Web Conferencing Vs Professional Video Conferencing

A lot of people tend to confuse video conferencing with web conferencing primarily because both technologies transmit audio and video over the Internet. For enterprises that need to tap into this form of communications, it is important to identify what professional videoconferencing is relative to web conferencing. Understanding what each one entails allows IT managers and business owners to select a solution that is more suited to the collaboration needs of their organizations.

Web Conferencing

Web conferencing is a general term in used when live meetings, presentations and training are conducted over the Internet. In a webinar, you can have a presenter or an individual who presides over a presentation session with rest of participants sitting at their desktop computers listening in. This kind of web conferencing is non-interactive. The participant will be able to view and listen to whatever is being transmitted real-time but he or she does not have the ability to make alterations. In more advanced systems, participants may be able to share the presenter’s applications or his computer, allowing them to take control of the device through the internet. But this practice is more referred to as application or desktop sharing rather than web conferencing.

The most usual form of web conferencing can also be referred as “web-caming” like Skype or MSN Messenger. It usually consists of a small web camera that is affixed at an eye-level on the user’s laptop via USB connectivity. Then web conferencing software like Skype or MSN will be used to make a simple video call to other party and a simple web conferencing session is formed.

This form of web conferencing is limited to one person at each end because of camera’s focus and zoom limitations and is usually for personal usage. Also, the video and audio quality from a webcam is generally of lower quality because of their small size.

Web conferencing technologies are also not standardized, which has been a significant factor in the lack of interoperability, transparency, platform dependence and security issues.

Professional Video Conferencing

Professional video conferencing, on the other hand, is a collaboration technology that is used to allow participants of the meeting to see one another as if they are all in the same room. It is often used by businesses to meet with their contacts without having to travel personally to their offices to conduct presentations.

Professional video conferencing systems are usually enterprise grade equipment and they are meant to be used in proper meeting or conference rooms. Well known brands like Tandberg, Polycom, CISCO, Lifesize, etc provide such professional room-based systems.

A standard professional video conferencing system usually comprises of:

  1. High image quality camera with Pan / Tilt / Zoom capability
  2. Video display like projector with screen, LCD or plasma display
  3. Video conferencing CODEC (image processing unit)
  4. Audio microphones

The standard system is usually installed in a sizable conference room where more than 5 users can sit in and take part in the video conferencing session at the same time. It is able to support more users than the “web-caming” model because the video display is larger and camera can be zoomed out to capture all the audience. During instances when a particular user is talking, the camera can be configured to automatically home in on the “talking” user.

The professional audio microphones used are normally omni-directional type; – Users can remain comfortably seated in their positions and engage in their normal conversational style. They need not lean into the microphone to speak in order to be heard unlike “web-caming” where users have to lean close to the microphone.

Over the past few years, the costs of professional video conferencing equipment have been reduced to cater to small businesses. There also a lot more manufacturers coming into the industry and all these factors drive down equipment costs and better innovation offers more user friendly features.

For an organization, it makes sense to invest in a professional video conferencing system because the ROI timeline has been drastically reduced due to lower equipment and bandwidth costs.