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Five Tips For Talking About Video with IT

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One of the biggest challenges enterprise video efforts runs into is getting the IT department on board and supportive of the effort. And while IT’s understanding of and openness to video is greater than it used to be, this article will give you five talking points to get the conversation started.

"To get this implemented now is a lot easier than it used to be 5 or 10 years ago," says Andy Howard, founder and managing director of Howard & Associates. A decade ago, your only choice was to deploy internal servers for distribution, but now cloud services and even professional streaming providers can help.

1. Standardization

The first bit of advice is to push for standardization. Video in the enterprise is now used for executive messaging, corporate communications, compliance and training. Video is so popular in some companies that each department has made its own technology choices, and those choices don’t always work well together.

"Centralized and standardized support is critical for any enterprise, even more so if it's heavily regulated," says enterprise video consultant Nico McLane. If there's more than one video delivery approach kicking around, now's the time to nip that in the bud.

"Eliminating shadow IT eliminates risks in a number of areas or reduces them,” says David Boyll, senior director, media technology at Oracle. When you have multiple organizations running competing services and no clear leader, the fragmentation results in an inability to support video at scale, says Boyll. Consolidating delivery to one platform means better security and an improved user experience. "There will be a more equitable delivery of these services throughout the enterprise by picking one platform," says Boyll.

2. Network Capacity

"When a CIO thinks about video, network capacity is probably the first thing that comes to mind," says Boyll. "(Likely they're thinking) 'We don't want all this video to be pulled across our routers and our firewall'."

"You still need to have your network set up appropriately to deliver video, because most events originate internally, then you're sending the video out to the cloud service, and then you have to bring it back in and distribute it around the network," says Howard. "There's three primary ways to do this: multicast, use caching type servers, or use peer-to-peer software."

Well-designed architecture like multicast transfers the burden from the external internet connection points to an internal service that then intelligently distributes that content without having to pull multiple streams through the firewall.

"Multicast is more of a networking technology,” says Howard. “It's set up on your switches and routers, and basically just replicates the stream around the network so the impact on the backbone of the network is pretty negligent. You're in essence sending one stream around the network."

Multicasting is by far the most common way of delivering content in the enterprise. To be sureyour network can handle the traffic streams that multicasting generates, use routers or Layer 3 switches that support the Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP).

"It would be too optimistic to assume that because a live streaming service is leveraging multicast that it truly preserves the network," says McLane. "There will always be points within an enterprise where the capacity is cumulative, like at a headend to branches—careful calculations and expectation setting will be required in most organizations that have a combination of campus and branch end points."

Caching servers can now run on virtual machines, making it easier to implement than in the past. "In essence the functionality is kind of similar to multicast, but the goal is to limit the amount of bandwidth that's going over the land link," says McLane.

"Let's say you have three offices and they all pull in the individual stream. That's going to be a lot of bandwidth. What you want them to do is pull one stream at the remote offices," says Howard. "Then the caching server in that location can serve it up to a large number of users at that site. So you're effectively limiting the amount of traffic on the bottlenecks of the network."

3. Handling Growth

What happens when video delivery goes from one to two events a month to multiple events per week? Some companies see a “hockey stick” growth curve because top level executives start using video, and then the next level of managers want to use the same tools, and so on, says Howard.

Streaming video is challenging to implement, because there are a lot of different groups involved. There's the originating contact, which may differ from the ongoing project management needed to keep things on track. The production piece requires camera people, mixing, lighting, and audio. Broadcasting and security is another bucket, then there's the user experience to deliver on all devices employees need to view the content on.

How do you do this? Outsource, hire experienced staff, or mix and match. "You may want to outsource one part of it," says Howard. "There's a lot of different ways you can go about it, depending on how much content you think you'll be generating." 

"When it comes to streaming, there are plenty of A/V companies that can support a one-off," says McLane. "Hire an experienced A/V company to produce a live webcast. Take notes, save all the communications, and measure the success.” In many cases, outsourcing can make financial sense.

"Hire smart people with broad skillsets who have successfully executed a like model in a similar organization," says McLane. Start with a strategy and be sure to engage a good product manager to help build out a service, she says. "I strongly recommended that IT either onboard talent who has an existing skill set in video scale, or do training and upskilling in that area," says Boyle.

4. Going to the Cloud

"All our eyes from the enterprise are on cloud," says McLane. "Nothing is easier, (and) there is a lot of risk associated. From my perspective I am waiting for the cloud integrators and adapters to figure out some basic risk aversion methodologies that will address some exposures that would exist on shared services. 

"Cloud services, in my mind, are big fluffy non-descript services that sit on shared systems with little segregation or ability to restrict or monitor who has physical access to this fluffy business. This is a big risk. Who can get into the cage at the datacenter and pull the plug? How is the data being protected physically and virtually?'

"The only way to handle risk is to look into hybrid solutions and develop roadmaps, usually in phases, that address the risks in some kind of ascending order. This major change does not have to be all or none. Especially in the case of cloud, you can begin a transition with less critical services to start," she says.

5. Legacy Thinking

The latest advancements in packaging, encoding and end video transmission have erased many of the problems previously generated in enterprise delivery. "Much of the resistance that I feel still exists in the enterprise today, especially in large enterprises, is a legacy holdover from when video had a potentially disastrous impact on a network," says Boyll. "Nowadays that impact can be fixed or can be reduced significantly simply by standardizing on formats which are less impactful on the network.

"You can't leave video on the table now. It is IT's responsibility to reconcile the risks with the opportunity," he says.

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