A Buyer’s Guide to Enterprise Video Platforms

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Enterprise video platforms have enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in 2013, thanks in no small part to the benefits that streaming video provide for corporate communications to employees and key partners.

Elsewhere in the Sourcebook, you’ll read about the current state of enterprise video. But when it comes to considering the implementation of an enterprise video platform, what does 2014 hold?

We see three key areas to consider when purchasing products or services: bring-your-own-device (BYOD), captioning, and cloud solutions.

BYOD

Smartphone video emerged quickly in the consumer world but much more slowly in the enterprise. In some ways, this was due to the long-tail relevance of the BlackBerry to the enterprise, which kept many companies from considering full mobile video implementations.

In 2014, even the average enterprise communications department faces a broad challenge: maintaining control of video content intended only for employees while allowing that content on key partner and employee devices. These two factors alone require careful consideration of mobile service provider (MSP) partners or cloud solutions, the latter of which we will cover later.

The additional challenge of personal devices, from tablets to employee smartphones, means that BYOD is an equally important consideration. While 2013 was the year BYOD flourished, 2014 will mark the first time many enterprise solutions address BYOD live video content to mobile devices as part of the overall video ecosystem.

There are two key areas to consider when it comes to video shared via BYOD or company-owned mobile devices: access and accessibility.

Access refers to the ability to view content when on an extended network beyond the enterprise campus. In limited instances, a virtual private network (VPN) can be used. Employees log in to the network and then request the video stream. The downside of this, however, is the high cost of VPN throughput compared to general internet content consumption. On the flip side, VPN access often has sophisticated encryption or multilevel firewalls to traverse, making it less likely for a nonemployee to gain extended access through a VPN.

Accessibility refers to the ability for viewers to consume content in extreme environments. In some instances, this may refer to audio-impaired viewing in high-noise work environments or even for those who face hearing loss. For those needs, captioning and transcribing come into play.

See more about BYOD in an article I wrote called “Live Streaming With Mobile Devices: The BYOD Challenge.” 

Captioning

With the increased requirements for 508-compliant video captioning affecting not just broadcast content but almost any on-demand content on the web, the enterprise needs to pay special attention to this topic.

During a session at the 2013 Streaming Media West show, one panelist said that his company, Dell, has been transcribing everything it creates for internal use for the last 18 months.

“We primarily create marcomm content used by business-to-business users,” said Bill McCarty, a manager in Dell’s corporate multimedia group. “We transcribe everything now and we build in budget for translation and close-captioning.”

While transcription is the ultimate approach to captioning, another consideration is some form of automated captioning. That, however, requires not only good microphones and a presenter who speaks clearly, but training as well. Some accents, according to experts in speech-to-text conversion, work better than others. All systems, though, need to be trained with a particular voice for best results.

Finally, for on-screen content, there’s the matter of being able to edit your live video stream before putting it up for on-demand viewing. In that regard, Dell’s McCarty said there’s a valuable consideration for on-screen text content. “We keep on-screen text to a minimum,” said McCarty, “so that localization can be done through translation and close-captioning.”

Cloud Services

When we discussed access under the BYOD section, we touched on the limitation of VPN. A growing solution for non-VPN access to live streams and on-demand content is use of cloud services.

Rather than using an MSP to provide both cellular voice and data as well as external video delivery services, many enterprises opt to use a separate, cloud-based streaming solution that provides varying levels of content management, real-time format transcoding, and on-demand content storage.

A good cross-section of the challenges faced by enterprise in cloud delivery, especially as it relates to security, is highlighted in video from the enterprise platform panel at Streaming Media West 2013.

One approach companies take is to create a custom mobile application that is distributed to employees, but we recommend against the “security through obscurity” approach that some vendors may offer. A better approach is to use a combination of encryption and digital rights management, as both can be used to geoblock as well as whitelist particular IP addresses deemed approved for media consumption.

In addition, another video from Streaming Media West 2013 focused directly on cloud use in the enterprise when it comes to content management and transcoding in the cloud. For live events, the ability to transcode a single stream into multiple formats (e.g., DASH, HDS, HLS, or Smooth Streaming) as well as multiple bitrates is a key feature your cloud service provider should offer.

When it comes to on-demand content, a cloud provider should also offer at least a basic level of media asset management (MAM) so that mezzanine files can be stored in the cloud, with more popular segmentation formats either stored alongside the mezzanine file or created on-the-fly at the time of request.

A final consideration for cloud-based services is the ability to integrate desktop-to-cloud workflows, including those that may contain hybrid encoding or transcoding solutions that can be offloaded to local or remote (intranet or cloud) transcoding engines to accomplish the heavy lifting.

Conclusion

We’ve only scratched the surface with these three areas -- BYOD, captioning, and cloud -- but the enterprise video platform market presents numerous options. In fact, it’s safe to say enterprise customers will find a number of vendors offering solutions that can be customized for almost any market vertical.

When it comes to turnkey solutions, several of those companies are represented in advertisements and sponsorships throughout the pages of this year’s Sourcebook. As budgets readjust to the economic rebound, and as streaming finds a more central role in the organization, 2014 should prove to be a growth year for both vendors and corporate streaming practitioners.

This article appears in the 2014 Streaming Media Sourcebook.

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