In this three-part series on video conferencing, we look at some of the ways you can use the cloud to deliver enterprise-grade services. Part one explores the factors driving video conferencing adoption. Part two looks at the emergence of new conferencing services, and part three discusses the requirements for cloud-based video conferencing and considers ways to ensure a quality end-user experience.
Research tells us this: Video conferencing is really moving to the cloud. According to the Nemertes Research 2014-15 Enterprise Technology Benchmark, which gathered data from approximately 180 companies, nearly 30% of companies have already implemented cloud-based video conferencing services and another 2% plan to do so in 2015. An additional 16% are evaluating these services for possible deployment.
The single biggest driver for cloud video conferencing is saving money. Cloud services eliminate the need for companies to make large investments in multipoint control units (MCUs) and other server infrastructure to connect rooms, transcode between disparate endpoints and support features like call recording and playback.
The second biggest factor driving cloud purchases is the ease of extending video conferencing beyond company network boundaries. Many cloud services allow participants to connect using whatever endpoint they have. Endpoints can include a legacy H.323 system, one based on SIP or even a desktop client. And increasingly, thanks to WebRTC, the endpoint could be a browser.
Other factors driving the trend toward cloud video conferencing include speed of deployment and support for a wide range of endpoints, including smartphones and tablets.
Businesses using cloud video conferencing services rate their overall video conferencing success at an average of 7.5 on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the ideal score. Comparatively, those businesses with no cloud video plans score their success as a 5.9.
The cloud landscape is becoming increasingly crowded and complex. Those businesses evaluating cloud video conferencing must choose from an increasing array of service options. Meet-me services from vendors like Blue Jeans and Zoom allow customers to buy always-on meeting rooms – much like they buy audio conferencing services in which people have their own dedicated meeting ID number – and connect via their own endpoint, video conferencing desktop app or browser.
Managed service providers, like AT&T and Glowpoint, offer managed service options that include scheduling and network performance management. Providers like Avaya, Google, Highfive, LifeSize, TrueConf and StarLeaf provide both endpoints and the back-end cloud services.
Alternatively, some companies build their own private cloud solutions using vendors like Acano and Pexip. Those companies may also work with a provider to build a hosted, customized solution using dedicated hardware but priced on a per-user or per-port basis.
Finally, just about all Web conferencing services have integrated video conferencing, though not all can extend their platforms to room systems or support browser-based access.
Companies considering cloud-based video conferencing should evaluate their need to integrate with their existing video conferencing infrastructure, as well as extend video conferencing outside the company to partners, suppliers, customers or remote workers. Security policies may limit video conferencing outside the organization or may require encryption. Those businesses looking into cloud-based services also need to pay special attention to endpoint options, cost and the ability to tie video conferencing into other collaboration applications.