Choosing the Right Enterprise Streaming Platform

In today’s blog, we’re talking about enterprise streaming platforms. The streaming video solutions you’re using today may not be ideal in the long run. Learn the 10 questions you need to ask when choosing an enterprise streaming platform for your organization.

July… Already?

We’ve made it to the half way point of 2020. It’s usually a time when we take stock of how things have gone, and where we’re headed. In business, it means reviewing budgets, revisiting plans and setting new priorities for the second half of the year.

But this year is different. It probably hasn’t gone the way you thought it would. The world has changed. Never before have we faced something on such a grand scale—together. COVID-19 is the ultimate disrupter.

It’s changed our personal lives, and it’s changed our professional lives. We’ve had to pivot. Make do. Be creative. And solve problems we never expected or anticipated.

Many of us are working from home, truly learning how to tame the elusive work/life balance. Some are homeschooling their children while maintaining a full-time job. Others, such as healthcare workers and first responders, are working overtime to provide essential services. Countless others are unfortunately furloughed or in search of their next career opportunity.

The jury is still out as to whether or not these changes are for the better. I know I’m still searching for the silver lining.

Regardless, we have to adapt. Do our best—both professionally and personally—and continue to manage the changing tide.  

Time to Reset

Although the news and information changes on a daily basis, it seems like the “new normal” is actually becoming more normal. We’re at a point where we can finally come up for some air.

But we still have a long road ahead. So, you probably need to start thinking about what’s next. It’s time to revisit your 2020 plans, update your budget and reprioritize both activity and spend.

I’m certain this crisis has revealed points of weakness in your enterprise you didn’t even realize you had. We’ve heard a number of interesting insights from our customers. They’re revisiting everything from security policies and how they use VPN to the type of networking and applications they’re using.

One thing we’ve heard over and over again is video has become one of the most important business tools. It is here to stay because people have realized the value. And frankly, who wants to gather in a meeting room when social distancing is the right thing to do.

For all practical purposes, video collaboration has been the application defining business video during the Covid-19 quarantine period. Hosted service options such as Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Teams and others make it possible for individuals who have been thrust into a work-from-home environment to sustain meaningful interaction with colleagues and stay productive.1

Converting New Video Awareness into a Lasting Video Advantage, Wainhouse Research

As long as the pandemic is impacting business operations, you’ll need to communicate to employees. I promise, this isn’t just some random theory I made up.

I’ve talked to a number of my peers who work in communications and HR. Employees are demanding information from their employers. They want to understand how the current state of affairs impacts the business—and ultimately how it impacts them as an employee. As a result, meaningful and authentic communications are no longer a nice to have. They’re a need to have. And that’s where video communications come into play.

The reality is video gives us a sense of being together in the same room—even when we can’t. Seeing one another is an important part of communication. Don’t believe me? Blindfold yourself and have a conversation about something important with your partner. I bet you’ll take off the blindfold a few minutes in.

Here’s why. Communication is more than just words. A huge part of communication is visual, and you and I both learn so much more by seeing someone’s facial expressions and body language. We gather additional clues to the meaning and understanding of what’s being discussed.

To enable (more) video within the enterprise, you may have reached for free or low cost solutions to immediately fill the gap. But oftentimes “quick fixes” have inherent problems, including:

  • Security concerns
  • Participant caps
  • Limited functionality
  • Reliability issues

In all fairness, these solutions probably weren’t designed to be used the way—or at the scale—you’re using them. So, what video collaboration and enterprise streaming platform solutions are best for your organization?

What’s the Difference?

Before we dive deep into how to choose the right enterprise streaming platform, we need to address a few of the basics. Of late, there’s been some confusion about the differences between video conferencing and enterprise video streaming.

Even though most end users don’t know the difference between technologies that enable collaboration and those used for webcasting, it’s worth defining them so you and I are on the same page.

Video conferencing is used for one-on-one or many-to-many communications. It’s meant to foster a discussion and virtual, face-to-face collaboration. Whereas, streaming video is intended for one-to-many communications. It’s used for everything from all-hands meetings and executive messages to online training and digital signage.

Regardless of the type of technology, one thing remains true. Current events have changed the way enterprises view—and deliver—communications.

Watch Let’s Do Video’s “Compare the Top 11 Cloud Video Services” to learn more about video conferencing tools.

10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Streaming Platform

Since Ramp is dedicated to delivering unlimited, uninterrupted video on corporate networks, we’ll talk specifically about streaming video. But before we dive in to the questions you need to ask, I want to encourage you to avoid picking your enterprise streaming platform in a silo.

You won’t be the only person who uses it. So, you have to consider your peers in other areas of the business. As you go down this journey, you should include colleagues from departments who will use video most.

Off the top of my head, you should include representative(s) from communications, marketing, human resources, and learning and development. In addition, include people on your extended team like those responsible for UC, security and networking.

Let’s dive in. What are the 10 questions you should ask when choosing the right enterprise streaming platform?

  1. Is it secure? Security is a priority. Period. On every industry list, it’s touted as a top concern for CIOs far and wide. And when it comes to your streaming platform, you also need to think about security. Afterall, you’ll most likely be using video communications to share important company info like strategy, financials, intellectual property and more.
  2. What data does it collect? Maybe the better question is how will you prove return on investment (ROI)? Analytics is becoming more and more important. Each platform provides a different set of data, so you must think about what data you need and want to report prior to selecting a solution. I have no doubt your colleagues in communications and HR will also want access to data. Therefore,  it’s important to find out from them what types of information and reports they need as well.
  3. Can you integrate it into your other business tools and solutions? Video was probably one element of your digital transformation strategy. But I’ve got news for you. It’s here, and it’s a priority because everyone is using it right now. But fostering a video-first culture in the post-COVID era goes well beyond a CEO townhall. Platforms designed to work with solutions from other vendors are more likely to support video use cases in the future. Consider things like digital signage, your enterprise social media platform, collaboration tools and other enterprise streaming platforms. For example, a number of platforms work with Microsoft Stream as well as Teams and Yammer.
  4. Can it scale? Your enterprise streaming platform needs to do more than just work well and look pretty. It also needs to scale and evolve with your organization. You want to make sure it has the capacity to meet your needs today and well into the future. With video demand at an all-time high, you may be running more than one town hall or pushing compliance training at the same time. Make sure it has the capacity to handle more than one event at a time.
  5. Does it meet your immediate and long-term needs? This is where it’s good to pull in your peers and/or internal customers in other departments. Traditional use cases for streaming video include employee meetings and training.But video offers so much more. Brainstorm with your peers and ask the vendors you’re evaluating about some of the more unique use cases they’ve seen. For example, streaming news to employee desktops or using virtual reality for hands on training. The opportunities are endless, and your streaming platform should be flexible enough to meet your needs.
  6. Is good enough really good enough? In this age of just-in-time information, you may need to push a live broadcast at a moment’s notice. From a production standpoint (lights, camera, staging), your videos might not be at the level everyone is accustomed to. With that said, make sure your platform is delivering the best quality possible. You don’t want to have to throttle back on the video quality when you’re sacrificing in other areas of the production. Think of your streaming platform as any other tool in your IT toolbox in terms as uptime, performance and reliability. Streaming video can no longer be an afterthought.
  7. Is it easy to use? But not just for the IT team. Take a step back and really think who in your organization will use the platform. Will you solely manage all elements of streaming, or will you allow the comms team and/or business leaders to create their own videos? What about employees? Afterall, video is an excellent way to share knowledge and business-critical information.
  8. Does it allow you to use your brand identity, including colors, logos, etc.? Some form of customization is offered in every single enterprise streaming platform you will evaluate. I obviously work in marketing, so I challenge you to dig a little deeper. For example, can the platform deliver content completely free of outside branding? Find out how much you can customize the player. You may even want to ask your brand team to take a look. Trust me, you’ll win a ton of brownie points for giving them the opportunity to provide input.
  9. How does it organize recorded videos? Ideally, you find a solution that includes a sophisticated  content management system (CMS). Take it from a video power user, having a robust CMS is a huge plus. And even better if it’s integrated with your intranet and/or enterprise social platform.  There is nothing worse than needing to sign in to yet another system to search for a video you can’t find.
  10. Does it go the extra mile? Truly take the time to consider what other functionality is important to your organization. For example, can viewers access videos securely on mobile devices? The pandemic has proven we must be able to work from anywhere. Audience polling and Q&A are important functions as well. You may even want speech-to-text or language translation built in. Some are so advanced they’re using machine intelligence to fuel intranet search engines and mine big data.

If you haven’t started searching for—or need to upgrade—your streaming platform(s), check out our partners. Ramp works with the leading streaming platforms on the market today, including Brightcove, Intrado, Kaltura and Microsoft. Each platform has a lot to offer, and each has pros and cons. So, you’ll need to weigh your needs against their solutions’ functionality and use cases.

Bonus Question

One more question worth asking. How will you handle video distribution? During a recent webinar, one of the co-presenters from Peer5 shared an interesting prediction. He estimated we’ll see 3.3x more streaming minutes in September than March and approximately 65% more LAN traffic. That much LAN traffic could have a negative impact on your business operations.

An enterprise content delivery network (eCDN), optimizes the distribution of video on your network. It intelligently routes the flow of traffic—using multicasting, video caching or peer-to-peer (P2P) networking—around the network. As a result, you use significantly less bandwidth and protect business operations. Also, viewers enjoy less latency and buffering for an overall higher-quality viewing experience.  

You can learn about the different types of eCDNs in our white paper, titled Video Distribution Behind the Firewall: Approaches for Deploying an Enterprise Content Delivery Network.

Converting New Video Awareness into a Lasting Video Advantage

Do you want to learn more about honing your enterprise video game plan as remote workers return to the office? Read Converting New Video Awareness into a Lasting Video Advantage.

In this paper, Wainhouse Research Senior Analyst Steve Vonder Haar outlines strategies to keep in mind as you develop tactics for delivering on a video approach that meets the demands for this new era in business communications.

Having 2020 Vision in 2020

As we rung in the new year, I heard someone say 2020 is the year of perfect vision and seeing things more clearly. (Get it, 20/20 vision?). At the time, I thought it was perfect. But now, I think differently. I’d say current events have made it a little unclear. Regardless, I have hope for the future.

Will 2020 be your year to see things more clearly?

Now that we’re half way through what is sure to be a year we will never forget, take a breath. Before you rework your plans and budgets, think about what you’ve accomplished and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. Go into the second half with a clear mind and commitment to making choices that will help your organization thrive for the remainder of the year.

I hope you find clear vision in the second half of this sideways year—both professionally and personally!

1 Converting New Video Awareness into a Lasting Video Advantage, Wainhouse Research

2 Survey Insight: Enterprise Video, ITDM Perspectives – North America Q3 2019, Wainhouse Research