Where Videoconferencing And Streaming Technologies Intersect - Part 2
Selecting A solution
Each company deploying solutions for converging conferencing and streaming must assess its needs, financial resources, search for an optimum level of functionality/risk at a given price point and then live within those boundaries.
Many product vendors and service providers offer solutions that can be customized to capture content from a video system and stream or store it in a way that will meet a business’ special needs. Other vendors fuse videoconferencing and streaming media into a tight package or turnkey product offering. Also, a growing number of service providers have mastered the intersection of these technologies and take all the capital costs out of the equation for companies.
It Comes Down To Preferences And Business Objectives
There is a big difference between the fully integrated type of product, and assembling a solution from off the shelf products. Turnkey systems can include support for multiple video inputs and built-in switching, a powerful graphics and keying engine and even a professional audio mixer. Turnkey systems can have their home grown or commercially bundled software (such as those offered by Accordent or SofTV) for producing live and on-demand webcasts with synchronized elements, chat, etc. Some like the turnkey system’s ability to synchronize all visual materials, but these usually require multiple PCs. Finally, differences in the underlying database applications may also offer advantages. For example, a platform may automatically send out e-mail to notify employees or members of a discussion group that a streamed event is scheduled. A database back end also increases the content manager’s ability to control who sees a particular event and how the content is monetized.
When capture, encoding and streaming systems are tightly integrated ("turnkey"), manual intervention on the part of producers, network managers and technical personnel is less necessary for the success of a blended event. However, a tightly integrated system may lack flexibility. A rule of thumb that certainly applies to this integration is that the greater the functionality of the system, the higher the complexity and the risk of user errors.
A hosted solution offers a variety of advantages for companies who lack the in-house expertise to develop or manage the technologies which can be purchased. One of the top reasons to outsource is to avoid investing in technology or expertise that will be out of date before it is fully amortized. Another compelling reason to outsource streaming media encoding and streaming is that the reach of a service provider’s network is usually far more diverse and geographically dispersed than an enterprise network’s.
It is expected that with greater exposure to the theory and the practice of producing streaming events, more videoconferencing professionals will be prepared to support their customers in the production of content captured with the familiar business tools found in their meeting and conference rooms worldwide.
Counterparts who are experts in the art of encoding and streaming media "downstream" over networks to viewers on personal computers and other streaming-enabled devices, should now also be better prepared to support users unable to reach or unable to pay for a studio environment.
Even with a guide like this in hand, it is our experience that for optimum results with minimum risks a specialized service provider should be involved in putting technical and procedural guidelines (such as suggested in the paper) in place.