Networking

How to get the best video-conferencing experience on a budget

video-conferencing

The benefits of video conferencing for businesses are clear; there’s no need to spend money and time getting to meetings, you can spread your business team around the world while keeping in touch, and you can be more personable than in an email or phone call. However, despite this, some companies are still loathe to use these services because of the possible issues with dropped or low-quality calls. Clearly, a bad video experience could cost you a sale or a partnership, but there are a few things you can do to ensure that the conversation is the only thing people are concentrating on during your meeting.

You don’t need to invest in a lot of equipment for a good video-calling experience either. While it’s true that a dedicated service can cost thousands of pounds, cloud-based video-calling services like Skype, Facetime, Join.me and Google Hangouts can offer all the convenience of video conferencing with no or minimal costs. You just need to spend a bit of time on the setup to make sure you have done everything you can to prevent potential call issues.

Making connections

Most of these issues are due to a too weak internet connection. If you are going to use video to conduct important business meetings, it is well worth investing in a high-speed connection to your office and a top-of-the-range router, and then taking a moment to configure it correctly.

A wired connection will reduce any possible WiFi drop-out issues, but if you still want the convenience of a wireless connection, ensure that the computer or laptop you will be using to make the call is positioned in your office or home where its connection is strongest. You can test this on your phone using an app like SpeedSmart Speed Tester (Apple) or WiFI Analyzer (Android) to find the best place to put your device.

video-conferencing

Optimising settings

Once you’ve found that sweet spot, it’s time to do what you can to make that signal as strong and uninterruptible as possible. To do this you can optimise your router settings and the devices it prioritises by going into its firmware. This is pretty simple, and a couple of tweaks can ensure your laptop/PC is being given the lion’s share of the bandwidth available for your video call.

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First of all, you need to ensure you have the latest firmware for your router downloaded onto your computer or laptop (a quick internet search on the router model name should provide you with places you can download the latest versions). Then type ‘192.168.1.1’ into the address bar of your web browser and you will be able to log in to see your router’s settings (usually, the default username and password will be printed on the underside of your router). Once you are in, clicking on the ‘Firmware version’ option will let you replace the firmware file with the one you downloaded.

Choosing 5GHz over 2.4GHz

Now you are up to date, if your router supports it you should choose to broadcast on 5GHz as well as 2.4GHz in the router firmware’s wireless settings. This is because there is less ‘noise’ on this frequency than on the more used 2.4GHz spectrum (which also supports Bluetooth devices like headphones, speakers and mice which can cause signal interference). Ensuring you are using the purer 5GHz signal will provide you with faster data rates for your video conferencing.

Do note though that the 5GHz signal will not travel as far as the 2.4GHz one, so ensure your router is positioned close to your video-conferencing device.

video-conferencing

Broadcast channels

Now we need to choose the best wireless channel for your router – as in which radio frequency it should be broadcasting on so you get the best quality signal. Because most routers have the same default broadcast channels they can interfere with each other’s signals because they are so similar. By changing the channel to one that no one else is using (or which only has weak signals on or near it) you will get a better signal. Apps like WiFi Analyzer mentioned earlier will show you which channels are being used by the routers around you, then you can just choose the channel you want within the wireless settings of your router‘s firmware.

Quality of service prioritisation

If you are on a shared connection, or if you commonly use bandwidth-depleting services like TV and music streaming or torrents, you also need to think about ensuring your video conferencing is prioritised when you need it to be. This is very simple if your router’s firmware has a QoS (Quality of service) option – fortunately, most modern top-of-the-range routers do.

Using QoS you can create rules to ensure your video-conferencing device takes priority over other devices connected to the network. Typically, you can set these priorities by application or device. Creating rules of prioritisation in the application section will ensure other services being used by your computer do not steal the bandwidth from your video-calling software while it is being used.

In a shared office the QoS option we’d recommend is to prioritise one device over the other using the Mac Address of the wireless card within that device. This means the machine you are using for video conferencing is favoured while throttling the connections of the other devices.

Note: to find your mac address in Windows go to ‘Control panel’, ‘Network and Internet’, ‘Network and sharing centre’, ‘Change Adapter Setting’ and right-click on your network and choose properties. Hovering the mouse over what appears below ‘Connect using:’ will reveal the Mac Address. To find it on a Mac, select System Preferences from the Apple menu, choose ‘Wi-Fi’ and click ‘Advanced’. Under the hardware tab you will see your Mac address.

Added together, these simple tips will mean that drop outs and bad connections during video conferencing will become a thing of the past. Just take the time to set it up correctly and you can reap the rewards saving your business time, money and giving you a worldwide reach with a professional feel.

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