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A Comparison: Two Affordable Telepresence Services

A Comparison: Two Affordable Telepresence Services
Ted Stevenson

Ted Stevenson has been a high-tech journalist for more than 20 years. He was an editor at the print publications PC Magazine, Home Office Computing, NetGuide, and Internet World before entering the realm of online publishing, where he founded several Web sites, including ISP-Planet and Enterprise VoIPplanet. He lives in the hills of southern Connecticut with wife, daughter, son, dog, cats, sheep, and a llama.

High quality videoconferencing is increasingly available from a growing number of hosted providers. 

In these days of drastically slimmed down travel budgets, the way we do business has changed radically. And the burden of coming up with new ways of doing business falls largely on the IT professional.

Flying here and there to meet with customers and partners has been replaced, to a large degree, by telecommunications. Audio conferencing is now commonplace, but today, an attractive alternative–videoconferencing–is becoming more readily accessible.

Until quite recently, videoconferencing, especially in its most sophisticated form, known as telepresence, was the province of very big, well-heeled companies. Telepresence setups were priced in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Moreover, they required expensive dedicated phone lines, and, typically, the services of a dedicated technician to get them to work.

Not an inviting prospect for today's busy, budget-challenged IT manager.

But the evolution of IP-based communications technologies, combined with falling connectivity prices and the rise of the cloud deployment model, have brought high quality videoconferencing within the grasp of most businesses.

New providers of hosted telepresence are appearing almost weekly. (Telepresence, incidentally, has no formal definition though it suggests near-life-size images at high definition resolutions of 720 or 1080 lines per inch). They can get you up and running quickly and inexpensively, typically with an affordable monthly subscription giving you unlimited use.

Initial capital investment, beyond cameras and endpoints (videophones, display screens, etc.) will be small or non-existent. And, rather than adding another heavy layer of management responsibility to your duty roster, these systems are largely managed from the cloud.

Let's take a detailed look at two providers who take rather different approaches hosted videoconferencing.