Video and web conferencing: How to choose the system that works best for you

Video conferencing, web conferencing, and online meetings are fast becoming essential tools for organizations that need to communicate with employees, customers, or students in different geographic locations. If you’re thinking about using this technology for your business, it’s important to first outline your needs and then compare them to the various online conferencing systems that are available in the market. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop around for the system that’s best for you:

1. Do you need to communicate with a static site or with a variety of potentially changing sites? Some conferencing systems are designed to connect two or more specific locations. If you have a central office and a fixed branch office that you want to communicate with, then a leased line system could work for you.

However, if you want to connect to a variety of locations or allow people anywhere to join your conference or meeting, you should choose a system that allows you to add users no matter where they log in from.

2. Do you want a browser-based system or can you work with proprietary software? Some of the original web and video conferencing applications had to install their own software and even special hardware. Now it is possible to use conferencing systems that run on all browsers and all operating systems without the need for special hardware. Check out the different systems on offer and choose the one that suits your company’s technical capabilities.

3. Are some of your participants behind firewalls? Today, many, if not most, offices and even individual computers connected to the Internet are protected by firewalls. The firewalls keep hackers out but can also pose a problem for some conferencing systems. Check if the conferencing system of your choice can solve this problem.

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4. How important is video to you? If you want to see your colleagues and employees attending your meetings, you need a system that allows some locations to connect to the meeting with a web camera. Check how many individual video windows are allowed by the different applications you are considering and choose the one that best suits your needs.

5. What features do you need? Want to survey participants and get instant results while online? On some systems, the host can ask a question and all participants can vote or provide an answer with the click of a button.

Would you like to share applications online? For example, if your conferencing system allows application sharing, the host can present PowerPoint presentations that are visible to all participants.

Make a list of the communication features you need and map them to the capabilities of each system you are considering.

6. What is your budget? Of course you want as many features as possible, but you also have to weigh up the costs. When making your decision, consider the benefits you get from communicating online, consider the cost of communicating offline, and then look at the fees charged by conferencing equipment providers. Choose a communication package that gives you a good return on investment.

Armed with this checklist, go online now and search for web or video conferencing and choose a system that will allow you to host your meetings online at an affordable price.

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