While the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, web and video conferencing are actually two different communication products. While both products may utilize video in some manner, each has certain applications that make them ideally suited for specific situations. The technology used for web and video conferencing is also slightly different, something that should be taken into consideration when choosing to conduct a meeting that may involve the use of either product.
Video conferencing is a tool that is designed to provide exactly what the name implies. Typically, this type of conference will provide the ability for participants gathered at two or more locations to see and hear one another during the course of a meeting. This type of real-time gathering is normally facilitated with the use of a video conferencing bridge that is capable of supporting both an audio signal and a live video stream. Depending on the level of sophistication of the video equipment involved, both the moderator of the meeting and the attendees may be able to split the viewing screen to see all parties simultaneously.
One key difference between web and video conferencing is the equipment needed to conduct a meeting. While some companies do maintain their own video conference equipment, this can be a rather expensive approach. Many businesses will use conference rooms available locally, usually conducting what is known as a site certification at some point prior to the live meeting. This is simply a test in which the provider of the video conference connects with each of the conference rooms to make sure that the equipment is compatible with the conference bridge used to orchestrate the meeting, both in terms of the quality of the visual transmission and the audio clarity. This can be important in a number of scenarios, such as taking a formal deposition or conducting any meeting in which the ability to see faces is as important as the words that are spoken.
Web conferencing is an online tool that makes it possible to share data as well as audio transmissions as part of a meeting. That data may be in the form of some sort of video, but may also include sharing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. In addition, web conferencing often includes a wider range of tools that a moderator can use to control a meeting. Unlike video conferencing, there is usually not the need for special equipment; a web conference can be attended using just about any computer with an Internet connection and a sufficient amount of resources to support the data transfer. Web conferences may include audio streaming across the Web or make use of an independent connection via a telephone line.
Both web and video conferencing are viable business tools that are ideal for certain applications. When the visual portion is live, such as in aiding technicians to assist a customer in repairing a piece of machinery from a remote location, the live video conference is essential. At the same time, a web conference will work well when showing a presentation or allowing several people at remote locations to collaborate on a document at the same time. Typically, there is also a cost difference between web and video conferencing, with the web conference option being the more affordable option. This is rapidly changing as the cost of video conferencing and the required equipment continues to decrease as newer technology makes this option possible for even smaller companies.