A video conferencing facility – once the preserve of large corporations – is rapidly becoming a standard feature of boardrooms of even small businesses.
Graeme Victor, CEO of telecommunications solutions company Du Pont Telecom, says rising travel costs coupled with a growth in increasingly affordable Internet bandwidth has resulted in massive demand for video conferencing capabilities.
“The ready availability of ‘free’ video communication services, such as those offered by Skype, Windows Messenger and Google Chat, has given entrepreneurs a taste for the benefits of video conferencing,” he explains.
“Business people have become accustomed to ‘skyping’ their colleagues rather than battling through ever-worsening traffic congestion to get to meetings. With the imminent implementation of hefty toll road fees in Gauteng, and the rising cost of petrol, the frequency of video meetings is likely to increase further.”
However, as the utilisation of the free video communications services has increased, so business people have become increasingly frustrated by their many limitations. Victor points out that while Skype has become a ubiquitous consumer service, it was never intended as a business tool.
Effective business-quality video conferencing should be able to connect users in two or more remote locations with each other as if they were in the same room. It should enable users to see, hear and have a natural conversation with each other in realtime. Skype and other online video call services don’t allow for that.
“Skype-type services bridge the gap between no video conferencing and some video conferencing, and are a wonderful way for people to stay in touch with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. But as a business tool, they leave much to be desired,” he says.
Specific limitations for those who want to conduct business meetings over free services like Skype include the fact that image resolution if generally poor, preventing projection on to a larger screen, and presentations and on-screen documents cannot be displayed easily.
“Quality video conferencing systems have become considerably more affordable over the years, and now the availability of low-cost bandwidth has made them economical to operate as well. This means even cash-strapped SMEs can experience all the benefits of video conferencing without the limitations and frustrations inherent in the ‘free’ services,” Victor concludes.