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An IT Manager’s Checklist for Integrating Video at Your Company
Is your organization thinking about integrating video into your IT network, but you want to be sure you have your ducks in a row? We’ve put together a checklist for IT managers to use to ensure their video integration initiative is seamless.
1. Understand why you want to integrate video. “Understand the application, don’t just get technology for technology’s sake,” says John Zettel, CEO of AVI-SPL in Tampa, Florida. “If we understand what you’re trying to accomplish, then the rest of it falls in line.” Identifying the best equipment and network topology is critical to a successful implementation, and Zettel says that each organization’s unique needs will determine the right solution. It’s also the first step in partnering with a vendor who will help you select and build an appropriate infrastructure.
2. Know your IT department’s capabilities. Doug Carnell, AVI-SPL’s executive vice president of Operations, encourages companies to take a hard look at themselves before beginning any integration project. “What kind of company are you?” he asks. “Are you a company that likes to outsource or in-source? Do you have a really good IT organization or one that struggles just to keep e-mail running?” The best solution could go unused or become an administrative nightmare if your team isn’t ready or able to properly support it, so honestly assessing where your team is strong and where it needs support is crucial.
3. Find an experienced professional to help you. Preferably, Zettel says, one with broad experience and a deep understanding of the integration industry. “Manufacturers are going to sell you what they have, maybe not what you need,” he cautions. He encourages IT managers to seek out someone—either an internal expert or an outside vendor or consultant—who understands the different technologies and can help build a best-of-breed solution that precisely meets their organization’s need.
4. Know how to manage your bandwidth. “How is bandwidth traffic managed, and do I have control of that bandwidth?” Wayne Hoffman, VTC division manager at Greenbelt, Md.-based ARRAY Information Technology, says IT groups should address the answers to those two questions early in the integration process. Videoconferences that occur when other network traffic is heavy (think 8 a.m. or post-lunch e-mail flurries) may need to be monitored closely or curtailed to maintain sufficient data transfer speeds across the rest of the infrastructure. Hoffman, who was an administrator for many years before moving into the integrator role, says traffic control is key. “I want to be able to have control over that person’s endpoints,” he explains. “If I need to throttle down their connection, then I can do so.”
5. Plan for excessive growth. “Most people will implement video and think it’s a pilot program, and the next thing you know they’re struggling with every executive and department wanting it,” Carnell says. Today’s users are increasingly savvy when it comes to new applications and technologies, making them less hesitant to embrace video conferencing the moment it becomes available to them. “In most companies, they’re trying to limit how many people have access to it,” Carnell says, explaining that too many organizations underestimate real-world usage when it comes to scaling up bandwidth and network infrastructure capabilities. Using growth estimates that are too conservative could lead to an inefficient system or poor end-user experiences.
6. Get executive buy-in. Not only should members of your executive team agree that integrating video into the IT network is a good thing, they should also become champions of the technology. Why? “Companies that truly embrace it from an executive management perspective look for ways to do many things with it,” Zettel explains. Efficiencies come when companies use video conferencing not only for one-to-one or one-to-many communication, he says, but when they expand their scope to also “record it, stream it, and distribute it.” Just like getting the most out of e-mail, with its attachments, follow-up flags, and filing capabilities, IT managers should aggressively look for ways to maximize their investment in a video conferencing system, too.
7. Determine how calls will traverse the firewall. “That’s one thing most customers never consider,” Hoffman says. In an ISDN (integrated services digital network) environment, calls go out on the public network similar to a regular phone call. But once users are captured within an organization’s network, getting outside the protective gates of the firewall can become a major issue. “If you’re within a corporate office and you’re on your own VLAN (virtual local area network) or your own within your own network, that’s not as much of an issue,” Hoffman explains. But invariably, users will eventually want to contact someone outside their organization by video, only to discover one (or both) of them are unable to get past their firewall for the connection. Different companies choose different solutions to the firewall issue, with some IT departments opting for a video-specific appliance to control cross-network connections.
8. Be aggressive on end-user training. Once your organization has invested in the hardware and network infrastructure to support video conferencing, Zettel says it’s important to “spend the same amount of time training people,” so they not only know how to use the technology, but also so they’ll be more eager to adopt it and reap its benefits. “The worst thing is to walk into a room and see stuff gathering dust because nobody knows how to use it,” he says.
By Guest Blogger CorporateTechDecisions
Corporate TechDecisions is the trusted resource for decision makers of A/V and IT integration within corporate environments. For more information, visit www.corporateTechDecisions.com.
Tampa-based AVI-SPL is recognized as an innovative leader in the collaboration and AV industry, the result of a 2008 merger between Audio Visual Innovations (AVI) and Signal Perfection Ltd (SPL). For more information, visit www.avispl.com