5 Things You Need to Know About Videoconferencing

1. Your office is now optional. A recent study from Infonetics Research projects that enterprises will spend $5 billion on videoconferencing and telepresence by 2015. To accommodate the need for instant connectivity and information sharing at the office, CIOs need to coordinate IT investments with physical space. Vendors like Polycom and Steelcase are teaming up to integrate audio, video and file sharing using multiple ports and display screens at office meeting tables. KKR, a private equity firm, has been using HD videoconferencing for four years among its 14 global offices. "We prefer to do a video call because it adds another layer of interaction," says CIO Ed Brandman. "You have everyone's undivided attention."

2. One window shows all your applications. Companies are using unified communications (UC) platforms like Microsoft Lync and Avaya Flare as videoconferencing catchalls. These platforms consolidate all the windows workers have on their computer screens at any time, including videoconferences. They also integrate social media, so employees can video chat with anyone from their social networks. The trade-off, experts say, is that users must abandon preferred chat clients and adapt to using UC for everything.

3. You can access video on the go. FaceTime on the iPhone 4 offers only one-on-one chat, and you may have to sacrifice quality with other free options, like Tango. Skype Mobile, which works with Wi-Fi and 3G, can handle multiple parties at once, but the connection can be unreliable and not all smartphones support video calls. Until more sophisticated networks are introduced, such services are best suited for informal calls.

4. Free options offer limited quality. Free solutions like Skype and Google are not always suitable for the enterprise-you don't want to be fussing with the connection at an important board meeting. Many chat clients have video options, so for one-on-one conversations, free video chat may work fine. But a recent Forrester report by analyst TJ Keitt says 72 percent of workers still don't want desktop videoconferencing, adding that companies need a clear idea of what they will use video for: "Businesses distribute it with no sense of how it should be used."

5. Live feeds are the next frontier. Live streaming can be a helpful tool for sharing events with people who can't attend or who want to watch them later. Applications such as Video Center from LifeSize or free downloads like Ustream let users upload a videoconference so they can watch it anywhere. The United Kingdom's National Health Service is planning to use a live-feed video application to broadcast surgeries to new doctors.

Follow Editorial Assistant Lauren Brousell on Twitter: @lbrousell.

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