Video Conferencing 101: ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) or IP?

Many Singaporean companies are now migrating from ISDN to IP video conferencing due to cost and performance reasons. While the primary motivator for this migration is still to limit or decrease the costs of video conferencing, the need for improved reliability has already trumped savings as the chief justification for shifting to communication over IP.

ISDN Disadvantages

For many experts, ISDN is a technology quickly losing steam in the video conferencing industry because of the following reasons:

  • Difficult Network Monitoring – Just like the “plain old telephone service” or POTS, ISDN is also a “switched technology.” The network is connected only whenever calls are in progress. This renders any ISDN problem – for example, a basic down line – to be undetectable until someone attempts a call, at which point it is already too late or too inconvenient to seek repair. Even video network management systems that are commercially-available are also unable to spot ISDN problems unless a the call is connected.
  • High Usage Costs – Every video call – whether it be just across the room or across the world – is charged “per-minute” ISDN usage and transport fees in a majority ISDN connectivity environment. If frequency of usage is high, monthly fees can reach exorbitant level, keeping small companies from being able to easily afford video conferencing. Also, ISDN network support now costs thousands of dollars for every endpoint.
  • Zero Redundancy – Should an endpoint’s ISDN line experience problems, that endpoint’s communication capacity is impacted or completely blocked. In the ISDN connectivity only system, there are no other alternate networks available to host video traffic.
  • Limited Support – Because of the decreasing demand for ISDN video conferencing, many telephone companies have reduced their support staff for ISDN, making problem resolution and troubleshooting extra difficult.

IP Connectivity Advantages

  • Improved Reliability – In many cases, IP endpoints and networks are easily monitored on a continuous basis. In the event that a problem arises, a support team can be proactively alerted.
  • Better Security – Most ISDN systems do not support encryption, while IP endpoints incorporate “AES data encryption” support as well as secure password authentication.
  • Better Manageability – IP based video conferencing systems can be easily managed remotely, either with a centralized management system or individually. IP connectivity also supports remote call termination / launching, software upgrades, endpoint configuration and other useful features.
  • Easy to Install – By using IP, companies evade the installation problems associated with ISDN deployment, such as SPID assignment and long-distance service activation.
  • Easy to Scale – IP video conferencing endpoints connect to the corporate IP network, making it easy for the company to use its existing support staff, network lines, and management systems. The installation of additional video systems is much easier – the enterprise simply connects the new system to the existing enterprise network.
  • Lower Costs – “IP-only” endpoints are cheaper to purchase, less expensive to maintain under a service plan, and provide even more savings because they do not require dedicated ISDN lines. Usage fees are likewise predictable, as most plans with fixed monthly rates allow unlimited usage. This makes it easier for companies to budget monthly costs for their collaboration systems.

The Middle Ground

Some organizations in Singapore realize that it is not always prudent to migrate their entire video conferencing  and collaboration environment to IP; sometimes, a mixed IP / ISDN system (called a hybrid collaboration environment) is more effective in combining cost reduction and performance enhancement.

What’s best for your company?

Here in SG Videoconferencing, we can study your organization’s video conferencing needs and suggest an optimal solution which can give you both cost savings as well as enhanced video performance.