Buyer's Guide to Enterprise Video Platforms 2016
Knowing what your executives carry with them is key to knowing what resolution to deliver content to them. If they’re used to watching 720p content on an older tablet, then your EVP delivery resolution is clear, as 720p is a good balance between smartphone and tablet resolutions.
However, if they’re sporting a 1080p or 4K screen, and they watch Netflix content at home at those resolutions, then you might need to consider having at least one of your ABR resolution set at 1080p. It’s not yet practical to stream at 4K, since almost all 4K is encoding in HEVC (H.265) rather than the more ubiquitous—and equally capable, if encoded properly—AVC (H.264) video codec.
A few years ago, we’d be talking about the need to choose your mobile smartphones or tablets carefully based on particular video formats and ABR technologies. In 2016, it’s a fairly simple choice, or no choice at all, really: Apple’s HLS runs on both Android and Apple devices.
In addition, for those concerned about using standards-based video decoding, but who still want the benefits of ABR and HTTP delivery, there’s good news: MPEG-DASH is supported on several Android devices, although it is not currently supported by Apple’s iOS devices.
Almost all EVPs support both HLS and MPEG-DASH, and there are a number of media servers on the market that can be used to package up traditional MP4 audio and video elementary streams in to the various ABR technology flavors.
This aspect may seem a bit odd, because it’s more often the realm of the mobile video operator (MVO) than it is of the EVP solution itself. But many multinational corporations understand that mobile devices purchased in a particular location come with constraints on the formats and ABR technologies available in that market.
If the company is buying Apple devices, HLS will work on all the devices in all the markets. The same can’t be said for Android devices, though, as some nations restrict the use of streaming formats to homegrown or open-source formats. The list of countries constraining the use of particular formats is shrinking, thankfully, but make sure that your EVP’s offering can transcode to the desired formats for the markets you’ll be engaging the EVP service.
All the previous criteria are important, but significant attention to security detail has become table stakes for any enterprise video platform.
Don’t just take our word for it: in “State of Enterprise Video” (page 20), we present excerpts from two interviews at Streaming Media West 2015 where employees of well-known multinational corporations express their insistence on security for any EVP vendor they’ve considered using.
Authentication is key, both for content viewing limitations and for permission-based authentication of users. Active Directory, or LDAP, is often used for role-based authentication of personnel, but your EVP solution provider should also address the rights management around content.
Some content, which your organization may have licensed from training or media vendors, might require geofencing, where it can only be played in particular allowed locations, fencing off other locations to keep would-be viewers from outside a specific region—at least outside your VPN—from watching the geo-restricted content.
Conversely, you might also want to block users in other regions from uploading content into your EVP, even if they are employees or key partners. Geoblocking allows you to do this. While this does not necessarily address encryption of the media asset itself, Active Directory has been in use for role-based authentication in enterprise file sharing for more than a decade. Therefore, the theory goes, since it’s approved by enterprise IT departments for access to nonvideo assets, it should be adequate for video-based assets.
The four areas listed above are not the only aspects to consider when choosing an enterprise video platform, but they do give a glimpse into the overall workflow considerations you should consider when shopping for a potential EVP solution can handle.
Pay attention to smaller details, such as the ability to integrate SharePoint or Skype for Business, as these Microsoft tools are critical to the unified communications (UCC) strategy of many businesses. Some vendors offer third-party SharePoint integration, while others build all the features directly into their enterprise video platform.
Finally, don’t be shy about asking a potential vendor to mock up a working pilot project in order to win your business. This test integration will go a long way toward revealing capability flaws, but will also provide both the vendor and your IT team a chance to verify the functionality and overall usefulness of the proposed EVP solution.
This article appears in the 2016 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.
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