Here is 5 tips for AV/IT project success for both AV and IT groups to ensure a smooth and more successful project.
Over the years AV and IT have been merging at a more rapid pace. Open any trade magazine, view any trade website and you’ll see AV over IT is the hot topic. The industry is moving from relatively simplistic IT requirements such as basic IP control, and slightly more advanced traditional multicast IPTV with encoders and decoders to a more converged and sophisticated AV system that is entirely dependent on the IT infrastructure with real bandwidth requirements, real switch requirements, and the need to engage and have the support of the IT staff to ensure a successful AV deployment.
The industry change is not unlike the transition of digital phones in offices to VoIP in the early and mid-00’s. The burden of supporting the phone system became the responsibility of the IT department whether they liked it or not. The same holds true with the AV systems, some organizations have dedicated AV staff. The rapidly changing technology requires the AV and IT groups to work together earlier in the AV design process. Then co-supporting the AV systems for success.
While this first tip may seem a bit elementary is amazing the number of times that this doesn’t happen. Include both the AV and IT departments in the initial conversation. When an AV project gets the green light and you engage a consultant or integrator bring the teams together. It’s important that both groups hear the information from the start.
The consultant or integrator is going to be happy that both groups are part of the conversation. It’s always difficult when a design or system is initiated by the AV department and IT had no idea it was happening. There are usually items in the scope, they were responsible for. Surprises like this usually aren’t the best way to initiate a project.
Truly listen and understand the AV system IT needs. As systems get more sophisticated the IT requirements also get more sophisticated. A single VLAN or subnet may not be enough for today’s AV needs. Typically, we’re implementing several VLANs to properly segregate traffic for things like DANTE, Control, or Video.
Bandwidth also becomes a real concern when using products like Crestron NVX, Extron NAV or Visionary Solutions PacketAV Matrix products. While the devices are designed for 1GbE connections often 10 and 40GbE uplinks between switches are required to properly pass traffic. You must pay attention to the switching capacity of the ethernet switch to ensure it can support the amount packets being forwarded. If you want to utilize wireless collaboration devices your wireless network needs to be up to snuff. It should utilize 802.11AC there are still a lot of wireless networks and end-user devices that haven’t been upgraded yet.
During the design phase the IT department should provide the company standards to the consultant or integrator. Not every organization will have a documented set of standards but this will help in the design. If your looking to maintain certain models, brands, cabling, patch, or jack standards these should be provided at the start of the design process.
During the configuration, testing, and commissioning phases someone from the IT department should be working the with consultant and the integrator. This will ensure that all devices have the proper IP addresses, are connected to the proper switch ports (carefully minding the VLAN scheme) and that traffic is successfully passing between the devices.
Often a converged AV network utilizing the enterprise LAN/WAN instead of discrete AV network modifications need to be made in the routers and firewalls for traffic to pass between VLANS. While an integrator can configure the IP address of the devices the IT staff must take care of the back-end configuration, both AV and IT staff should be doing the testing together to take care of any issues on the spot.
Throughout both the AV and IT systems lifecycle maintenance and changes will happen. When firmware needs to be updated on AV equipment and changes in a network switch configuration and firewalls happen. It’s best to keep both the AV team and IT communicating during this process.
A wrong command in a firewall or switch can easily cause an AV system not to work. This can cause end-user frustration when the big presentation needs to happen. Also, if gear fails in the AV system and something needs to be replaced or firmware causes undesirable network effects, everyone will be prepared to get it resolved.
The bottom line is AV and IT can’t be silo’s in today’s modern AV projects. For project success AV, IT, Consultant, and Integrator must work together as a team.
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