Over the past eight years, Kevin Pashuk has overseen three major videoconferencing projects in Ontario: building a telemedicine network for a medical school from scratch, upgrading a system for a college and overhauling one for a private school.
So he knows that if there’s a business need for it, IT managers shouldn’t fear the network demands of videoconferencing.
“Decisions are made quicker,” says Pashuk, now chief information office of Appleby College in Oakville, Ont. “Video adds an element of the building of community, the building of network, the ability to build trust across space and time.”
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. System manufacturers and industry analysts admit there is still handwringing among a number of IT and network managers when told to prepare for on-premise videoconferencing.
“I believe there is great fear, uncertainty and doubt on the part of network managers because they haven’t looked into the situation carefully,” says Andrew Davis, senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research, which specializes in unified communications.
Worries about bandwidth, capacity, interoperability between systems and the lack of a globally accepted directory system for reaching outside the firewall are chief concerns.
“It is for the most part the most bandwidth-intensive and latency sensitive application a network manager is going to face,” warns Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president of research at the Yankee Group. “VoIP doesn’t even come close.”
But others say that things are getting better and with perseverance and planning an organization can make good use of the technology.
“For people who have deployed real-time communications like voice over IP networks, video is nothing new,” says Ian Gallagher, a unified communications product specialist at Cisco Systems Canada. “The fact is that higher bandwidth is almost a moot point.”
The main work, he says, is making sure end points can handle the additional bandwidth needed, and then properly configuring call control to restrict the number of video calls that can be made over restricted bandwidth.
On the other hand, he admits it can be a big step for those who have never deployed any form of quality of service or voice over a WAN depending on the kind of videoconferencing needed.
Use in business is rising
Videoconferencing has been around in one form or another for 15 years. But its use in organizations has risen steadily in the past three years due to several factors: The increasing shift from proprietary protocols to SIP (session initiation protocol), a steady drop in the price of bandwidth, improved image quality and the cutting of travel budgets thanks to the recession.