Why is videoconferencing a critical application in the IT infrastructure?

The IT infrastructure and the network is the nerve center of any company or organization. Email, VoIP and intent access are critical applications that can make or break an organization in today’s business environment. Videoconferencing needs to be included as yet another critical application within the IT infrastructure. Two concerns are typical within this infrastructure — One is bandwidth and the other is configuration. The first concern is bandwidth. The good news is there are many providers and with this competition, very good pricing and costs strategies. Rule of thumb would be whatever bandwidth you think you require double or even triple it as your needs will far outgrow your initial assessment, especially if there is video conferencing in the plan.

Video conferencing, especially high definition video conferencing uses a lot of bandwidth. Jokingly IT staff often calls video conferencing a “BSA” or “Bandwidth Sucking Application.” It certainly can be, however with enough bandwidth and the proper configuration video conferencing is just another part of the network infrastructure. The key is to plan for video conferencing in your network ahead of time.

Configuration also has a major impact on video conferencing. If you are already using VoIP and it’s working smoothly your network configuration will accommodate video conferencing. One good way to configure the network is through MPLS or Multi Protocol Label Switching. MPLS prioritizes data packets for voice and video. This means that all other traffic, like email or other internet traffic gets a secondary priority. MPLS with QOS or Quality of Service accommodate video conferencing and insures quality and reliability.

If all else fails and you can’t accommodate video conference as part your IT or network infrastructure you can always add dedicated circuits for the videoconferencing. As mentioned earlier bandwidth is more priced competitive and it’s a simple process to add DSL or cable dedicated to the video conferencing system or CODEC.

There are times when the network is so badly configured and inadequate that video conferencing will never work and in fact make the network perform worse or even crash. We have one client in this scenario; however we easily worked around this by adding dedicated circuits to the video conferencing units and this had no affect or encumbrance in their network. Management is happy because they didn’t have to wait the many months it will take to correct the network issues to accommodate video conferencing.

How do I configure my network to accommodate videoconferencing?

Over the years companies new to purchasing and using video conferencing got excited about the application possibilities.  They would see a great demo with high quality video at the reseller’s office.  After their purchase buyer’s remorse would sometimes occur and they quickly become disappointed with the equipment because the quality video and audio seems very much degraded.   More often than not the equipment is fine – it’s the network.  Videoconferencing needs bandwidth and many times companies will purchase the hardware and not even consider their network.  If you are sharing your video conferencing application with email, internet access and other telecom functions your video conferencing quality will certainly suffer if you don’t have the proper amount of bandwidth and the correct network configuration.

The most important part of video conferencing is the network.  Before you even consider implementing video conferencing talk to your IT department, network administrator and circuit provider to see if there is enough bandwidth.  The good news is video conferencing technology is getting much more efficient with developments like SVC, (Scalable Video Coding), a video conferencing ITU standard.  Scalable Video Coding keeps the quality of video and audio very good in lower bandwidth environments.  Tiling and image freeze up are all but eliminated with systems that have scalable video coding, (SVC).

Back to the network requirements – First there are three things in video conferencing that will impact your network.  First, is your equipment SD standard definition or HD high definition video?  The later takes up 3 more times the bandwidth.  Second, will you use computer collaboration during a video? On HD this will double the bandwidth required.  Third, are you using an in-house MCU or multipoint control unit?  If the MCU accommodates four simultaneously connections, you need four times more bandwidth with either SD or HD equipment.  These are critical considerations that will impact your network.

One simple way is to purchase dedicated circuits that are exclusive to the video conferencing equipment. There are two benefits to this scenario.  One if your network goes down, you can still video conference because you don’t need a computer server, just the router.  Two there is no interruption in connection or quality of service when your main network is in heavy use.  Another solution is to implement MPLS or Multi Protocol Label Switching.  This prioritizes packets on the network.  Audio and video are given top priority through MPLS so during phone calls using VoIP or video conferencing these packets get sent before any other data.    These simple network configurations will have a major impact on your video conferencing quality.


(3) Big mistakes made when purchasing or implementing video conferencing technology

It is very easy to get confused if you are considering purchasing videoconferencing equipment.  There are many choices in hardware and technology and there are many sources to acquire the technology.  

The first big mistake companies make is not considering how they intend to use the technology in the first place.  You really need to drill down into your main application and explore variety of potential uses and implementing video conferencing.

Ask who you intend to conference with:  Other offices internal to your company; Outside of the company network with key accounts or vendors in the supply chain; Field service people with mobile devices; etc.  The obvious drivers to get videoconferencing technology is to reduce travel cost, however videoconferencing has a profound effect on production. Consider how this technology will make productivity more efficient.

The second big mistake is no training or support after the videoconferencing is deployed.  Many times managers are eager to roll out a videoconferencing throughout the enterprise only to find out that it’s underutilized and in some cases not used at all.  Resellers or dealers should have a formal training program for everyone in the company who needs to use videoconferencing.  This should be on going as personal change over time.  Videoconferencing really needs to become part of the company’s communications culture.  Implementing video conferencing without training and support often fail.  Companies who get the training often purchase more videoconferencing as they experience a tremendous benefits like cost reduction and increased productivity.

The third big mistake companies are not considering their network when purchasing videoconferencing.  Videoconferencing requires bandwidth.  Often companies are a little too eager to deploy equipment only to find there is not enough bandwidth.  The result is poor video quality; poor audio quality; and connection problems.  Many times companies conclude that the equipment is faulty.  More often than not it’s the network.

There are many ways to correct these problems, for example, reconfiguring the network to MPLS, or Multi Protocol Label Switching.  Simply, this prioritizes data packages for voice and video.  This could have a major impact on videoconferencing quality.  You need to contact your network provider to help you determine the proper amount of bandwidth and the configuration of your network. Implementing video conferencing on your network is critical.