Why Not Use Skype in the Conference Room?

There is no doubt that Skype has done much for video conferencing. Its transition from an audio only service to audio with video has enabled millions of people worldwide to accept this form of video conferencing into their daily lives. Keeping up with friends and family overseas has never been easier and with a price tag of free it is a very compelling technology. Many other companies have jumped on the success of Skype notably Apple with Facetime and Google with Google+ as well as a multitude of other chat and video applications.

Outside of the consumer world enterprises have spent and continue to invest millions of dollars each year on enhancing corporate video conferencing from dedicated video conference rooms, Telepresence suites to desktop and the emerging mobile video conferencing. One of the questions we often get asked is why not just use Skype?

Skype works with Skype. You cannot make a Skype call to a video conference room. Skype uses its own proprietary method of communication there have been some attempts to create video gateways from video conference rooms to Skype clients but all have had limited success maybe things will change on this front with the Microsoft acquisition of Skype although they may well tighten up further and only allow Skype to work with their own Lync offering.

So, why not replace your room system with a Skype embedded smart TV or a desktop PCRoom based video conference systems come at a price. They come at a price for very good reasons. They use high quality components to provide you with the best possible video conference experience. Lets look at the differences between a Skype Room setup and a traditional VC room.

Skype Room

  • Microphones: Webcam integrated microphone. Causes echo, very susceptible to background noise e.g. aircon very hard to hear all participants
  • Echo Cancelation: Microphone and TV speakers are too close together to allow windows to provide echo cancellation. Even if separated echo will cause significant issues
  • Camera: Imagine you are in a four way call. Your meeting room will only occupy ¼ of the far end screen. Without the ability to zoom & focus properly a person sitting at the end of the table will only occupy 1% of screen real estate – you might as well be using audio.
  • Packet Loss: Skype calls suffer if packet loss is greater than 5% (very common) Skype normally uses “relays” to communicate which dramatically increases packet loss and latency both leading to lower quality
  • Resolution: Skype resolution might look fine in a small window on your desktop, but when viewed on a large screen, the quality cannot compete typical Skype calls are QVGA (320×240) and bare the Skype certified logo.

Traditional VC Room System

  • Microphones: Multiple microphones so everyone can be clearly heard
  • Echo Cancelation: Dedicated echo cancelation
  • Camera: High Quality PTZ camera.
  • Packet Loss: In built packet loss (method varies from manufacturer)
  • Resolution: All recent video conference codecs are capable of either 720p (1280×720) or 1080p (1980×1080) resolution

You can see that there are clearly significant differences between Skype in a meeting room and a traditional video conference room. These factors added together really highlights why I would never consider using Skype in a meeting room environment. A recent feature to Skype has been the ability to have more than just two people on a video call. Skypes group video calling looks compelling, allowing up to 10 people to join in a single video call at 6.99 Euros a month. Let’s delve a little deeper into the small print and again and compare Skype Group calling with virtual rooms.

Virtual Rooms

  • Number of participants: 28 per call
  • Bandwidth needed: >128Kbps
  • Usage Policy: Pay as you go, bundled minutes
  • Mobile Devices: Full features on Android, iPhone and iPad
  • Per Port encoding: Each participant will join at their optimum resolution. So a low resolution attendee does not reduce the quality of the call for others
  • Moderation: Meetings can be locked, protected with a PIN, noisy participants can be muted there are multiple layout options and any device anywhere can join
  • Advanced features: Recording, streaming, chat, annotating, presentation catchup

Skype Group Calling

  • Number of participants: 5 recommended (10 max.)
  • Bandwidth needed:>4000 kbps for 5 person call, >8000 kbps for 7 person call
  • Usage Policy: 100 Hours per month, 10 Hours per day, 4 hours per meeting (So your meeting room could only be utilised for 3 meetings a day)
  • Mobile Devices: Voice Only supported for group calls
  • Per Port encoding: Skype does not use per port encoding but instead relies on huge amounts of bandwidth and local processing power
  • Moderation: There are no moderation features. Meetings cannot be locked for privacy, participants cannot be muted, layout control is very limited and only Skype users can join
  • Advanced features: There are no advanced features in Skype other than chat and file sharing

Again, once you look into the small print and look into the real world corporate environment the case for Skype once again reduces. I can’t really imagine having a Skype video conference room that can only be used for 3 hours a day. These limitations though really have little bearing in the consumer world where you just want to chat or catch up.

Security also becomes a concern with Skype. Not the actual stream, which contrary to popular belief does have 256bit AES encryption but security around the corporate network. File sharing is a built in component of Skype which many organisations absolutely do not want to allow. The instant messaging functions built into Skype, whilst at the core of the consumer benefits this contravene many enterprise security edits – particularly as it constitutes written communication which may legally have to be recorded and archived. The Skype client itself also provides advertising at the bottom. Today Skype use this for their own advertising but with no control over the client what is to stop inappropriate advertising from Skype? Finally there are Skype Supernodes. The Skype network relies on a huge number of PC’s with the regular Skype client installed to act as Supernodes. These super nodes act as directory services for other calls to be made. In the consumer world this probably doesn’t really matter too much as it is part of your give for using a free service. In the enterprise though this effect would absolutely be undesirable and additional measures have to be taken to prevent this (via GPO for example)

Looking at desktop to desktop video calling. This is probably the closest slimily to using Skype in the consumer world. Again though, there are important differences between a standards based desktop video conference client and utilising Skype on the desktop.

Desktop VC Client

  • Interoperability: Can make calls to any device anywhere (depending on client may need firewall traversal)
  • Resolution: Multiple resolutions Up to 1080p 30fps
  • Bandwidth: >128kbps
  • Group calling: Per port encoding, number of participants dependent on service not bandwidth
  • Reliability: Highly reliable, traffic routing within the enterprise can be prioritised via QoS
  • Scalability: Scalability is dependent on backend infrastructure. Multi point calls use far less bandwidth that Skype due to the multi stream encoding on the MCU.
  • Mobile Devices: Same capabilities as desktop
  • Control: Corporate address books, Monitoring, Moderating

Skype Desktop

  • Interoperability: Can only call other Skype users (defaults to port 80 and 443 for firewall traversal)
  • Resolution: Standard: 320×240 15fps, High Quality: 640×480 30fps, HD: 720p 30fps
  • Bandwidth: 300kbps minimum up to 8000 kbps for 7 person call
  • Group calling: Maximum of 10 (5 recommended) no per port encoding and very high bandwidth and processor requirements
  • Reliability: Routing is not under the enterprise control, relays maybe external and bottlenecks can often occur at the enterprise egress
  • Scalability: For group calling scaling is extremely limited and very bandwidth intensive. For multiple point to point connections within an enterprise controlling traffic routing will present real problems
  • Mobile Devices: Can only participate via Audio for group calls
  • Control: Self-maintained buddy list, no monitoring reporting, metrics or moderating

The final area to look at is service and management. When things go well, they are great but when something goes wrong what happens?

With Skype you have no control over the network infrastructure that is running the service, there is no telephone helpdesk you can call and support is really limited to trawling the forums. With enterprise video conferencing the organisation is in control of all aspects and if managed by an external vendor they will provide live helpdesk support and assistance. Within an enterprise environment it is important to be able to measure and monitor the quality of services provided as well as understanding the impact one service has on another. With Skype, you have none of these controls. For example, if someone complains that email is going slow how would the helpdesk know that this is actually being caused by 2 people conducting 5 way Skype calls and as a result limiting the bandwidth available to other users? Or take the case in December 2010 when almost the entire Skype network was impacted for nearly 24 hours. How do I know who my top video users are and how do I know when they have problems? There is no service management with Skype, you are utilising a product not a service so you simply do not get a metrics and support that you get with a service.

To summarise, like all things in life you get what you pay for. Yes, I love Skype and use it daily to keep in touch with friends and family but today but for the foreseeable future I could not possibly advocate the widespread adoption of Skype within the enterprise.

  • Video Calls limited to other Skype users
  • Many technical issues limiting the use of Skype within meeting rooms
  • Poor resolution
  • Huge bandwidth requirements for multipoint calls
  • No moderation features in group calls
  • No live helpdesk support
  • No monitoring, service management or metrics
  • No video when group calling with mobile devices
  • Many enterprise security and compliance concerns
  • Requires admin rights to install
  • The P2P architecture used does not scale well with corporate networks.
  • Skype only works with other Skype clients

Mark Stainton-James is a technology professional with 20 years experience in managing global video and telecom teams and setting the technology strategy for many of the worlds largest financial institutions.

http://www.VCEverywhere.com is a video conferencing exchange provider allowing any video conferencing endpoint to communicate with any other end point regardless of platform.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Mark_Stainton-James/1347754

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How to Get a Twitch TV Partnership

For some, a twitch.tv partnership sounds unattainable, but it is not as hard as it sounds. I will be running you through some tips and tricks on how to get a Twitch.tv partnership and what it means for you. 

First and foremost you need to retain viewers. This can be harder for some people, but once you get the hang of streaming you will start to retain more and more viewers. A great way to get your channel viewers when you first start streaming is to stream at off-peak times. This can be a bit of a hassle for you but it will help you get viewers faster, and for longer. The more viewers you have, the higher you will show up on the channel’s broadcasting the game you are playing, which turns into even more viewers, in fact the more viewers you get means links as well, which means you could even start ranking on the homepage of google for whatever kw you are targeting.

Audio is massive part of getting a Twitch.tv Partnership. If you have a bad mic, it can definitely turn people off of your channel. Clear audio provides a better experience for the viewer which in will make them more likely to stick around and follow your stream. Music is also usually seen as a major plus. Try to have music that reaches a broad audience, as it will help keep viewers around. If someone comes to your stream and hears music they absolutely hate, most likely they will leave almost instantly.

Try to appeal to the audience of your game. If you play, for example, Fifa 13, a lot of people like to see pack openings. These types of streams, which appeal to a huge group of people, can increase your normal viewers by 2-3x. It sounds so obvious to do, but you would be surprised by how many people will do what they want rather than cater to their audience. Doing that is completely fine, but if want to grow your twitch channel as fast as you can, appealing to your audience is a much better idea.

Giveaways. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend these for building a channel, but they can help you get partnership quickly. Partnership is completely based on average number of viewers. Twitch says they partner people who can average around 500 concurrent viewers. So if you need to do giveaways to get those 500 viewers, then you can, but don’t be mistaken by those numbers. A lot people will tune in for a giveaway and leave after the giveaway is over. Because of that, this method isn’t a great way to establish your channel and gain active followers, but it can help you boost your viewers.

These are some pretty basic tips when it comes to streaming. If you apply these tips to your channel it can drastically help increase the amount of viewers on your channel. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get near that 400 concurrent viewers mark right away, like everything, streaming takes time put in to see results.

How To Live Stream To Twitch.TV with a Hauppage HD PVR

So you have gone ahead and got the gear necessary to livestream to Twitch.TV. If you haven’t go check out our gear list here. We are going to run you through everything you need to do to get your livestream up and going.

 

Software Setup For Livestreaming

First thing you are going to want to do is get your settings on Xsplit or OBS right. For this tutorial we are going to be using the  program Xsplit. If you want to use OBS check out our settings guide here.  Now depending on your internet speed, select the quality you would like to stream in. We recommend using speedtest.net to get an idea of how fast your connection is. Check outour guide for streaming quality guide to get your settings right based on your speed. Resolutions

Hardware Setup For Livestreaming

So now that you have your quality set up, you need to set up your Hauppage HD Pvr with Xsplit. First thing you are going to want to do is open up Total Media Extreme. Open up record video so you know have a preview of what your HD Pvr is going to record.

PreviewHDPVR

You can adjust the size of Total Media Extreme by dragging to the top of your screen or to either side. Once you have it adjusted to your liking head back into Xsplit and select add screen region. Now take that rectangular box and select the preview in Arcsoft Total Media Extreme. Once you have done that, adjust the box in Xsplit so that it takes up the full screen. When done it should look like this.  Preview in Xsplit

Now that you have the video set up, lets take a look at the audio. When streaming it is important to speak to your Twitch.Tv viewers which requires you to have a mic. Xsplit will pick up just about any mic that is plugged in to your computer.  Any mic will do but if you wish to make your stream better it is important to invest in a decent mic. If you plan on playing music on your stream while you play, Xsplit should pick up the music being played through your speakers or headphones. A good music service to use while streaming is Spotify. Alternatively you could build a youtube playlist or use any other type of music streaming service. To adjust the volume of your mic and music on your stream, use these volume adjusters. Volume Adjusters

Now everything should be good to go. It is important to do a few test streams and adjust your stream accordingly. Make sure to interact with your chat as much as possible to keep viewers interested.

Complete Guide to Open BroadCast Software

Open Broadcast Software is a free software that can be used to livestream and record your gameplay. The program is very easy on your CPU which is what gives it an advantage over other programs such as Xsplit and Flash Media Encoder. To get OBS, download it here.

Now that you have Open Broadcast Software, the first thing you need to do is get your stream key. Log in to your Twitch.Tv account and head to Twitch.tv/broadcast. Click show key to get your stream key. It should be under “RTMP”. This key is required in order to stream with Open Broadcast Software.

How to Get Stream Key for Twitch.Tv

Now you need to get your settings right before you can stream. We going to run you through each tab of settings.

Open Broadcast Software: General Settings

First thing you need to do is select your language. Then it is important to set up a profile that you want to use so that you do not have to input your settings every time you open the program.

Open Broadcast Software: Encoding Settings

Encoding deals with the quality of your stream. These settings will vary from person to person based on their computer specs and internet connection. For quality we recommend selecting 9/10, but you can adjust it to your liking. For bitrate, select something that is roughly 60-75% of your upload speed. Test your upload speed at speedtest.net. This will vary based on the game you are playing as well. If you are playing a single player game, you can most likely increase your bitrate. If you are playing a FPS Multiplayer game, you might want to lower it a little bit to keep your in-game connection good. Your buffer size should be the same as your bitrate. Now for audio, we recommend the AAC Codec, with a bitrate over 96 and using the format 44.1Khz Stereo.

Open Broadcast Software: Broadcast Settings

For this, select livestream as your mode and select twitch.tv/justin.tv as your service. For FMS url select the nearest server to where you are located. Now for the play/stream key use the RTMP code we got in the beginning of the tutorial. Check auto-reconnect and put it to 10 seconds for the auto-reconnect  timeout. Lastly, you can assign any keys you would like to the start/stop stream.

Open Broadcast Software: Video Settings

For your base resolution choose whatever the resolution of your monitor is. For example, if you have a 1920×1080 montior, select 1080p as your base resolution. Now select 1280×720 for your resolution downscale and select 30FPS (You can increase/decrease if you would like).

Open Broadcast Software: Audio Settings

For this, select the mic you are going to be using. You can set it to push-to-talk but we recommend against it as you may forget while streaming and end up with a rather boring stream without any talking.

Open Broadcast Software: Adding Video

Scenes:

Scenes can be used as intermission screens or to show videos. To add a scene, right click on the menu and select add scene

Global Sources

Global sources can be a game capture, software, images, etc. To add one, go to global sources and click “add”.

Screen Regions

Screen regions are most commonly used with the Hauppage HD PVR but can used to stream anything from your desktop. The best way to do it is use sub region and trace the area on your screen that you wish to stream.

Video Capture Devices

If you are going to be streaming with Dxtory, a webcam, or a capture card besides the Happauge HD PVR, this is what you need to use. First select the device. Use a custom resolution and use 1280×720 as your resolution. Now select your FPS (30 or 60 is best). Use the output format YY12. Now for the sound select output to stream only.

Now everything is setup and you can go live. Make sure to do a few test streams to get your settings right so the end result is a good picture for the viewers.

Spyagent Review

Do you have a child that seems to always be sneaking around on the computer late at night and you are wondering what they are doing? Maybe you are someone who has a spouse who jumps when they hear you coming or are always clicking out of browsers when you walk into the room. Don’t you just wish that there was a solution to let you know what your loved ones are doing on the computer without being obvious? Well, there is. Spy Agent is a solution that is sweeping the nation.

What is SpyAgent?

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When it comes to using Spy Agent the benefits are really great. You will find that the program will be running the entire time someone is on the computer but they will have no clue that everything that they are doing is being monitored every step of the way. While the program is running it will also leave all activities time stamped. It can be used to monitor employees to make sure they are working, monitor spouses to make sure they are staying faithful, and to monitor children to make sure they are doing age appropriate things on the computer.

Is SpyAgent A Scam?

Spy Agent is most certainly not a scam. This software has excellent ratings and a slew of positive testimonials to accompany the ratings. It is easy to use and has even won quite a few different awards for the quality that it produces. Not to mention the fact that they even allow you to have a free trial. This is one of the main reasons you can tell that this software is not a scam because scams do not offer you free trials of anything. When you test Spy Agent out for yourself you will know automatically that you have made the right decision and that it is 100% legit.

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