Buyers' Guide to Enterprise Video Platforms 2017

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Enterprise video continues to advance, both in features and functionality, at a pace almost even with consumer-focused media and entertainment streaming media. Whether it’s the “YouTube for the Enterprise” trend we saw a few years ago, or the need to move away from Silverlight and Flash, enterprise video has come a long way since the Windows Media days.

As noted in the “State of Enterprise Video” article, the move toward app- or browser-based playback has reached a critical point for enterprise-focused video, about 6 months behind the same trend that’s occurred in consumer-focused video.

Essentially, either approach yields the same effect, as most native apps on Android or iOS use their respective native browser. The upside of using an app-based approach is containment, whether it be an ability to sandbox content or to force user authentication on a per-use basis.

Cloud, On-Prem, or Hybrid

Before a decision about apps versus browser-only video playback can be determined, the question of which enterprise video platform (EVP) approach to use needs to be assessed.

In terms of actual EVP deployments, the decisions now emerging have as much to do with maintaining the same feature set of earlier home-grown solutions, including authentication and encryption as they do with initial price point—capital expenditures, or capex—versus the ongoing operating expenses.

As is the case with most information technology (IT) decisions on rolling out an enterprisewide solution, the question of build versus buy comes into play. In years past, the assumption would center on capex and opex for an on-prem solution.

However, today’s decision isn’t just limited to those two choices, as myriad EVP solutions in the marketplace offer hybrid options that connect the benefits of the cloud—including content delivery network (CDN) functionality, off-site backup, and lesser reliance on internal development—with the continuing security and disaster recovery requirements of having at least a copy of mission-critical content on-site at a corporate location.

Speaking IT’s Language

For this section of the Buyers’ Guide, we’re going to use the example of a corporate communications group that wants to set up an EVP solution that handles both raw assets—still images, raw video content, and acquisition metadata—as well as the transcoding and streaming delivery functionality.

In order to make a proper decision about build versus buy and on-prem versus cloud-only solutions, consider the following questions.

WILL YOUR VIDEO ASSETS TRANSIT THE INTERNAL NETWORK?

In other words, if one part of your corporate communication team acquires raw video content in Las Colinas but needs to get it to a team member in Los Angeles for post-production work, will that content be moved across the internal corporate network or via an external-facing network (e.g., the internet)?

In some instances, the IT department forbids use of its internal network not just for raw content transfer but also for finished-product delivery via streaming on the network. While it might no longer be justified, since most app- and browser-based video-on-demand content (VOD) is delivered from HTTP servers that are common on today’s modern IT networks, the collective memory of IT recalls a time when the term “streaming” connoted a set of specialized protocols that they feared would overwhelm the corporate network and impede mission-critical content delivery.

DOES THE IT TEAM ALREADY HAVE A CLOUD-BASED STORAGE SOLUTION IN PLACE?

One thing you’ll find in pricing various cloud-based EVP solutions is that overall they’re pretty expensive on a per-terabyte-per-month basis.

The reasoning behind this seems to stem from one of the two major philosophical approaches to software-as-a-service (SaaS) EVP pricing: charge a premium for either the necessary roles or the needed storage. Many EVPs that offer low-cost role-based user accounts will counter those lower prices with higher online storage prices.

If, however, your IT department already has an arrangement with an online storage provider—such as Amazon, Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, Google, or Microsoft—then there may be room for negotiation with an EVP around the amount of online storage needed to house both your raw assets and finished video projects.

Some EVPs have announced integration with one or more of the online storage vendors, and they are willing to negotiate a middle ground that balances user role pricing versus online storage pricing.

In short, do your homework about what your IT team has already negotiated. If you find that there’s already an online storage agreement in place for a set number of cloud-based terabytes of storage, request permission to bump up the cloud-based storage size to a level that accommodates enterprise video’s hefty storage requirements, and then use that much less expensive cloud-based storage in negotiations with an EVP solution provider.

ARE IN-HOUSE IT RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO EXPAND FUNCTIONALITY OF APPS VIA PROGRAMMING INTERFACES?

One area where enterprise video platforms continue to advance is extensibility, meaning they have the application programming interfaces (APIs or “hooks”) to more easily tie functionality into a third-party app or even a desktop application.

But the question of whether internal resources can integrate via APIs remains an uncertainty for other departments within an enterprise.

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