CES: AVerMedia AVerComm

In these cash-strapped and green days good video conferencing is increasingly important, saving time and money by replacing travel with a meeting in the comfort of your own office. But desktop video conferencing quality isn't reality – and not every business can afford the complexity and the requirements of HP Halo or Cisco Telepresence.

In these cash-strapped and green days good video conferencing is increasingly important, saving time and money by replacing travel with a meeting in the comfort of your own office. But desktop video conferencing quality isn't reality – and not every business can afford the complexity and the requirements of HP Halo or Cisco Telepresence.

We met the unusually capitalised AVerMedia at CES to talk about their AVerComm HD video conferencing system. Best compared with tools like Cisco Umi or Polycom's video conferencing offerings, AVerComm is intended to deliver video conferencing at a budget. It's competitively priced, not just with other telepresence systems, but also with transatlantic business-class airfares, coming in at around $4,000 for a 5 Mpx 7x zoom camera, codec/display unit, and a speakerphone module. The H300 version supports 4 points in a multipoint conference, and can also record meetings for later sharing.

Currently in use in 74 sites, AVerComm has a way to go to catch up with its high-end competitors. However its main features, including use of existing WAN connections (AVerMedia doesn't recommend using the system over the public internet due to latency issues) and no monthly fee, make the system attractive. There's a minimum bandwidth requirement of 256Kbps between endpoints, with HD 720p 30fps connections needing around 1Mbps. You can interoperate with existing H.323 and H.239 systems, although for best quality you'll need an AVerComm system at each end of a call, and this can make building out a network initially quite costly. Once in place, you can start to replace travel with conference calls – and also make video conferencing available to staff who wouldn't normally travel to meetings.

AVerMedia offers a hot-swapping option as part of its 2-year warranty – so as soon as you send back a failed unit a replacement is already on its way. With telepresence increasingly important to business, keeping connections active needs to become part of your business continuity planning, so back-to-back shipping will keep downtime to a minimum. AVerMedia also points out that the cost of a maintenance contract for Cisco's Telepresence would pay for both ends of an AVerComm system, something worth considering when budgeting for telepresence operational costs.

Simon Bisson