Digital transformation takes many forms. Sometimes it’s driven by price sensitivity, sometimes by market conditions. On other occasions, it is the result of fundamental changes in user behaviour. The mobile and remote working revolution that has been underway for the past decade or more has changed how many of us view “work”. It’s no longer somewhere you go, so much as something you do.
As businesses have embraced the concept of an agile workforce, they have introduced new technologies to ensure employees, customers and supplier can continue to communicate and collaborate effectively, wherever they might be.
If you’re thinking about investing in a new collaboration solution, but you’re not sure what the best fit for your organisation is, there are a few simple questions you should be asking yourself. It may sound obvious, but you should start with “How and where do I want to use the system?”
How many people will need to be on a conference at any one time? How important is video quality? What level of device interoperability and systems integration is required? What connectivity will be needed?
The answers to these questions will help you form a clearer picture of what solution is right for you. Of course, you will then have to decide whether you want to deploy an on-premises solution or opt for a cloud-based, SaaS model.
Reach for the cloud
Cloud versus on-premises is one of the key considerations for any new investment in technology. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer, it depends upon your priorities and your attitudes towards risk and data sovereignty. Cloud solutions continue to gain traction across many technology landscapes. Adoption is driven by the appeal of a scalable OpEx model, rather than capital expenditure. Whilst you never “own” the cloud solution, there is also no hardware depreciation or maintenance overhead.
Security is always a consideration. Risk-averse organisations may prefer the perceived security of an on-premises solution to that of a cloud alternative. The reality is, there are as many security positives associated with cloud solutions as there are negatives. On the other hand, data sovereignty or compliance may be a consideration under emerging data protection legislation.
If ease of deployment and management are a factor, then cloud solutions tend to offer the path of least resistance. Some on-premises solutions require significant network configuration, followed by corresponding monitoring and maintenance. For cloud solutions, it can be as simple as having the app and an internet connection.
The greater the number of potential users, the more complex system’s management can become. Pushing software updates, performing diagnostics and managing centralised address books and calendars can become resource intensive. On-premises examples include Cisco’s TelePresence Management Suite and Polycom’s RealPresence Resource Manager.
Centralized management is one of the real benefits of cloud-based video platforms. Software is updated automatically; address books are kept current and network issues are proactively monitored. Managing complex on-premises platforms usually means an organisation must have dedicated resources with the knowledge and experience to handle it, existing IT teams are unlikely to have the time or inclination to manage it effectively, with Cloud based video providers, the responsibility sits with the third party.
Collaboration solutions compared
Functionality is, as often as not, the key to adoption. Organisations in the market for a collaboration solution will likely have an expectation of what features their video conferencing must have. This could include multi-point calling, streaming and session recording, available standards and protocols (SIP/H.323), bridging (interoperability) and BYOD support. On-premises solutions tend towards proprietary technology, with limited support for software video clients. Cloud based platforms, such as Zoom Connector for hardware endpoints or Cisco Webex Rooms offer greater flexibility.
Although not an exhaustive list, here’s a quick summary of some of the features available from the leading solutions providers.
|Multipoint video participants||1000 with Webex||Up to 50||Requires Realconnect Teams or hardware multipoint unit.||Up to 250||Up to 500|
|Support for Webinars||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|# Displays||1 to 3 screens depending on hardware endpoint||2 screens||1 to 3 screens depending on hardware endpoint||2 screens||3 screens|
|Support for Large Multitouch Display for Annotation||Only when using a Webex Board||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Video Content sharing (high frame rate + audio)||Yes, depending on hardware endpoint||No||Yes, depending on hardware endpoint||Yes||Yes|
|Calendar integration||Google and Exchange||Google and Exchange||Exchange||Google and Exchange|
|Support for legacy h.323/SIP endpoints||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Phone Integration||Yes, with Webex PSTN addon||No||Only with VoIP-enabled DSP||Only Skype For Business PBX||Global dial-in or call-out|
|Cloud Recording||Yes, with Webex||Yes||Requires Cloud Service or on-premise VCM||No||Yes|
|Camera options||Proprietary 4K or HD cameras||Huddly or Logitech PTZ||Proprietary HD cameras||Any USB cam||Any USB cam|
|Multiple Cameras||1 to 3 depending on hardware endpoint||n/a||1 to 3 cameras depending on hardware endpoint||Unlimited||Unlimited|
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