Are Hosted Video Conferencing Services Enough?

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1 WHITEPAPER Are Hosted Video Conferencing Services Enough? A Buyers Guide to Hosted and Managed Video Services Ira M. Weinstein June 2014 Sponsored by: Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 1

2 Introduction The global business environment is changing at a rapid pace. To compete effectively, companies are expected to do more than ever before, at a much faster pace, and with higher quality. Firms must quickly and decisively respond to the increasing expectations of their customers and their workers. This means taking care of business on a global basis, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week, using globally dispersed resources that must operate both independently and within dynamic work teams. Moreover, organizations must perform at this level while simultaneously decreasing costs. This has driven increased need for the wide-spread deployment of collaboration tools such as video conferencing. Furthermore, the need to support large scale video deployments has generated strong demand for video service offerings. But as described within this study, not all service offerings are the same. The Old-School Video Conferencing Environment In the past, the typical enterprise video conferencing environment faced several common challenges: 1) The relatively high cost of video conferencing technology and meeting room real estate (which typically was dedicated to video conferencing) 2) Limited automation of the video conferencing environment resulting in a complex and laborious workflow for users and the need for dedicated support staff As a result of these issues (and other contributing factors such as networking challenges, audio-visual issues, etc.), most enterprises deployed only a limited number of video systems. This, in turn, acted as a catalyst for the cycle of failure illustrated below. Figure 1: The Video Conferencing Cycle of Failure Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 2

3 Today s Video Conferencing Environment The situation today is quite different. The current generation of information workers expects video conferencing to be available at their convenience, no matter where they are, and without regard for the devices they choose to use. They expect ubiquitous access to reliable, high quality visual collaboration on a 24/7 basis around the world. Technological advances within the networking and collaboration spaces, and ever-declining price points, have made always-available, cost-effective, high quality video conferencing possible. As a result, in many organizations, the number of video conferencing endpoints deployed has grown to include not only many more group video systems, but hundreds or even thousands of desktop and mobile video users. The table below highlights how the enterprise video deployment in a typical organization has evolved, or is likely to evolve, over time. Yesterday # of Group Video Systems 50 Hundreds Today and Tomorrow # of PC-Based Video Users Very few Hundreds or thousands # of Mobile Video Users None Hundreds or thousands General Deployment Model One Group VC system for every 200 to 400 employees Group video systems in many more rooms, and 1 or more personal video systems (PC, mobile) per information worker The information in the table above may be hard to believe, but the cost data and number of videocapable devices and people speaks for itself. For example: - In the last years, the list price for a professional group video conferencing system has dropped from US $50k to just $3k (or even less) % of the group video systems sold in 2013 were what Wainhouse Research refers to as huddle systems designed for use in smaller conference rooms and sold for < $2k per system. - Support for WebRTC in leading Internet browsers has video-enabled literally billions of enterprise desktops. - There are more than 40 million video-ready users of Microsoft Lync around the world today. Approximately 50% of those users have the license needed to host multi-party conferences. 1 - More than 2.5 billion video-capable mobile devices (tablets / phones) shipped in 2013 alone. The need to support a large scale and pervasive video conferencing environment has overwhelmed the resources and technical capabilities of many enterprise IT and A/V support teams. In addition, deployments of this type require processes and procedures to minimize risk, ensure that adequate support is provided, and maintain security on a global basis. These challenges have driven increased need for video conferencing services. However, not all VC service offerings are the same. 1 Source: WR Presentation - Microsoft Lync 2013: A Strategic Overview (14 March 2014) Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 3

4 Types of Video Service Offerings There are a wide range of video conferencing-related services available to enterprise organizations. This section will highlight the differences between two key video service offerings; hosted video services and managed video services. 2 Hosted Video Services Within the video conferencing space, hosted services include a wide range of services and applications that are typically provided via the Internet. 3 Two common hosted video conferencing services are listed below: Hosted Video Bridging A service that provides video conferencing bridging services via the use of technology (video bridges / MCUs, media servers, media routers, etc.) hosted by and managed by a service provider. Characteristics and features of typical hosted video bridging services include: - Use of a meet-me calling paradigm, meaning that users (and video systems) access the bridging service by dialing into a virtual meeting room (VMR). - Use of a self-service model that allows users to access and use the bridging service independently and without the need for technical (or other) support. - Strong interoperability allowing users to connect from a wide range of group and personal video conferencing systems. In some cases, video bridging providers provide customers with software video clients either dedicated software or via WebRTC / HTML5 support. - Limited scope of work and responsibility that focuses on the video bridging platform itself and NOT on the customer s technology. - Access to usage reports showing how often the customer used the provider s video bridges. - Other features specific to certain providers (e.g. meeting recording / archival, integration with audio bridges, optional meeting and greet / meeting support services, etc.). Basically, hosted video bridging services are designed to provide video conferencing users with a place to meet for meetings, without requiring those users to invest in and manage video bridging technology. 2 While other services such as break/fix and professional services are important for both end-user customers and channel partners, these offerings are not within the scope of this discussion. 3 In some cases these services are provided via direct connections between the client and the provider s cloud. This, however, is not the typical scenario. Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 4

5 Hosted Video Calling Service A service that enables users to host or participate in point-to-point (2 participants) or multi-point (3 or more participant) video calls. There are many similarities between hosted video bridging services and hosted calling services. For example - Both offerings leverage technology hosted and managed by a service provider - Both offerings follow self-service models - Both offerings support multi-point video calls (including 3 or more participants) - Both offerings include some degree of usage tracking / reporting Video calling services, however, tend to focus more on enabling users to call one-another with a few clicks. In order to provide this accessibility and ease of use, calling services typically include additional features including: - Registration (assignment of a user name, password, and often phone # / SIP URL) - Some form of software client to enable a persistent connection to the service - A presence engine (indicator of who is currently online / available to call) - NAT / firewall traversal capabilities An example of a well-known hosted video calling service is Skype. IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT HOSTED SERVICES Hosted video service providers typically do NOT focus on the overall success of the video meeting or on the value realized via the use of video conferencing. Instead, these providers focus on ensuring that their hosted video bridging or calling platform is up and running and available to customers. - For hosted video bridging providers, success means that their video bridging platform is ready and able to receive incoming calls from group video systems, PC users, mobile users, and audioonly users. - For hosted video calling providers, success means that their calling service allows users to register, log into, and host / participate in calls. Viewed another way, these providers are responsible only for their platform and NOT for the overall user experience. While many providers are more than happy to try to help users with non-platform-related issues (e.g. network issues, AV issues, software issues, etc.), such support is provided as a courtesy and is not a part of their service level agreement (SLA). For a hosted video service provider, success means that the hosted video platform is up and running. Their scope of responsibility ends there. Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 5

6 Managed Video Services While hosted video services provide a hosted, video-centric platform or application to customers, managed video services include a broad array of support services with a different goal to ensure the success of the customer s video conferencing environment. Customers of a managed video service have made the choice to outsource all or part of the management and technology burden of their video conferencing environment to the service provider. But perhaps more importantly, they have engaged a vendor who will take accountability for the performance and reliability of the customer s video conferencing environment. Figure 2: Comparing Hosted Services and Managed Services The image above highlights the difference between a typical hosted video service and a typical managed video service. Primarily, the managed video service provides a wider range of services, but also a much higher degree of accountability for the success of the overall collaboration environment. Most managed video service offerings include hosted video bridging services, and many also include (or offer an option) a video calling service. However, the managed video service providers augment the basic hosted services with additional support services such as: Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 6

7 a. Monitoring of customer equipment (video conferencing endpoints and infrastructure, network services, audio-visual equipment, etc.) b. Management of customer equipment (e.g. video bridges) c. Use of the provider s video conferencing-savvy help desk (typically available 24/7 and often multi-lingual) and issue / trouble tracking d. Access to the provider s hosted infrastructure and platforms e. Meeting scheduling services (sometimes integrated with Exchange, etc.) f. Video system testing and certification g. Video call launching and meet and greet support h. In-call support (basic operator assistance or white glove / concierge service) i. Custom integration (e.g. integration with customer s trouble ticketing system) j. Additional services (e.g. network services, NAT / FW traversal, etc.) k. Reporting and SLAs accessible via a customer portal l. Other items as required / requested by the customer (e.g. network services, NAT / firewall traversal for video conferencing, system design and integration, equipment procurement, rich media content creation, live event webcasting and event management, video session recording / archival, etc.) Essentially, a managed video service is a holistic offering based on the customer s specific requirements and priorities. While hosted video services tend to be platformfocused, managed video services are customer-focused with an eye toward maximizing user satisfaction, usage, and the ROI of the customer s video conferencing investments. Managed video service providers take a holistic view toward collaboration by offering a range of services designed to ensure a successful video conferencing environment. Choosing the Right Service Option The chart below highlights the decision path for enterprise organizations trying to decide which video services (if any) are right for them. As shown below, the key questions to ask are: - Are there factors that prevent your organization from using a video conferencing service? Examples might include security concerns, legal / privacy issues (e.g. HIPPA). - Do you have the required internal support staff to manage VC? - Do you want to manage the video conferencing environment internally? - Do you have the network bandwidth necessary to reach the video service provider? - Do you have (or are you willing to purchase) the necessary infrastructure (IF) equipment to host your own video meetings? Required IF equipment might include video bridges, gateways, SIP servers and gatekeepers, NAT / firewall traversal equipment, scheduling and management systems, etc. Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 7

8 Figure 3: Choosing the Proper Video Service As shown above, the managed service option is viable whether or not the enterprise has already purchased (or plans to purchase) its own infrastructure equipment. Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 8

9 Solution Spotlight Glowpoint The sponsor of this study, Glowpoint, is a dedicated managed video conferencing service provider. Unlike many other companies that act as technology resellers / integrators and service providers, Glowpoint is focused on supporting and managing customer video conferencing environments. With 15 years of experience and a customer base of more than 600 companies, Glowpoint has a proven track record of supporting the global video conferencing needs of small, medium, and large enterprises. The company s primary support services are shown in the graphic below. Video Collaboration Glowpoint s basic offering includes a wide array of support services such as call scheduling, call launching, conference monitoring and support, video endpoint certification, detailed usage and success reports, and accessibility from the Internet or via a private network connection (for enhanced security and QoS). Glowpoint s hosted infrastructure includes technology from Polycom, Cisco, LifeSize, Avaya / Radvision, and others and thus provides exceptionally strong interoperability and support for mobile and desktop video users and group video systems. In addition, customers can activate additional services such as pre-test calls, call recording and webcasting, language translation services, and concierge / white glove meeting support. Business-Class Support Glowpoint s support service includes its dedicated video conferencing help desk available 24x7x365 and staffed by certified and trained video engineers able to handle basic issues (call launching, scheduling) through to advanced technical challenges (network issues, local audio-visual issues, etc.). All issues are logged by the support team, and customers can view ticket status and generate detailed reports (e.g. open issues, mean time to repair, time to isolate issues, ticket history, hardware device uptime, etc.) via an online portal. Customers can also activate Glowpoint s automated, 24x7x365 proactive monitoring service that immediately alerts the Glowpoint help desk when an issue arises. The support team will then immediately work to resolve the problem. This monitoring and problem resolution service can even extend to cover the customer s network and installed audio-visual equipment. Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 9

10 Network Services Glowpoint also offers customers a number of different network connectivity options and services including: - Cloud Connect: Video the ability to connect customer locations with a secure, dedicated network connection to the Glowpoint Cloud. Key benefits include the ability to offload video traffic from the primary data network, 24x7x365 network monitoring and management, and guaranteed QoS for video. - Cloud Connect: Converge a network solution that combines voice, video, data, and Internet traffic over a single access circuit provided by and managed by Glowpoint. Key benefits include those from Cloud Connect: Video (above) plus the ability to eliminate multiple access circuits. - Cloud Connect: Firewall enhances security by providing firewall security between the customer s video devices and the Glowpoint network. As a managed video services provider, Glowpoint s service was designed to provide end-to-end support for enterprise video conferencing environments. Customers can, of course, customize the service by selecting only the specific support options and hosted services they require. Conclusion Enterprise demand for, and perhaps more importantly the dependency on video conferencing, is exploding. At the same time, the size of the video deployment (rooms and personal video users) is growing exponentially. This has driven increased interest in video conferencing services. Organizations seeking to improve the performance, reliability, and perhaps cost-effectiveness of their video conferencing environment should recognize that not all video conferencing service offerings are the same. In general Organizations looking to augment their existing video conferencing infrastructure (or eliminate the need to invest altogether) should consider using a hosted video service. Such services provide specific functionality (e.g. video bridging, video calling services) using hosted technology, but rely on the end-user customer to manage its own environment. Organizations seeking to maximize the overall performance and reliability of their video conferencing environment, while simultaneously offloading the management burden, should consider using a video managed service. Such offerings include both hosted video services plus a wide range of additional support services designed to ensure the success of an organization s video meetings. To avoid having to change providers at a later date, enterprises should make decisions wisely and focus on finding a provider that addresses their needs for the long term. Glowpoint, the sponsor of this study, offers a managed video service offering that covers the feature, functionality, and accountability requirements of the vast majority of enterprises. Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 10

11 About Wainhouse Research Wainhouse Research, is an independent market research firm that focuses on critical issues in the Unified Communications and rich media conferencing fields, including applications like distance education and e-learning. The company conducts multi-client and custom research studies, consults with end users on key implementation issues, publishes white papers and market statistics, and delivers public and private seminars as well as speaker presentations at industry group meetings. Wainhouse Research publishes a variety of reports that cover all aspects of rich media conferencing, and the free newsletter, The Wainhouse Research Bulletin. About the Author(s) Ira M. Weinstein is a Senior Analyst and Partner at Wainhouse Research and a 20+ year veteran of the conferencing, collaboration, and audio-visual industries. Ira's time is divided between core research, content creation, and providing strategic advisory / consulting services to manufacturers, service providers, channel partners, end-users, and members of the financial community. Ira has published hundreds of articles and reports on the AV, collaboration, and UC industries, and is a frequent speaker at industry events. His prior experience includes senior positions with conferencing and AV vendors, distributors, and resellers. In addition, Ira ran the global conferencing department for a Fortune 50 investment bank. Mr. Weinstein holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University and can be reached at About Glowpoint (copy provided by Glowpoint) Glowpoint, Inc. (NYSE MKT: GLOW) is a video collaboration services provider, focused on delivering support services that meet the needs of large and mid-sized companies. More than 600 organizations located throughout 96 countries rely on our unmatched experience, business-class support and cloudbased solutions to support their unified communications (UC) strategies and business goals. For more information, visit Copyright 2014 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 11

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