Comparing VSee with legacy video conferencing

We are often asked how VSee compares to room-based conferencing systems (or legacy video conferencing systems) and when is it appropriate to use each type of system .  A recent thread on the VSee Forum covers this topic in detail and is worth reposting here (headings added):

by mbrown1 on Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:16 pm


Have you done a comparison with true Video Conference products over IP, such as; LifeSize, iVisit, Vidyo, Tandberg (Movi2/VCS), Polycom (CMA), etc . . . that require a dedicated infrastructure? If so, what have you learned? If not, why not – are these too costly for evaluation?

by Rich on Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:34 pm

Legacy Video Conferencing Solutions

I have evaluated many hardware-based VC solutions. LifeSize room (pretty darn good – expensive infra, around 6 Mbs); iVisit runs on desktops and is poor (although written by one of my VC heroes, Tim Dorcey who wrote CU-SeeMe at Cornell Univ.); Vidyo I’ve used extensively and like it very much – but it is pricey (although much cheaper than traditional HD gear) and also needs 1.5-4 Mbs for 6-way.

I got to see a beta of Polycom, CMA a year or so ago while at NJEdge; nice – but like, Tandberg’s Movi II; needs expensive gear. Additional costs are for the gateway to make them work with premise h.323 equipment as they are both SIP based.

My take on hardware-endpoint versus PC-based software endpoints are that they’re both nice for various usage scenarios. I travel a lot and wouldn’t want to lug a Tandberg, 990 MXP with me – however, I’m never without my laptop, Logitech QuickCam Pro for Notebooks and Duet PCS USB speakphone. But I think the biggest determinant is whether you need to connect with those on legacy equipment. I work in the educational space where there is a preponderance of Polycom H.323 equipment. For that, I use Mirial Softphone (part of LifeSize); even while in the office. The other reality is that even lower-end, used hardware endpoints like Tandberg’s 990 MXP are anywhere from $4,000 or so. Mirial is about $140 and a small monthly fee for updates and whatnot. (BTW, I’ve tried software H.323 clients based on OpenH323 – they’re pretty low-quality.) The upside to hardware-based H.323/SIP endpoints is they have dedicated DSPs for optimal performance.

VSee Advantages Over Vidyo Video Conferencing

The advantage I find with VSee over other PC-based VC systems like Vidyo, Mirial, etc. is that multi-participant sessions usually tax your machine’s system resources and available commodity bandwidth. VSee is optimized to use the least amount of bandwidth and PC resources while maintaining those criteria most important for the best end-user experience which is lip-sync, smooth-motion, fair edge-sharpness and spatial-detail at 320×240 and very low bandwidth requirements. What I’ve found is that the factor which most affects the quality of video is bandwidth. There will always be issues with network latency, jitter and various sorts of packet collisions which have the accumulative effect of mucking up real time video/audio. The best way to deal with that is to increase bandwidth (not an option over the commodity internet) or decrease the reliance on bandwidth. This is where VSee shines. SightSpeed has a pretty low bandwidth requirement too and does a good job at maintaining lip-sync and smooth-motion; but at the expense of video quality. I find it distracting to look at fuzzy video for extended periods.

For my workgroups/family/friends, I use VSee. I’ve long campaigned to get those folks off disparate “toy” video phone apps like: Skype, SightSpeed, ooVoo, VZOchat, AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo IM, Logitech Vid, etc. and to get them to use VSee. I’ve had pretty good luck actually – and will have an easier job at it once VSee adds a few more features like IM-only and Voice-only URIs to the existing, sole vsee: URI to initiate a session.

One area where VSee could stand some improvement is in its audio CODEC (now updated). They use SpeeX for the high-quality setting and DSP Groups, TrueSpeech for standard (narrow-band) audio. CELT is looking really good and should soon be robust enough to provide 70Hz-15KHz audio optimized for voice/speech with very low delay.

So….long story short. Hardware-based endpoints are great. Only if you need to connect to legacy H.323/SIP users and you’re in a video-conference room.

PC-based software H.323/SIP endpoints are cheaper – but again, only useful if you need to connect to legacy H.323/SIP users.

If you have an ad-hoc group, especially when comprised with mobile folks who often rely on hotel bandwidth/aircards, Starbucks WiFi, etc. – VSee is awesome and allows real multi-participant collaboration.

Sorry I tend to ramble a bit – did that answer your questions?

by mbrown1 on Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:00 pm

Yes Rich, thank you so much for the information. We are in the process of looking at various VC products with priorities set on; Security issues (ability to control specific functions for each user, Single Signon authentication, logging calls, scan between Firewalls, etc . . . ), automated processes that enable IP projectors to be unmanned, application / desktop sharing, lip-sync scenarios while going through a rather lengthy delayed communication process (perhaps up to 6 seconds) and cost.

by Rich on Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:34 pm

What Makes VSee So Cool

Wow. You just ran through the feature set of VSee!

1.) Security = FIPS 140-2 (actually NIST FIPS 140-2 just dictates the metric and testing protocol for security – but VSee uses 256-bit Rijndael “AES”. That the NSA has deemed sufficient to protect classified information up to the TOP SECRET level.)

2.) VSee Directory Service – allows control of which users have access to which other users and what they can do

3.) Single Sign-On (well I know the VSee Directory Service can be added to your LDAP or Active Directory IDM stack – unless you are using Active Directory you’ll probably have to use an SSO authentication shim like CAS on top of the Identity Manager)

4.) Usage logs: I believe this is also a feature of VSee Directory Service

5.) Cross FireWalls (by use of the VSee Relay Service)

6.) Remote, unmanned usage: the VSee SDK’s Client Automation will probably fit the bill here

7.) Latency Coping – GATR Technologies has partnered with VSee Labs; probably due to VSee’s dynamic lip-sync buffering for their satellite telemetry infrastructure (you wanna talk latency….

8.) Cost – the real clincher. I’ve spoken to Milton in the past about pricing. They’re dirt cheap when you consider most of these functions (if even available in other platforms) require hanging kludges onto existing H.323 infrastructure. An example is adding real security to H.323: KG-194 and KIV family of products are super expensive and very fidgety – check out Adtran or Centicom to get an idea of pricing – not to speak of the extra layer of bits required to send it all. Now add H.460.17/.18/.19 servers to H.323 to help in firewall and NAT traversal. Now add IM, Document, video, application sharing, PSTN call out, etc. and you’re talking huge expense and lots of maintenance and service contracts that seriously bring your yearly costs to crazy levels. What I like about VSee is that not only have all these features been designed to work together from the ground up, but are provided under very affordable pricing.

Sorry – I guess I’m sounding like a brochure; but I have spent a lot of time and effort to both refine my selection criteria and test the available solutions. I’ll always continue to but I also always find myself coming back to VSee.

You might also be interested in our article here: VSee – Free Alternative to Vidyo Telepresence Business Video Conference – Comparison

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