Ask Dr. Intranet

Could you tell me the extent to which improved video communications on an intranet might reduce the need for people to move around in buildings? Are there other benefits?

Intranet video communications, especially conferencing and collaboration services, let people work together beyond the levels provided by e-mail, voice mail and conference rooms. It will change the way people work by enabling teamwork across space and time.

But before you begin adding video functions to your intranet, make sure you have a systems and network infrastructure that provides quality of service for large amounts of video traffic without compromising business application performance.

Switched LANs are more prepared for video than 10M-bps shared Ethernet LANs.

Video can't replace every face-to-face meeting, but it works well to support group interaction among people who already know each other.

The European Commission WideBeam project has concluded that videoconferencing provides substantial cost benefits. Its Web site, www.isomatic.co.uk/WBVideotrials.htm describes the project and shows where to find the freely downloadable Windows tools used by participants for videoconferencing over TCP/IP.

Multimedia conferencing tools for Unix are available at www-nrg.ee.lbl.gov under MBone.

Blass is a network architect at Sprint Paranet in Houston. He can be reached at dr.intranet@paranet.com.

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