William MacDonald

William MacDonald | May 30, 2014 |


Note to Self: “Not All Video Conferencing Clouds Are Equal”

Note to Self: “Not All Video Conferencing Clouds Are Equal” What to put on your checklist when considering a cloud video provider.

What to put on your checklist when considering a cloud video provider.

As video infrastructure starts its steep decline in sales, the Lifesize Cloud announcement and Cisco's impending Collaboration Meeting Room, come as no surprise to me. In both cases, the transition from "big iron" to services is designed to maintain market share. It's great news, and a coming of age for all of us with established cloud video services. And here's the "but": Just like the infrastructure they aim to replace, not all cloud services are equal. There are many variations that can trip up the end user, so here are my top tips for what to demand from a cloud service:

1. Scheduled conferencing and ad hoc calling--In one service please!
Seriously, choose a service with both capabilities. Scheduling has to be easy, via a Web portal, and accessible to all employees at no extra cost. Calendar integration is essential (and somewhat obvious), and so, too, is global-audio dial in for conferences.

What made the telephone so pervasive? The ability to simply call someone without pre-arrangement; this is just as important for video. Users must be able to instantly video-call anyone at anytime. Without this, you have restrained video and have no way for users to jump on a video call straight away. You might as well stick with the phone!

2. Interoperability--Full on and every which way
Only consider services that allow people to use any system to call anyone else on any hardware or software video endpoint, from any manufacturer. Make sure your provider supports SIP, H.323 and Microsoft Lync across its devices and yours (BYOD). Also make sure they have a track record of bringing new technologies on board, such as WebRTC. Ensure support for firewall traversal and easy dialing--both for its own hardware and software, but also for those of other manufacturers--don't be forced to rip-and-replace just because you want a new service.

3. Security--Never to be underestimated
Require industry standard encryption and authentication for all calls. Demand a service that does not scare your firewall administrator with unrealistic demands, such as needing to open large numbers of ports on your network. Ideally your solution will "just work" without any changes to your firewall rules.

Ensure the provider is in full control of its datacenters and does not rely on others to provide this hugely important part of its service.

4. Integrated appliances--A perfect world
In the perfect cloud, video endpoints are tightly coupled to the service. Here the endpoints are continually enhanced--so make sure the provider has a record of innovation with automatic delivery of must-have features. At a minimum, ensure automatic firmware updates, integrated scheduling and one-touch-to-join-a-conference are provided.

There needs to be a full range of appliances to fit all needs--from the desktop to the boardroom. Professional AV and AMX/Crestron support should be available, and all endpoint settings must be controllable from the cloud. Together with this, multiple logins for your management portal should be available to allow you, your IT staff, reseller or other partners to support your deployment, without requiring you or an onsite presence to address any configuration fixes or changes.

Finally, in my perfect world, easy provisioning becomes available, removing all notion of traditional settings to do with gatekeepers, registrars, etc., which only cause support and usability issues.

5. Quality--Choose wisely as it's never guaranteed
When using the Internet as a transport network, the cloud provider must guard against packet loss. Make sure multiple approaches are used--as one or two is never enough. Look for forward error correction, robust codecs such as SVC and AAC-LD and dynamic bandwidth management.

Another factor that affects quality is latency. This is greatly improved by having the media flow directly between endpoints where possible, rather than always traversing the Internet, and by having points-of-presence in your vicinity.

Ease of use is critical to the quality of the experience. If a user cannot figure out how to call someone, it doesn't matter how good the video would have been. So consistent user interfaces, one-touch dialing and an automatically-generated corporate directory are essential.

6. Cost of ownership
It's true that with the cloud you'll no longer be dealing with the expense and maintenance of big metal, but pricing models from one cloud vendor to another vary greatly. Some charge by the minute and/or by the user, while others offer a flat rate.

With such pricing variations you'll find it difficult to compare apples with apples. However, if you steer clear of per user and per minute pricing, you will not be facing a massive bill should your deployment turn out to be very successful. Look for a provider that allows you to scale video by opting for a model where adding users does not add cost. Really, your business should look for a flat rate with predictable costs, and this should allow for unlimited calling and conferencing with no surprises.

William MacDonald is CTO of StarLeaf.


Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem

Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.