How Expensive is Videoconferencing?

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Given how readily available videoconferencing has become, a common reason for companies to shy away from stepping into the modern world is the perceived price of the technology. However, a survey into companies that said they had no videoconferencing software at all discovered that, whilst price was a major reason for their lack of enthusiasm, very few of them had any idea how much it actually costs! For this reason I thought I would shed some light into the cost of videoconferencing, to help companies make a more informed decision as to whether videoconferencing is the right choice for them.

The problem with answering a question like "how expensive is videoconferencing?" is that there answer is entirely dependent of the individual situation; the type of client, the choice of network and the number of endpoints involved in the conference. Although complete conferencing portals for very large companies can cost tens of thousands of pounds to install, a solitary writer at a laptop can set himself up for the price of a webcam and an internet subscription!

For this reason, the best way to ascertain how much videoconferencing will cost your company is to first figure out the acquisition costs; work out how many systems you will need and which features you require them to have. Systems that support ISDN will be more expensive than those that are IP-only, but will support IP as well, for example. You should also consider the type of management software you will require because the price is dependent on the type of site licence. Finally, if you are going to use ISDN, find out how much it will be to set this up based on your distance from the nearest central ISDN office.

Once you have a general idea of the fixed costs, you should consider the running costs; the monthly price of technicians, room reservations, staff training and, most importantly, network access and usage. These charges obviously vary quite a lot, but ISDN charge based on speed, capacity and the distance over which you make video calls. Naturally it is highly advisable to get an estimated quote based on your predicted usage before making a decision based on price, as well as shopping around for the best offer. Although ISDN is much more expensive than IP, it has higher bandwidth, excellent line quality and faster video streaming - making it far preferable, especially for large companies that hold meetings with hundreds of people all over the world. Many small companies, however, that will use videoconferencing less often and for small meetings, may find that they won't benefit enough from the advantages of ISDN to justify the additional costs. Always bear in mind that, whatever the price of videoconferencing, it will save your company huge amounts of time and money that is normally spent on travelling to meetings and conferences, as well as make your meetings of a much higher quality, due to the fact that everybody can join in - not just a select few!

As with any industry, as videoconferencing becomes more popular and commonplace, the price of installations and monthly charges will drop. That being said, it isn't worth waiting too long before jumping aboard, because the benefits of videoconferencing almost always outweigh the costs.

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