Best video conferencing equipment for small businesses
Many businesses under rate the combination of great video conferencing software and effective video conferencing equipment. So what video conferencing hardware is changing video conferencing for good?
Web conferencing allows you to hold face-to-face meetings, give presentations, and manage your team remotely.
Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, and GlobalMeet – they're all big names in the world of video conferencing – but to benefit from the best call quality, you need to combine these suppliers with great video conferencing hardware.
Video conferencing hardware from the likes of Cisco, Logitech, and Polycom will enhance your calls beyond the capabilities of your built-in webcam and microphone, with white noise blocking and automatic camera adjusting just some of the benefits of going all out on video conferencing equipment.
So read on, as we explore the must-have video conferencing equipment for small UK businesses. We’ll also take you through the top web conferencing hardware suppliers that are compatible with Zoom, Slack, and Google Hangouts to help you decide which one is the best fit for your startup.
A quick guide to web and video conferencing
Web conferencing is a method through which teams can conduct meetings remotely, via the internet. Employees can chat via voice, video, or text, share their screens, give presentations, and enjoy features such as screen annotation, shared whiteboards, and speaker management – all from the comfort of their own homes.
As the name suggests, web conferencing takes place over the internet (via TCP/IP connection, for you techies). Web conferencing technology is also largely cloud-based, meaning the servers are operated and maintained by a third-party provider – and this is good news.
Why? Well, cloud-based technology means there’s little to download or install to get a call going, and enables collaboration to take place in real time.
Web conferencing is also powered by VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. Essentially, this allows you to make and take crystal clear calls over the internet, rather than a traditional phone line. This not only reduces your phone bill, but adds a glut of convenient call features, too.
Video conferencing falls under the wider umbrella of web conferencing. It refers specifically to calls that allow businesses to communicate with video (rather than just voice) over the internet. Essentially, video conferencing is the closest thing we have right now to actual meetings, and the best for mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on workplace communication.
For the best video conferencing calls, though, you’ll need the best tools. Let’s take a look at your options.
What video conferencing hardware do I need?
Here’s all the video conferencing equipment you’ll need to boss your home working setup:
Simple, but essential. You’ll need a computer to run the conferencing software, and to connect to the internet.
Not essential, but adding a second screen is certainly a cushy addition to a good remote work setup. It allows you a better view of your colleagues, and makes it easier to get involved with presentations.
This one also goes without saying. It’s not video conferencing if you can’t see each other!
Of course, you could rely on the one built into your laptop. But for ultimate picture quality and professionalism, you’ll want the polished display that only the best video conferencing equipment can deliver.
Microphones and speakers
This technology is essential for maximising the audio quality of your calls, and facilitating smooth communication from your end.
Power supply, cables, codecs… this is the background stuff that enables all the other components to work.
An all-in-one hardware package
Often it’s the smallest businesses that come with the biggest workloads – and without much time to do it all in. Assembling video conferencing equipment from scratch isn’t just time-consuming – it’s difficult, too.
That’s why we recommend opting for an all-in-one package from a single provider. You’ll get the camera, microphone, and screen you need to boss your home working setup, and simple integration with both your computer and your chosen web conferencing software.
Let’s take a look at the suppliers that are doing it best.
Best video conferencing equipment UK
We looked at the range of video conferencing equipment packages on the market, seeking out the highest quality hardware at the lowest costs – basically, the best options for small businesses.
As it turns out, that hardware comes from Cisco, Logitech, Polycom, AVer, and Avaya. Jump into the table to navigate to your favourite video conferencing equipment supplier, or read on to find out why these providers made the cut.
Cisco Webex DX Desk Pro
Best for call features
With a 27-inch touchscreen LCD display, the Cisco Webex DX Desk Pro is a slick, stylish way of injecting some energy back into your video conference calls. You can connect it to your computer with ease for multiple-screen content sharing and digital whiteboarding – and it even acts as a laptop charger, too.
The Webex DX Desk Pro also comes with a whole host of features plucked straight out of a sci-fi film, with facial recognition, noise suppression, and ‘virtual backgrounds’ all included as standard. However, if you’re not in need of such an advanced solution, Cisco’s lower-tier offering (the Webex DX80) offers an intelligent solution at a more affordable price.
Better still, Cisco is one of the only video conferencing equipment providers here to also offer the software you’ll need to make remote calls. This makes it a simple (albeit pricey) all-in-one introduction to the world of better video calls.
Best for the aesthetically-conscious
A well-known innovator of home speakers and sound equipment, it’s no surprise that Logitech’s solution for businesses also hits the spot.
With a sleek design and an ultra-wide, motorised lens (hello, 5x zoom!), the MeetUp adds a touch of class to your remote work setup. But that doesn’t mean it’s all style; with a beamforming mic array and an automatically-adjusting camera position, Logitech’s flagship video conferencing equipment offers plenty of substance, too.
Plus, its all-in-one package is fantastic. You’ll get a bundle containing a mini PC, room-optimised software, and the MeetUp – plus the Logitech Tap controller to use it all with.
Polycom RealPresence Debut
Best for ease of use
Despite the name, this is far from esteemed VoIP phone provider Polycom’s first rodeo. With a simple, elegant design and the most straightforward setup we found, the RealPresence is a great way to make your business’ debut into the world of video conferencing.
And the equipment speaks for itself. Polycom’s trademarked ‘Lost Packet Recovery’ helps you maintain call quality in the face of bad internet connectivity, while noise-blocking technology keeps meetings on the right track.
Best value for money
AVer’s EVC series strikes that delicate balance that so many other video conferencing equipment providers get wrong – it's top class technology, at an affordable price.
The EVC350, in particular, is a great example of good hardware meeting an even better price point. There are no installation fees, and you won’t have to shell out any extra cash to upgrade the hardware. AVec’s microphones run on patented technology, and can be linked together for superior audio quality.
Better still, the EVC350 supports call recording (even if you’re offline), and offers compatibility with all and any PC, laptop, smartphone, or tablet you can get your hands on.
Avaya IX Room System XT5000
Best for crystal clear call quality
Avaya’s XT5000 is the culmination of over a century’s worth of experience – and it shows.
The device’s list of specifications alone is enough to get the pulse racing; with dual 1080p, 60fps live video, HD audio, and cameras offering up to 20x optical zoom, the XT5000 is nothing short of a perfect video conference experience.
Perfection, though, comes at a price – and the eye-watering cost of the XT5000 attests to that. However, if you’re looking for a system that’s quick to get to grips with and easy to use (and you don’t mind forking out the cash, of course), you can’t look past the Avaya XT5000.
Finding the best communication solution for your business
Finding the right video conferencing equipment for your business means considering a few factors. You have to balance the features your small business requires from a communication solution, while maintaining awareness of call quality, ease of use, and (of course!) your budget. Hopefully, this article will help with your market research before you commit to web conferencing equipment for your small business or startup.
And remember, it's best to select your video conferencing software before deciding on the hardware and equipment – this is so you can make sure everything will integrate properly. Here, we can help.
Web conferencing hardware FAQs
How much does video equipment hardware cost?
Video conferencing equipment (such as the cameras, microphones, and displays) has an upfront, one-time cost. However, it can be leased as part of an all-in-one package, too – though this will most likely work out to be more expensive over time.
You may also be liable for other fees, such as a charge to upgrade the hardware, or a recurring fee for maintenance. How much you’ll pay for the equipment itself also depends on the condition you buy it in (new or refurbished), and who you buy it from. Buying directly from the providers themselves is the best way to go, though they’re typically quite coy when it comes to exact pricing information.
What are the most important things to consider when buying video conferencing equipment?
When you can’t be in the same room as your team members, you want it to feel as though you are. With that in mind, call quality has to be your top consideration. You’ll also want to consider price point and usability, as well as your communication tool’s interoperability with other systems.
How well, for instance, does the video conferencing equipment work with the software powering the calls? Does it offer best in class synergy with your computer, or with any existing communication infrastructure your business relies on?