Video Conferencing – one way to cut travel expenses

Author: Nola Young

 

The Scenario:

 A client of mine has offices located across Canada (in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary) and in Australia. The principals of his organization must meet on a regular basis to discuss business details. All that air fare can sure add up.

Question:

 What is needed for video conferencing and how difficult is it to set up?

Answer:

 Like all things the answer is dependent on your goals and much you want to invest. In the above case a less-expensive method was needed as the business leaders did not want a huge investment up front. They preferred to work with the technology and grow with it as they learn more.

In this scenario each person needs the following:

  • High Speed Internet Access: DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is preferred, but it will work with ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) and Cable. Both, DSL and ISDN provide high bandwidth over copper or fibre cabling where
  • Video Cam: This is a small camera that sits on the top of your computer. You can also use a traditional video camera and video capture card. Both options work well, but the later is more expensive. So unless you already have a video camera and a video capture card for other purposes, a video cam will be more

I have found that a video cam (such as the Logitech Quick Cam Pro 3000) works just as well as a camera and costs less than $200 complete with a built in microphone.

  • Sound card: You’ll want your computer to have a good quality sound card that allows for full duplex audio (meaning that you can talk bi-directionally), with speakers, and microphone
  • Software: Popular options are NetMeeting, CUseeME software or SeeSaw. These let you connect directly with anothe rpart or enter chat rooms. For example, CUseeMe software lets you enter CUseeMe World, where the company’s chat rooms

Also recommended, but optional, are earphones. This will greatly reduce the echo or feedback that can result from the microphone picking up the sound coming out of the speakers.

Note: While a head set (which has the earphones and the microphone together) will work for one-on-one – conference, if you plan to have someone in the room with you it is better to have a separate microphone.

Once everything is installed and the software is configured, all you need is the computer IP (Internet Protocol) address of the other party or parties and you can ring them up. They accept the call and your camera begins to roll.

Video conferencing is typically used for business, education and training but can also be used for personal uses. I recently had a video conference with my family members for my sister’s birthday. She was on Vancouver Island, and we were in Waterloo. We were able to see her and talk with her and we even sang Happy Birthday.

Traditionally the beneficiaries of this communication medium has been the larger corporations who would invest large sums of money in server based deployment of this technology and the network infrastructure to support them. However, with the advances in computer technology, faster processors, better audio and video compression schemes and access to high speed connectivity networks it has made it possible to integrate audio and video into the personal computer environment.

The key to success, with video conferencing, is the setup and the amount

of bandwidth you have available. Both video and audio is very bandwidth intensive over the Internet, so a high speed Internet connection is very important.

The setup can be moderately difficult if you do not know what you are doing. Furthermore, if you or your company has a firewall, additional work is needed to open the appropriate ports to allow for multimedia throughput.

You can connect with a part (or parties) directly, or you can log into a video chat room operated by a third party and chat with other people. Some Video chat rooms are designed specifically for business and can cost in the range of 30 cents a minute. These are the ideal rooms because they are secure (password protected) and you will have no interruptions from curious visitors.

Other video chat rooms are free but are less private. Still, depending on what you want to use them for, these rooms can be equally effective.

Nola Young, president of Netwerx of Waterloo and author of The Record’s monthly feature E-biz. On March 21, she will offer a seminar “Effective Web Development – What’s Your

Strategy?,” to the KW chapter of Digital Eve, a non-profit organization dedicated to women and technology. The event runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m in the Cafeteria of St. David’s High School. The cost is $5.00 for employed persons and $3.00 for students and seniors. Register by e-mailing your name to: events@kw.digitalevecanada.com and include the words March 21st in the subject line.

For more information on KW Digital Eve go to: Digital Eve Kitchener Waterloo Chapter


Nola Young is the president of KW Digital Solutions. Send your comments or questions by email or call 519-741-7641.