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Teleconference and Video Conferencing Solutions

We installed teleconferencing phones in our two primary conference rooms plus our training room. We selected and installed Polycom phones, recognizable by their triangular shape. (Some of our folks have actually called our help desk to get some assistance with "the spaceship on the table." Fortunately, we know what they mean.)

The Polycom phones are great speakerphones. By design, the triangular shape broadcasts the sound out of speakers on each of the three sides, making hearing the call a pleasure for a group in the room. What makes using the Polycom a pleasure for the remote party is the ability on certain models to add extended microphones. We use two of these extended mics on the Polycom SoundStation EX phone in our boardroom. Built into the table is a central panel containing the base, then under the table going to each end of the table are additional panels that store the extended mics. During a teleconference call, we pull out the remote mics. Afterward, we hide the mics back in the table.

One area that we stopped short of completing was introducing videoconferencing. I can't claim to be a videoconferencing expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I did learn several things that I'd like to share with you. In my observation, there are two basic types of video conferences:

  • You see the remote party.

  • You see yourselves as well as the remote party.

In both cases, a video camera in the room displays to the remote party what you're doing. In the second case, you also get a chance to see what you're displaying, which is nice if you need to make some adjustments to your presentation to completely convey your message.

To use videoconferencing effectively, you need to use the type of communication that the remote party can receive. Consider Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), digital telecommunications lines that can transmit both voice and digital network services at up to 128K. The other option is Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), the typical Internet signaling. ISDN has been more popular and is considered legacy. The positive aspect is that early adopters of videoconferencing technology likely have this type of setup, so you're likelier to be able to make the connection. On the downside, you usually have to pay a regular monthly fee to have an ISDN phone line, plus long distance fees when videoconferencing.

Some new videoconferencing technologies use the TCP/IP protocol and bandwidth of the Internet. This system connects to your existing broadband Internet connection. It has the potential for a faster connection, as most broadband Internet exceeds 128K. Until enough people switch from ISDN to TCP/IP, however, making a connection will be more challenging. To cover my bases, I've heard that some videoconferencing systems support either communication platform.

In conclusion, having all of this equipment in the rooms or on the cart makes it simple to use. No longer do we have to worry about finding the right equipment at the last minute. Just push the button to select the source, and let the show begin!

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