Disadvantages & Advantages of Webcams

By Jacob Andrew

Webcam enable collaboration, regardless of physical distance.
i Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images

While they haven't quite replaced the telephone, with sharp drops in pricing and the increased availability of high-speed Internet connections, webcams have become a valuable business communication tool. In addition to supplemental webcams connected to laptops and desktops, “front-facing” cameras are also finding their way on portable media devices and smartphones. When deciding to use webcams in your business, take time to carefully consider the drawbacks as well as the benefits.

Advantage: Cost-Saving During the Interview Process

The right candidate cannot always be found within driving distance of your company. But flying candidates to your office to perform face-to-face interviews is often prohibitively expensive. To save money, companies are increasingly turning to webcams and video chat programs as a way to conduct screening interviews with the top ten or so candidates, and only spending airfare for the “final” round.

Disadvantage: Dropped Calls

Though video compression technology has come a long way, video is still significantly more bandwidth- and data-intensive than audio. Initiating a webcam-based call, therefore, runs a greater risk of technological failure due to dropped connections or incompatibility. Webcams should not be used for mission-critical communications, unless your network is optimized to handle bandwidth-intensive traffic with ease.

Disadvantage: Added Costs

As IP telephony allowed business to bring phone costs under control, video introduced new communication expenses to the enterprise. Implementing policies to guarantee reliable video communication often requires a dedicated staff member or paid consultant to perform the necessary configuration (SEE REF 3). If you have computers in your office that don't have webcams built in, you'll have to purchase them individually, and then install them -- requiring both time and capital. Communicating reliably through the Internet further requires investment in a higher-bandwidth connection, particularly one with a larger dedicated upload speed. Some business teleconferencing services, such as GoToMeeting, require monthly subscriptions.

Advantage: Innovation

Webcam conferencing has extended far beyond novelty to the realm of innovation. Insurance companies are now using video interactions to protect against fraud while providing online convenience, and doctors are preforming "telesurgery" to provide medical services to rural areas with the aid videoconferencing and robotics technologies, according to the National Institute for Health. Though you likely won’t be removing a tumor, video conferencing can be integrated with desktop sharing to enable collaboration between geographically dispersed workers in any industry.