Note: This is a guest post by Rachel Greenberg from VoIPReview.org. VoIPReview.org pioneered the concept of comparing VoIP service providers and is an information resource for both consumer and small business VoIP providers.
Lots of small businesses love VoIP service because VoIP makes it easy for a small company to put forward a highly polished and professional appearance. For example, a simple hosted PBX service with an auto attendant can give a small company the same outward appearance as a high-powered enterprise.
One of the biggest advantages for any business that switches to a VoIP system is in the easy-to-use conference calling functionality. VoIP conference calling services allow you to hold phone conferences with anywhere from 3 to 50 people depending on the service provider. But while many people are taking advantage of VoIP conference calling, not as many have discovered the benefits of IP video conferencing. As with VoIP conference calling, IP video conferencing is a great and inexpensive way to host a video conference.
So why is that so many people have failed to take on an IP video conferencing solution? At VoIP Review, we think there are a couple of reasons that people aren’t jumping on the opportunity to get an IP video conferencing service:
1. Cost: On the outside, an IP conferencing solution can look expensive, and if a business doesn’t already have any of the equipment they will need, it may seem prohibitively expensive to implement a video conferencing solution. However, there is a wide range of video conferencing solutions available for a wide range of prices. This means that a business with just a few employees doesn’t need to pay the same amount as a business with 100 employees. When you shop around a little bit, you should be able to find a wide selection of prices and plans for offices of all different sizes and requirements. For example, 8×8 offers a range of video conferencing plans starting at $99/month and ranging upwards to $500/month.
2. Ease of setup: Some people may be intimidated by the idea of setting up a whole video conferencing system, but no one should have to worry about this. Most providers have excellent customer support. In fact, customer support is such a big deal to VoIP providers that many advertise their customer support service among their most important features. And video conferencing solutions don’t need to be elaborate. In fact, any laptop or smartphone with a built-in camera is already good to go for video conferencing. If you computer doesn’t have a built in camera, you can find a camera attachment for very cheap.
3. Higher pressure than regular phone conferences: While it’s true that you won’t be able to have a conference in your sweats anymore, this is a small price to pay for the benefits your business will enjoy as a result of implementing an IP video solution. There’s no substitute for a face-to-face conference to improve your office’s professional appearance, and to make your conferences that much more productive.
Benefits Outweigh Drawbacks
We have found that the benefits of an IP video conferencing solution will greatly outweigh any possible drawbacks. Today, you can choose from such a wide range of IP video conferencing solutions, you should have no problem finding a VoIP service with video conferencing that is perfect for your office.
You may even be able to use a free video conferencing service for some of your conferences. Skype and Google Chat are probably the most popular two free video conferencing services, and these are good services for conferences among just two or three parties, but they are pretty low-tech services. With the free versions, you won’t get the best sound or picture quality, and there will be a limit on how many parties can participate.
Small to Medium to Enterprise Businesses
If you have a small or medium-sized office, you can find a modest video conferencing solution with some reasonably sophisticated cameras, but nothing over the top. You can get a really cheap camera attachment for around $20, but these cheap cameras probably won’t do much to improve the professional image of your business. However, you can get some better cameras in the range of $130 to $1000.
And finally, an enterprise can get an extremely sophisticated video conferencing solution like the one available from Jive. Video conferencing equipment can get pretty pricey and sophisticated at this level, too, from around $100 to upwards of $10000, but this equipment is of extremely high quality and is well suited to the professional image needs of any enterprise or high-level company.
Whatever your budget, an IP video conferencing solution will significantly improve your interactions with employees, associates, and clients. The personal feel of a video conference is essential for best business interactions. Also, the willingness to invest in a video conference system reflects very well on your business as it shows that your business cares very much about its professional appearance and interactions.
Success Hinges on Showing What You Mean
And it’s amazing how much meaning can be lost when we try to communicate entirely through email or by phone. There is a lot of meaning in a look, and it may make all the difference in your company’s success if you are actually able to see your associates and clients when you talk to them.
Of course, many business owners are well aware that a face-to-face interaction is best, and so they are all too willing to ship their employees off on business trips in order to secure deals and hold conferences. When you compare the one-time cost of a video conferencing system to the cost of flying one or two employees across the country in a year, the potential for savings could be huge.
For example, say you needed to fly two employees from California to China and back. The cost of air travel alone would be around $1800. Compare this to the yearly cost of a small video conferencing package with 8×8. Service for one year would cost $1200, and a few nice cameras would cost an extra $400 or so. Even without taking into account the cost of hotels, rented cars, and meals, a video conferencing system is clearly the more economic choice.
By Rachel Greenberg, VoIPReview.org Site Editor