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Why not use Skype in the conference room?

There is no doubt that Skype has done a lot of work for video conferencing. It transforms from audio-only services to audio with video, enabling millions of people around the world to embrace this form of video conferencing in their daily lives. Keeping in touch with friends and family overseas has never been easier and the price is free. This is a very compelling technology. Many other companies have succeeded in the success of Skype, especially Apple and Facetime and Google and Google+ as well as many other chat and video applications.

Outside the consumer world, businesses spend and continue to invest millions of dollars each year to enhance enterprise video conferencing, from dedicated video conferencing, telepresence suites to desktops and emerging mobile video conferencing. One question we are often asked is why not just use Skype?

Skype works with Skype. You cannot make a Skype call to the video conference room. Skype uses its own proprietary communication method, and some try to create a video gateway from the video conference room to the Skype client, but all of this has had limited success, and Microsoft's acquisition of Skype may change in this regard, although they may further Tightening and allowing only Skype to use their own Lync products.

So why not replace your conference room system with a Skype embedded smart TV or a desktop PCRoom-based video conferencing system at a price. Their prices are very reasonable. They use the high quality components to give you the best video conferencing experience. Let's take a look at the differences between Skype meeting room settings and traditional VC meeting rooms.

Skype meeting room

  • microphone: from

     The webcam integrated microphone causes echo, which is very doubtful of background noise, such as air conditioning is difficult to hear all participants

  • Echo cancellation: from

     The microphone and TV speakers are too close together to allow the window to provide echo cancellation. Even separate echoes can cause major problems

  • camera: from

     Imagine you are a four-way call. Your meeting room will only occupy the far end screen. Without the ability to properly scale and focus, people sitting at the end of the table will only take up 1% of the screen space – you might also use audio.

  • Packet loss: from

     If the packet loss is greater than 5% [very common], the Skype call will be affected. Skype usually uses "relay" to communicate, which will greatly increase packet loss and delay, resulting in quality degradation.

  • Resolution: from

     The resolution of Skype may look good in a small window on the desktop, but when viewed on a large screen, the quality cannot compete with typical Skype calls for QVGA [320×240] and there is no Skype certification logo.

Traditional VC room system

  • microphone: from

     Multiple microphones for everyone to hear clearly

  • Echo cancellation: from

     Focused echo from

    eliminate

  • camera: from

     High quality PTZ camera.

  • Packet loss: from

     Built-in packet loss [method varies by manufacturer]

  • Resolution: from

     All recent video conferencing codecs are capable of supporting 720p [1280×720] or 1080p [1980×1080] resolutions

You can see the difference between Skype in the conference room and the traditional video conference room. Together, these factors really highlight why I never consider using Skype in a conference room environment. One of Skype's recent features is the ability to have more than two people in a video call. Skype group video calls look compelling, allowing up to 10 people to join a single video call for 6.99 euros per month. Let's dive into the small fonts and then compare the Skype Group's calls to the virtual room.

Virtual room

  • The number of participants: from

     28 calls per call

  • Required bandwidth: from

     > 128Kbps

  • Use policy: from

     Bundle minutes as you pay

  • Mobile devices: from

     All features on Android, iPhone and iPad

  • Per port encoding: from

     Each participant will join at the best resolution. Therefore, low-resolution participants will not degrade the call quality of others.

  • Moderate: from

     Meetings can be locked, protected with PIN, noisy participants can be muted, there are multiple layout options, any device can be joined anywhere

  • Advanced Features: from

     Record, stream, chat, comment, presentation catch up

Skype group call

  • The number of participants: from

     5 recommended [up to 10]

  • Required bandwidth: from

     5-person call > 4000 kbps, 7-person call > 8000 kbps

  • Use policy: from

     100 hours per month, 10 hours a day, 4 hours per meeting [so your meeting room can only be used for 3 meetings per day]

  • Mobile devices: from

     Voice only supports group calls

  • Per port encoding: from

     Skype does not use per-port encoding, but uses a lot of bandwidth and local processing power.

  • Moderate: from

     There is no review feature. Meetings can't lock privacy, participants can't mute, layout control is very limited, only Skype users can join

  • Advanced Features: from

     There are no advanced features in Skype other than chat and file sharing.

Once again, once you see small fonts and look at the real business environment, Skype's situation is once again reduced. I can't imagine having a video conference room that can only be used for 3 hours a day. Although these restrictions do not really affect the consumer world, you just want to talk and catch up.

Security has also become a concern for Skype. Not the actual flow, contrary to popular belief, there is indeed 256-bit AES encryption, but around the security of the corporate network. File sharing is a built-in component of Skype, and many organizations definitely don't want to do this. Skype's built-in instant messaging feature is at the heart of consumer interest, but it violates many corporate security editors—especially because it may require documentation and archiving, so it constitutes a written communication. The Skype client itself also provides ads at the bottom. Today Skype uses this to do their own advertising, but can't control what customers stop advertising from Skype? Finally there is Skype Supernodes. The Skype network relies on a large number of PCs and has a regular Skype client installed as a super node. These super nodes act as directory services for other calls. In the consumer world, this may not be important as it is part of your free service. Although this effect is absolutely undesirable in the enterprise, other measures must be taken to prevent this [eg through GPO].

Watch the desktop to desktop video call. This may be the closest to using Skype in the consumer world. Similarly, there are important differences between standards-based desktop video conferencing clients and the use of Skype on the desktop.

Desktop VC client

  • Interoperability: from

     Any device can be dialed anywhere [depending on the client may require firewall traversal]

  • Resolution: from

     Multiple resolutions up to 1080p 30fps

  • bandwidth: from

     > 128kbps

  • Group phone from

     : per port encoding, the number of participants depends on the service and not the bandwidth

  • reliability: from

     Highly reliable, traffic routing within the enterprise can be prioritized by QoS

  • Scalability: from

     Scalability depends on the backend infrastructure. Multi-point calls use far less bandwidth than Skype due to multi-stream encoding on the MCU.

  • Mobile devices: from

     Same as desktop

  • control: from

     Company address book, monitoring, audit

Skype desktop

  • Interoperability: from

     Can only call other Skype users [default is port 80 and 443 for firewall traversal]

  • Resolution: from

     Standard: 320×240 15fps, high quality: 640×480 30fps, HD: 720p 30fps

  • bandwidth: from

     7 people call a minimum of 300kbps, up to 8000kbps

  • Group phone: from

     Up to 10 codes per port [5 recommended], very high bandwidth and processor requirements

  • reliability: from

     Routing is not under enterprise control, relays may be external, and bottlenecks can usually occur at the enterprise exit

  • Scalability: from

     For group calls, scaling is very limited and bandwidth intensive. Controlling traffic routing will create real problems for multiple point-to-point connections within the enterprise

  • Mobile devices: from

     Can only participate in group calls via audio

  • control: from

     Self-maintained buddy list, no monitoring reports, metrics or audits

The last thing to look at is service and management. When things are going well, they are great but what happens when something goes wrong?

With Skype, you have no control over the network infrastructure on which the service runs, you can call the phone service desk, and support is actually limited to search forums. Through corporate video conferencing, organizations can control all aspects, and if managed by an external vendor, they will provide real-time help desk support and assistance. In an enterprise environment, it is important to be able to measure and monitor the quality of the services provided and to understand the impact of one service on another. With Skype, you don't have these controls. For example, if someone complains that email progress is slow, how would the service desk know that this is actually a 5-way Skype call by two people, which limits the bandwidth available to other users? Or in December 2010, almost the entire Skype network was affected by nearly 24 hours. How do I know who my top video users are and how do I know when they have problems? Skype has no service management, you are using products rather than services, so you can't get the metrics and support that the service gets.

All in all, like everything in life, you get the price you pay. Yes, I like Skype and use it every day to keep in touch with friends and family, but today, but for the foreseeable future, I can't advocate the widespread adoption of Skype within the enterprise.

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