How to Decide When to Choose Hybrid Video Conferencing?

By CIOReview | Monday, July 18, 2016

Video conferencing modes have grown to occupy a sizeable chunk of the enterprise market, owing its popularity to its ease of usage in-tandem with contemporary organizations committing to delivering high-quality video solutions. As businesses today seek to expand and keep-up with clients and partners positioned throughout the world, video conferencing helps speed-up the decision making process as well as better business agility. With the advantages of video conferencing at the workplace being broadly touted, the pressure grows on CIOs or CTOs to evaluate and invest smartly towards fetching visual collaboration for enterprises. Quicker innovation, increased productivity, and saving on travel costs are but some of the well-recognized benefits of leveraging video conferencing into everyday workflows. But, business leaders must constantly assess parameters to diagnose whether adoption and implementation can be achieved swiftly and in a cost-effective manner whilst maintaining a sturdy ROI (Return on Investment) curve.

In order to truly decipher when and where hybrid video conferencing can be deemed advantageous, we need to first comprehend how the technology first came into being. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, that is in fact, the course traversed. By convention, there were two major types of video communications solutions delivered for enterprise, namely on-premise and cloud. Neither solution fits all enterprises nor is there any specific criterion for judgment, as different businesses portray different needs. Both however, have much to offer, as described below.

Video Conferencing on cloud offers advantages such as:

• Owing to manufacturer differences, age, protocol, and the type of network infrastructure in place, cloud based Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs) provide interoperability that allows everyone to communicate, irrespective of the type of system or device in use.
• Specialized staff required to support, manage & maintain equipment need not be employed by the company as often, the cloud service provider’s package support systems are bundled in.
• Bandwidth intensive video can be moved to the cloud, wherein the service provider manages it externally.
• Monthly subscriptions spread out the cost over months and years

Video Conferencing on-premise on the other hand, offers benefits like:

• Stringent data protection regulations means that many cloud services providers cannot meet them. This proves to be a hindrance especially for big players in any market means that on-premises solutions offer much better security. 
• Many enterprises do not trust the stability of cloud service providers and hence stutter while moving completely to the cloud at one go. In such cases, private and on-premise solutions are preferred

Traditional hardware-based methodologies in use for video conferencing offered users flexibility but maintaining specific hardware for each individual employee was not cost-effective and often added pressure on the already over-worked IT teams. The enterprise video market shows a marked shift in paradigm from traditional, hardware-based technology to software modes. Enterprises now employ new-age mobile workforces who demand the ability to make video calls anytime over multiple devices viz.—their remote desktop, smartphone, or tablet. That being said, deploying video conferencing methodologies that are software-based in its entirety remains challenging and results are not always satisfactory. Video conferencing software are fundamentally agile, but finding a sustainable balance between what the best policies to adopt are and how feasible it would be to implement them, remains the biggest challenge for enterprise leaders. Interoperability between traditional hardware and innovative software has thus, become imperative for businesses worldwide. This led to the development of hybrid video conferencing deployments that integrate software with new cloud services and allow interoperability with traditional equipment.

Hybrid Videoconferencing gives users the ability to schedule Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs), add participants as well as locations and send invites to participate in meetings. Hybrid video conferencing systems merge elements of various types, ergo; via this mode telepresence and room-based conferencing can be often used simultaneously in accordance with the environment. Some vendors offer integrated systems via which various business applications and users in an enterprise can leverage manifold video conferencing equipment or software, depending on their needs.

Some important points for an enterprise to consider while choosing a Hybrid Videoconferencing System are:

• If an enterprise has already made major investments in legacy hardware and isn’t ready to disperse full-time into cloud yet, hybrid video conferencing can lend flexibility via subscriptions for some applications whilst continual usage of on-premise technology for others
• Applications can be segregated into various segments where some applications like call recording can be kept on-premise whilst having video conferencing and chat features migrated to the cloud
• Assessing priorities to gauge a smooth transition to cloud can be mitigated through a hybrid system, wherein less important sites can be transferred to a cloud and major one’s kept on-premise
• Hybrid systems can aid enterprises to meet major security-compliance requirements as few companies are mandatorily required to manage sensitive data on-site. Other functionalities without much security risks, could then be moved to the cloud

Traditionally hardware-based Multipoint Control Units (MCUs) help best leverage the hybrid approach to video conferencing. A Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) refers to a category of video conferencing hardware that bridges terminals utilized in a multi-point conference system. MCUs allow a multipoint video and audio conference to be monitored and organized from a single location. These units conjure up bandwidth usage data for all connected access points and then, compare quality from different sources to deliver uniform and high-quality video streaming. MCUs are often deployed near a WAN, commonly in a rack server configuration.

MCUs offer different modes of displaying conference portals that include:

• Split screen displays of all participants
• Voice-activated display of current speakers
• Specific conference terminals manually moderated to switch between displays

The hybrid approach to video conferencing transmits MCU structures that are hardware-based and gateway arrangements. Organizations that are using a cloud provider stand to profit more by preferring the hybrid approach as they can then match the local networks to the multiple points, and thus save on bandwidth-usage considerably as conventional multi-stream audio and video conferencing is often found to be bandwidth-intensive. This helps leverage the hardware connecting the conference, and as such smooth collaboration and communication optimized for mobile device usage.