There are four basic ways that you can schedule or setup conferences on the Lifesize bridge. Which method you choose to use will depend on 1). What your users are used to; 2). Whether or not you have more bridge ports than endpoints that will connect at any given time; and 3). To what degree you want to automate calling for your end users via LifeSize Control or LifeSize Manager.
First Option: Ad hoc
Users call the IP address of the bridge (or name or address book entry) and use the on-screen menus to create their conference. This is the fastest way to get a conference up and running, but the attributes of the conference (layout, protocols, etc.) aren’t setup in advance. This also tends to encourage or allow users to “jump” into conferences that they see on the bridge at inappropriate times. This is great for ad hoc type of meetings, but not for conferences where control over admittance or schedule are needed. Also, like On Demand conferences, ports are not reserved with Ad hoc conferences (see below).
Second Option: On Demand
The conference is setup on the bridge and then users dial the bridge IP plus the conference ID (e.g., 10.10.10.10##1001 will get you into conference 1001 on the bridge with an ip address of 10.10.10.10). The conference is permanent in that it has no beginning or ending time and will not be removed from the bridge unless an operator manually does so. The advantage of an On Demand conference is that you set it up once and it is always there ready for you to dial into. You can set all the attributes of the conference (layout, protocols, etc). Just like you would with any conference. However, On Demand conferences do not reserve ports. So if you have a 16 port bridge capacity and 12 ports already in use when you enter the On Demand conference 1003, then only 3 other participants can join your conference. Alternatively, if you have a 16 port bridge capacity and 12 ports already SCHEDULED for other conferences (regardless of whether they are in use or not) when you enter the On Demand conference 1003, then only 3 other participants can join your conference.
From the Bridge Admin Manual
An on demand conference has no allocated ports; it can use any available port not scheduled or active. An on demand conference includes all attributes of a scheduled conference except the start and end time and recurrence settings. This conference begins if requested ports are available when the first participant attempts to join.
So if you have a 16 port bridge and will never have more than 16 concurrent endpoints connected, using On Demand conferences can be a good way to go.
Third Option: Scheduled on Bridge
The big advantage of scheduling a conference, is that ports are reserved for your use at the times that your conference is scheduled, so you know that all of your participants will be able to connect at the designated time. This is a great advantage if you have more endpoints than bridge ports and need to make sure that any scheduling conflicts are resolved in advance. Like with On Demand conferences, users dial the bridge IP plus the conference ID (e.g., 10.10.10.10##1001 will get you into conference 1001 on the bridge with an ip address of 10.10.10.10).
From the Bridge Admin Manual
The Scheduler manages all scheduling of ports and ensures there are no conflicts with the available ports. LifeSize Bridge includes 16 ports; each participant in a conference uses one port.
Up to eight conferences can be active at one time. Scheduled conferences take priority over on demand conferences. Therefore, if there are 2 two-way scheduled conferences and 10 on demand conferences, only 6 of the on demand conferences will be allowed to become active, consisting of two participants in each. In this scenario, attempts to join the remaining on demand conferences are rejected and the caller receives a busy signal.
If two active, scheduled conferences are using 4 ports and 6 ports respectively, 10 ports are scheduled, leaving 6 ports available for on demand conferences. If a scheduled conference requiring 3 ports becomes active, the longest running on demand conference(s) will terminate to free the necessary 3 ports for the scheduled conference.
Up to 40 on demand conferences are supported. On demand conferences are listed in a separate view in the Scheduler, to the left of the calendar view.
Fourth Option: Scheduled through LifeSize Control or Manager.
This is the most powerful option. LifeSize Control or Manager can be set to administer the Bridge and all endpoints and all conferences are scheduled through Control. This allows you to schedule calls that just involve two endpoints by having one endpoint automatically call the other one. For multipoint calls you can either add the Bridge to the call (Control will then automatically have all endpoints dial into their conference on the bridge) or set an MCU affinity and the Bridge will be automatically added to any multipoint conferences. In addition you have the flexibility of mixing and matching the use of endpoints with multipoint capabilities with the multipoint capability of the LifeSize Bridge.
Say that you have a Bridge with 16 ports, and 20 endpoints. Capacity is rarely an issue and normally most multipoint conferences are hosted on the Bridge. However, today at 10am you need to have 5 conferences running with 4 participants each. Luckily, one of your endpoints is a LifeSize Team 220 with the ability to host a 4 way call. You can setup control to use the built in multipoint of the Team 220 for this conference and it will connect that conference through the Team 220 and the other conferences through the Bridge. (Note: in this scenario, the customer would need 21 control licenses, one for each endpoint and one for the MCU).
- Don’t mix and match scheduling techniques. There are just to many ways to generate conflicts and confuse your end users. They don’t want to have to dial in for some conferences, have their system dialed for others, etc.
- Consider using the Lifesize Control or Manager as your main means of scheduling. This offers the best utilization of your technology assets and allows for a consistent user experience for bridge and point-to-point calls. It also allows for capturing network statistics so that you can identify network problems that might impact videoconferencing performance.
Hopefully this provides a good overview of the considerations in scheduling calls with the LifeSize Bridge. Provide your opinions and ideas in the comments below!