Video conferencing has revolutionized the way business is done by enabling effortless communication with clients, partners, and colleagues across huge distances, time zones, and borders.
But like all modern marvels, video conferencing took a while to evolve to its current manifestation and wasn’t always the affordable and convenient solution audiences worldwide have come to rely upon. What started as a voice-only way around expensive long distance calling using new (at the time) voice over IP technologies has morphed into a feature-rich multimedia online collaboration experience powering essential operations for small and large businesses alike.
Let’s take a look at some of the key milestones in video conferencing evolution to see just how far the technology has come and envision what it could be in future generations.
Conference calling was the biggest shift from the “good old days” of crisscrossing continents and oceans for in-person meetings. Increased travel costs and wary travelers left business leaders looking for more cost-effective (and less demanding) ways of communicating.
The emergence of Internet technologies paved the way for conference calling to become the norm for communicating with several geographically dispersed colleagues at a time. Voice over IP (VoIP) produced a more cost-effective means of communicating than long-distance calling over traditional phone lines.
However, despite being cutting edge technology at the time it was introduced, users still experienced frequent technical difficulties, including poor audio quality and dropping calls, as well as challenges like speaker interruptions that come with not being able to see the other parties on the line.
The technical difficulties and lack of face-to-face interaction that plagued the performance of conference calling ushered in the next wave of collaboration, leading to the adoption of video or web conferencing.
Video conferencing delivered a more lifelike meeting experience, where presentations or documents could be shared on-screen allowing call participants to see corporate reports, sales figures and company data presented by participants. In addition to enabling more frequent, interactive meetings, video conferencing also significantly reduced business travel while also improving productivity.
However, these video conferencing solutions were used primarily by large enterprises with budgets big enough to support purpose-built conference rooms needed to house high-priced equipment used to run the systems. Conference rooms required an array of speakers, monitors, microphones and other hardware to facilitate a meeting, as well as unique audio and video feeds to ensure quality transmission.
All told, space, equipment, and network requirements still left many businesses considering video conferencing a luxury rather than a necessity.
Fortunately, technology advancements and a growing list of reputable providers made video conferencing more affordable and accessible over the years, providing a high-quality video conferencing experience across multiple devices that promote face-to-face communication, collaboration, and productivity.
The latest evolution of conferencing has made the biggest impact on the market. Cloud-based video conferencing has accelerated the demand for and adoption of businesses using video conferencing.
The success of cloud-based video conferencing is largely connected to the freedom and flexibility it provides. Unlike traditional on-site video conferencing that requires a dedicated conference room and costly equipment to manage, cloud-based video conferencing offloads those responsibilities to a hosting company.
Free of the burden of large capital expenses (CAPEX), ongoing maintenance, and single-room availability, video conferencing can fit the budget of any business–startup, SMB, or Fortune 500 company.
Video conferencing has grown from a niche market of enterprise businesses with expensive conference room setups to a highly accessible technology with flexible and scalable options that can fit the budget of most businesses. Now, video conferencing is a business necessity instead of a luxury afforded to only the biggest companies with the deepest pockets.