IT @ NWU
In 2004 the South African government approved funding for the installation of videoconferencing facilities between the three North-West University campuses. The main reason behind the strategy was to keep the costs and risks of meetings between the different campuses as low as possible. Although the costs involved in using the equipment are roughly seven times the cost of a normal telephone call, it is still more economical than travelling to the Mafikeng or Vaal Triangle campuses. When everything is taken into consideration, namely lost productivity, high risks involved by travelling on the bad roads, comfort, costs etc, it is clear that the use of these facilities makes sense.
Any videoconferencing equipment can connect to the videoconferencing equipment of the North-West University, and vice versa (our equipment can connect to any other facility worldwide).
A videoconference has definite limitations. It cannot be used for big meetings, but works best with smaller meetings. It also tends to slow increasingly as the connections to a conference call increase. It is however for the user to decide when it is unusable.
The Institutional Office and each of the campuses have one room each that is permanently allocated for videoconferencing. Each of these rooms is fitted with the following specialist equipment:
A Tandberg 880 videoconferencing system with camera
A DVD/video player
A Data/video projector
A Network point for a pc, power and a VGA connection to the projector
Each campus also has a portable unit that can be connected via a network point in any office or room. The Tandberg1000 is lightweight and can easily be moved from one office to the next. The main purpose of the portable unit is to conduct one to one conferences, but in some instances it can also be utilised to facilitate small conferences with only a few members.
The equipment uses the local area network on campus to communicate. This means that all equipment (portable and permanently installed equipment) is connected to a network point. Each campus has a gateway that acts as a switchboard, with software that runs on different servers in order to manage the whole process. There is also a MCU or Multi Conference Unit centrally installed, to manage three-and-more-away conferences. Clearly a videoconference puts a heavy load on the network infrastructure and software.
We use the Telkom infrastructure between campuses. Each campus has a 2MB primary rate ISDN connection. This is equivalent to roughly 36 normal telephone lines per campus. Between campuses the units connect with a maximum speed of 384kb/s. Should you connect to an off campus location the connection will be made with the highest speed and the biggest limitation. For example: if I connect from the Tandberg 880 (with a maximum of 768kb/s) to Psybergate (with a maximum of 256kb/s), the throughput will be 256kb/s.
All the rooms are available in GroupWise as “resources”. It can be viewed under the following names:
|Vconf-potch-k159||018-2935910||Fixed unit. Room 159: F1 building|
|Vconf-potch-C1||Fixed unit. Ground floor: C1 building|
(Is used by the Potchefstroom IT Campus department for support)
|Vconf-vdk-anglo||016-9107610||Fixed unit. Anglo room: Vaal Triangle Campus|
|Vconf-vdk-portable||Portable unit: Vaal Triangle Campus|
|Vconf-mfk-room308||018-3899010||Fixed unit. Room 308: Mafikeng campus|
|Vconf-mfk-portable||018-3899005||Portable unit: Mafikeng campus|
|Vconf-mfk-library||Fixed unit: Soccer institute: Mafikeng campus|
The following procedure should be followed when booking a room/rooms and videoconferencing facilities:
Do a busy search on GroupWise to determine whether the room and/or equipment are available for the required date and time, and if it is available book both resources through GroupWise. Should you experience any difficulty in the process you can send a Remedy request through to your campus IT department. Please note that all the rooms and/or equipment required for the videoconference must be available for that specific timeslot. Should you need multiple rooms and / or equipment the availability of all the rooms and / or equipment as well as one of the muticonf units should be searched on GroupWise.
|2.||Should you require any assistance in setting up the equipment you can log a Remedy request that includes: the date and time of the conference, the name of the resources you booked and the details of a contact person.|
The basic steps you need to follow on the day of the video conference:
|All parties need to agree on the time of the conference call and who will dial the other parties involved. (In the event of a two party videoconference one party dials the other party. Should there be more than two parties involved, each party needs to phone in to the multiconf unit);|
|Each of the parties must ensure that the conference equipment in his/her room is switched on;|
|Choose the number from the guide on the remote;|
|Press the green button and wait until connection is established;|
|Your videoconference can begin;|
|Once the videoconference is finished you can end the call;|
|Power off the equipment.<|
Costs involved and cost recovery
The costs involved are directly linked to the bandwidth used to connect. Normally it will be seven times the cost of a normal call when the videoconference is made between campuses. If you connect to a system outside the University the costs depend on the bandwidth.
Example: Costs of a videoconference per minute R6.23, or per hour R373.80. (All tariffs are for videoconferences between campuses: Vaal Triangle campus to Potchefstroom; or Mafikeng / Potchefstroom to Vaal Triangle Campus; and Mafikeng to Potchefstroom and Vaal Triangle campus).
The school, department, faculty or person making the reservation, or the person responsible for the extension from where the call is initialised will be held liable for the costs at the end of the particular month. It is therefore important to agree on who will be responsible for the costs.
Videoconferences on a single campus are free.
Report any problems to your Campus IT Service Desk via Call-IT.