On-Premise Videoconferencing: Not for Web Workers?


Can advanced “telepresence” — heavyweight fixed-location videoconferencing systems from the likes of Cisco, HP, and Polycom — help web workers be more effective? Could their HDTV-sharp life-size images make virtual meetings the standard and make business travel obsolete? Or is the untethered web workforce better served by more mobile modes of communication?

Steve Adubato of the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports on an insurance company’s eight-location videoconferencing installation that was less than successful:

In theory, the videoconferencing was supposed to be interactive and allow for everyone to communicate in a more dynamic and productive fashion. Yet, six months into the videoconferencing experiment, several frustrated managers said they felt “too distant” and “disconnected” when they were not located at the same site where the meeting leader was speaking

Andy Abramson of VoIP Watch says these systems don’t serve the bulk of the workforce:

The only people who would want to invest in a system that is “based” in a “fixed” location would be the status seeking, sedentary executive who wants to “show off” what they have.

Alec Saunders says that the place to look for growth and benefit is in video chat:

With virtually every laptop sold today incorporating a web cam, and the quality of those cameras steadily increasing, it’s only a matter of time before the natural way to have a conversation will be by video.

Web Worker Daily’s Mike Gunderloy has questioned telepresence for web workers, saying “it doesn’t offer a lot to the web worker who is already out on the cutting edge of multiple methods of connectivity.” Our multiple methods of connectivity add up to that dynamic communication and collaboration that fixed-location videoconferencing is supposed to achieve, and we can access them wherever we have our laptops or phones.

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Video Conferencing Setup

Sitting with the doctors in a room and talking with other doctors via video conferencing was very exciting for me when I first time sat for a meeting. I first felt like a movie going on until when one of the doctors asked me for my comments. It was really weird and exciting.


I need to connect a Polycom VTC a e-collaboration webcamm system. Any idea on how to make it both work at the same time?



I have been involved in “desktop videoconferencing” since the beginning. It has evolved from ISDN-based to Internet-based, from very expensive and difficult to install and use to very inexpensive and easy to install and use.

I video conference nearly everyday from my home office laptop (or from a WiFi location, I have video conferenced from McDonalds and Starbucks) using either an H.323 standards based system or (non-standard) ooVoo (www.ooVoo.com).

The quality of the video conferences even from home using DSL or cable should no longer be an issue.

Jon Peltier

A corporation I worked for nearly a decade ago had invested mightily in teleconferencing facilities at several of its business locations. These were always in heavy demand. Using them was not always easy. The configurations were hare to set up, the equipment (cameras and mikes) did not always work well, the image quality was poor and the sound filled with static, and often there were delays in one or the other of these media.

More recently I’ve used the combination of telephone and web conferencing (or more accurately screen-sharing). There are a number of applications for this, and I’ve found the one called GoToMeeting to be the best of the bunch. Users can show each other their computer screens nd even let others take temporary control over a running application. This is great for demos and debugging.

Brian Carnell

I’ve seen a lot of success using videoconferencing to connect workers, typically who are the same company but at very distant locations.

And you know, it’s not that hard to connect your webcam-equipped laptop to one of the room systems using NetMeeting or one of the many open-source clones of it, which incorporates H.323 which most of the dedicated systems use these days.


My own experience is negative wrt video conferencing. I worked for 2.5 yrs with a large corp. that set-up “dedicated” VTC for the 2 main work-sites, one in Seattle area and one outside DC. Much was made about how the business group we were in was “co-located” at these two distant sites. In reality, most times we’d spend 10-15 minutes configuring the VTC, and most times would have serious and limiting difficulty in seeing the other side, due to small screens, VTC camera angles canted, or too many other folks on the other side to make them any relevant size. Further, participants would either blatantly work or their laptops or blackberrys, or fidget in stress over the work they were not doing (that they could have done in parallel if it was an old-school telecon). No thanks to standard VTC.

Peter Csathy

Noted thought leader Andy Abramson just blogged about why current room-based hardware video conferencing systems simply do not work — http://andyabramson.blogs.com/voipwatch/2007/10/some-insightful.html

The problem is not business video conferencing itself — when done right, video conferencing is a uniquely powerful way to keep “face to face” when you simply cannot be physically present. The problem is with the current implementations offered by “the big boys” — they are for the few, not the many. They are frequently impersonal, and not really face to face and one-to-one.

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