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Universal IP at Last

There's no end to what you can do over IP. Prepare your network, take our test, and go!

By Wendy Chretien and Peter Gray

Heard the one about the New Age appliance repair person who shows up unexpectedly at the door, and tells the housewife, "Your fridge e-mailed me"? Well, now there really are networked, IP-enabled refrigerators.

Your campus may be in the same situation. Traditionally, there have been many devices and systems running independently, and using separate cabling and control systems. You now need to prepare to integrate many of these systems into your data or IP-based networks.

Why You Should IP-Enable These Systems Networked systems allow for remote device management and troubleshooting, in effect permitting a systems administrator anywhere on campus (or off, for that matter) to manage and support the systems.

For management consolidation. Devices can be managed from the operations center, rather than by walking around, saving time and effort.

You've got questions. We've got answers. Call 1-800-224-7083 now with your conferencing and pricing questions, or click here to have an IVCi Representative contact you.

For cabling standardization. Separate systems and groups of components can share the same types of wires. This can help contain costs and improve aesthetics in new construction and remodeling projects.

IP-enabled systems can be set up to proactively send notifications when help is needed re: environmental conditions, lamp replacement, or fan/filter cleaning. Many systems link to e-mail or text pagers, to alert managers about issues needing attention. This proactive communication can minimize classroom downtime and may also prolong the effective life of devices.

IP is standards-based. This fosters the ability to interconnect many types of systems, and avoids proprietary-type control issues and costs.

There is global acceptance of IP as a transport mechanism, permitting the vendors to offer their wares to a larger market, consequently driving down costs.

Candidates

While voice over IP (VoIP) is the current attention-getter, there are new applications for IP integration, including:

  • Video (with audio), both one-way broadcast and two-way interactive
  • Building Automation systems (control and management of heating/cooling and lighting management systems)
  • Physical security systems (cameras and security equipment controllers)
  • Multimedia systems (projectors, monitors-any device that has an Ethernet/IP connection or a serial connection)

Candidates Make It to the Campus

Video over IP. Back in '99, Northcentral Technical College (WI) pioneered a video-over-IP network on a US campus. The new system was designed for live distance learning courses across several campuses, and the transport between buildings became IP, replacing an analog video system from the '80s. It worked out so well that VoIP was added onto the system later. NTC chose Cisco Systems for the network electronics and subsequent IP phones. Polycom was ultimately selected for the video encoding/decoding units (codecs); Tandberg was also deemed acceptable.

Streaming video and/or audio is another IP application and already common in higher education. One such application is in evidence at Washburn University (KS), where courses are streamed "on demand" to on-campus network users. A student who misses a class can view that session (with "pause" and "rewind" capabilities) from any networked computer, whenever convenient.

Video conferencing is another angle for video over IP. Desktop video conferencing is designed for one-on-one use, but there are systems for multiple users as well, often referred to as "room-based" video conferencing. Many of the traditional voice/telephone companies now play in this market.

IP-connected projectors. Still another IP application is that of projectors that have built-in Ethernet/IP connections. Some of these devices can even tell you how many hours of lamp life have been used, and notify the administrator/technician when it's time for routine maintenance. Certain projectors also offer optional wireless LAN cards. The next big thing is delivering content to the projector over the LAN, rather than using analog or direct digital graphics cabling. In 2003, UC San Diego installed Sony (www.sony.com) SuperSmart projectors in a new engineering building, with this in mind. Each projector has an IP address and industry-standard CAT-5 interface for direct LAN connection, allowing presentations to be sent via Ethernet. These projectors also ease maintenance and upkeep by communicating with service and support technicians via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) messaging. Manufacturers include Barco, Sanyo, Epson, NEC, and Sony. Interested in this feature? You'll need to note that, currently, only a few projector models are IP-enabled, so check before ordering, and remember to add that Ethernet outlet in the right spot.

Security cameras. Security is another hot topic, with new security cameras that utilize IP to deliver video images back to a switcher and/or DVR. Then too, security control panels and other security devices are also becoming IP-compatible. Security personnel can now control pan-tilt-zoom cameras and recall stored video from any convenient desktop. Some manufacturers with IP-enabled cameras: Sony, Sanyo, Toshiba, and JVC.

Control help. Another useful option for remote management of any serial device is Ethernet/IP boxes that have a serial interface (e.g., RS-232) for sending commands from a control system to a device that does not already have an Ethernet/IP connection. Crestron and Extron are two manufacturers with products in this arena. Columbia University (NY), University of Wisconsin, UC-Davis, (CA) and Sheridan College (WY) are just a few examples of schools using Crestron IP-based control systems.

Now, the only question is: Is your network infrastructure ready for the influx of IP-connected devices and services? Some of the new applications, such as security, are in the life-safety category and require a highly reliable network. Voice and video traffic have additional needs for timely delivery.

The Final Exam

You're ready for Universal IP, but is your network? Ask yourself the following six questions:

  1. What level of redundancy does your network incorporate? Do you have secondary power sources such as UPS and/or a generator? Do network switches have connections to more than one other device?
  2. How much bandwidth is available? Video eats bandwidth like candy. If you haven't checked bandwidth availability, now would be a good time to do it. Need help? Try MRTG, a freeware package for real-time monitoring of your traffic (mrtg.hdl.com/mrtg.html).
  3. Can your current "data" network equipment support Quality of Service (QoS)? [Definition, courtesy of About.com: "The goal of QoS is to provide guarantees on the ability of a network to deliver predictable results. Elements of network performance within the scope of QoS often include availability (uptime), bandwidth (throughput), latency (delay), and error rate."] If you aren't sure about QoS, ask the person who configures your network switches.
  4. How secure is your network, both from a cyber and a physical perspective? If you plan to add IP-based life-safety systems such as fire alarming, this is truly critical.
  5. What environmental conditions do your networked devices live under? If it's too hot or humid, network equipment failure rates go up dramatically.
  6. Are your people ready? That is, are they up to speed on things like QoS in the network? If not, now is the time to prepare them.

For additional information regarding IVCi products and services, or to speak to a representative, please contact IVCi at 800-224-7083, or click here to have an IVCi Representative contact you.


Web Conferencing 101

Web conferencing is a new communications medium, and it's not quite like any other.

By Dale Coyner

It may share characteristics with other media, such as teleconferencing and live multimedia presentations, but ultimately it requires specific techniques for maximum effectiveness. Here are 13 ideas for creating more successful online events:

1. Keep It Simple

It's easy to become enamored with all the features that today's Web conferencing systems offer. Avoid the temptation to try all the bells and whistles if you're just starting out or if you're trying a new system. Master the basics: slide control, polling and messaging. Once you and your audience are comfortable with these elements, you can gradually introduce more sophisticated features, such as streaming audio, whiteboarding and application sharing.

2. Keep It Short

Live events of 60 to 90 minutes are most effective. If your program requires more time, consider breaking it into segments delivered over days or weeks. Build the presentation around three or four key messages to leave with your audience. Ninety minutes is enough time to interact with the audience - asking them questions for polls and answering their questions.

3. Get Off to a Fast Start

Spend no more than two minutes introducing the event and covering the features of the Web conferencing system. Then let the main presenter begin. This will give the event a fast-paced feel that will keep participants tuned in.

4. Ask Good Questions

Don't use a live event to ask pointless demographic questions such as "From where are you attending?" That kind of information can be determined in pre-event registration. Use the time in front of the audience to ask questions that collect critical feedback and measure the effectiveness of your message.

5. Use a Specialist

For live events of more than 20 participants, use one or more specialists in addition to the presenter to answer audience questions. The barriers to participation are low in an online event, so expect to receive more questions via the instant-messaging feature common to most Web conferences than in a typical face-to-face presentation. Using a specialist means that everyone who asks a question will get a personal response while the presenter stays focused on delivering his key points.

6. "Pre-Flight" Everyone

Pre-flight checks are usually Web pages provided by the event service provider that check the participant's computer to ensure it is capable of participating in the program. All participants should complete one.

7. Start with the Phone

To ease people into the technology, first use Web conferencing in conjunction with a familiar medium, such as teleconferencing. Let the teleconference deliver the audio, and let the Web conference offer participants a way to see visual material and ask questions without interrupting the program. Use the interactive features of the teleconference bridge, such as live Q & A sessions, to simulate a radio "talk show" format. As the participants become comfortable, you can migrate some of them to Internet-based audio to reduce the teleconference expense.

8. Keep Slides Simple

Web conferencing works best when slides are formatted with simple designs and a few consistent colors. Don't use full-screen photos in slides. These images will take too long to display for participants. When made "Web ready" for the event, flat colors and simple graphics will display quickly on the screen.

9. Plan Ahead for Software Demos

If a computer application is going to be demonstrated to the audience, select a Web conferencing system that supports application broadcasting. This allows the application to be shown directly from a computer. Practice with this a lot before the event to get comfortable with how it works and how it looks from the perspective of the presenters and the audience. Most systems require a plug-in to be downloaded and installed to capture and display what's on the computer screen.

10. Rent an Emcee

For important events, hiring a professional online moderator, who can conduct interactive polls and talk with a presenter while waiting for results to come from the audience, eliminates awkward dead air. A moderator also can smooth the Q & A process by asking prepared questions and gleaning the best ones from the online audience. Perhaps most importantly, these professionals know how to keep an online event moving when glitches occur and this allows the speakers to focus on their message, rather than worry about which button to click.

11. Test, Test and Retest

Once the event is staged and ready to go, make sure to test the links that will be sent to your registered participants. If the correct link isn't sent, the audience won't be able to find the event!

Also, double-check the phone number for the teleconference for participants and presenters. Problems like these are completely preventable with a minimal amount of due diligence.

12. Use Both Views for the Presentation

On program day, set up two computers, one with the presenter's view and another logged on as an audience member, to give a sense of what the participants are experiencing. Slides that are slow to advance for you may display quickly for the audience. This also will let you check the formatting and appearance of the visuals from the participants' perspective.

13. Don't Go Looking for Trouble

Glitches can happen during any type of presentation, in person or over the Web. In Web-based events, glitches are often an issue only if they are acknowledged by the presenter. For example, if the presenter clicks a button to advance to the next slide and it is slow to change, he gains nothing by telling the audience, "Gosh this sure is taking a long time to come up." Perhaps there is a slower-than-average Internet connection. Just make a mental note to advance slides a little sooner, and no one will be the wiser.

For additional information regarding IVCi products and services, or to speak to a representative, please contact IVCi at 800-224-7083, or click here to have an IVCi Representative contact you.


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For every 24 audio ports purchased, receive 10 Web conferencing seats ($9500 value) absolutely FREE!

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To view a demonstration and take advantage of this offer, call us at 1-800-224-7083, or e-mail us at: info@ivcimail.com. This offer is only available until December 29, 2004.


Video Conferencing Requires Routers with Built-In QoS

For conferencing users, Internet Protocol (IP) offers a low-cost alternative to to Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN).

by Greg Meckbach

For video conferencing users, Internet Protocol (IP) 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 last month's IP World Canada conference.

“Corporate IT departments can control their own internal networks, but once they start making video conference 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.

He said companies are using virtual private networks for video calls but if you want to provide acceptable service between two points, the routers in the middle must have quality of service (QoS) functionality.

At a seminar titled Enhanced Productivity through Video Communications, Perkins outlined several key questions network managers need to ask before they roll out video conferencing.

"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?"

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 stick to ISDN,” said Ronald Gruia, program leader of enterprise communications for Frost & Sullivan Canada.

Gruia, who spoke at two separate IPWorld Canada sessions, said in an interview five years ago, 90 per cent of video end points only worked 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.

For additional information regarding IVCi products and services, or to speak to a representative, please contact IVCi at 800-224-7083, or click here to have an IVCi Representative contact you.

All trade names, trademarks, and/or service marks herein are owned by their respective holders.

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