videoconferencing manufacturer find a reliable dealer that does installation.  One big indicator of a reliable dealer is one that uses the technology.  Look for video IP numbers on their business cards.  If they don’t have one, find a dealer who does.  Do not buy videoconferencing from a dealer who does not use what they sell.  Most reliable dealers have excellent installers who work closely with their clients to make sure they are comfortable using the technology. If your company is new to using videoconferencing it’s easy to practice with the dealer using videoconferencing in their day to day operations.

Videoconferencing Progression – As compared to cell phone progression

It’s hard to believe that the first cell phone call was made forty years ago in 1973.  A Motorola engineer by the name of Marty Cooper called Joel Engel, a colleague at Bell Labs, and said, “Joel this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone — a real handheld portable cell phone.”  Fast forward 20 years from that first cell phone call and many of you may be old enough to remember the first hand held mobile phone, known as “The Brick” by Motorola. This was the beginning of the migration away from mounted and fixed cell phones in our cars, to the pocket size smart phone we now take for granted.

Motorola_Brick_Phone_Video_Cell_PhoneEarly adapters paid a premium for the privilege of having the great flexibility of the Motorola hand held cell phone.  “The Brick” weighted over 2 pounds, cost thousands for dollars and had a battery life of 35 minutes. In spite of this, cell phone technology exploded with great creativity and technological advancement.  There are many reasons for this accelerated advancement.  One big reason was the cell network and cell towers that connected seamlessly to land based phones.  Users didn’t worry or think about how they called, they simply dialed any number and connected.  Early in cell phone development the only constraint was a limited cell tower footprint — later this became a moot point.

By comparison, videoconferencing had a fundamental disadvantage as it developed. Early on manufacturers produced products that work in proprietary algorithms.  Early adapters were forced to buy brand A or band X as these systems would only connect within each manufacture’s own family of products.  Customers using the equipment experienced low use and a limited or no return on investment.  Additionally they connected on cumbersome networks through the phone company’s Central Office on a dedicated circuit.   Proprietary algorithms stunted the development of videoconferencing and thus it did not have the quick and explosive advancement as seen in cell phone technology.   Videoconferencing development was a slow and expensive slog forward.  Today just about all of the early manufactures are out of business.

Videoconferencing advancement started to get traction in the late 90’s only after the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), established the standard algorithms.  Once this happened manufacturers were free to build in this standard on a more competitive level.  The clunky $65,000 dollar proprietary “legacy” videoconferencing system was quickly replaced by the $8,000 dollar “set-top” unit built on the new ITU algorithm standards. The computer was eliminated from the CODEC and video conferencing quickly evolved into an appliance similar to your VoIP phone.

Today we are full circle and ironically videoconferencing in now part of your cell phone or smart phone.  However, as they say — history repeats itself.   Now we have a variety of videoconferencing apps for the iPad, iPhone and Droid.   Guess what! – Most of these apps work through proprietary algorithms, the same scenario that stunted the development of videoconferencing in the first place.  This writer believes the applications that don’t adapt to the ITU standard will eventually collapse in the market place.

Let’s go back to the cell phone comparison.  If you are subscribing to or purchasing a videoconferencing app for your cell phone and it does not work within the ITU standard, it’s like selling you cell phone service and saying to you, “It will only connect to those with the same model cell phone and same service provider.” Would you buy that cell phone or cell phone service?  — Nobody would.

It’s the same for your computer.  For example WeBex and GoToMeeting both do videoconferencing, but they cannot connect to each other or connect to the videoconferencing standard.  Although they work great now, inevitably these business models will collapse.  Currently it’s very easy to videoconference and share content through any system through the ITU standard.  Users don’t have to worry about what service is being used.  There are videoconferencing apps that seamlessly connect to the standard.  I can make a video call from my cell phone right to the board room with a standards based videoconferencing CODEC, and the boardroom can share content right to my cell phone.  In the end the last apps standing will be on the ITU standard and history repeats again as it always does in technology.





When a system fails to connect what are the main reasons?

There are three general reasons for a video conferencing system not to connect. The First is the network – More often than not this is the source of the problem.  The Second is the physical layer – Something got disconnected, like the router.  The Third general reason is the CODEC or video conferencing system itself The network settings in the configuration were changed.

Let’s focus on the first source of the problem – the network.   Over the years with all the calls we receive in for a video conferencing malfunction, ninety-nine times out of one hundred the problem is in the network, not the CODEC or the system.  The first question we ask is — Did you change phone service or circuit providers recently?  The second question is – Did your IT staff or IT provider change anything in the network?  Sometimes there is a new network server or new router installed and they are not finding the CODEC.   Another overlooked problem in the network is bandwidth. Many times there is simply not enough bandwidth to accommodate video conferencing.  Those video conferencing from their homes through cable will notice a significant drop in performance or disconnection after 3:00 pm when all the kids are home from school and start surfing the internet.  In any event always look at the Network first.  Another way to check the network is the green and yellow network indicator lights on the back of the CODEC.  They should be on with a steady light — not blinking.  It’s a good idea to look at the network lights  on the back of the CODEC first.

The second potential source is the physical layer in the network. Again look at the network lights on the back of the CODEC.  If they are totally off, this usually means something down the line is disconnected or off like the router.  Make sure everything is connected properly to the router and modem.   When there is a disconnection it’s usually caused accidentally by the cleaning staff or maintenance people.   One of our clients is a law firm, and they use video conferencing for depositions, interviews and interrogatories.   All their conferences are critical.   One time they called and said the system is down.  We immediately opened a trouble ticket.   Our technician found that someone simply unplugged the router’s power supply and Ethernet connection and stuck the router on a shelf in the Telco closet —  Very simple and quick fix and one of the few times the problem was discovered in the physical layer.

As a rule, the last thing to look at is the CODEC itself.   More often than not it’s the power supply which is external.  It’s very simple and inexpensive to replace the power supply.  Other times it’s a simple change in the configuration, i.e. IP address; DNS server; Gateway settings, etc.  Unless the CODEC is old, (10 years plus), it’s rare for one to simply stop working.  Most CODECS are solid state with backwards compatible firmware – They just always seem to work.

Why is maintenance important in video conferencing?

Unfortunately some clients learn about maintenance on their video conferencing equipment the hard way. They get used to routinely using the technology and all of a sudden their system doesn’t work.  Or they haven’t used their system for months and when they have a critical meeting it doesn’t work. More often than not this is a network issue and not related to any problem in the CODEC / video conferencing unit.  There are times though when there is an issue with the CODEC.   Often this is a simple configuration adjustment and can be remedied quickly – But who do you call?   That’s where the maintenance comes into play.

If you are working with a well established and reliable dealer or reseller they will certainly support the equipment beyond the maintenance in any event.  However, if there is an issue that is more than a simple tech-support call, it’s always a good idea to review your maintenance contract and consider extended maintenance.  Most manufactures require one year, but often extended programs will cover any down time including replacement loaners while your unit is being repaired.  This part of the extended maintenance is called “Advanced replacement.”  If your organization likes to lease capital equipment you can certainly role required and extended maintenance as part of the lease.  Keep in mind manufacturers come and go.  Make sure you purchase from a well established manufacturer with a long track record.  The extended maintenance does no good if the manufacturer is out of business.

Look at your maintenance program as “Conference Insurance.”   Also, keep your maintenance contract handy and with easy access, so when the unforeseen happens’ you know who to call and what they can do for you.  In some cases you can purchase extended support and maintenance on used equipment.  If fact some companies, manufacturer certified, offer one year maintenance and support on used and refurbished equipment.  If you are considering video conferencing with a limited budget don’t rule out used or refurbished equipment. This option can be a great value with a very quick return on investment. Certainly call us and we can help you avoid painful mistakes in the process.  Call 330.677.5566.  You can also reach us by video at




Limited Budget – Used Videoconferencing Equipment?

If on a limited budget is it a good idea to buy used videoconferencing equipment?

Absolutely Yes!  — With all the new developments in video conferencing technology over the last 10 plus years, refurbished or used video conferencing CODECS still work great.  The ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), started establishing video conferencing standards years ago.  When you purchase used or refurbished video conferencing equipment you only sacrifice features like HD or high definition video,  and duo-video, sending two video streams to the far end simultaneously.  Duo-video means they see you and your presentation at the same time.  It’s no big deal not having this feature as you can always send your computer input as an alternative input and still be on a video conference.  Keep in mind as new equipment emerges it must be backward compatible with the older or legacy video conferencing equipment.

The key to buying used or refurbished video conferencing equipment is the source you buy it from —We don’t recommend eBay.  Buy from a reliable dealer or reseller who offers extended warranties and maintenance.   Additionally, certified resellers’ often flash upgrade the equipment with the latest firmware — Often upgrades are free of charge.

Another consideration is bandwidth.  Even with older standard based video CODECS clients experienced a tremendous improvement in video and audio quality on their refurbished video conferencing equipment by increasing bandwidth.   We have clients with refurbished or used video conferencing CODECS functioning reliably almost 10 years.  Our firm is more than 10 years old and we have never had used or refurbished videoconferencing CODEC returned because of a malfunction.

There are always used and refurbished equipment available as many larger firms lease endpoints for 3 or 5 years.  Distributors often purchase these units, clean them up, flash upgrade the firmware, and assemble new cabling and they are ready to go.  Today there is no reason not to have video conferencing in a small and medium sized enterprise.  There is ample inventory of reliable used and refurbished video conferencing equipment.

If you are considering video conferencing on a limited budget don’t rule out used or refurbished equipment. This option can be a great value with a very quick return on investment. Certainly call us as we can help you avoid painful mistakes in the process.  Call 330.677.5566.  You can also reach us by video at