How to organize a Video Conference
A Brief History :
In recent years, video-conferencing more and more actively used in a variety of areas: education, medicine, business. Its advantages are obvious, and therefore the number of users of this technology is constantly growing. But with the advent of the global financial crisis changed everything. IT budgets of many companies and organizations has been reduced to the minimum necessary - the acquisition and support of computer equipment and office equipment. On the introduction of new technologies of speech is not going. Especially if these technologies are expensive, as video. After all, for anybody not a secret of the fact that the cost of servers, multipoint video conferencing is calculated at least tens of thousands of dollars. However, practice shows that it is not to abandon the introduction of modern information and telecommunication technologies is not worth it. Often, instead of the traditional solutions can be found and used much more economical alternatives. For example, in the case of video-conference link they can become a system based on PCs and software servers. I will tell you about a similar problem in one of the organizations.
It all started with an article about the video-conferencing, which fell into the hands of the head of our organization. In detail the advantages of this method of communication - improving communication with employees, reducing travel expenses, etc. to talk about them we were not going, because this topic has been said a lot, and our task today - an analysis of practical rather than theoretical sides of the issue. Following this, the Internet had been "unearthed" a few publications on the use of video conferencing. After getting acquainted with them and some "digestion" read head was announced the following problem: realize the possibility of "video messaging" director with a number of senior staff of the organization;
arrange video links between the two conference rooms, located in different buildings of the organization, implement the technical possibility of "video conferencing", implement the ability to remotely connect to the system of video-conference-communication of staff on assignment in other cities. To complete the presentation of these tasks must be at least briefly describe the existing information system of the enterprise. Thus, the organization has three buildings, two of which are located close to each other and have common telephone and computer network. The third building is on the other end of town. Access to the corporate network from it is carried out as needed via the Internet through a VPN-channel.
Re: How to organize a Video Conference
Selecting solutions :
After getting the job the IT department had conducted a small study, results of which, strictly speaking, came as no surprise. All the solutions on the market today can be divided into two groups. The first is the traditional system of video-conferencing. This is a hardware solution, among which the most common products of famous brands (Sony, Polycom, etc.). Unfortunately, their use was abandoned. The reason was a very high cost of video servers. Find an acceptable solution is cheaper a few tens of thousands of dollars failed. And this amount is many times higher than selected for solving the budget. The second group of solutions - software products. They represent a special software which allows video calls using a computer connected to the equipment: video and web cameras, microphones, headsets, speakers, headphones. The main drawback of these solutions is their attachment to the PC. The traditional system of video-conferencing work autonomously. Most of them are complete subscriber stations that connect directly to the IP-channel and which has everything you need for connection. Of course, they look more presentable. In addition, some of them are systems that provide video in HD. Software systems that can not boast. However, they are indispensable in those cases that require "working", "regular" link. All the same, in the workplace each employee has an office computer. Yes, and HD-video in this case is not necessary. So what are these disadvantages of software solutions in our case are not critical, but their value well within the allocated budget.
Note :In software systems for video use the usual Web Camera
So, it was decided to focus on software solution. Which do you choose? The first was investigated by the Russian market. Because it was logical to buy Russian-language system with available technical support. It turned out that it represented only one software system for video-conferencing - VideoPort SBS. This product has several editions: Videoport SBS, Videoport SBS Plus and Videoport SBS Enterprise. The first of these is only available video communication. The second added to it a number of additional features: chat, file transfer, electronic board, "etc. The third version is designed for large companies. It has everything you need to integrate into existing enterprise information infrastructure, including integration with accounts AD. Each version has a basic version, designed for a certain number of users and concurrent videoconferences. To increase this number are sold separately so-called expansion packs, which provides a larger number of customers. The cost of basic variants of different versions expressed about such sums: Videoport SBS - about 50 thousand rubles., Videoport SBS Plus - about 200 thousand rubles. and Videoport SBS Enterprise - a little more than 1,5 million rubles. In addition to perpetual licenses exist and temporary subscription. Their price starts from only 35 thousand rubles a year. But the most important question remains: Is Videoport SBS to solve all tasks or still have to buy foreign software? To answer this question have been studied in detail all the features Videoport SBS, and also sought and tested demo version of the product. As a result, have learned the following.
- Features Videoport SBS fully consistent with statements made by the developers. With this system you can organize a personal video, and multipoint (up to six users in one symmetrical conference) video. Separately, it may be noted that in a product line Videoport VideoPort Gateway H.323/SIP. This gateway allows you to match the internal video-conferencing with traditional systems, Bodo such a need arise in the future. Thus, Videoport SBS can be used not only as an internal, but also as an external system for communication, for example, with representatives of other companies. However, we face such problems do not stood. And so this moment was taken just as the prospect for the future.
- Initially, some doubt caused the picture quality. No, of course, on a computer screen everything looked fine. But for the equipment of conference rooms intended use of large screens. Testing dispel doubts. It showed that the picture quality primarily depends on used cameras. If you're using cheap web camera with low resolution, then on the big screen will inevitably see the "boxes" that spoils the overall impression. If you use high-quality web camera or, better yet, home video camera, the image quality does not differ from conventional television.
- Another doubt caused bandwidth network. The problem was that the communication channel between the two buildings was quite heavily loaded by the existing network services and do not work quite stable. In addition, the width of the Internet channel in the organization is only 512 Kbps. However, these fears were unfounded. System Videoport SBS has been very, very inexpensive and neprozhorlivoy (manufacturers generally argue that it is able to work on the channel width of only 128 kbit / s, although we have not performed such testing). Apparently, this is achieved by using its own codec VideoPort Cyclon. Unlike standard, it "locked" under the weak communication channels and use it on computers. Generally, of course, about the use of certain codecs in systems video conferencing is a lot of disputes. But distracted by the theoretical research, we will not. The image quality in the system Videoport SBS arranged for all, including the head, and it is most important.
Re: How to organize a Video Conference
Practical implementation of video conferencing :
Practical implementation of corporate system of video conference calls began with the installation and configuration of the server side. As a server, video-conferencing server used a corporate network, the benefit of computing power and the latter is not very big burden posed Videoport SBS, it is allowed to do so. Of course, if we are talking about a large company and several dozen active users of video communications staff, you probably have to devote a separate computer. In our case, however, managed to do without additional cost. The server part Videoport SBS consists of two components: the server directly (Videoport SBS Plus Server), which provides switching and control video streams, and utilities for its settings (Videoport SBS Plus Manager). The process of installation is absolutely unremarkable. Everything is very simple: run the distribution, "sign" a user agreement, select the folder, etc. After installing the product must be registered. When the corporate network is connected to the Internet, as we have, then make it easier than ever: enter key (test or obtained by purchasing the product) and press a single button. Otherwise, you must use offline registration (generate a key, send it by mail to the support service, get in response to another key and "fed" his program). Well, after installing and registering the fun begins. Namely - setting the whole system. By the way, the interface with Videoport SBS Plus Manager in English. This, of course, negative. However, today is difficult to find a system administrator, who would not know English, so it is unlikely that this shortcoming can be called too serious. Windows Videoport SBS Plus Manager is divided into several tabs, each of which is assigned a group of parameters. Start setting the best from the very first of them - Service. Here the basic parameters: includes checkboxes Enable server as Windows service, and Restart server on error. Thus we provide the server as a service, as well as its automatic restart when an error occurs.
Proceed to the next tab - Network. It is used to configure the network settings server video-conferencing and consists of two columns. The left side set the "internal? IP-addresses, that is, those IP-addresses to which clients will access the Videoport SBS. In our case, were given two IP-addresses belonging to the server: 192.168.10.1 and 192.168.81.1. The system proposes to use the default port of 5050. There is no reason to deny it in that we have not found. However if you want you can change the port to any other. The right column is used to configure Videoport SBS Plus Manager to work with external customers. That is, in essence, we are talking about setting up access to corporate video conferencing over the Internet. For this purpose address translation NAT. The organization has a separate Internet gateway, which "gives" access to the network of staff and support this technology. The process of adjustment is as follows. Enable the checkbox Use address translation and enter in the first row, right column IP-address of the Internet gateway. After that, the internet gateway, creating a new rule NAT, according to which all external network packets received on port 5050 will be broadcast on the address 192.168.10.1.
Next Tab - SMTP Mailer tab. It is necessary for the organization of a notification system, which is based on sending emails. To configure it first specify SMTP-server. To do this, enter the address (we have it locally, so we have indicated 127.0.0.1), port and other parameters. Then it is necessary to include the checkbox Notify administration about server restart and enter into a special line of e-mail system administrator. After that, his inbox every time you restart the server will receive special notice. In principle, the set is not required. But it is better to do. The fact that we have activated the automatic restart service when errors occur. As a result, a situation may arise when the server is often "fly" because of some problems and start again. And the administrator will be unaware of the situation. Notify users of missed calls, they set up separately. Indeed, adjusted - too loud word. To turn it enough to activate the checkbox Notify users about missed calls. You can change the template of the standard notification letter. Active it by pressing the Set mail templates.
The next step - setting users. Start standing with the tab Groups, which are defined groups of employees. However, if you use the system will be a small number of people (as in our case), you can simply create a single group and give it all permissions: to make calls, use of additional tools (slide shows, file transfer, etc.) and to create multipoint video conferencing.
The users are entered on the tab User Accounts. When you add your account, your login, password, personal data and ID, which will be challenges. By default, this e-mail. Incidentally, this approach is very convenient for end users, as authentication is not tied to the IP-addresses, which allows employees to use video-conferencing with multiple machines. In smaller organizations it may be advisable to activate the checkbox Automatically manage address book. At the same time in the address books of all users will be automatically added to all newly created accounts. It is very convenient, since staff members from unnecessary work for the exchange of contacts.
So, create the method described above users. First, we make all the employees who will use a corporate video-conferencing. Secondly, gets four "official" users. They are necessary for use in conference rooms. Why four? This is what we tell you more, when will describe the creation of subscriber points.
Re: How to organize a Video Conference
In principle, this setup the server side is completed. Now you can proceed to the organization of client sites. The easiest things are the jobs of employees. They are already installed ordinary office computers, the power which is enough for the system. The only thing needed - equip their Web cameras (models were selected, attached to the monitor), and headsets. In principle, instead of headsets you can use headphones and desktop microphones. But practice has shown that it is less convenient. So, organize a workplace.
- First, install and connect to a PC web camera and headset. Next To install the client portion of the system Videoport SBS and perform customization. The easiest way to do this by stepping through the wizard, at each stage of which is assigned a group of parameters. First choose the interface language (of course, Russian), then set the video source and check its correctness (directly in the program window should display the incoming video stream from the camera). Then set the playback device and sound source. In conclusion, with the overall test, during which you can check the work of all devices. Note that if the sound you are using speakers, it is necessary to enable echo cancellation.
- The next step - setting parameters for a client to the server. Performing this procedure in a special window. The first step is to disable the checkbox "Connect to default, click on the Customize button and enter the IP-address and port of the server. In our case, it will be 192.168.0.1 and 5050. Then set the restriction of the channel. In principle, this can use the drop down list, which lists generic variants. For example, for the local network provides a threshold of 384 kbps as the incoming and the outgoing traffic. That's how we did. On unloaded networks or use the broader Internet channels, you can choose the item Maximum or manually display any restrictions. To test whether you need to press "Test". This program will check the quality of communication with the server and make its verdict. In our case, obtain the opinion of "The connection speed is sufficient for business-quality videoconferencing.
- Strictly speaking, this setup working clients can be considered complete. The interface of the client and the user experience with him we have seen will not. The fact that everything was very simple. Any person who communicates in "ICQ", or any other such IM-client, can learn Videoport after minimal instruction literally 5 minutes. With people who have not worked before the Internet, things are somewhat more complicated. However, they fully master the program in a few conversations. Thankfully, the address book is already full, so that users still remember just a few buttons.
- Solution of the problem, namely, the organization of video conferencing in conference rooms, require more effort. It is complicated by the fact that was required to broadcast as soon as two angles - the lecturer behind the podium, and a separate plan with a table meetings and audiences. The first part was solved quite simply: in the conference rooms were already computers connected to them with projectors and interactive whiteboards. They simply retrofitted with high-quality web cameras installed on the podium, and microphone with echo effect. The projector and interactive whiteboard, we mentioned not in vain. They went very well for video conferencing and replace traditionally used for this LCD panel.
- The second sub-task was more difficult. First, no webcam is not given enough high-quality panoramic images. If on the computer screen image was looked more or less decent, then the derivation of it to the big screen in another conference room, it left much to be desired. This problem was solved by using common household camera format MiniDV, mounted on a tripod. The fact that such cameras can be connected to a computer via FireWire interface and used in the system Videoport as a video source. It is possible to obtain very high quality picture and makes the system great flexibility. The camera can be placed almost anywhere in the conference hall, near, or delete the image.
- Secondly, it turned out that one computer can not run two clients. You could, of course, try to realize a system with the use of virtual machines. However, it was decided otherwise. We purchased two laptops with in FireWire. It is to them and were connected MiniDV-camera. Why was chosen this option, which requires, above all, the additional costs? First, it significantly easier for end users. Still, the manipulation of virtual machines are still far for most office workers. And secondly, we will have at their disposal a fully mobile station video conferencing, which can move freely and be used almost anywhere in the building and around it (fortunately, at our disposal, there are several access points, Wi-Fi).
In setting up the client software, we are not going to stop already, because it is similar to that already considered by us earlier. And finally, it remains to solve the latest problem - access to a corporate video conferencing over the Internet. To solve it used conventional laptops with web cameras. They have everything you need for communication. The only thing that is necessary - to install and configure client software. And this is done quite easily. All the difference lies in the connection settings. As a server, you must specify the external IP-address of the Internet gateway (of course, it must be static) and port 5050. In this case, the client will pay all requests to the Internet gateway, which will pass them on to the server video conferencing. Indeed, in this work to implement the system of video conferencing have been completed.
To start is with the fact that no serious problems in the process of introduction of video conferencing have arisen. Some difficulties with the equipment was successfully resolved. However, they delayed implementation of works. As a result, total in the introduction of video conferencing (including testing, selection and ordering of equipment, as well as initial training of users) took about a week. Without the organization of conference rooms and waiting hardware could run such a system just for one day.
After two weeks of trial operation, users fully explored the possibilities of Videoport SBS and successfully started to use not only video, but also additional features such as built-in chat and "slate" board (Whiteboard). So all in all, our experience may be considered a successful example of finding alternative solutions to traditional video-conferencing.
Re: How to organize a Video Conference
Yeah, video conferencing helps businesses in substantial cost savings, retaining staff, conducting online interviews etc. Tools like RHUB, Polycom, WebEx, Avaya, Vidyotel etc. can be used regarding the same.
|Tags: chat, video cam, video conference, video streaming|
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