Buyer's Guide to Enterprise Video Platforms 2016

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Enterprise video platforms (EVPs) are finally catching up with the rest of the world. After a decade or more of reliance on older Windows Media solutions—along with the combination of end-of-life support for these older streaming solutions and a significant uptick in employees using mobile devices to conduct company business—it seems that enterprise customers are finally being forced to evaluate solutions that come from more than just one vendor.

Some of these solutions use open standards, while others use proprietary approaches. Still, whether it’s a lecture capture system or a mobile chat application, the needs of enterprise customers can often be defined by a few key criteria.

We will look at four of these criteria—formats, location, mobility, and security—in this year’s EVP buyers’ guide.

Formats

While the average media and entertainment video platform (MEVP) might only rely on H.264 as an exclusive codec, packaging content into various adaptive bitrate (ABR) technologies to deliver it out to consumers, the enterprise often doesn’t have the luxury of jettisoning its existing infrastructure and starting fresh.

As such, formats have become a significant part of the decision process. From the legacy RealVideo and WindowsMedia formats to today’s open-standards formats such as MPEG-DASH and H.264, there’s often a multistep process. After all, it’s not just the video codec itself that has to change; even the basic players in legacy enterprise video are incapable of playing any form of ABR, and some can’t even handle H.264.

If your legacy enterprise video library falls into this category, there’s no need to panic. A number of tools on the market, some standalone and some part of integrated EVP solutions, are designed to transcode legacy content into newer codecs (H.264) and delivery formats: ABR, DASH, and even Apple’s HTTP over Live Streaming (HLS).

Location

In real estate, the adage of “Location, Location, Location” remains king. But in the world of enterprise video platforms, the three-location chant doesn’t quite capture every possibility. In other words, the two options for EVPs are a product located on-prem at key company locations (typically called an eCDN approach) or hosting the EVP service in the cloud. A third possibility, a hybrid solution, is more a variation on the two themes rather than a separate choice.

When it comes to cloud-based solutions, there’s a fairly strong reason to consider a cloud-based EVP: initial capital outlay. When it comes to capital expenditures (capex) there’s a large upfront cost in buying an on-prem EVP. In the long run, the operational expenses (opex) may be lower, but to truly understand the total cost of ownership (TCO) requires both a strong design and an initial cost model for the on-prem EVP, in order to have an accurate break-even analysis to power the TCO model.

The primary reason to choose a cloud-based enterprise video platform, based on customer requirements and several surveys I’ve analyzed for Streaming Media and Unisphere Research, is an intent to lower overall capex while still gaining (or retaining) the ability to deliver to multiple devices.

On the other hand, from a security standpoint, some companies choose to keep their entire solution on-prem. For these companies, an eCDN approach works quite well, allowing content to be cached at various regional and satellite offices, with the option to prepopulate content to each location before making it available for use in digital signage, training, or even human resources testing scenarios.

For those considering a hybrid solution, pay attention to what functions can be performed locally versus which ones must be performed in the cloud. Transcoding, for instance, might not be available at each location, or it might have a significant charge associated with it, as hybrid vendors attempt to create recurring revenue opportunities by limiting on-prem functionality.

Mobility

That ability to deliver to multiple devices could be summarized in one word: mobility. Most of your workforce is mobile, your content acquisition team is mobile, and your executive management team is certainly mobile.

To meet the dual demands of acquiring content on the road as well as reaching out to employees that are on the go more than they are at their desks, consider the following three aspects.

DEVICE TYPE

Very few smartphones have full HD screens, and fewer still have 4K-capable screens. But a growing number of tablets, including those with built-in cellular data capability, have resolutions of 1920x1080 or better. This is even true of small form-factor tablets, such as the Apple iPad mini or the Samsung Galaxy Tab series.

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