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3/13/2012
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Training, Network Bandwidth Top Videoconferencing Concerns

More than 70% of companies expect to have active videoconferencing capabilities within a year, despite IT challenges, survey finds.

Videoconferencing is becoming mainstreamed into the workplace, but so are some of the management challenges that go along with the new technology. According to a survey released Tuesday, 55% of respondents say they have adopted some form of videoconferencing in their organization and more than 70% will within a year. But IT departments are challenged to provide proper training of employees on how to use video, enough bandwidth for the video stream, and enough compute power to do video processing.

The concerns about delivering quality videoconferencing are contained in the fifth annual State of the Network Global Study from Network Instruments, an application and network management tool vendor. Two other sections of the report assess the opportunities and challenges of cloud computing and software applications, respectively.

Videoconferencing has become an integral part of enterprise unified communications platforms that help employees better collaborate with one another on projects, particularly when workers are widely distributed across the country or around the globe.

[ Get the most bang for your UC buck. See 6 Steps To Maximize Your Unified Communications ROI. ]

The survey showed that 71% of respondents expect to have a video system deployed within the next 12 months, if they haven't already. The most widely used type of videoconferencing system is the videoconference room, chosen by 75% of respondents, where the cameras and other equipment are fixed in a conference room that connects to equipment in another conference room. Desktop videoconferencing, where some participants join a meeting from their office, will be used by 63%. Only 30% plan to use a high-end telepresence room where high-definition cameras and high-bandwidth connections deliver a crisp and clear image.

In addition, 58% of respondents plan to combine different types of systems. Videoconferencing system vendors such as Cisco Systems, Polycom, and Logitech support this by offering a range of technologies, from teleconference rooms to desktop systems to ones that deliver video to a tablet computer or smartphone.

But videoconferencing systems don't always deliver the perfect video experience one sees in TV ads or a carefully controlled demo. The study showed that among respondents' challenges, lack of user knowledge and training led the way, with 53% listing it as a concern; followed by allocating and monitoring bandwidth (49%); measuring and maintaining quality of service (47%); lack of monitoring tools and metrics (43%); and delivering enough compute power for video processing (19%).

The first concern, about training, can be overcome as employees get used to using the systems, said Charles Thompson, director of product strategy for Network Instruments.

"[There ] is a larger concern about the network's ability to handle the volume of traffic that is going to be produced by video, in terms of allocating and monitoring video's use of bandwidth," Thompson added.

But he makes another point that the measures of quality in a videoconferencing environment are still a work in progress. He said network quality is measured in terms of jitter, packet loss, and latency. He said viewers asked to rate the quality of a videoconference experience are using those metrics to provide a mean opinion score of the image.

He argues that codecs are an important component when determining quality derived from these metrics. A codec, short for "code-decode," is a method of coding a signal for transmission and decoding it for playback.

"Without being able to tie video quality to codecs and so forth, it's a lot more difficult. [Jitter, packet loss, and latency] are a lot less meaningful in the video space, but tying them together with the codec greatly enhances the ability to determine quality," Thompson said. "Today there's not a lot of great standards out there to define what is a good score for a video."

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 26-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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