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Buyer's Guide to Enterprise Video Platforms 2015

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While we covered some of the potential pitfalls of a cloud-based entrprise video platform (EVP) in our “State of the Enterprise” article, this buyer’s guide assumes your company has made the decision to push on beyond exploring to actually implementing an EVP.

What Is the EVP’s Mobile Strategy?

Given the number of Android, Apple, and Windows devices that come in either a tablet or smartphone form, enterprises are feeling the pinch when it comes to delivering video content to road warriors.

While a number of enterprises have opted not to deliver content to mobile devices until they are comfortable with extranet and public internet security issues, some enterprises have chosen to separate mission-critical or competition-sensitive online video content from content they plan to make accessible to partners and the general public.

When choosing an EVP that has a mobile content delivery service, check to see if the service provider has partnerships with cellular service providers in your targeted geographic areas. In addition, ask about its content delivery network (CDN) partnerships to determine whether content caching will take place on a continental level, a country level, a state level, or even a city level.

What Is the EVP’s Security Strategy?

Much has been said about convenience and ease of access, but the flip side of the same coin is a need to keep content secure as remote employees access that content.

Various solutions are available, from authenticating content to permission-based authentication of users. One increasingly popular option is to use Active Directory, or LDAP, for role-based authentication. 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. Since it’s approved by enterprise IT departments for access to non-video assets, the theory goes, it should be adequate for video-based assets.

Does the EVP Have a SharePoint Strategy?

Alongside the use of Active Directory, the marked increase in SharePoint usage across enterprise offers a unique opportunity to combine enterprise knowledge repositories of slide decks and PDF files with video and audio assets that augment those primary documents.

Native compatibility with the SharePoint stack offer an integrated search capability and an ability to leverage Active Directory. Several EVPs have already implemented tight integration with SharePoint servers, and more plan to add that feature in 2015. As one vendor noted in our “State of the Enterprise” article, the tight integration makes it easier for enterprises to get video solutions up and running quickly while maintaining significantly more secure access than alternatives based on proprietary portals or standalone user directories.

What Is the EVP’s Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) Strategy?

Today’s content is primarily captured and edited via MP4-based audio and video container formats, often using H.264 video and AAC audio. These are the building blocks to enterprise media distribution. Whether it’s for Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), which segments the master MP4 files in to MPEG-2 Transport Stream (M2TS), or the use of the industry standard Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH), which creates fragmented MP4 files, the need for ABR content delivery is clear.

Benefits include the ability to serve content to mobile and desktop applications via a standard HTTP server, as well as the potential to change dynamically between multiple bitrates and resolutions, a process that can take between 2 and 10 seconds.

To successfully serve both internal employees as well as key external partners and consumers, any EVP you consider should fully embrace an ABR strategy.

Does the EVP Support Legacy Formats?

For almost a decade, the world of enterprise video centered on the Windows Media formats, both video and audio. In addition, MP3 audio-only files were prevalent, along with real-time transport protocols (RTP, RTSP, and the Adobe-specific RTMP).

While all those formats have been either declared end-of-life (EoL) or superseded by more efficient codecs and formats, the need to support years and years of content created in these legacy formats leaves most enterprises with a Hobson’s choice: Either pend a significant amount of human and financial resources to transcode the content in to new formats, or host separate services—one for legacy formats and one for new and emerging formats—on increasingly old hardware and software.

If the enterprise is moving toward an external cloud-based or internal enterprise CDN (E-CDN) solution, there is the alternative option to retain the legacy files and transcode them when they are requested. Several EVP solutions offer internal transcoding, and a few can be driven by business rules so that any content requested by an end user can be retained in both the legacy and more modern format.

Does the EVP Offer Transcoding?

The need for transcoding doesn’t just stop at converting legacy formats. Given the use of MP4 as the basis for many capture and post-production master file outputs, as well as the use of the MXF file format, these files need to be transcoded for viewing on internal or external web portals. While the current inability to stream elementary MP4 files might be solved soon, don’t underestimate the need to serve content in emerging formats, which drives additional needs for transcoding primary content for road warriors and desk jockeys alike.

Additional Considerations

The six decision points listed above are not the only issues you may face when it comes to choosing an enterprise video platform.

Others include the balance of choosing between internal (E-CDN), external (cloud-based), or some combination of the two (hybrid cloud or just hybrid) to cover the largest number of internal and external stakeholders.

Yet the six we’ve highlighted are key to understanding both how video fits within your organization, as well as how much of the overall workflow that a potential EVP candidate can handle: Some outsource the mobile delivery element, others use third-party SharePoint integration, and still others build all the features directly into their enterprise video platform.

[This article appears in the 2015 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.]

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