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How do you define a Small Business? By the number of employees? By the size of your annual budget? Regardless of how you classify a business as a “Small Business,” Video Conferencing solutions are very scalable in both numbers of users and cost. Let’s examine both definitions to cover all angles.
There are some critical pieces of information needed when designing a Video Conferencing system for small businesses. You will need to know how many sites you will have, the intended calling patterns between sites, and how many people will be in a video conference at each endpoint. Once you gather that information, you will need to consider your budget. For tips on getting the Video Conferencing solution you want and at a price you can afford, please see our article, “How Much Does Video Conferencing Cost?”
The easy starting place is determining how many sites you have. For example, if you have three offices, two mobile employees, and an executive who works from his home in Florida for three months of the year – you have six sites. This number is important when considering the bridging ability required when selected the products for each location.
Bridging, or combining sites, can be handled in different methods including: hosting a call from a Video Conferencing unit that has an embedded MCU (Multi-Conferencing Unit); using an external hardware bridge (pricy); or using a hosted bridge (AKA “The Cloud”).
The frequency of use is not a consideration when selecting products. This is a function of your data provider (not your Voip provider). What you need to know here is how many sites will be on a given Video Conference call, which site will be making the calls, and which sites will use data-sharing either as the presenter or as a participant.
So, your main office will host weekly Sales Team meetings, which will include all of your six sites. The two mobile users will hold conference calls with outside experts and clients. The executive in Florida will be calling only point-to-point. In this scenario, the main location needs an embedded bridge with a six-site capacity; the mobile users will need an application that can be taken anywhere and handle multi-way calls with data-sharing; and the executive needs a means to communicate one-on-one.
So now that you know the basic elements you need to deploy an effective Video Conferencing system, let’s talk budget. There are several ways to work within a budget – you can choose a manufacturer with a lower price point, or you can choose options that are scalable with add-ons.
There are three major players in the Video Conferencing space – Cisco (Tandberg), Polycom, and LifeSize. This is not so much an Oligopoly as it is a group of manufacturers who have perfected their craft. There are other lower cost options in Video Conferencing, such as AVer, that have similar feature sets and that do not have a long history with an industry-backed reputation.
This is a household name in the Video and Voice space. We have all seen the sleek designs on the desks of television heroes and heads of state. This is a guaranteed homerun every time, and just like All-Stars, Cisco comes with a large price tag.
The successful crossover from a totally immersive Video Conferencing room to a hybrid small room-based system was introduced by this acclaimed company. Polycom has had a lot of firsts – including high definition voice – and they continue to adapt and change with the times. Priced as the middle option, this technology leader offers solutions that are complex and customized.
Welcome aboard, LifeSize. Sprouted by Polycom executives who wanted something edgier, this company introduced High Definition Video Conferencing in 2005. With a palatable price point and bandwidth requirements low enough for even home users, LifeSize has brought attention to Video Conferencing in a way that the larger manufacturers could have only wished. LifeSize has driven changes in the market including smaller system offerings and prices that small businesses can afford.
So what are the options for our mock company? Remember we have six sites – one main office to host a six-way call, two other offices, two mobile workers, and an executive who works from home. The solutions broken-down by manufacturer, for example, are as follows:
This Cisco Telepresence elite solution will run you a grand total of $34,999.96 plus $494 per month.
Why buy? This Cisco solution is sleek and has add-ons such as Voip-Out and a monthly subscription to a 6- or 12-way cloud-based bridge.
This reliable and effective Polycom Video Conferencing solution includes the dual displays and totals $49,981.00 plus $5,506.99 in yearly recurring license fees.
Why buy? This Polycom solution comes with dual displays for the office locations and integration with their amazing voice products, such as the award-winning ip7000 conference phone.
LifeSize, the interoperability leader, totals $34,495.00 plus $5,984.00 ($6702.00 after year one) in yearly recurring maintenance fees.
Why buy? This LifeSize solution has a 9-way call capacity from any user and free unlimited guest invitations for use with vendors, investors, and clients. Up-to two free guests can be on a call at any given time.
Keep in mind that your company may have different needs than our example company, which has six locations. The great part about these proposed solutions is that they are scalable for growth. So, whether you consider your business small in form or small in finance, there are solutions to fit your needs. For further detail on the components, please read, “Types of Video Conferencing Equipment,” or contact the Video Conferencing experts at Voip Supply 1(855) 820-8006 or VideoConferencing@voipsupply.com.