Organizations such as businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits, and government entities today are increasingly finding themselves connected to a network of people spanning huge geographical distances. The Internet, air travel, and telecommunications are changing the landscape of business.

Today, business can be conducted not only with those in our building or in our town, but literally across the world. While it is ideal to meet face-to-face with our customers, partners, co-workers and constituents whenever possible, travel costs and the need for timeliness often dictate that we communicate with our stakeholders remotely.

The telephone serves as a wonderful tool for this type of at-a-distance communication. And yet, phone-based communications leave something to be desired in terms of communicating non-verbally with gestures, facial expressions, and body language. Also, relying solely on the telephone means that it is impossible to show pictures, hold up physical artifacts, or point out items on a whiteboard or in a video.

In order to remain competitive in this type of environment, organizations are finding that web video conferencing services are helping them meet their communications technology needs. If you are considering web video conferencing services for your organization, here are the answers to 5 frequently-asked-questions to help you better understand the possibilities in this exciting world:

1. What is web video conferencing?

Web video conferencing is a way to leverage the Internet's advanced and relatively inexpensive-to-use infrastructure as a conduit for video communications. Companies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals alike leverage web video conferencing technologies every day to conduct meetings & seminars, hold training sessions, and have casual conversations.

2. Can I use my own equipment or do I need to buy special hardware?

The answer to this depends upon the system you select. Some systems leverage your existing computer, display/monitor, Internet connection and other hardware with little or no need to purchase any specialized equipment. Others - mainly high-end systems - require an investment in standalone hardware such as high-performance cameras, telephone conferencing units, and high-definition monitors.

3. What types of services are available?

There is a range of systems, services and providers to choose from for your web video conferencing needs. Some providers combine their video services with features such as screen-sharing, VoIP (voice over IP), whiteboards, polling/voting features, and chat. Others focus exclusively on delivering high-quality video and voice communications.
Similarly, pricing for the various available systems can also vary greatly. Some systems are free or very inexpensive, while high-end systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars to operate.

And, how the system is implemented also varies greatly. Some systems are available as downloadable solutions, while others are hosted as a web application on the provider's own servers. Still others can be purchased for hosting at a local corporate server.

4. Can I include multiple people in the call?

Yes, but again, it depends upon the system. Some systems are idea for one-to-one communication, while some also work well with groups. In both cases, usually there is only one or two presenters allowed at a time.
A handful of systems, however, also allow you to actually show multiple people (from different locations) on your screen at once.

5. What about security?

Security is a big concern, especially when sensitive organizational information such as trade secrets, company plans, and customer data are being shared over the web video conferencing system. Fortunately, there are a number of security-related features in many of the better systems that can prevent unwanted "data packet sniffing" or outright eavesdropping.

Security features might include for example: data encryption, various levels of user permissions, usage tracking, authentication, and recording & archiving of sessions.

Take the answers to these 5 FAQs into account as you search for the right system for your organization.