What CIOs Need to Know about Desktop Video Conferencing

Practical advice from Purdue Pharma CIO Larry Pickett

At Purdue Pharma, CIO Larry Pickett found the only issue he had with desktop video conferencing was that his vendor, Microsoft, had an instant messaging (IM) client that was built in and enabled by default, which goes against his company's policy of banning IM. Disabling the client added complexity to installing the application across the enterprise, which could result in lower utilization of the tool than he had expected.

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A hosted SaaS model is the cheapest option but it has the lowest image quality because of bandwidth unreliability. An on-premise model relies on software installed on a company's servers, creating a smoother video experience, but it can only involve internal users. A blended model is also an option, says Pickett, where you can choose the appropriate technology for a given meeting, such as one with both external and internal participants.

Performance issues arise with certain solutions and can limit the experience. Since the SaaS model is hosted by a third party, the audio is bridged through a separate connection, creating a one- to two-second delay, which is "very annoying for users on the call," says Pickett. The on-premises model through your company's own network streams the audio and video together, fixing the synching issue. However, you can't include outside callers.

Just because you can implement this technology doesn't mean you should. Pickett says CIOs should ask themselves: Will my employees use it? While the cost benefits of reduced travel are enticing, the savings won't come to fruition unless your employees participate. Try a pilot first, assess the results, then roll it out completely.

As a CIO, think carefully before providing this service because of the complexity of the infrastructure, software, training, bandwidth and support required, says Pickett. "The perception, fueled by the very simple, easy-to-use one-to-one video conferencing built into Macs, makes [desktop video conferencing] appear trivial," he adds. Look first at how all the options will meet your business requirements and set expectations, he says.

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