Videoconferencing is an increasingly viable communication tool for businesses of all sizes. However, there is no one-size-fits-all videoconferencing solution; the one that fits best depends on the size of a business, the nature of a business, and what a business wants to accomplish.
Larger businesses can opt for providing all employees with desktop videoconferencing capabilities, multiple room-based systems, one or more immersive telepresence systems, or some combination thereof. Whatever the configurations you choose, the muscle and might resides on the core of your network, in the IT closet.
Systems may include per-seat licenses for as many employees as necessary, each endpoint (a desktop or a room) equipped with the necessary cameras, microphones, and videoconferencing software. The addition of a bridge, which can handle anywhere from a dozen or so users up to hundreds of users, enables multi-way videoconferencing; multiple bridges, which can be placed in various offices or branches, multiply the number of possible simultaneous users.
You can also add a recording box to the system, which allows you to record video conferences and stream content to dozens of users. With the addition of a dedicated streaming box, you can create a sort of corporate YouTube where thousands of users can access recorded content at once.
The crème de la crème solution is the immersive telepresence system, which is essentially a room containing a video display wall, the ability to hold simultaneous calls between large groups of people, and the ability to call virtually any other videoconferencing system. Immersive telepresence is ideal for corporate training sessions, conducting university classes online, and government applications.
You don’t need special bandwidth capabilities to run even the most elaborate system; the broadband Internet that most companies already have in place is sufficient.
The cost of a videoconferencing system varies widely. In general, however, the more functionality you add to a system, the higher the price. Instead of buying every component separately, it’s typical to buy everything you need as a package from a single vendor. However, many customers buy the displays—typically large-screen HDTVs—on their own, as it’s often more cost-effective that way.
Desktop endpoints cost in the neighborhood of $100 per seat, with rooms running anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how elaborate a given room is. Bridges cost between about $25,000 up to a couple hundred thousand dollars, depending on how many simultaneous users they support. A recording box may cost around $25,000, and you can expect to pay approximately $75,000 for a streaming box. Immersive telepresence solutions run between about $150,000 to $500,000 per room, depending on the scale of a given installation and its amenities.