There are over 20 viable cloud-based video conferencing options on the market today. With new choices and versions being announced almost weekly, you no doubt feel that evaluating online video offerings is a never ending task.
Perhaps you are considering implementing cloud-based video in your organization to empower users to quickly conduct video meetings and share content from where ever they are – using a laptop, desktop, tablet, smart phone or even your company’s conference room. You need an easy to use tool that will improve communication and enhance collaboration, and it needs to be quick to implement and flexible across all devices and locations.
Also, with cloud-based video services you can reduce capital expenditures, provide immediate access to new features and functionality and quickly scale based on user demand.
However, with the numerous options on the market today and new offerings constantly being announced, it would be almost impossible to provide a clear comparison of all of them. You can check out a few on your own – most offer free trials to test out the solution before you decide. But before you start that free trial, there are a few things you need to consider. There are 4 key considerations to think about when selecting a cloud-based video solution – use cases, quality, ease of use and cost.
Consider three or four scenarios of how you currently use, or more importantly, would like to use video conferencing, and employ those use cases during your evaluation and comparisons. Use cases should be as detailed as possible so that multiple team members can perform similar steps and provide an apples-to-apples evaluation. Things to consider:
It might be helpful to develop a real-world use case example to help determine ways your company might utilize cloud-based video. Here is one example use case scenario:
An operations team has a daily meeting that generally involves internal colleagues from 3 separate locations and sometimes remote colleagues who frequently share content. Other participants sometimes are asked to join the call – other departments from a remote video conference room and external partners from their desktops. Regular participants have the meeting information in their Outlook calendars and the occasional participants are invited via email before or during the meeting.
You should replicate the steps that each role would take – creating the meeting, inviting the participants, joining the meeting, managing the meeting, sharing content, joining the call from different locations and devices – to determine how well the solution could meet your needs within your organization.
Most options offer HD video and high quality audio and you can compare the specs from all of their datasheets, but what you really need to test is how the video and audio performance translates in your environment and use cases. Connectivity, wired or wireless, bandwidth limitations, network settings, camera and mic capabilities all have an effect on the quality of a call and it is important to test as many of these variables as possible. How does the service handle the different capabilities of each participant? Does the session degrade to support the lowest connection or does each participant have the best experience supported by their capabilities?
Also, most services offer some form of in-call diagnostics, from simple connectivity bar icons to details on packet loss and jitter rates that can provide useful information for comparisons. Some call settings may provide participants and/or hosts the option to select lower or higher connection rates and quality that may improve the experience.
The ability for participants to use the video solution with limited or no instructions is crucial to adoption, so usability has to be a key factor in your evaluation process. Things to consider:
For many solutions it is not as easy as just click and join, you might need to download software, connect cameras or use specific access codes. It is important to understand how easy or complicated it is to join the video calls. This will help you determine how quickly and easily the solution will be implemented throughout your organization.
There are several elements involved in determining costs and while most services publish license rates the costs can vary depending on number of participants per call, available features, support and branding options, to name a few. You also need to consider add-ons that may be included in some options but are considered upgrades for others. A few factors that impact the cost of a service include:
The number of licenses you need will depend on how you want your company to use the service. Does each user need their own account for scheduling meetings? Will meeting rooms need specific accounts? Will users share accounts or will you need some combination of all of these? One of the benefits of the scalability of cloud video services is that you can adjust the number of licenses up or down on the fly.
So, Which One Should You Choose?
With so many options and each with different features and capabilities, you need to determine how you will get the most out of the video solution and which will be the easiest and most cost effective to implement.
It is important to have a flexible solution that provides support regardless of the number of licenses you have and does not require any downloads to participate in a call. It is also essential to make sure the solution truly allows any-to-any video conferencing, it should seamlessly enable users to connect over disparate platforms – from traditional conference room systems, desktops, laptops, tablets or smart phones – the experience should be the same regardless of location or device.