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The New Sophisticates: Enterprise Year in Review

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"In this economic climate, every prospective enterprise customer is looking for the most cost effective way to implement rich media," Zurovitch says. "And that leads many to give serious consideration to hosted solutions."

Indeed, hosted solutions that are called "software as a service" by many in the industry emerged in 2008 as one of the most-discussed new alternatives for implementing online multimedia communications capabilities. Sometimes the buzz around so-called SaaS solutions overshadowed the continued popularity of the more traditional "on-premise" solutions that still play a dominating role in the sector.

On-premise multimedia solutions consist of software applications or full-fledged appliances integrating prepackaged hardware and software that can be deployed on a secure basis behind a company’s firewall. In a survey of 1,212 corporate executives conducted by Interactive Media Strategies in 2Q 2008, 54% of all respondents say they prefer to deploy technologies on an on-premise basis. Twenty-nine percent of respondents reported a preference for hosted solutions with the balance of survey participants opting for a "managed services" approach to online multimedia deployment (see Table 1).

Table 1
Table 1. Preferred style of deployment for online multimedia technology—overall respondents.

Vendors remain intrigued by the prospects for hosted solutions because of the relatively high levels of popularity of the SaaS approach among mid-size companies employing between 250 and 2,500 people. The emergence of hosted alternatives is seen as the key to unlocking latent webcast demand among many organizations in the middle tier of corporate America.

For the time being, though, on-premise solutions remain the security blanket for corporate IT departments that are continuing to experiment in the relatively new field of business online video. Because they are deployed behind the firewall and are managed completely by the organization implementing them, on-premise technologies allow in-house IT departments to retain control over how a company rolls out its online multimedia offerings.

Hosted solutions, in contrast, offer the allure of simplicity. Corporate users are able to implement sophisticated technology on a SaaS basis without necessarily invoking significant involvement of the IT department. Also, SaaS alternatives offer a way for companies to futureproof their investments in the technology by offering a means for companies to use a multimedia technology platform that resides in an outside data center and can be updated on a continual basis by the solution vendor.

Technology giant Google even leveraged the growing interest in SaaS solutions in the business sector to introduce a version of its hosted YouTube service designed specifically for corporate users. Individuals who deploy the company’s software suite called Google Apps are provided access to its enterprise video offering.

The introduction of hosted solutions also opened the door in 2008 to more creative thinking about the business models that are used to get multimedia publishing and distribution technology into the hands of business users. In the process, they promise to make sophisticated technologies available to business users that may not have been economically viable in an on-site style of deployment.

Late in the year, for instance, Atlanta-based Multicast Media took the wraps off a "transcoding-as-a-service" product offering that extends the reach of high-end transcoding into the corporate sector.

New Corporate Video Horizons
Historically, media companies have been the most common users of transcoding systems—technology that automates the process of converting digital media files into alternative digital formats. Consumer media companies pay tens of thousands of dollars for high-end transcoding systems that expand the reach of content to a broader range of devices. Transcoding makes it possible, for instance, to convert a Windows Media file into a format that can be played on cell phones. Such a conversion expands the opportunity to generate revenue from a piece of content by making it available on a broader range of digital devices.

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