Think Video Conferencing is Too Expensive to Deploy to All Your Desktop and Mobile Users? Think Again!

When it comes to mid- to large-scale full-featured video conferencing that includes full support for mobility, desktop, telepresence and conference rooms, you might be surprised just how affordable it is. With today’s advancements in technology and the increased scalability of video solutions, businesses can implement full-featured, enterprise-grade video collaboration for as low as a one-time charge of between $80 – $200* per user.

(This guest blog is written by Bob Romano (@RobertLRomano), vice president of video marketing at Avaya.)

This is a surprisingly affordable price for what most people have traditionally considered to be an expensive “executive-only” solution. The $80 – $200 per user range comes from analyzing actual deployments of Avaya’s Scopia conferencing system in multiple customer locations and from our own internal deployment at Avaya. Within Avaya, we are extremely heavy users of Scopia conferencing, and so the cost per user is approximately $160. When I say heavy users, I mean as a company of approximately 15,000 employees of which almost 10,000 have their own Scopia virtual meeting rooms, we are holding between 35,000 – 40,000 Scopia meetings per month with an average of 4 participants per video call. This means that 150,000 or so participants, internal and external, are attending Scopia meetings every month. Companies that use video less would see a lower cost per user.

When and how did video conferencing become so affordable? The best way to understand the cost is to analyze it on a cost-per-user basis. For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to focus on a premises-based installation where customers buy and install a certain number of Scopia Elite MCU ports to support their user base. This scenario allows unlimited use of the system, in-house control and management and more of a fixed-cost model. However, it’s important to note that the Avaya Scopia solution is also available as a service offering from many Avaya partners if customers want an opex solution. If you’re more interested in the opex approach, we have a number of partners offering this service.

So let’s look at the details. We’ll first look at the price per “port” and resolutions used and then break that down to per-user pricing.

Price per port 

We sell port-based MCUs for customer installations of Scopia capability, so the question of “how much does Scopia cost?” depends on how many ports are needed to support a given user base and this depends on two key variables:

  • What mix of resolutions will be used, and
  • How heavily video is used by the user base

We can provide planning assumptions based on actual customer deployments (including Avaya’s) that can provide a very good estimate.

To calculate, we:

  • Take the list price of our MCU with the bundled software (and servers) to support Scopia Desktop and Scopia Mobile
  • Reduce it slightly to reflect approximate street prices
  • And then divide that by the number of ports on the MCU and applying a ratio of ports to users. 

To calculate the price per port we’ll use the average street price for a Scopia Elite 6140 MCU bundle. The Scopia Elite MCU supports resolutions from DVD quality (480p) up to the highest resolution available (1080p/60fps). For this exercise we’ll focus on a mix (90/10 ratio) of 480p and 720p as they are the most commonly used resolutions for a blend of desktop/mobile users and room systems.

The Scopia Elite 6140 MCU will support up to 160 ports of 480p or 80 ports of 720p or any combination of the two. For more capacity, simply add more Scopia Elite MCUs to the deployment.

  • 480p is typically used for desktop and mobile deployments because this is very good quality on smaller screens, is the best blend of quality vs. bandwidth and since many mobile devices and some PCs don’t yet support full 720p HD.
  • 720p is the best blend of quality vs. bandwidth for the larger screens used in room systems however users could certainly choose to use 1080p/30fps or even 1080p/60fps for their room systems.

This allows us to calculate a Scopia 480p port street price of around $1600 and a 720p port street price of less than $5,000. At the 90/10 ratio this yields an average price per port that is below $2,000, but we’ll use $2000 for the calculation purposes.

Price per user

Once we have the price per port, the second assumption is the number of users each port will support. In smaller organizations, the ratio will be lower (i.e.: in an organization of 10 users it is likely all 10 will be in a call together and you would need a 1:1 ratio; while in a much larger organization it could be as high as 20:1). It also depends on how heavily the users use the solution. We therefore recommend customers use a planning range of between 10:1 and 20:1. In Avaya the actual ratio is approximately 15:1 of users to ports, and we are seeing this ratio in many other customer deployments as well.

So this gives us the information we need to calculate our price per user. Below are three scenarios that calculate a price range based on the resolutions an organization chooses to use and how much the system is used. As you can see you can bring the price per user to well below $100.

  • Mixed resolution deployment – DVD quality to desktop/mobile and HD in the rooms The price per user ranges between $100 and $200 one time price (depending on how heavily the system is used) plus an approximate $5-10 incremental cost per user to cover the industry standard servers that run Scopia Desktop/Mobile software. This is how Avaya’s internal deployment is configured and as heavy users we use 1 port for every 15 users and our price is approximately $160 per user.
  • DVD resolution deployment – DVD quality to desktop/mobile and room system. The price per user ranges between $80 to $160 one time price (depending on how heavily the system is used) plus an approximate $5-10 incremental cost per user to cover the industry standard servers that run Scopia Desktop/Mobile software. This configuration is the most economical and appropriate for a predominately desktop/mobile deployment where occasionally room systems are included.
  • Full HD deployment – 720p for all desktop/mobile and room systems The price per user ranges between $250 to $500 one time price (depending on how heavily the system is used) plus an approximate $5-10 incremental cost per user to cover the industry standard servers that run Scopia Desktop/Mobile software. This configuration is appropriate for when the best quality is desired for both the desktop and room system users. As the capabilities increase on mobile platforms this option might be used more and more for very high quality to mobile users.

How is your company using or planning to use video? When you look at the calculations above, a one-time cost of $80 – 200 per user is extremely affordable. So, if you’re thinking you can’t afford company-wide full-featured desktop and mobile video collaboration, I say think again!

*Note: all pricing is based on approximate list prices as of August 2013 and subject to change without notice.

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A non-expert's opinion on why videoconferencing CAN help you land that dream job

There’s been a lot of attention lately around using video conferencing during the interview process – mostly negative. Even Fox News is saying it’s bad.

I don’t agree. And while, I personally haven’t commissioned a study like DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University did (Video Killed the Interview Star), I have seen real-world examples where video conferencing helps candidates land jobs.

I give credit to the team at DeGroote for their research and the attention the report is generating. They raise some valid points, and the tips they offer for video interviews are helpful. It’s definitely worth the read.

That said I believe video conferencing DOES enable successful interviews. Why? Below are five compelling arguments why video recruiting can be effective:

  1. Video expands a company’s talent pool and a job applicant’s opportunities by magnitudes. We live in connected world where real-time communications are viable anywhere you have a device and an Internet or cellular connection. So if you can work with anyone, anywhere, why limit your job search to down the street? Of course there are jobs that can’t be performed remotely, but many can. Avaya has an active teleworker global employee, customer and partner community, and we regularly use video for not only for collaboration among the team, but also for recruitment purposes.
  2. Our customers say it works. Video helps companies recruit top talent. A well-known client in the auto industry recently shared that they saved more than $10,000 in recruitment-related travel costs in less than a month thanks to video conferencing. If they’re relying on video to interview, they must be hiring some of those folks they meet via video, right?
  3. Video hides stature. Now some of you may argue this is a bad thing, but trust me… coming from a “vertically challenged” person, it’s not. It’s a fact that taller people are more successful in business. When you meet by video, no one knows how tall you are. So if you naturally exude presence in-person, you’ll exude it via video too. Again, speaking from personal experience… without fail, one of the first things I hear when I meet a colleague in-person is, “Wow, you look so much taller on video!” Now I don’t know if this feedback is good or bad, but if taller people are more successful, I definitely want to be as perceived taller than I really am ?
  4. Video saves time. This is a win-win situation for both the applicant and the interviewer. By using videoconferencing for initial screening, no money or time is wasted on travel, and as we all know, time is money. If things go well, there’s more time in the next interview to delve into topics that really matter because you’ve already “met.” If they don’t go well, at least no one went out of his/her way to attend the interview.
  5. Visual communication builds better relationships than audio-only conversations. Meeting face-to-face builds rapport. What might have gone badly as a phone call could go great using face-to-face communications. I speak from experience on this one. In fact, I wrote a blog about it last year, and I see it happening every day at Avaya.

What do you think? This seems like a hot topic, and I’m obviously pro video. I’d love to hear success/horror stories for those who have used video during the hiring process.

7 Simple Truths about Desktop & Mobile Video Conferencing

Desktop and mobile video are all the rage right now. Every video vendor claims they have a viable solution, and there is a seemingly endless string of new entrants to the market. In such a crowded space, it’s sometimes difficult to stand out – and for those outside the industry, it’s probably even harder to cut through all the noise.

The purpose of this blog is to highlight the truth about the applications available today and call out some of the most important desktop and mobile video conferencing features.

1. Freely downloadable in the app store doesn’t mean anyone can join your conference for free.
Several vendors offer free mobile video conferencing apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores. But for many of those apps, you can’t join a call without complex setup and licensing, and you often can’t join a call due to firewall issues. Scopia Desktop and Mobile are freely distributable to anyone without requiring a user-specific license key. Competing solutions often require a user-specific (or, named user) license key even for casual or one-time users.

2. If you can’t easily join the call, you may not join at all.
Many vendors’ solutions require downloads, complex licensing and registration. Scopia video conferencing does not, and its embedded firewall traversal means you can join a call without calling in your IT team to assist. Just click on the link and join the call. Although you will want to test your speaker and mic if you’re using a laptop. Scopia Mobile is designed to leverage your device’s audio and video systems.

3. The benefits of video conferencing are severely diminished if you can only invite a select few.
A number of mobile and desktop apps offered today are based on proprietary technologies. Only standards-based solutions enable you to speak to connect to other vendors’ standards-based systems (unless you add gateways and get a little creative). Proprietary solutions limit your connectivity to others, and gateways can add latency and produce a lower quality experience.

4. If you can’t take advantage of audio, video and data-sharing, it’s not really collaboration.
It’s important to select a solution that enables you to join by audio, video and share content. If any of these three components isn’t available, the quality of the experience is limited and collaboration is compromised. These features should be available on any device, whether you’re in a conference room, at your desk or on the go.

5. The latest technologies don’t matter if the solution doesn’t leverage them.
Some of our competitors’ desktop and mobile solutions don’t leverage protocols like H.264 SVC, which helps to deliver a great video experience even over “lossy” networks. Scopia Desktop leverages SVC and both Desktop and Mobile work with NetSense. Exclusive to Scopia conferencing, NetSense is a bandwidth estimation and adaptation algorithm designed with unmanaged networks in mind, specifically the public Internet. With NetSense, call quality will remain as good as possible regardless of bandwidth availability and changes in bandwidth during a call.

6. It’s not cloud-based just because it has the word “cloud” in its name.
In a recent blog, I talked about cloud-based video for SMBs. There are viable solutions in the market today, and we have partners offering hosted video. Make sure you are investing in a proven video solution that is offered either on-premises and through service providers.

7. Everyone says they offer easy-to use mobile video, but actions speak louder than words.
We’ll prove it – request a demo on-the-fly on YOUR mobile device. I bet we can get you into a mobile video call in a matter of minutes if you have a camera-enabled iOS device or Scopia-compatible Android device. Just click here: to get started.

Have you tried desktop and mobile video? What recommendations do you have for those in the market today? What other “gotchas” should they consider? I’d love to hear from you.

Video Conferencing Security 101

Like any IP-based technology, video conferencing is subject to security threats, and IT managers must factor security into their purchase and deployment decisions. Last year, there was a lot of talk around the potential vulnerabilities of room-based systems. This year, I’m hearing a number of concerns around WebRTC building security into browser-based communications.

Sally Johnson of TechTarget wrote an interesting piece on WebRTC and the security issues at hand. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but for now, WebRTC remains a technology of the future. In the meantime, there are a number of ways to keep your video conferencing secure – whether you’re in IT or just a daily user of the technology.

When it comes to room-based systems, the first and most important precaution that anyone can take is to turn the ‘auto-answer’ function off – especially if your systems are connected to the public Internet. IT should be aware of this, and Scopia systems always automatically default the auto-answer function to ‘off.’ We take security very seriously, and we have several built-in security features that are seamless to end users.

But it’s also good to know how you – the end user – can help protect your video conference rooms. Below are five tips for keeping your Video conferencing room secure:

  • Set room systems to manual answer, mute your mics when not in use, and make sure whiteboards in conference rooms are wiped clean after each meeting.
  • Use a virtual room with moderator capabilities instead of point-to-point calling – using a virtual room opens up a plethora of security options that are intuitive and easy-to-use.
  • Create a lobby for your meeting – no one can join without the moderator.
  • Require participants to use personal identification numbers (PINs) when entering your virtual room.
  • Familiarize yourself with the meeting moderation functions of your virtual room:
    • Anyone not invited to a meeting would not be allowed entrance into the meeting.
    • You can use ad-hoc functions to lock your meeting – for example, one click of your mouse or one tap on your iPhone will lock down the meeting so no one else can enter.
    • If you want to remove a participant, all you need to do is click again or swipe on our iPhone, and they are ejected from the call.

    Some of these may seem intuitive, but it’s easy to forget you have these options available in your virtual meeting room. The good news is you don’t need to be an IT administrator to make sure your meeting room is secure. You just need to follow the simple steps above.

    For more information on managing and securing your Scopia virtual meeting room, click here.