Video Conferencing in the cloud is defined as “Software as a Service” (SaaS) focused on Video Communication Technology. Video Conferencing services in the cloud have been around for over a decade, though in the last few years the adoption of cloud based services has exploded and interest has grown exponentially, generally due to the improved technology now available, alongside the reduced costs of subscription.
What are the advantages of Video-as-a-Service?
Generally, the common advantages of moving to any cloud service can also be replicated as a Video Conferencing in the Cloud advantage, too. Reduced complexity, scalability, subscription models, management and upgrades are just some of the advantages for organisations looking to move to a cloud model. Let’s take a further look into a few.
By utilising Video Conferencing as a Service, organisations can reduce the complexity associated with the whole life cycle of planning, sizing, deployment and ongoing management, taking the burden off IT and putting the solution in the hands of dedicated video conferencing experts.
The scalability of cloud based Video Conferencing is limitless. Where an on-premise solution requires monitoring and constant attention to ensure it is expanded when needed, and then further servers, equipment and infrastructure needs to be deployed (which can take months), a cloud based video conferencing service enables an organisation to simply scale up, or scale down when needed, without any additional purchases of hardware by themselves – just a phone call to upgrade their subscription and the additional capacity is added by the service provider.
Subscription Model (OpEx vs CapEx)
Cloud Video Conferencing services turn capital expenditure (CapEx) into operational expenditure (OpEx). For many organisations, this makes Video Conferencing much more affordable and accessible. For small businesses in particular, subscription model cloud-based offerings now mean that far more can be done without a large upfront cost or the need to increase headcount to realise the benefits of video communication for connecting their team.
Reducing other Expenditures
Not only do Video Conferencing services provide a platform for businesses to communicate via video, they can also replace older audio conferencing and web/data conferencing services – as they already include it! Web & data conferencing alone is just data, images & content. Audio conferencing alone is just audio. Many organisations even subscribe to a service for each of these, and sometimes use both different solutions at the same time so that the presentation can be seen, at the same time as the presenter being heard.
Video Conferencing alone provides video, audio, data, images and content. And now, many even provide additional features such as presence, instant messaging (IM) and two way data collaboration, resulting in the need for just a single platform to learn, manage and use.
Considerations of Video Conferencing in the Cloud
When looking into the offerings available for video conferencing as a service, it is important to consider the following:
1. How do you want to use it?
Is it for meetings only? Do you want to be able to call others directly (point-to-point), or have a “meet in the middle” style VMR service?
Some cloud-based video conferencing services, such as BlueJeans and VideoCloud 365, provide a “meet me” service, similar to an audio bridge where every participant dials into a virtual meeting space and waits for others to arrive. Just like holding a conference in a meeting room.
Other services, like Lifesize Cloud enable direct dialling, where you call a persons desktop, meeting room or mobile device directly, without having to schedule a specific time and date. Like making a phone call or going across to a colleagues desk for an ad-hoc catch up.
2. How large are your meetings?
Don’t be fooled by VMR sizes. Some VMR’s may be for 4 participants, some for 6 or 10, many allow 25 participants and some even up to 40. You may find some services offering “unlimited” room sizes. But it’s important to understand what this really means. Ensure this isn’t a marketing tactic rather than a like-for-like comparable figure. Where some providers include all participants to the meeting in the count, some may not count room based systems, and some may or may not count guests or WebRTC clients in this number.
In addition, 80% of video calls carried out in the professional world include less than 4 participants. Don’t always believe that bigger is better as you may find yourself paying for many more seats than you actually use. You may be better off using a service that offers smaller room sizes with an option for overuse for those one off larger meetings.
Video Conferencing can greatly increase productivity and efficiency in an organisation, but only if the service is of high quality for video, audio and content. Quality matters. Organisations who do not recognise their expected return on investment often find that willingness to use the video solution is low, and this is directly effected by the quality of service being received. There are many services available on the market today and a number (generally cheap or free service offerings) are found to reduce the quality when more people are added to the conference. There are many services where the primary focus is not Video Conferencing and the video quality is not what it should be for a professional setting.
On the flip side, it is important to consider the quality that is really needed. If most calls are to be made through small screen mobile devices, 4K image resolution isn’t really a necessity. If important board meetings and client communication is to take place, quality considerations go far further than the resolution of the display for video; data resolution, audio quality, broadband, network quality and choice of devices all play a part too.
4. Device Interoperability
We shouldn’t have to choose who we can call based upon which endpoint, software, operating system or mobile phone they are using, however unfortunately in the video communication world, interoperability is not yet something of yesteryear. In general, most professional Video Conferencing endpoints are standards-based, however with non standard solutions such as Microsoft Lync, Skype, Vidyo, Google Hangouts and Facetime, and hundreds of devices running numerous platforms, operating systems and applications, it is important to find a cloud service that provides interoperability with the widest range of devices as possible.
And always remember that the claim of interoperability may not mean every version of the compatible solution or device is supported, and may not mean that every feature will work as expected. A common example of this is Microsoft Lync interoperability. Nowadays, most video conferencing cloud services do infact claim MS Lync interoperability, but what many service providers may not tell you that this is say, Lync 2010 compatible only, not Lync 2013 or Skype for Business, and that yes, data sharing is included, however only from a video endpoint to a Lync client, and not vice versa.
How to choose a Video Conferencing Cloud service?
It is important for you to understand the needs within your organisation, and what you expect to get from a video conferencing service. It’s important not to be swayed by upfront sales and marketing tactics that don’t tell you the full story. It’s important to look at a number of services on offer and make an unbiased comparison. And it’s important to try out a solution before committing.
If you’d like to talk to one of our team about the various professional cloud services available on the market today, whether that be Cisco CMR’s, Polycom RealPresence Cloud, Lifesize Cloud, VideoCloud 365, BlueJeans, Vidyo VaaS-T or other, contact us today and find out from unbiased independent experts as to the pro’s and con’s of each, how they compare, and which may be most suited to your organisations specific needs. We can assist you with testing and trials, and can even hire Video Conferencing endpoints for you to trial with your cloud service. Fully accredited with all the major Video Conferencing providers, and our own interoperability VMR service developed by inhouse experts, we can assist you with finding the right solution for you.
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