Video Conferencing: Cost Vs Quality

The hidden costs of ‘low cost’ video conferencing solutions

Friday, September 30, 2011 | Staff Writer

Online video conferencing solutions like Skype, Oovoo, Google Talk and Yahoo! Messenger rose to prominence because they were mostly free (often with some minor fees for added features or certain international calls) and easy to use (often via proprietary downloadable software). These low cost services have been popular with the consumer market, and are widely used by start-ups and SMBs – Skype has over 663 million registered users, with approximately 37% of these estimated to be small business users.
Although many small businesses are using services like Skype for video conferencing, these consumer grade services have significant limitations in a business setting. ‘Hidden costs’ to the business using a ‘free’ or low-cost video conferencing solution include:
Poor user experience:
Consumer grade video conferencing services tend to operate via the open Internet, making the calls vulnerable to network fluctuations and delays. Public bandwidth is becoming increasingly taxed, leading to slower performance. This can create a finicky, frustrating user experience as the conversation can stall or be interrupted multiple times

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Dropped calls:
Professional business meetings conducted via video conference depend on consistent, reliable connectivity. Low-cost video conferencing services tend to frequently drop the calls – causing frustration and disrupting the flow of the discussion
Inconsistent video quality:
As part of the network fluctuations, low-cost video conferencing services tend to have slight lags in the streaming video that accompanies the audio. People’s lips do not always sync up with the words they are speaking, creating a disorienting experience that undermines confidence. Poor video quality is likely to be a major reason why video conferencing is used less often than audio conferencing – according to recent research from Wainhouse, in 2010 there were 80 billion audio conferencing minutes used, compared to  
Diminished credibility:
Any business using a consumer grade video conferencing service is likely to incur hidden costs such as lost opportunities, lost time, and lost credibility with clients and suppliers due to the poor quality of the video conferencing experience. Low-cost video conferencing services might have the unintended consequence of making the business look ‘smaller‘ than it actually is.

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