How do I do a videoconference with more than two locations at the same time?

There are several ways to video conference with more than two locations at the same time. One way is to use a third party video conferencing bridging service. There are many benefits in using a bridging service. First you are freeing up bandwidth at your location. Multi-site video conferences can use a lot of bandwidth, especially if you are in high definition video calls and sharing computer input through collaboration. Second most bridging services can comingle end points using a computer or comingle participants calling on a regular telephone. A third advantage with a bridging service is the fact that most can accommodate a high number of video end points

Another way to video conference with more than two locations is through an on board bridge feature built right into the video conferencing system. Some systems can accommodate up to 9 total video calls at one time. Most manufactures accommodate up to 4 locations at one time, through the on board bridge feature. The advantage with the built-in multi-site feature or MCU is the elimination the bridging service costs. If most of your video conferences are more than two locations at one time, there is a big cost advantage in having the built in MCU on your system. You need to make sure your network and bandwidth can accommodate multi-site calls.

There is a term associated with Multi-Site video conferencing – “Continuous Presence.” Simply, this means you can see everybody on the viewing screen at one time. Just like the “Hollywood Squares” TV game show. Some manufactures boast that they can connect 9 locations at one time on a room system; however you can only see four at one time while the other 5 is audio only. Be careful to ask the right questions with your equipment provider to make sure the multi-site feature has “Continuous Presence.” Some clients are disappointed in their purchase when they discover only 4 can be seen at one time with their on board 9 port MCU.

Another cool feature with most on-board MCU’s is speed dialing. If you are conferencing the same meeting every week, let’s say the weekly management meeting, you can preprogram all the numbers of each location into one button on the remote. All your locations are connected with one or two entries on your remote.

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