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Options for video conferencing on a budget

Video conferencing is a really useful tool that can bring together groups of people across huge distances. The benefits of video conferencing are obvious – you save money and reduce your carbon footprint because you don’t need to travel so much, and you have more time and can achieve a better work/life balance. However, many people don’t take advantage of video conferencing because they feel it would be too expensive to set up, and while it’s true that buying dedicated video conferencing systems is a big investment, there are many more low cost options for video conferencing on a budget. Here are some suggestions.

Skype
Perhaps the lowest cost – or free – option for video conferencing is to use Skype. This peer-to-peer, cloud-based service lets you speak to and see other Skype users on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. If you only want to conference with one other person the call is free, so long as you both have Skype accounts. You can also do group conferences with up to 10 callers for a low monthly fee plus the cost of the call. Skype is one of the cheapest options for video conferencing on a budget, but it’s not necessarily the best. You are dependent on the quality of equipment and broadband speed of all callers, and the video and audio can often break up or fall down altogether. You’re also reliant on Skype’s servers being available all the time, and as this is a free service there are no guarantees. If you want to use conference calling for family and friends Skype is a reasonable option, but if you’re using it for business use there are more reliable solutions available.

LifeSize Connections
LifeSize Connections is another cloud-based option for video conferencing on a budget that gives everyone access to high definition video conferencing. To use LifeSize Connections you need to purchase some software (currently £269) and then pay a low monthly fee which varies depending on how many users you need, but starts at as little as £20 a month. No specialist equipment is needed, other than a web cam and microphone, and LifeSize Connections can be ready to use in minutes. You can conference with up to 9 other people and users don’t need to have the software; you can invite them to the conference instantly. The downside is that once again you are reliant on the network connection and the equipment so call quality can fluctuate.

LifeSize ClearSea
Another option from LifeSize is ClearSea, which is an incredibly flexible, interoperable video conferencing solution. LifeSize ClearSea is open and interoperable; users can seamlessly connect from their desktops or mobile devices to any standards-based video collaboration system or infrastructure solution in seconds. LifeSize ClearSea Server is available as a hardware appliance or virtual machine software and includes a state-of-the-art HD desktop client for PC/Mac and Android/iOS smartphones and tablets.

Smarter Managed Video Conferencing Service
If you need to conference regularly with another office and need a reliable connection Smarter’s own Managed Video Conferencing Service could well be the best option for video conferencing on a budget. With the Managed Service you purchase basic video conferencing equipment (starting at around £2000) and then rent “ports” through which you connect. Each port costs £99 a month and uses Smarter’s fast, reliable network to carry the video and audio.  So if you needed to connect with one other location you can rent two ports at £198 a month – it won’t take long to recoup the cost when you calculate the petrol you’ll be able to save!

Something to bear in mind is that the video conferencing solutions above are really only useful if you are communicating with one person in front of a computer or camera. If you require whole-room conferencing – where the camera can view the whole room and everyone can be seen and heard – you may find that a dedicated system, while more expensive, provides a better return on investment in the long run and is actually a more practical solution for your particular requirements.

These are just some of the options for video conferencing on a budget. To find out more about what’s available, give us a call on 0118 336 0010 and ask to speak to one of our experts.

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