Video the novel

March 2015

Book with video imageAccording to market watchers, video is the ‘new voice’. Andy Leahy, Senior Solutions Architect at Redstone, a managed service provider, agrees that video has indeed come of age, but asks whether it’s ready or able to become a mainstream business tool.

If a picture paints 1,000 words, then video must be a novel. As experiences go, watching video over the internet should be a match made in heaven. Yet video traffic rates have spluttered and stuttered during the past decade, before gaining traction and skyrocketing to become the largest consumer internet traffic type in 2010, according to Cisco Visual Networking Index 2011.

As Chintan Patel from Cisco puts it, ‘Video’s initial low traffic rates were mainly down to a poor experience for both consumer and business professionals. Issues with buffering, bandwidth speeds and latency concerns were responsible for holding back adoption rates, and as a result, good content for video was few and far between. It wasn’t exactly compelling for people to watch.’

Thankfully that has now changed. Developments such as the consumerisation of IT, improved mobility, bigger, faster and more cost-effective networks, improvements in technology platforms to support video in the workplace, such as video conferencing and unified communications (UC), and increasingly flexible workplaces driven by a need to reduce costs have all assisted video on its meteoric rise.

Yet is video truly capable of taking over voice as a business tool? I believe that the answer is yes, and in many cases it already is forming the natural form of communications for many business users on a daily basis. Mass adoption will be driven when interoperability challenges are solved across technologies.

Video on demand and live streaming are undoubtedly growing in usefulness to the enterprise. Patel adds, ‘Companies are engaging with video to support training and research efforts; to market, promote or broadcast company products, news and events; to manage customer outreach and service; and even to communicate to the stock market via web conferences.’ Yet, the oldest and arguably the most useful enterprise video solution, video conferencing, has taken its time to make it onto CIOs’ agendas.

While the benefit of video conferencing is well understood, the barrier for adoption has been high cost and lack of interoperability. Back in the 90s, video was heralded as a way to bring down excessive travel costs for multi-nationals and as a platform to support home workers. However it has taken considerably longer than predicted for this to become a reality.

This is because video conferencing has always been expensive, with suites to connect multiple offices around the world costing as much as $2million. As a result, installing a bespoke top-end conferencing solution wasn’t an option for many companies.

Advances in technology including high-speed networks, the consumerisation of video chat through the likes of Skype and Facetime, and a focus on reducing operating costs means that video conferencing is now a legitimate and manageable way for companies to support employees wherever they are and however they want to communicate.

Yet it has taken the advent of the cloud to really change the way the enterprise is able to utilise video.

Rent

Video as a service (VaaS) delivered over the cloud means that companies can ‘rent’ what they need when they need it, rather than installing expensive conference bridges to link up multiple offices. In an ideal scenario, users will be able to reserve time on the system as and when it is needed or simply stick connection points to the service via a concierge service. The cloud is ideal for VaaS.

The cloud also supports mobility of the VaaS user. Previously video callers were tethered to expensive video conferencing systems stuck in boardrooms served by high-speed/large-bandwidth networks. By optimising managed services in the cloud, users can be anywhere.

Utilising VaaS also presents companies with other opportunities; take security for example. Chris Garden, UK Sales Manager from video surveillance manufacturer DVTEL, says, ‘Monitoring buildings or installations via CCTV over the cloud means being able to access the video from anywhere at any time. For larger users, this provides the ability to remotely manage multiple sites, along with greater flexibility and mobility, whereas for the smaller user it means a pay-as-you-go-model that can be turned on or off.’

If video adoption and traffic rates are to continue their impressive trajectory, there is only one barrier that still needs to be resolved - that of open standards. The IT industry is notorious for developing proprietary technologies that lock customers in until they have to abandon the system altogether - and video (specifically conferencing) is no different.

In a recent Cisco survey of over 1800 European consumers, 88 per cent want companies to agree to a common standard so that software devices like Skype, Facetime and Google Chat are able to communicate with each other. A further 84 per cent believe that video calling should be as easy as making a phone call.

As users call for more open standards, the industry will need to comply or risk stunting the growth of the market. When this happens we’ll see a tipping point for adoption rates as video content moves onto every device.

There is no doubt that video is becoming as mainstream in the enterprise as it is in the home. What the industry does need, however, is for the major vendors to work together to deliver open standards for global services that broaden both consumer and professional choice, as we have currently with the likes of phone, internet and email. Then we’ll be able to see that video truly is the new voice.

Image: iStock/166420652

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