I think by now, we’ve all read the scary stories about video conferencing technology. According to a number of recent articles video conferencing is unreliable, unstable, insecure, hackable, and in some cases actively sharing your data. In fact, I’ve even heard a few people claim video conferencing applications are equivalent to malware. But I am here today to tell you that video conferencing is none of these things . . . if you’ll give me a few minutes to explain.
It should be no surprise to any of us that video conferencing technology is being pushed to its limits right now. For the last two decades, people have been using this technology as a replacement for in-person communication in small groups—something this technology is, and always has been, perfectly suited for. But given our current worldwide circumstances, organizations across the globe are trying to wedge video conferencing in as a replacement for highly secure, large-scale communication like global employee messaging, external crisis communications, all-employee HR updates, large-group instruction, and virtualizing massive global events and political speeches. And needless to say, it is not going well.
But as someone with over 20 years of experience in software technology and multiple years in the enterprise video space, I can safely tell you that video conferencing apps are not tipping over because they are poorly designed, or because increased use is exposing hidden flaws in their architecture. Video conferencing apps are struggling because they were never intended to be used at the current scale, or for the use cases they are currently being adapted to. And herein lies the battle I have been fighting for the last few years of my career—explaining the difference between two extremely critical enterprise technologies: Video Conferencing and Enterprise Video Streaming.
A Video Conferencing application is a virtual meeting solution like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype or WebEx that allows groups or teams to collaborate using live, multi-directional video. They enable participants to easily see, hear, speak and share documents and screens—just as they would in an in-person meeting—from a desktop computer, mobile device or properly equipped huddle room. Video Conferencing does a wonderful job of solving the primary challenge faced by remote teams and globally distributed workforces, by minimizing the impact location has on the productivity and engagement of co-workers, peers and small teams.
But an Enterprise Video Streaming platform—the technology many Global 2000 organizations are heavily investing in right now—is software that allows organizations to distribute live and on demand video over existing corporate networks on a massive, one-to-many or team-to-many scale. Video Streaming platforms also include solutions for video asset storage, management, distribution and customizable portals, as well as searchability, translation, closed-captioning and other Artificial Intelligence-based services that must accompany the streaming of video within an organization in order to maximize its reach.
And as a quick aside for those of you who aren’t convinced Video Conferencing and Enterprise Video Streaming are two completely different yet complimentary technologies, I would like to point out that Gartner—a research firm with the largest base of research experts and consultants in the world—maintains a completely different and separate Magic Quadrant for each technology. One is called The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions, and the other is called The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Video Content Management. I would encourage all of you to acquire and read both of these reports if you have some time. I was able to find the first document available for free on the Zoom Website, while the second is available for free on my company’s website. I’m sure they are available other places as well, if you have the time to find them.
Now to continue . . . in addition to what I mention above, Video Streaming platforms also tackle both the challenge of Scale and the challenge of Security—allowing enterprises to deliver large-scale internal and external events to tens of thousands of participants across the globe (or even hundreds of thousands) while taking a comprehensive approach to security that spans not only hosting but also secure storage of content, secure delivery of video, precise access control, and regular auditing. Which is why the largest banks, financial institutions, health care networks and government agencies in the world were among the first enterprises on the planet to add Video Streaming platforms to their existing Video Conferencing infrastructures nearly a decade ago. Yes, a decade ago.
My point in all of this, as I hinted in the title of this article, is that the current scalability and security issues many enterprises have been experiencing with Video Conferencing lately are real—but they are also easily fixable with a little education and some additional technology. Trying to adapt a video conferencing app to a large-scale, highly secure use is no different than trying to permanently drive your car on that tiny spare tire the manufacturer put in your trunk. Sure it’s the cheapest option and it might cover you in the short term. But eventually, when you push it beyond how it was intended to be used, it will fail spectacularly when you need it the most.
There is no arguing that current world circumstances are forcing organizational leaders to deal with some significant challenges to running their enterprises, include travel restrictions, mandatory work at home policies, virtualization of major events, and individual quarantining on an unprecedented global level. But the good news is, technologies exist that can help enterprises of any size and any configuration seamlessly replace in-person communication with video—securely, and at a virtually limitless scale. The issue is, most organizations have either never heard of them, are actively choosing to not leverage them, or believe they can piece together a home-grown solution that will allow them to “get by for now.” And none of these approaches are working.
If you believe your organization’s communication challenges are temporary, maybe the best thing for you to do is wait it out. But if you are in the camp that believes current world circumstances will change the way enterprises view communication, travel and event management forever, it might be time to learn more about the supporting technologies that extend both the reach and security of video conferencing. The research, analyst reports, reviews and free trials are out there, you just need to look for them.
Good luck and stay safe—we will all be back together with our friends, teams and colleagues soon.
NOTE: This article was originally posted on LinkedIn. You may view it by clicking here.