Read the full article by IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology David Danto here.
Think about the last time you went shopping for a car. You probably had a pretty good idea of the type of car you wanted – size, features, etc. You also probably had an idea of how much cars like that cost. Sure, you’d negotiate and try to make a good deal, but you didn’t have any expectations of walking out of the dealership with your desired car for free.
Just imagine what would you have to sacrifice on that car to take it home for nothing or close to nothing? It would probably be one of those “guaranteed price for any trade-in” cars that someone recently pushed down the street to the dealership. It would probably have no radio, no breaks, no airbags… probably no engine either. You’d have to get around like Fred Flintstone did - dropping his feet through the open floor and getting up to a good running speed.
It’s a pretty good bet that none of us buy cars with those sorts of price expectations, or are willing to make that many sacrifices in reliability and features, yet many organizations today are looking at visual communications products with just that mentality. “We don’t need to invest in reliable hardware and/or software - we can just use a free program.” “We don’t need to invest in a reliable network - we can just run everything over the free internet.”
Now I’m not referring to personal use video – like when I’m on a business trip and want to say hi to my kids and find out how they did in school. Free internet video is just great for that. Odds are that I would simply not use video in that circumstance if it weren’t free.
I’m referring to businesses and professional organizations. From SMBs just starting to use visual collaboration tools up to enormous Fortune 500 firms - including some that were designated “too big to fail.” Some of these firms and the IT managers that work there have either seriously considered “free consumer video” applications for their enterprises or have already begun projects to switch over to them.
If you’re asking what is wrong with this, “Think Fred” pedaling with his feet out of the bottom of the car – you get what you pay for.
The history of the visual communications industry has clearly shown that in order to achieve any consistent adoption, positive ROI, or other actual benefit from video technology the experiences have to be reliable. People expect video communications to have good quality, ease of use, a high probability of making a successful connection on the first try and then keeping that connection for the duration of the call.
Free internet video does not rise to achieve any of those goals. When the call doesn’t connect or becomes so poor after a few minutes that it’s unusable we often don’t care. We’ll see our kids tomorrow or call on the phone if needed. How do you explain that to your firm’s remote location when they had to review products with you for decisions needed today? How do you explain that to your co-worker that needs data for a project? Even scarier, how do you explain that to your CEO when his customer call just dropped for no reason?
If we look objectively at available solutions in the visual communications space, we’ll see a large menu of choices, each with plusses and minuses. Free internet video is clearly at the bottom of the list – with users getting exactly what they paid for. Up a bit from that are video enabled collaboration and UC suites. These are typically very good for establishing a “face to name” alongside content that is the point of the presentation. The lower quality and lower bandwidth required are also ideal for participating from a remote location (like a hotel or airport) where the network stability may not be guaranteed. But if a user or salesperson tries to tell you that the video conferencing engines in these suites are “good enough” for extended enterprise quality video collaboration between people - then here again you have to“Think Fred.” Postage stamp sized video stretched over a PC desktop which is relying on a single processor that may be simultaneously crunching numbers, providing market data, doing email and lord knows what else is not a reliable platform on which to risk important, extended length video collaboration.
In order to achieve the quality and reliability needed for true enterprise grade communications we move up the menu some more and look at a hardware or software product created specifically for that purpose. These products have advanced algorithms that optimize the video, they have appropriate management tools to obtain usage metrics and report anomalies and outages, and they have teams of product engineers hard at work to bring you the next generation of advancements.