Lower-cost technologies, improved ease of use, and more options mean companies will find more uses for videoconferencing
W.R. Grace & Co. first tried video-conferencing five years ago while coordinating a global SAP deployment. Rather than flying in technical staff from around the globe for meetings, the maker of speciality chemicals invested $200,000 in a videoconference bridge and equipment. Within two months, the technology had paid for itself in travel savings.
The company now holds about 40 to 60 videoconferences a month and in the next few years plans to shift from ISDN lines to low-cost IP networks, leading to even broader deployment among its 6,000 employees. "I believe it's ready," says Guy Welty, the company's manager of global media networks and collaboration services.
Analysts expect to see more examples of companies depending on videoconferencing as a key communications tool. Lower-cost technologies, improved ease of use, and more services will fuel much of this growth.
Last week, videoconferencing vendors Polycom Inc. and Avaya Inc. said they'll jointly develop IP-telephony-enabled video software that will simplify the use of videoconferencing. Genesys Conferencing introduced an on-demand videoconferencing service that customers can reserve without operator assistance for $40 an hour. And WiredRed Software Corp. this week will introduce e/pop Web Conferencing, an IP-based service that includes audio and video, starting at $2,000 a year for five concurrent users.
These types of developments are what companies want, says Andy Nilssen, an analyst at Wainhouse Research. The research firm predicts services sales growth will outpace equipment, as many companies have already purchased the hardware. New capabilities from videoconferencing service providers include on-call help desks, remote network diagnosis, and software updates.
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