The rise of self-service video conferencing

VQ’s CEO, Mike Horsley shares some thoughts on self-service video, a rising trend amongst many enterprise video conferencing users’ unified communications strategy.Mike Horsley VQ Chief Technology Officer

VQ’s customers are some of the largest enterprise users of video conferencing on the planet. Although they’ve traditionally been advanced users, they’ve often come to us because the video service delivery solutions supplied with their video kit just don’t fully meet their needs.

As early adopters of the technology, these visionaries knew what they wanted in terms of video management and reporting software and, basically, we listened and built it for them. We gave them the tools to deliver the service they needed, one that worked well and was liked by users, adoption and the rate of use of video conferencing grew quickly.

Users now trust video and want more; the challenge is delivering it to them. But an exclusively managed service is difficult to scale; you can’t just keep adding people (as, for example, the installed user-base goes from one or two thousand to tens or hundreds of thousands). Unfortunately it’s not just a case of adding one or two extra heads, it’s about a times ten or times twenty growth. The numbers just don’t work.

The self-service model, on the other hand, normally follows the approach used with telephone conferencing; users are given their own number (VMR; Virtual Meeting Room) and dial into it. This avoids the issues of having to know who else to call; everybody dials into the well known number.

Several key pieces of the jigsaw have dropped into place in recent years that now enable self-service. One of these pieces is Microsoft Lync. Its simplicity and features such as click-to-call are well liked by users, encouraging mass adoption. Another driver is the new entrants to the video hosting side of the market, which enable previously incompatible technologies to work together. Acano, in particular, allows Lync to overcome its occasional compatibility issues and work seamlessly with traditional video conferencing equipment.

What I like about Acano is that it’s great at “joining the dots”. For example, its MCU automatically handles the differences between the various versions of Lync available. Like the best and most popular technology, it simply works.

Overcoming the compatibility hurdles in the way that Acano does solves many of the scaling issues that affect traditional video conferencing MCUs. Their limited capacity previously meant that video conferencing required lots of boxes, leading to increasingly complex infrastructure setups. Acano MCUs, however, can host many hundreds – if not thousands – of calls from just a single server.

All of this new technology makes self-service on a grand scale now viable for the first time and enterprises are exploring the options available to them. Many are looking for platforms that deliver both self and managed services. We predict that managed video services will maintain their use-levels, but as overall video usage continues to grow it will be the self-service delivery model that will see the biggest increase in new call minutes. We’ve already seen the popularity of self-service in the voice conferencing model: video self-service is a continuation of this trend, and it will be adopted quickly because the concept is already known to anyone familiar with conference calling (almost everyone!).

For those considering deploying self-service, ultimately its success will depend on a number of factors. Video conferencing is intrinsically complex and the volume of data it involves will push your network harder. If your network isn’t completely reliable, video will expose this sooner rather than later.

If you don’t have the time or experience needed to properly manage video on your network, then consider going to the experts first instead: video conferencing managed service providers. You will increase your chances of launching a working service that meets user expectations by having them on board from the outset.

Self-service video is also not a ‘quick fix’. Cutting corners will result in poor experience and low adoption, making your overall costs higher and leaving you with a low return on investment. So work with the experts and do it right.

Finally, always remember that it is user experience that is the ultimate driver of adoption. High usage rates reduce the overall cost-per-call-per-minute (keeping the finance team happy) and so the focus when developing and deploying a self service solution must always be on reliability, convenience and ease of use.

A version of this article originally appeared on Telepresence 24.