Working patterns are fluid. Working hours are flexible. Work can happen anywhere and at anytime, and as technology advances so do the ways in which we work. The recent surge in demand for virtual conferencing solutions is undoubtedly testament to this.
But can a virtual meeting compensate for the loss of those all-important head-on meetings, where decisions are reached, thrashed out, sweated over…? Well, perhaps not, but when a virtual meeting lasts on average just 46 minutes and has a mean avoidance travel time of 5.3 hours in comparison to a real face-to-face meeting. And when the latter can, incidentally, last as long as 2 hours, then maybe you’ll think twice.
To Audio or to Video? The thousand-dollar question?
Depending on the choice you make, it could cost you in more ways than one.
Video, more than audio, can use large amounts of bandwidth for live streaming, bandwidth that might not be available. HD, for example, can use as much as 4 Mbps of audio and video transport, and it’s not necessarily the case that more basic platforms use less bandwidth. A simple single Skype call can actually use in excess of 1.2 Mbps. Even without HD video and with as few as 5 participants, it can exceed 2Mbps. What’s more, for the many entry-level video solutions out there, the story can be a similar one.
An audio conference, on the other hand, doesn’t demand huge amounts of bandwidth and can be started from almost anywhere: from a desk phone, from a mobile phone and from your own home. Video simply can’t match audio’s flexibility.
Cost and ease of use
No one has a bottomless pit of money, but the more video tries to replicate face-to-face meetings, the more flexible your organisation’s budget has to be. With audio, however, all that’s needed is a conference bridge, enabling participants to call in over a network using the security of ISDN lines or the internet; microphones and speakers or, at the very least, telephones either fixed or mobile. Video, on the other hand, requires most of these and more, including dedicated conference rooms, high-end cameras and screens if it is to be at its best.
Video as we have already mentioned, also makes greater demands on your internet connection. Coping with a weighty signal means that many connections can’t even handle high-end streaming, particularly 4K visuals. However, if you’re going to replicate a face-to-face meeting as closely as possible, and let’s face it what’s the point of video if you don’t, then you’ll be well advised to invest in active-speaker automated cameras. Of course, they’re yet another expense and require careful consideration in so far as seating plans are concerned, in your dedicated conference rooms.
Audio set up, on the other hand, is simplicity in itself. As long as everyone can be heard, then you’re ready to go! This simplicity ultimately feeds through into lower costs, particularly where conference requirements are low in volume. In this scenario, conference callers can take advantage of low cost local call dial-in numbers anywhere and at anytime, from Taunton to Timbuktu.
Finally, don’t forget that with video you’ll have to make sure that all conference participants are utilising the same provider: unfortunately, many video conferencing companies still remain notoriously bad at collaborating with their counterparts.
Audio conferences are usually more secure than video. Often the reason isn’t just limitations in technology, it’s limitations in implementation. The Internet is open to all, sophisticated criminals included, so companies erect firewalls and adopt complex and lengthy security procedures to protect themselves. However, often for the sake of expediency, many businesses put their conference solutions outside the firewall to avoid additional expense and difficulties in implementation. This is a much-preferred option and often used default feature, making it easier and quicker for a conference to accept incoming calls. However, hackers have taken advantage of this by writing codes to scan the internet for video conferences outside the firewall. They then configure these codes to ‘auto-answer’ calls and break into conferences.
The human factor
Surely video is the nearest thing to face-to-face, and non-verbal messages are just as important as verbal ones? However, time lag is often present in video and can be perceived as a participant’s weakness. What’s more, web cams used in video are often notoriously ineffective in reducing parallax, giving the false impression that participants even avoid eye contact with one another. Ultimately, communication becomes less meaningful, negating the perceived advantage of video.
Participants also have the burden of presenting acceptable on-screen appearances, which often results in appearance anxiety and negative feelings. Such negativity is easily transferred to the conference. Audio, of course, doesn’t shoulder these burdens.
The PayTel advantage – professional telephony grade Audio Conferencing Solutions
Our conferencing solutions include ‘Pay-As-You-Go’ services, with all the standard features you can expect from good audio; ‘Advanced’ conferencing, with premium features for managing larger conferences; and ‘Bespoke’, tailored specifically for you.
Our solutions are easy-to-use and integrate with tools such as iPhone, MS Outlook etc., which can be used to manage conferences via a management portal from wherever the user is based. Management facilities include dialling in additional participants; recognising callers by name, not just number; email invitations; conferences ‘on the fly’ and different caller profiles, allowing different access rights; downloadable reports; recordings and statistics. Recordings can also be encrypted, in order to meet new data protection regulations.
And finally, our servers share space with Tier 1 primary network carriers and multi-national internet service providers. Security is, therefore, guaranteed. Uninterruptible power supplies, back-up generators and multiple cross-platform conferencing bridges prevent single points of failure. And, as a single-provider, you’ll only have to deal with us, no one else.
To discover more about Audio Conferencing, why not look at our related product sheet. Alternatively, call us on 0333 202 1555 for a chat.