Video Conferencing Woes

Do you use a Polycom or Cisco video conferencing end unit. I have one question for you, why? If your experience with video conferencing systems are anything like mine, you have grown to hate VC end points. How could you like them, the manufacturers give you every reason not to like them.

Here are a few reasons why VC end points suck:


VC units are expensive. It’s not uncommon to spend $10,000 on a VC endpoint alone. If you have a few end points then you might have the VC infrastructure from the manufacturer. If you thought the VC end points are expensive, you will fall out of your chair when you see the cost of the VC infrastructure. But wait, there’s more. The total price increases when you start to talk about licensing/warranties. Trust me when I say that you will need the warranties.


One thing you find out quickly is that if you are using systems that are running different versions of firmware you will run into some interesting problems. For example, I had one Polycom call another Polycom and no content could be shared. The units could call other polycoms and share content but not with each other. After both units had their firmware updated to the same version, the problem went away and all was well in the universe. What would have happened if one of the polycoms was an older version and couldn’t be updated or the units were out of warranty? Let me answer that for you, we would have been out of luck and we would have a useless brick on our hands.


VC end points only have one purpose: to do video conferencing. They can’t be used to do anything else really. Most of the time the unit is doing nothing, just sitting there until the next video conference (whenever the hell that is). Which makes me think that VC units are a waste of space. The money that is being sucked away by that VC end point could be used toward something that would be more beneficial to the organization.

Now this is the point where you ask yourself what options do I have. You are probably thinking to your self, I need to have video conferencing so I “need” my Polycom or Cisco end unit. Here is the thing, no you don’t. Software is eating the world and video conferencing is no different. With products like Skype, Zoom, bluejeans, etc you could use your desktop PC as your video conferencing platform.

With a PC based VC end point, you can build out the conferencing product you need and not the over price bundles the big boy hardware VC companies want you to have. For example, your VC end point could just be a Logitech webcam and a PC or a PTZ usb camera, multiple mics feeding a bimp with a usb out that all run into a simple PC. Whatever solution that works for you is what you can implement. Another thing to consider is you will have the extra value of the PC being able to serves multiple purposes, this way you are getting the most bang for your buck.

After thinking about it for a while, I hope you come to the same conclusion that I have. Hardware video conferencing end points are dead! Long live the software video conferencing unit!