Toronto — For videoconferencing users, Internet Protocol (IP) technology offers a low-cost alternative to Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), but IP doesn’t always offer good quality or security, according to speakers at a recent industry conference.

Corporate IT departments can control

their own internal networks, but once they start making videoconference calls to people from outside the company over the public Internet, it’s more difficult to guarantee quality, said Rick Perkins, product manager of Sony of Canada Ltd.

“”The Internet as it exists today may not provide the quality of service you need for business calibre videoconferencing,”” Perkins said. “”Are companies doing it? Sure. They are using things such as (virtual private networks).””

But in order to provide acceptable service between two points, the routers in the middle must have quality of service (QoS) functionality, he said.

Perkins made his remarks at a seminar titled Enhanced Productivity through Video Communications, at the IP World Canada conference at the Toronto Congress Centre.

Perkins outlined several key questions network managers need to ask before they roll out videoconferencing.

“”What are users expecting? Are they expecting full video resolution? Are they expecting to be able to send PowerPoints with their presentations? What is your local-area infrastructure?””

Perkins said in a 10 megabit per second (Mbps) corporate network, a videoconference could take up about 15 per cent of all available bandwidth.

“”If you’re trying to run videoconferencing over your own local intranet, what else are you trying to do? Is there data going through? You have to have restrictions on bandwidth.””

IT staff also need to ask whether their firewalls allow external video users in while ensuring the network is still secure.

Security concerns are causing some video users to shun IP, said Ronald Gruia, program leader of enterprise communications for Frost & Sullivan Canada.

Gruia, who spoke at two separate IP World Canada sessions, said in 1999, 90 per cent of video end points worked only on ISDN networks.

Today, 23 per cent of video equipment revenues are for cameras and other end points that work on IP networks only.

The rest of the end points support ISDN and IP.

“”There’s this frequently held notion that ISDN videoconferencing is the best thing, so IP videoconferencing is having to fight an uphill battle,”” Gruia said.

But he added the market is shifting to IP because the operating costs are lower.

In addition to its lower cost, IP has the advantage of enabling applications that combine video, voice and data, said Phil Marechal, alliances manager of Polycom Inc., a Pleasanton, Calif.-based videoconferencing equipment manufacturer.

“”In the past, videoconferencing was a stand-alone piece of equipment on the network,”” Marechal said during the IP World Canada video communications seminar.

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