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Linux Business

Cheap Video Conferencing for Small-to-Medium Sized Corps? 36 36

Jason W. asks: "I work for a medium sized company of about 75 employees. A while back I was asked by our CEO to look into a video conferencing solution. I didn't find much information about setting up a system in house except from Real Networks. The problem was, they wanted $10,000 just to start. We even had a sales visit from a consultant who laughed at us when we didn't want to spend $8-10,000. Like I said, we are a medium sized company, but did I mention we are privately owned? $10,000 is WAY to much for us to spend on what would be, new technology for us. I wanted to poll Slashdot readers, and see if they have any experience in this area. As for our needs, I know we would need to talk from Texas to Washington D.C, and to Virginia. Can we do it from our website? Do we have to have hardware 'stations' on each end? What are your thoughts?"
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Cheap Video Conferencing for Small-to-Medium Sized Corps?

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  • Icky but cheap... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nekoniku (183821) <justicek@@@comcast...net> on Thursday May 01, 2003 @01:32PM (#5853883) Homepage
    if you're wintel-based, you could set up webcams and MS NetMeeting to accomplish some of this.

  • Re:Icky but cheap... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday May 01, 2003 @01:48PM (#5854084) Homepage Journal
    "if you're wintel-based, you could set up webcams and MS NetMeeting to accomplish some of this."

    Play your cards right, and you can get a faster internet connection out of it too.

    "Well, we have the cameras, but now we need many many megabits of bandwidth. The good news, though, is that we can still do it for half the price!"

  • by Shewmaker (28126) on Thursday May 01, 2003 @01:55PM (#5854182) Homepage
    You should check out the Access Grid [accessgrid.org]. It is flexible, powerful, and based on open standards and software. A full installation would be too pricey for you, but I know people run PIGs (Personal Interface to the Grid) on laptops with $30 USB webcams and $30 headsets. So you can start with simple netmeeting-style video conferencing, and if you feel the need you can then move on to a full AG node with dedicated audio and video machines and multiple projectors.

    Note that the AG uses multicast, which your router or ISP may not support well. Also, there is a bit of a learning curve to put everything together. There are AG vendors if you want to buy a fully supported solution.

    -Andrew

  • Re:Polycom (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr.Phil (128836) on Thursday May 01, 2003 @02:36PM (#5854731)
    We use the Polycom products for providing Interactive TV (ITV) courses to the local school district. The schools use this to allow a class to be offered in another district if needed. We were using a Via (not VIA) product that Lucent discontinued after they bought Via. The Polycom products are very nice in that you can do IP or use leased line to make the calls and vary the channel bandwidth.

    Lots of information on video teleconfrence can be found out by searching for ITV.
  • Open H323 Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gadwale (46632) on Thursday May 01, 2003 @02:36PM (#5854747) Homepage

    All these comments and not one FOSS reference?

    Here is a duct tape and scripting solution:

    Get the software at Open H323 [openh323.org].

    Setup a dedicated MCU server using the OpenMCU conference server (also on above site). Without an MCU server, you can only have one-on-one video conferences. The MCU server will handle multiple participant video conferences as well as multiple rooms for simultaneous but separate conferences.

    Use OpenPhone (also at above site) as the conferencing software. Since this is all standards based, the OpenMCU server should also support Netmeeting, Gnomemeeting etc.

    This is Slashdot.. so all the advice is gratis but unreliable! Let us know how it works out!

    Adi Gadwale.

    PS. I have not been able to get this to work for even a 2 person call - Only one of the parties can hear the audio stream.
  • Re:Polycom (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FattMattP (86246) on Thursday May 01, 2003 @03:11PM (#5855185) Homepage
    We use a lot of Polycom equipment where I work. Although the standalone units are expensive, there are smaller units that hookup to your computer called ViaVideo [polycom.com]. They work pretty well and just plug into a USB port. The software will let you do most of what a larger Polycom unit will do with regards to connecting to other Polycom stations and showing all the other people's cameras that you are connected to. I think it's about $500 or $600 per unit. The only negative is that it only supports IP whereas the dedicated Polycom units will handle IP or ISDN connections. I don't use one of these myself but a coworker down the hall does and he loves it.

    Also, there's always MS Netmeeting and a cheap camera.

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