Companies seeking a web and video conferencing solution need to go no further than a search on the Internet to find a reputable vendor. It is generally available as a managed online service, on-premise software that is installed and managed locally behind the firewall on a standard PC server, or as traditional ‘boardroom-style’ video conferencing hardware. However, the latter solution is very expensive and complex.
Traditional video conferencing systems require one or more dedicated phone lines, and in some cases dedicated video switching equipment. These systems can range upwards from $25,000, which may not be feasible or affordable for the average small business. IP-based web and video conferencing is powered by standard, inexpensive video and audio peripherals that can be purchased at any retail outlet. This broadens the reach of this conferencing alternative by allowing small business to connect with anyone that also has a PC, web cam and high-speed Internet connection – without the need for any special hardware or software.
The ability to utilize standard web browsers, off-the-shelf web cameras and existing network infrastructure has accelerated the popularity and growth of web and video conferencing and has helped to drive it into most vertical markets, including finance, manufacturing, engineering, healthcare, law, commercial training and business services, among many others.
While smaller companies may be headquartered and do business from one location, conducting business has become more global in nature. Customers, partners, vendors and suppliers can be located in the next state or on several continents. In addition, finding experienced staff may require interviewing applicants from other locales. Web and video conferencing is an ideal way to interview potential employees and contractors because it allows you to interact as if you were in the same room regardless of time zone differences.
Training and customer support are also two popular applications that have helped to proliferate the use of web and video conferencing in companies of all sizes. Training can take place from anywhere and at any pre-designated time. The remote control feature within web conferencing allows the host to take control of another individuals PC (with permission) to actually show conference attendees how to perform a specific task, or use a software application, for example. Because video brings a personal, human touch to a web conference, it is ideal for customer and technical support. Issues can be resolved in real-time with the combined use of desktop/application sharing, audio, video, remote control and/or chat, if necessary.
Small business can face the hurdles and challenges of limited staff and budget and compete successfully at the same time by increasing its reach to new markets across geographic boundaries without breaking the bank. Web and video conferencing allow sales staff to ‘meet’ with more sales prospects in a shorter amount of time. The ability to give a lengthy sales presentation without the burden of travel expenses, airport hassles and short-staffing the office increases the productivity of sales personnel and will subsequently increase sales revenues.